How can my family get enough protein when meat shelves are empty? If you have a vulnerable family member and are ordering groceries, you may experience shortages before those who are walking into stores. That means you may already have many items missing from your grocery orders. As meat processing plants reduce output, shortages may grow. Getting enough protein can require persistent and creative shopping as well as cooking. Luckily, there are many meatless sources of protein.
I’m a little too young to have fully experienced the hippie era, but I felt its influence. My first awareness of vegetarian protein choices came from odd people who wore headbands, tie-dye, barefoot sandals, and drove white vans you wouldn’t dare let your children near now. My parents, on the other hand, happily waved goodbye when a VW bus picked me up in front of their business. But that’s a different story.
Rice and Beans
The most popular protein choice of my antiestablishment friends was rice and beans. The combination of these two shelf-stable foods can provide 7 grams of protein per cup. Even rice and beans have sometimes been hard to obtain in the past month, but can be purchased in large quantities when available without worry that they will spoil before you use them.
My sister has vegetarian friends from the Middle East who introduced her to lentils. She loves to put them in curry and soup. And her favorite gluten-free pasta is made with red lentils.
One-half cup of cooked lentils contains 8.84 grams of protein. They are also a source of potassium, iron, and fiber. You can buy them dried to pad the pantry for times when meat is scarce. You can also buy lentil-based snack chips as an occasional crunchy treat and serve them with hummus for a high-protein treat.
Hummus is made from garbanzo beans and has been one grandson’s favorite since he was less than two. He loves it with pita or pretzels. It can also be used as a sandwich spread.
Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)
Garbanzo beans don’t have to be made into hummus. I like to put them in salads. They can also be roasted or added to soups and stews. One-half cup of cooked chickpeas has 7.25 grams of protein.
Like other beans, you can find them canned or dried. You can also buy them as a preground hummus base. All of those options can be stored without refrigeration for a long period of time.
One of my everyday foods is a handful of almonds. I like them raw rather than roasted or roasted and salted. They’re delicious paired with dried fruit and yogurt. They add a different sort of crunch to salads and one pot meals. And almond flour can lighten the crumb of gluten-free baked goods.
Almonds provide a whopping 16.5 grams of protein per one-half cup and are a good source of vitamin E. Some studies indicate the vitamin E content may improve memory. Almonds have a shorter shelf life than the foods mentioned above, but can be stored in the freezer to extend their use. Almond butter is also a pantry friendly choice.
Almonds are not the only nut that’s high in protein. Pistachios, walnuts, cashews, and the legumes that are called nuts, peanuts, are also high in protein.
My family loves breakfast for dinner and breakfast tacos any time of day. The staple of those favorites is eggs. Eggs have been easier to get than meat during lockdown. They can stay in the refrigerator longer and they’re often available at local farmers’ markets.
One egg has 6 grams of protein and all 9 essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body plus iron, vitamins A,D,E, & B12, folate, selenium, lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline. That makes them a near-perfect food.
If you’re allergic to eggs, quinoa is a versatile gluten-free high-protein option that is readily available dried for long shelf-life. I keep quinoa in my pantry most of the time. I also use quinoa/rice blends for variety.
One cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein. It also contains magnesium, iron, and manganese and is rich in fiber.
While they can’t sit on the shelf or in the refrigerator as long, milk and cheese are favorite protein supplements for those who aren’t allergic. Organic milk typically has a longer shelf life. Yogurt without sugar and flavorings is a healthy choice that serves up probiotic bacteria as well as protein. You may also want to consider soy products like tofu and edamame.
It is likely that we will face periodic shortages of many products for the next year or two. Keeping your pantry stocked with several meatless protein options will give you the best chance of ensuring that your family can get enough protein when the meat shelves are empty during the coming weeks and months.