The Meatless Monday Recipe Guide for Regular People

chalkboard background with white text that reads #meatlessmonday and a small illustrated strawberry above it

If you Google “Meatless Monday Recipe” you will find no shortage of options — from Pumpkin Roulade with Quinoa Stuffing to Crunchy-Topped Lentil Gratin, the internet is exploding with insta-worthy food made by stay-at-home food bloggers and influencers. 

And it’s an amazing resource for anyone who wants to bask in the blissful ecstasy of their dinner after spending an entire Sunday learning five new cooking techniques. 

But what about for the rest of us?  We don’t have a ton of time to cook every night (or frankly, don’t want to)… not to mention the clean up afterward. 

If you’re like me, you’re just an average person trying to make your life a little more sustainable. Cutting out some meat consumption is a highly effective way to do that, and #MeatlessMonday is a fun way to hold yourself accountable. 

So here are 22 meatless Monday meal ideas that will delight your taste buds, are easy to execute, and need minimal clean up! 

Two things to keep in mind: 

  1. If you’re looking to make an eco-friendly impact, you don’t want to replace all your meat with cheese and dairy — these products are also large resource suckers like beef. I have included some as options here because it can be tough to go full vegan, but I did try to lean towards the plant-based alternatives. 
  2. Living a busy life and staying sustainable is tough. Many of the most convenient options (take-out, premade sauces, pre-chopped fruit and veggies) come in unnecessary single-use packaging.

Just remember, it’s all about balance and finding what works best for you and yours.


BREAKFAST

Meatless Breakfasts to Grab On-The-Go

We’re talking real world here. And if you’re anything like me, you might get a nice sit-down breakfast once a week, but 9 times out of 10 it’s time to get out the door and you really don’t want to think about it. 

  • Quick and Easy On-The-Go Breakfasts

The trick here is to think simple, with a flair. Our taste palate loves variety, and turns out our brains do too. Don’t forget to eat the rainbow! They’ve done studies on this — Food that has more bright colors actually tastes better to participants, yet blindfolded tasters can’t tell the difference. 

close up of blueberries and sliced bananas on a piece of wheat toast with a nut butter smear
Toast: Buttered and Beyond!
  • Toast
    • I know, I know — but do you switch up your bread on a regular basis? Try different multigrains? Here some ideas for a bit of flair: 
      • Cinnamon toast with cream cheese and raisins or craisins.
      • Multigrain toast with Everything Bagel Seasoning (you can actually just buy this seasoning now – I personally LOVE IT).
      • Peanut butter toast with berries and/or bananas on top.
      • Sourdough toast with pesto and red bell pepper slices.
      • Wheat toast with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and balsamic.
      • Multigrain toast with cream cheese, cucumbers, and dill.
  • Butternut Squash “Toast” — yup you heard that right. Give it a try!
  • Bell Pepper Halves with Cream Cheese
  • Hard-boiled Eggs
  • ‘Clear the Fridge’ Fruit Smoothies
    • (example: I recently diced and froze a single yellow squash I was trying to save from the compost and have been adding it little by little to my morning smoothies.. I can’t taste it, but am loving the extra vitamins!) 
    • You can also add any leftover leafy green, avocado, citrus, yogurt, berries – just chuck it in there and hit blend.
  • Apple or Banana with Nut Butter

2) Make It Once, Eat All Week

If you do have an hour or two on a weekend or weeknight and want to invest a little time toward your breakfast for the rest of the week, these are great recipes that are meatless and save nicely: 

fluffy quiche in a scalloped baking dish

  • Homemade granola bars (grab your oats from the refillery!)
  • Peanut butter oat balls
  • Quiche
    • A quiche can be really quick to make if you buy a premade crust, but of course that usually involves more packaging. If you make your own crust do yourself a favor and make extra, then freeze what you don’t need. Also consider just making an “egg pie,” basically a crustless quiche. 
    • Quiches are a wonderful way to use up any leftover veggies or cheese from your week. Just saute in a pan and be sure to drain off excess liquid before you add it to the eggs. 
  • Banana Bread or Zucchini Bread

LUNCH

Very Easy Veggie Lunch Ideas 

Whether you’re a night-before prepper or a morning-of scrambler, lunch can’t be complicated either. It’s way too easy to snooze one more time and then grab lunch while you’re out. 

You know that making food at home is more sustainable, and if you’re looking to go meatless, your local lunch options might be limited. So here are a few easy veggie lunch ideas so you can get to work on time and stick to your sustainable goals: 

hand drawn illustration of a mason jar with layers for a salad on the go (layers are bottom to top: dressing, beans, grains, veggies, leafy greens)
Dump into a bowl, bam – salad!
  • The classic PB&J — plus a few twists! Try adding:
    • Pomegranate seeds
    • Coconut flakes
    • Dried apricots
    • Apple chips
  • Salads 
    • Boring I know, but they don’t have to be! It definitely helps if you have your veggies pre-chopped to save time throwing it together in the morning. 
    • Also try mixing up some dry goods like roasted pumpkin seeds and dried fruits so you have an easy grab-n-go salad topper that satisfies. 
    • Make sure to add a protein to help fill you up. Chickpeas are a great option! 
  • Hummus and veggie wraps
    • This is one of my favorites because it’s so easy and yet delicious. 
    • Try pesto instead of hummus for a twist.
    • Some of my favorite veggies: cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, broccoli, greens, sprouts.

If You Have a Little More Time

Again, if you do have a little more time you can make some delicious vegetarian meals with only slightly more effort than that 10-minutes-before-you’re-late-to-work allows. These are all great to prep the night before, then throw together for lunch during the week.

I am also always thinking about what little bits of leftovers I can clear out of the fridge – the combos can be as varied as your imagination! 


DINNER

Meatless Monday Dinners That Are Actually Feasible on a Weeknight

And finally, Meatless Monday would not be complete without a family-friendly vegetarian meal that you can whip up in 30 minutes or less. Sound impossible? It’s not. Here are some of my faves: 

Photo by Klaus Nielsen
  • Spaghetti squash with butter and sauteed veggies
  • Stir fry — this is one of the easiest meals you can make if you find a sauce you really like. Just fry up some veggies and throw it over rice or noodles
  • Curry — again, this can be a bit more complicated if you make it from scratch. And though that’s more eco-friendly (and healthier), if you’re looking for a weeknight option I recommend finding a curry paste you like. It’ll become one of the easiest meals in your arsenal. 
  • Cauliflower fried rice — this is a great shortcut to fried rice, and so much healthier. No need to wait for the rice to cook!
    • That said, if you have leftover rice, regular fried rice is another easy vegetarian option. 
  • Black bean burritos, tofu tacos, or chickpea tacos
  • Veggie spring rolls with peanut sauce — a really fun way to eat more vegetables. It’s like a salad only ten times better. Plus any leftover veggies after rolling are already cut up and great to throw on salads for lunch the next day. 
  • Vegetarian chili — okay it takes a while to cook, but the actual prep time is low so I included it. 
  • Baked zucchini boats — bet your kids will actually eat this zucchini! 
  • Portobello “burgers” — just throw some olive oil and salt+pepper on full size portobello caps and toss them on the grill. They’re done in no-time and you can dress them up just like a regular burger. 
  • Pasta
    • Pasta gets a bad rap, but for a weeknight dinner, it’s honestly amazing what you can whip together. It’s also an effective way to reduce food waste because pasta is so versatile with ingredients. 
    • If you have a whole bag of leafy greens like spinach or kale you forgot to eat (it’s okay, it happens!) try throwing the greens in a colander and “blanching” them. When the pasta is done cooking, you just pour the boiling water and pasta over top of the greens and let it drain. Then toss it all in some marinara sauce and you’re good to go!
      Or try some of these other pasta variations: 

  • Stuffed baked potatoes with a side salad 
    • Don’t be afraid to pack in those veggies. Some ideas: 
      • Roasted veggies (my go-to is broccoli and mushrooms)
      • Spinach and cheese
      • Butter and sour cream
      • Peppers and onions with plant-based sausage
  • Easy soups from Life Unplastic

Are You Ready to Try a New Meatless Monday Recipe?

I hope this has given you some very realistic ideas to try for your next Meatless Monday. If you’ve taken up the challenge, I want to say thank you. You’re doing it! Keep going, trying new recipes, and spreading the word. 

Double the effectiveness of your Meatless Monday by getting your groceries plastic-free at the refillery

The more we can all work together to be just a little more sustainable, the better the world will be. Don’t forget — if you try one of these Meatless Monday recipes tag us @unplasticgnv with #MeatlessMonday! 



Our Bulk Bar Is Growing!

The Bulk Bar & Refill Station is still definitely a work in progress, but we’re getting there! Our goal is to make your journey towards zero waste as simple, convenient and accessible as possible.

We encourage you to bring your own jars (or whatever containers you’ve been avoiding throwing away) and come see what we have to offer.

Refilling bulk products will empower you, save you money and enable you to say goodbye for good to conventional, non-recyclable and enduring plastic packaging. Not to mention drastically reduce your exposure to petroleum based products, synthetic dyes and fragrances, manufacturers who test on animals, hormone disrupting chemicals – the list goes on and on.

As you get low on these in your house – consider making us a weekly or monthly stop!

*laundry detergent (liquid or powder)
*organic, expeller pressed coconut oil
*organic apple cider vinegar 
*vegetable glycerin
*mango/shea butter
*sulfate free liquid shampoo
*liquid conditioner
*castile soap (unscented or lemongrass)
*baking soda
*epsom salts
*glass cleaner
*stain and odor remover
*dish soap
*green tea
*dog treats
*orange juice
*and more!

Bottom line, bulk buying is a great opportunity to vote with your dollar by supporting businesses and brands who are willing to reduce their waste stream and who actually care. Not only about what their product is made of or what it’s packaged in, they also care about their customers – YOU!

Also, don’t let multi national corporations get away with polluting our earth AND blaming it on us!

Vive la révolution!!

Witch, please!

We now carry Witch Hazel at our bulk bar! It is 100% natural and alcohol free. Pure Witch Hazel has been known as a beauty secret for ages – it’s a natural antiseptic and is kinda perfect as a skin toner after washing your face. It acts as an astringent, causing your tissues to contract to help shrink pores, while also soothing your skin and relieving inflammation.

Ingredients: Pure steam distilled witch hazel

No Surfactants
No Sulfates
No Chemicals
No Colors or Dyes
No Perfumes or Scents
No Alcohol
No SLS or SLES  
Yes, Vegan
Yes, All-Natural
Yes, Hypo-Allergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Yes, Biodegradable

Come in today and get whatever you need in your jars or little misters or whatever other container you have laying around – to start making your own DIY facial toners!

FAQ: How Should I Clean My Natural Sponge?

 

Earth Hero! You’ve already kicked your neon shower puff habit for beautiful, biodegradable natural sponges for your body exfoliating, car cleaning, dishwashing needs.  But you may be wondering how to keep them clean.  You aren’t alone, we get this question all the time!

What’s worked best for us is to soak natural loofah or sea sponge every two weeks in a mixture of warm water and baking soda.

-(1) tablespoon baking soda per (1) cup of warm water. 

-Soak for 15 minutes

-Rinse

-Let the sponges air dry in a ventilated area.

For both loofahs and sea sponges – the more you use them, the more frequently they need to be swapped completely. Also, we recommend storing your natural sponges in a cool, dry place between uses. It will help elongate the life span of the sponge and prevent bacteria from growing.


DON’T!

-Use a diluted bleach solution.

-Boil, microwave, or expose to high heat (it will harden).

-Twist or pull – only squeeze to dry.

-Store in humid areas.


To discard your sponges, simply place them in your compost bin. If you don’t have a home compost, check out Gainesville’s Beaten Path Compost. Their drop off locations are the Union Street Farmers Market OR there’s a compost bin (large black rolling trash can labeled COMPOST) adjacent to their garden at the corner of SW 4th Ave. and SW 3rd St., it’s tucked away at the east end of the strip where Opus Coffee is located.


For more information on Loofah and Natural Sea Sponges:

Are natural sea sponges greener than synthetic shower poufs?

Sponge FAQ

How to Clean Loofah or Natural Sponge Without Bleach

‘Menstruation’ is Not a Dirty Word

On International’s Womens Day, let’s work together to destigmatize and debunk some myths surrounding reusable menstrual products and save countless disposables from ending up in the landfill or in our oceans!

Please enjoy this humorous take on Life With Menstrual Cups by my very good friend, who was kind enough to write this for the Life Unplastic blog even in one of the most trying periods of her life (time period, not period – period).

Many thanks, Stephanie!   


“Reduce, reuse, and reimagine your period. It’s not as scary as you might think.”


By: Stephanie Woody Vernon

Ah, the menstrual cup. Whether you use one or not, you probably have an opinion about them.

I’m no expert, but I do have a long history of being very open with friends or near strangers about what goes into my vagina, so naturally this is a topic that has come up once or twice.

And for me, it was a simple transition from tampons to this more eco-friendly, waste reducing product, and the next step in a path I was already on. Just trying to do my part, ya know?

Talking openly with folks about it has sparked some interesting conversations for sure, and there are plenty of people who still have their doubts. Here are a few of the most memorable cup fears I have encountered:

-“The thought of putting my fingers in there super grosses me out.”
-“I just CAN’T with the boiling it to clean it.”
-“There’s no way you can’t feel that thing. I don’t believe you. You’re just lying to convert other chicks to your weird hippy sh*t.”(It’s worth noting that this last sentiment came from a man. With a penis. Not a vagina…  I’ll get back to these in a minute.)

I am not a doctor and as I said before, I’m not an expert. But I am a person with the correct anatomy to use these products, and who has been actively doing so for the last 4 years (for those of you counting that is roughly 48 cycles), so I feel I have a well informed opinion. I can’t speak for everyone’s experience, but I will share a little of mine.


My desire to change the way I dealt with my monthly cycle originally stemmed from a general passion surrounding knowing what we put into our bodies on a daily basis.

The obsession started slowly, with me combing through the ingredients in the food I ate, branching out into the household and beauty products I used, and naturally I ended up at the horrible realization: that a tampon isn’t a harmless piece of cotton and that I should use the same discretion with what goes “down there” as I do with what I put in my mouth.

Also, during this time, I became increasingly aware of the fact that the things I was trying to avoid because they are bad for my body were almost always just as bad for our planet.

I have read tampon ingredients I can hardly pronounce (ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, carbon disulfide, toluene, etc) and though again, not a doctor, I would just feel better if they stayed far away from my most natural area. Call me crazy, but the thought of deliberately inserting a carcinogen laced, genetically modified, bleached piece of “maybe cotton” into my body no longer appealed to me. Just as unappealing is the not-so-farm-to-feminine-hygiene production process that deliver these to a bathroom vanity near you, and the vision in my head of mountains of non degradable plastic applicators that have to go somewhere and that somewhere is just back out into nature, our oceans and landfills. **Deep breath, back to the point**

I was unsure about the prospect of this new-to-me product, so I started with a cheap disposable brand, as a $30 commitment for a reusable cup was more than I was ready for right away.

The one I chose came in a pack of five, and it was a silicone ring with what looked like a small plastic bag attached to it. Think tiny fishing net, sans mesh. There was a learning curve for the insertion and removal, but once I got the hang of it, it was really quite simple. This product, however, had its down sides. The most obvious problem was that it was still creating the waste I was trying to eliminate. Another issue was that although I couldn’t feel the cup, I could hear it.

I discovered that if I opened and closed my legs at the right angle, I could hear the sound of a plastic bag crunching, and did so over and over again until my husband and I were in tears from laughing so hard. As humorous as this was, it was time to move on.

Enter the Lunette Cup. It was love at first (er….third?) use. Again, there is a learning curve. Inserting it is something that takes some getting used to, but practice makes perfect. By my second cycle with it, I was a pro. You pop it in and go, and honestly do not have to fuss with it for the rest of the day. I cannot feel it, and don’t need to worry about emptying it for another 12 hours.

There is a little stem on the bottom of it with little ridges for grip that allows you to just pull it right out when the time comes, dump, give it a good rinse, repeat. The end.

So what are we so afraid of? Well, lets talk about that. In my experience, these two situations are the worst that can happen…

First, trying to empty them in a public restroom without a sink in the stall with you is not my favorite situation. That being said, I haven’t really run into the need to do this because of the amount of time you can actually wear these without needing to empty them. This has only been an issue for me ONE time, when I was surprised by a heavier than usual period and a poorly planned day.

Second, dogs LOVE these. Listen, dogs are gross and some eat their own poop. Mine ate my cup and also my replacement cup. She also used to raid the trash for tampons, so this is not surprising. Lesson learned. This is totally preventable and totally my fault as these creatures do not even have thumbs. Moral of the story, maybe don’t leave your cup out on the counter.

Third, you may have to shop around to find the one that you love. I know many woman who love the Diva cup brand, but this wasn’t the best choice for me. I found the stem to be too short and thick for me to get a hold of and it made removal more challenging and I just didn’t like it.


“The path to self discovery is liberating.”

Now, getting back to the actual fears people have shared with me.

Let’s start with “putting my fingers in there….gross”. I get it. I was raised by a woman born in the 50’s and we mostly pretended we didn’t have vaginas. We didn’t say the word. We didn’t discuss what went in or out.

I learned about my body from my subscription to YM (Young and Modern) magazine and my first tampons were a bonus gift from said magazine.

Real talk: you are a woman. You have a vagina.

It would benefit you greatly to take some time to become comfortable enough with your body so that the idea of your own fingertips inserted into your vagina is more appealing than a foreign object with uncertain origins and ingredients. The path to self discovery is liberating.

The “boiling” issue- it is suggested by the manufacturer that you boil your cup before your first use. That means before it has ever seen its first drop of blood. After that, a thorough cleaning with unscented soap, or soap specifically made for your cup, is all you have to do. If you would like another round of super sanitation, go ahead and boil that baby again, but no one says you have to.

I’d also like to add that you probably have boiled an egg once or twice in your lifetime and those come from a chicken’s multi-purpose hole that I don’t think many of us understand all that well, and then you EAT those.. and the pot you use even survives!

Point being: It’s not that weird.

Lastly, guys: if you do not have a vagina, you do not get to have an opinion on what we can or cannot feel in there. Despite what your girlfriend said. (HA!)

Ladies, if you have worn tampons comfortably your whole menstruating life, then you can do this too. If your cup is inserted properly, you can not feel it. That is the truth. I’m sure since all of our bodies are different there is always going to be an exception to this rule, but for most of us you can wear it all day without ever noticing anything different. This is so true that it is almost a con, because it’s easy to forget you have it in.

At the end of the day, what you choose for your body is deeply personal. Perhaps next month you might consider trying something new that is better for your body and the future of this planet.

Reduce, reuse, and reimagine your period. It’s not as scary as you might think.