Last weekend, my fellow Frugal Feasters and I took part in the fanciest Feast yet. This time, our host really raised the technical difficulty bar!
His menu reads like something straight out of a posh restaurant:
- Mushroom and onion bruschetta on homemade peasant bread (baked in a Dutch oven)
- Roasted beet salad with honey mustard vinaigrette
- Polenta with sundried tomatoes and sautéed spinach
- Fresh, hand-made ravioli stuffed with a puree of three winter squashes
Amazingly, for the third time in a row, the Feast came in under budget, serving 12 people for only $55.
And here’s the other exciting thing. Our host is not a vegetarian or vegan. And my guess is that the idea of cooking a meat and dairy free meal—that would also taste good and impress his guests—was somewhat daunting at first, particularly in the dead of winter (see my previous post about my experience shopping the farmers market in December). But not only was his meal gorgeous—just check out all these colors—but filling, delicious, and healthy.
To me, this is one of the key lessons of our little experiment with Frugal Feasts: $5 dollar per head dinners that are well-balanced, made from ingredients that are organic, low on the food chain, and supportive of local farmers.
As Mark Bittman wrote in his recent NY Times piece, Americans are eating less meat—and for the right reasons. Yes, many of us are tightening our belts all around, and more and more people are realizing just how much they can save on their weekly grocery bills by reducing purchases of meat. But things like “Meatless Mondays” have also become a cultural force, and more and more Americans are significantly cutting their meat consumption for health reasons, as well as a greater awareness of the environmental benefits of switching to lower-impact forms of protein.
Bittman cites the rise of “flexitarianism”—an eating style that reduces the amount of meat without “going vegetarian” — as one of the top consumer health trends for 2012. I’m not one for labels, but this is a label I can get behind because it eschews the typical divisions between meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans.
The empowering thing is that deciding what to eat is a choice we get to make three times a day. You don't have to make a lifetime commitment to veganism. Even small changes in what we buy and eat can add up to real benefits to our health, as well as the health of the environment, including fewer toxic chemicals, reduced carbon pollution, and healthier soils and waterways. They can also mean less animal cruelty and greater welfare for the people who produce our food.
So whether it's once a day, once a week, or once a month, feasting frugally makes a difference. To read about the original post that inspired Frugal Feasts, see Bittman’s piece Share Meals, Shared Knowledge. For more on SlowFood USA’s $5 Challenge, check out their Tips, Tricks & Challenges page. And as always, please share your frugal recipes here!