Hello! My name is Lesley Huntley and I’m the editor of Cheap Vegetarian Meals and the author of Cheap Vegetarian Meals for a Week. I live in New Zealand with my partner, our two beautiful little girls and our silver tabby cat Eleanor.
I’m not going to start off our relationship by lying to you. I have to admit something right off the bat. I *deep breath* enjoy-the-taste-and-texture-of-meat. There, I said it. I’m just not the type of vegetarian who abstains from eating meat because they find the texture abhorrent or is just someone who has never really eaten much meat.
No, goodness no. For most of my adult life I was a meat eater, through and through. During my weekly shop (both with and without kids) I would survey the meat department for the best deals, then base the weekly menu around what meat was going to be the basis for our meals.
I was completely blinkered when dining out. There was no messing around, I went straight for the steak menu. It was still mooing when it came to the table, ordered medium rare. Like the committed carnivore I was, I loved every bite.
But after that enjoyment followed a deep sense of guilt which haunted me daily. Looking back, I don’t know how I dealt with it for so long. My only foray into vegetarianism was years earlier, a 2 year stint as a teenager. But day after day, week after week, year after year I managed to put it out of my mind that these were intelligent, sentient beings I was feeding myself and my family.
I managed to convince myself it was OK to eat animals raised in New Zealand, as all our sheep and cows are grass fed and pastured 24/7, so I figured they must live relatively happy lives. Which is half true. Due to the fact our main exports are dairy, beef and lamb, we have very strict regulations on hormones and antibiotics etc. Because we have relatively few people in a country the size of the UK, our main exports are pastured and grass fed by default.
However, the lives of all animals raised for meat end in a violent, terrifying death. Dairy calves are still taken away from their mothers soon after birth. All animals have the potential to suffer abuse from farm workers. Intelligent, sentient pigs and chickens are still factory farmed. Mother pigs still languish in farrowing crates. Pigs in general have a horrific time, tortured most of their lives in cramped, lonely, filthy, miserable conditions. Most chickens for meat and eggs are still barn and battery raised.
So, a little over a year ago, sick of feeling intolerable guilt after every meal, I finally chose to vote with my dollars, boycotting an industry built on the misery, despair and suffering of animals.
The first thing that went from our menu was any factory farmed animal products. If you are still at this step, I applaud you for taking it. If not, do some research, watch some footage shot by Mercy for Animals activists and you soon will. For me, very quickly, this wasn’t enough to ease my conscience. I kind of thought, stop beating around the bush with half measures and just step up already.
So at the beginning of 2015 I committed to a new years resolution (for once) and stopped eating meat completely. This book is the beginning of my gentle journey to convince my family to join me.
I hope you find it useful in convincing yours =)
Choosing Ethical Animal Products
When you first introduce a family to the idea of vegetarianism, going vegan right off the bat is pretty much not an option. I wish I had made this decision before I raised my two little darlings as omnivores, but I did not. So this is something I just have to deal with now.
At this point, my children will eat any amount of eggs I put in front of them in one sitting, and anything covered in cheese. They are not allowed juice, so they go through litres of milk. These items top their fave foods list by a country mile. I know it’s not right, and I’m working on introducing them to alternatives, but I’ve only just recently taken meat away from them. Until I have introduced viable alternatives they are happy with, I can’t in good conscience take these protein sources off them as well.
This is a transition process however, and I will continue to educate them about food and exactly where it came from. I have seen them start to make decisions for themselves on whether or not they choose to eat something on finding out the details of that particular food item. My five year old’s usual question is “Mummy, did anything have to die to make this?” Last time she asked, it was about ice-cream. I explained: “No, not directly. But the baby calf had to be taken away from it’s mummy in order for the mother cow to be milked.” This started a dialogue, during which I explained the process, and the affect it had on the cows.
She decided that day she didn’t need an ice-cream.
Still, at this point my four and five year old still love eggs, milk and cheese. So right now the recipes here still include eggs and dairy. I am hoping this will change in the near future, but we’re going in the right direction. Although not ideal, I feel this is something to be proud of.
So what I do is make the best buying decisions I can under the circumstances. Organic eggs are the best bet when it comes to store bought, as animal welfare under organic certification is better than that provided to barn raised chickens. However, some organic farms still carry out beak blunting. You will need to do your research into the source of your organic eggs to ensure they do not. All ‘discard’ male chicks by gassing or grinding them up alive.
For this reason I buy eggs from a local lady who has backyard chickens. We have seen them and they look very well looked after and are obviously loved. This is by far my first choice.
For dairy products, I have researched a local organic milk company who is very forthcoming, they have photos on their Facebook page showing their calves in pens next to their mothers. They are allowed access to their mothers until they are weaned. This is by no means ideal, but it’s the best option available in my circumstances, bar buying a cow and milking her. So I buy all my dairy products from this company while working on introducing my family to alternatives.
Do your research into the ethics of the companies you deal with, and vote with your dollars as much as possible. Boycott companies who demonstrate animal cruelty and choose to deal with those that show they care. The more people who start to really show that animal welfare is paramount in their buying decisions, the lower the prices will go, and hopefully the better it will be for animals.
Continue to do your best given your specific circumstances and you will make a difference!
About this blog
This blog has been a long time in the making, but I’m glad I’m finally here.
You won’t find fancy photos of gourmet dishes here, we’re just not that kind of family. I have one child who eats almost anything, and one who eats almost nothing. I really don’t have the time or the energy (or the budget) to make two different meals for us and them, so I try to make food we will all enjoy. This limits us to our fussiest family member’s palate, but we cope. We still eat good food every night, that’s the main thing.
So what you will find here is cheap, cheerful, vegetarian comfort food, because that’s what we eat. I try to flash up the photos a bit by chucking some green stuff around, but what you see is what is devoured seconds after the last photo is taken. This is usually with several bites taken out before it even leaves the bench. Hubby is usually hovering in the background ready to snatch up his plate as soon as I’ve said the word. There’s no room for ceremony in my kitchen studio, that’s for sure.
So they won’t be the prettiest photos, or the flashest menu items, but you can guarantee they will taste like home, and you won’t miss meat one bit.
I hope your family will enjoy the recipes as much as ours does.
Love and kindness from our family to yours,
PS: If you have any questions or comments about any of the recipes, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to touch base with me on anything at all. Looking forward to hearing from you!