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How to cater for everyone in a part-veggie household

Nearly 70 percent of families in the UK cook more than one meal a night largely due to a mix of different requirements. This includes a rise in those following a vegetarian. If you find yourself cooking multiple dinners to cater for everyone you could be spending more time and money than you need to.

Traditional food puts meat at the center of a meal – with veg as a side dish. There are many reasons to think 'vegetables-first'. The cost of meat is rising and the latest advice is to limit the amount of red meat we eat each week. Whether you're a vegetarian cooking for meat-eaters, or vice-versa, here are my go-to tips and tricks to ensure empty plates and happy tummies.

The ideal – get everyone veggie

Swapping some classic meat dishes for veggie versions is a great way to get the family enjoying more veggie food together. Try the easy ideas in this short animation.

Part-veggie dishes

If meat is still non-negotiable for some people at your table start by cooking a vegetarian meal and use these ideas to add in meat separately for those who'd like it. Sounds simple but these methods really save time on a busy night:

  • Noodles or noodle soups – umami-rich wild mushrooms tofu and an egg make noodles incredibly satisfying but steaming a fish fillet in a parcel or adding a little smoked mackerel is an option for non-veggies. Search for Simple tofu ramen in the recipe search bar.
  • Tomato sauce for pasta – a rich flavour-packed tomato sauce with pasta suits everyone. A batch of frozen meatballs on standby can be added to individual portions. This is a favorite with the kids. Search for How to make a tomato sauce in the recipe search bar.
  • Veggie soups can be filling. A little bacon can be sprinkled over to please the meat eaters at your table.
  • Vegetarian tacos are brilliant and popular with everyone. To flex the recipe add a bit of basic braised mince. Search for Vegetarian chilli tacos in the recipe search bar.
  • Wraps are the ultimate flexi-food, to which the whole family can add the bits they like best. Use punchy feta and beans. A little chicken grilled and sliced could easily be added in for meat-eaters. Search for Chilli beans burrito in the recipe search bar.

How to go vegetarian

Thirty or so years ago, following a varied and vegetarian required a fair amount of dedication. Now you can easily find a wide range of vegetarian recipes but even so there are some challenges to be aware of.

Foods to check

Non-veggie ingredients can be found in surprising places. The Vegetarian accreditation mark acts as confirmation that a processed food is vegetarian but not all products are checked so always refer to the ingredients label. Here are foods to pay particular attention to.

Cheese: some cheese is made with animal rennet an extracted from the stomach lining of calves. Vegetarian cheese can be made using plant-based microbial. Both hard and soft cheeses can be vegetarian, but it’s important to check the label. Parmesan is always made with animal-derived rennet but vegetarian alternatives are available. As Parmesan is typically found in ready-made pesto or stir-in sauces they may not be vegetarian so always check the label. The Vegetarian recommends avoiding whey, which is usually a by-product of cheese-making and is often used as a flavor carrier in crisps.

Pastes, sauces, stocks and soups: some ready-made pastes sauces and condiments contain fish-based flavouring. Beware of anchovies in Worcestershire sauce and shrimp paste or fish sauce in Thai curry pastes. Meat stocks can turn up in ready-made soups, risottos and gravies.