Scarcity Solutions: Meat-Free, Protein-Packed Meals - America's Future Foundation

May 4, 2020


Scarcity Solutions: Meat-Free, Protein-Packed Meals

By: Beth Bailey

As meat processing and packaging plants across the US have temporarily closed due to complications arising from the coronavirus pandemic, experts warn meat shortages and price increases are forthcoming. Though President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act on April 28 to force meat plants to continue operations, Time estimates that stores will continue to “have a smaller variety of meat, and less meat overall,” and expects that some supply issues could “linger for a year or more.” 

As a William and Mary student in my early twenties, I’d have interpreted this news as permission to dine exclusively on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or bread ends dunked liberally in Cheese Shop house dressing. (If you’re still in this phase of life, try this copycat house dressing recipe and thank me later.) Because my thirties blessed me with a family to feed, and a slower metabolism, I’m preparing for meat scarcity by scrounging up the recipes for my favorite meat-free, protein-packed meals, which can help  save money and frustration in the event of meat supply chain disruption and lingering price increases. 

Bibimbap is the hands-down favorite vegetarian meal in my house. Preparing the meal with pandemic scarcity in mind may call for numerous substitutions, but all are simple. To make the delicious kimchi, Napa cabbage can be swapped for bok choy or green cabbage. Instead of ginger root, you can use whatever amount of powdered ginger is to your personal taste (start with between a dash and 1/8 tsp.) Gochugaru substitutes abound. You can use either black or white sesame seeds instead of a combination, or leave them out entirely. Instead of searching for Enoki mushrooms, use diced white or portabella mushrooms, and cook them according to the recipe directions. If you can’t find turnips, use mukimame, shelled edamame, which can be found in the frozen section. You can use brown, white, or even black rice, which has fantastic texture and plenty of health benefits. While the ooze of an egg yolk makes the dish extra luscious, your bibimbap will taste phenomenal with or without eggs.

Fried rice with edamame is another fantastic option to make with whatever rice you have handy. Swap the fish sauce for tamari (I like San J brand) or soy sauce to make this a vegetarian meal. 

Shakshouka, a Middle Eastern dish, consists of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes. As the recipe author notes, adding olives (Kalamata are my preference) and canned artichoke increases the flavor. Feta cheese adds nice tang and texture. If you want to pump up the health factor, throw in some spinach (frozen and drained, or fresh). Serve with crusty bread or over cooked quinoa for extra protein.

Another staple in my home are black bean enchiladas. Some variants on this meal involve butternut squash or sweet potatoes. My recipe usually involves whatever vegetables are currently on sale, or taking up space in my crisper. 

Black Bean Enchiladas

½ T olive or canola oil 

1 onion (sweet, white, or purple)

1-2 sweet peppers 

2 zucchinis

1 C mushrooms (white or Portabella) 

1-2 tomatoes

2 cans (15-ounce) black beans

1 C frozen (or drained, canned) corn

2 bags shredded Mexican cheese

½ tsp chipotle powder

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp garlic powder

Salt to taste

Spray oil

8-12 tortillas (soft taco size works best)

1 10-ounce can red enchilada sauce

1. Dice whatever combination of vegetables you have available. 

2. Heat oil in pan. Cook onions on medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add peppers, cook an additional 3-4 minutes. Add zucchini, cook 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms, cook 3-4 minutes or until browned. Add tomatoes and cook 1-2 minutes.

3. Mix cooked vegetables in large bowl with drained, washed black beans, frozen corn, one bag of shredded cheese, chipotle powder, paprika, garlic powder, and salt.

4. Spray lasagna pan with oil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

5. Fill each tortilla with ¾ cup to 1 cup filling. Roll, and place in lasagna pan until you can fit no more enchiladas. If you don’t have enough filling, mix in another can of beans. If you have too much, spoon remaining filling over the assembled rolled tortillas.

6. Pour enchilada sauce over the assembled enchiladas. Top with a bag of shredded Mexican cheese.

7. Cook for 25-35 minutes, until top is golden and crispy.

8. Serve topped with salsa, sour cream, and diced avocado or guacamole

With the weather changing, you may prefer a lighter meal. Salads made with high-protein grains, like lentil salad with summer vegetables or quinoa with corn and scallions, are simple and delicious. Serve topped with feta beside a baked sweet potato, grilled vegetables, or a green salad. 

Black bean and corn salad is also phenomenal. I like to add about a teaspoon of honey to this recipe. This salad doubles as a salsa if you are too exhausted from quarantining to scrounge up other meal components. 

On your next grocery run, stock up on some of the inexpensive grains and beans that star in these high-protein, meat-free meals, and you’ll be prepared for meat shortages and price hikes that are likely on their way. Hopefully you’ll find that they’re so delicious you’ll want to add them to your non-pandemic menu for years to come!

If you have any other scarcity concerns, or scarcity solutions, feel free to send them to [email protected]

What are creative, innovative, or DIY solutions you’ve found to be useful during this crisis? Share them with us on Instagram using #ScarcitySolutions.