When I was growing up, there was always meat thawing in the sink. I had three growing brothers and to ensure our entire month’s budget wasn’t blown on groceries alone my mother satisfied their never ending hunger with basics like mince, sausage, eggs, and carbohydrates. Spaghetti bolognaise, egg on toast, boerewors rolls, and baked potatoes were firm favourites in my house growing up and while my tastes have matured somewhat since then (as an adult, my daily go-to form of protein is good old chicken) I am, and always have been, a regular meat-eater. Look, I’m not going to sugar coat it, I love meat. And what’s not to love? It contains essential vitamins, protein, iron, zinc and most importantly, it tastes damn good.
Of course, vegetarianism also comes with its own health advantages – going meat-free can help reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and obesity to name just a few. With all that in mind it isn’t surprising that vegetarianism is on the rise both in South Africa and across the globe. But how easy is it for a self-confessed meat lover to switch to a vegetarian diet, or at least make an effort to go meat-free for one month a week? I decided to take the Frys Family Food Co Meat-Free May challenge and give up my carnivorous diet for a full seven days to find out if I could hack it as a veggie.
Besides being a sucker for punishment, I decided to take this rather interesting challenge because there’s a misconception about plant-based diets being bland and boring. With the right ingredients and a little bit of know-how vegetarian food can be all sorts of exciting and before my meat-free week I was already making a concerted effort to go meat-free at least one day a week. Taking up a challenge like this is also a great way to get meat eaters like me to think about where our meat comes from, and what impact eating too much of it has on our health, animals and the environment.
But having said that, going meat-free for seven days isn’t easy when you’re used to reaching for a stick of droëwors whenever hanger comes a knocking. Luckily for me I had some help from Frys who delivered a pack full of delicious vegetarian goodies to my house before the start of my meat-free journey. Seeing the cooler box packed with delicious-looking Frys eats and treats did admittedly make it a million times easier to start this journey and if I wasn’t able to reach into the freezer for one of their pre-packaged boxes of joy every time I felt too lazy to cook I probably wouldn’t have been able to see through the week as a meat-free warrior. If it wasn’t for the convenience of Frys I’m quite sure I would have also struggled to think of tasty ways to hit my daily protein intake every day (because no respectable foodie can survive on quinoa and roasted veggies alone!).
My boyfriend didn’t take up the challenge with me so dinner time became interesting in our house during this week – especially over the weekend when said boyfriend decided it was a good time to test his long-suffering girlfriend’s will power with a meat-tastic braai. I must admit, the food envy was one of the hardest parts of this challenge but I managed to survive the braai by whipping up a scrumptious home made burger using Frys meat-free Traditional Burgers. I grilled the patty on the braai for a few minutes and served it on a burger bun with a fresh sweet tomato relish that I whipped up (I got the recipe from the Frys’ Plants on Fire braai recipe book). This burger was a real winner for me – the patties are chunky and delicious and have a great flavour and texture that help to satisfy any beef burger cravings.
I’m also a big snacker and when the going gets tough on a Sunday afternoon I often reach for a box of frozen chicken nuggets served with freshly baked oven chips on the side. Of course, I couldn’t do that this week so I decided to swap my regular Sunday chicken nuggets for Frys meat-free Chicken-style Nuggets. I absolutely adore chicken nuggets and these little bite-sized pieces of joy were so good I didn’t miss the real thing! I served them with my usual oven chips on the side and a spicy peri-peri sauce for dipping. Even the boyfriend tried these and gave them a thumbs up! If, like me, you’re all about that snack life, you’ll be thrilled to hear that Frys also does delicious ready-made Chickpea and Roasted Butternut Balls. Seasoned with fresh sage and cumin, rolled in a light crumb, these are a taste sensation when served with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.
Another favourite of the week was the Golden Crumbed Schnitzels. There were four in the box and because I didn’t have to share, I decided to fry two for a week night dinner (served with steamed vegetables and a squeeze of lemon zest it was a winner of note) and grill two for a yummy Schnitzel salad with a berry glaze (I’m not this fancy in the kitchen, once again I stole the recipe from the Plants on Fire recipe book). These babies are so versatile, whether you braai them, grill them, fry them, or bake them they’re a great high protein addition to any meat-free meal. Another easy mid-week dinner winner are the Frys Chickpea and Quinoa Falafels – simply bake them in the oven and stuff them inside a pita bread with all the trimmings – easy peasy!
But what about breakfast? I usually have a smoothie or fruit for breakfast so breakfast was the easiest transition for me. Instead of making a yoghurt or milk smoothie in the morning I opted to enjoy my usual fruit concoction with a few spoons of Frys cacao Kasha. This protein-packed, gluten-free instant cereal can be enjoyed as a nutritious breakfast, smoothie on the go, or even as a dessert. Don’t believe me, you’ve got to try this recipe for Fruit Skewers with a chocolate dipping sauce made using the Frys Kasha mixed with almond milk, maple syrup and vanilla – divine!
While it wasn’t easy, I must say I really enjoyed going meat-free for a week. While I did rely quite heavily on the convenient meat-free goodies supplied by Frys for the challenge, switching up my diet did also encourage me to get a little more inventive in the kitchen and experiment with new flavours and textures. The recipes on the Frys website also helped so much when I was lacking inspiration and they definitely prove that eating a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be boring. I must also admit that not eating meat for a week definitely made me realise how easy it is to cut out meat from your diet and I’m pretty sure that I will be enjoying meat-free meals more than just once a week from now on and I’m all sorts of excited to try more yummy treats from the Frys range.
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After years of working as an Editor and writer for popular websites like Joburg’s Darling, Cape Town’s Darling and Joburg.co.za, Crystal left her sanity and an established career in lifestyle journalism behind to follow her dream of creating a website for the intellectual and discerning woman. Today she spends her time chasing the thrill of being the first to know about ‘the next big thing’. She’ll try anything once and has been known to put her body, hair and health on the line – all in the name of research.