Coping Without Fresh Meat, by S.A.

Introductory Note: This article is not a recipe submission. It’s a feature article about how to cope without abundant fresh meat. It’s first-hand, based on a lifetime of experiences, all tried and tested over the years. I’ve divided it into three parts. Please read through to the end.

Needless to say, “Your Mileage May Vary” and please eat sensibly and pay attention to calories, sufficient protein and fat and carbohydrates intake. Likewise, do not ignore adequate vitamin and mineral requirements (RDAs).

I’m not a doctor, and no medical advice is implied. – S.A.


Who doesn’t love meat?
Well, granted, there are vegetarians among us, but the majority of people adore meat, and our bodies crave it. We often define each meal by the protein source, not a listing of vegetables. Generally, no one says, “We are having green beans tonight.” It’s more likely to be, “Hey, chicken for supper!” But, circumstances can change, and life may not always be so protein rich, with so many grocery store selections.
While this three part article may appear to be just some recipes, my point is to get you and your family used to eating, surviving, enjoying, and thriving on less meat.
1 can corn
1 can black-eyed peas
1 can chickpeas (garbanzos)
Dashes of Tabasco
Salt, pepper to taste
This can be served hot or cold. Hot, it’s like a bowl of beans, so eat with cornbread. Cold, it’s like salad or Texas Caviar, so eat with corn chips or fried tortilla triangles.
This wonderfully versatile recipe can go several directions:
  • Parsley, mint, or cilantro are herbs that compliment the beans.
  • Any color of bell pepper (green, red, yellow, orange), diced celery, red onion, green onions (white and green parts), avocado, cucumber, garlic, or mango nudge the beans toward being a salad.
  • Using ACV, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, or olive oil impacts the flavor profile.
  • Salsa, pico de gallo, and chow chow are easy additions for the beans.
  • Cooked grains such as bulgur, barley, lentils, couscous, or quinoa add additional bulk.
  • Other beans such as black, lima, pinto, and navy add color and their own particular flavors.
  • For a bowl of beans, mash a few beans to thicken when heating.
  • Crumble one slice of bacon over a large table serving dish or individual bowls. Who doesn’t love and appreciate bacon? It’s a beloved universal food even in a forced vegan world. My guess is that your deep pantry holds some Yoder’s canned bacon.
A Marinade

Here’s a useful marinade to use with the beans:

Place all ingredients into a screw top jar. Shake well.
* 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
* 1/4 c red wine vinegar
* 1/4 c tarragon vinegar
* 1/4 c champagne vinegar
* 1/4 c olive oil
* 1 tsp red pepper flakes
* cilantro or parsley, chopped into small pieces
* whole diced green onion (white and green parts)
Meat May Be Scarce
We may not always have abundant meat like we do today. Or you might choose to omit meat from your diet, either occasionally or forever. But we can still eat delicious foods that are satisfying, healthy, and nutritious. “Rice and beans” doesn’t literally mean only those foods. It doesn’t mean just tofu, nutritional yeast, and other vegetarian choices.
Growing up in the 1960s, a common and popular pot luck dish was Three Bean Salad. I remember it as three cans of beans- -green beans, kidney beans, and wax beans- -with the addition of pimentos, onions, and some Wishbone Italian dressing. You can easily make your own dressing with vinegar, honey, and Dijon mustard shaken in a jar. While this dish is tasty, I get the feeling of eating a vegetable side dish and not so much a protein dish. An addition of chickpeas would transform the dish with protein.
Today is a good time to begin to branch out and develop new family favorites. If the time does ever come, then the children will be used to these non-meat foods and no one will feel quite so deprived. I grew up eating pinto beans and cornbread every Saturday lunch and never thought anything about it. In New Orleans, many people eat the traditional dish of red beans and rice once a week. Try something new.


I imagine many of us have those  little canned hams in our deep pantry. We used to be able to get them very inexpensively at Walgreens when they went on sale. The price has gone up, but they are still useful.
Mr. Rawles once wrote about using these little hams during TEOTWAWKI as a once-a-week family meat treat on Sunday, in a mostly vegetarian beans-and-rice world. This is a great idea, but the hams need help.  A lot.
I have long maintained that everyone needs to practice cooking and creating right now. Read new recipes, try ethic dishes, watch cooking programs, and use your deep pantry and garden every single day.
When you open the canned ham, the smell is akin to other cheap canned meats such as Vienna Sausage or Potted Meat. I don’t find it appetizing, so think of ways to add to it. Here’s an easy recipe for Sunday lunch:
Mini-Canned Ham Lunch
* small canned ham
* Dijon mustard
* apricot preserves
* pinch of tumeric
* whole cloves
* brown sugar
Open a canned ham and dump ham and all the juices into a tiny casserole dish that just barely holds the ham. Using a small dish will help keep the juice so it doesn’t evaporate in the oven. Score the ham by making diagonal cuts all across the top, in two directions. At each intersection (top and bottom of a diamond), push in a whole clove. You will use around 20 cloves. Now mix 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard and 4 tablespoons apricot preserves. Spoon half of this on top of the ham thickly, saving the other half. Then, spread 1 tablespoon of brown sugar on top of the apricot/mustard ham mixture. Warm through for 45 minutes in a 325* oven. Warm the remaining sauce to offer individually over the ham. Only remove the cloves right before you serve. Don’t eat them.
The ham is now much improved, but in my opinion, really doesn’t stand on its own. Leave the ham in the little casserole so it can absorb the juices. Waste nothing.
Suggestions for use:
* First meal: sliced and served with mustard/apricot preserves sauce at Sunday lunch. Sometimes it’s nice to just have a solid meat serving on your plate looking at you.
* Second meal: ham sandwiches, bread spread with mustard and garden vegetables such as onion, tomato, pickle, lettuce or even sauerkraut.   Mustard masks flavors better than mayo.
* Third meal: ham bits in omelets, topped with salsa or pico de gallo, sour cream, and cilantro
* Fourth meal: small diced pieces used as seasoning in a pot of beans, bean soup, potato soup or corn chowder
* Fifth meal: used as a seasoning in macaroni and cheese, quiche, potato salad, or potato casserole
Every time you are able to use ham bits in a dish, you considerably ratchet up the nutritional value. Hungry people appreciate meat protein sources and won’t feel so much like they are seldom getting meat at a meal.
Obviously, the little ham won’t stretch that far to prepare all those above dishes, but you get the idea. Use strong seasonings to mask and improve the canned flavor. Serve with any jelly or preserves such as chili pequin pepper jelly, mint jelly, habañero jelly, grape jelly, cranberry sauce or even BBQ Sauce. Different types of mustard (All-American yellow, grainy, Dijon, wine) go far in kicking up the flavor.
There are many international sauces including Thai Hot Chili Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, Soy Sauce, Plum Sauce or even dressed up good ol’ catsup that can be used. Fruit cocktail and canned pineapple have traditionally been used with ham.
As a side note, in any of those ham meals you can substitute diced Vienna sausages.
I grew up rather meat-poor and am very familiar with canned meats. As an aside, now I realize why I was so skinny growing up. It’s rather shocking to me now to realize how my parents who had a very lovely home filled with inherited family furniture and treasures worked so hard to put some kind of meat on the table every night. We ate potted meat, deviled ham, canned hash, Vienna sausage, canned salmon, and canned tuna. My folks never were into Spam or canned chicken.  Foods I refused to eat were canned sardines and pickled pigs feet That was a particular favorite of my sweet father who had starved during the Depression. On the other hand,  I always enjoyed fresh beef tongue and fried chicken gizzards, liver, and heart, but these are for another article.
Tiny cans of Potted Meat or Deviled Ham are stretched and improved with pickle relish, mayo, and diced hard boiled eggs. And, diced capers or diced green olives work, too. Either spread on bread for a sandwich or serve with crackers. The next canned meat treat suggestion is to fry up canned hash in a little olive oil and serve with plenty of catsup. Add onions, some herbs of choice, and even add a diced cooked potato as you fry to bump up the nutrition.
My husband and I once ate at the Las Vegas restaurant of a celebrity food chef who served a runny egg over plain old hash. Pretty delicious. I already mentioned that Vienna Sausage can substitute for canned ham in any recipe. It’s not the same, but hey, it’s meat. We ate canned salmon just dished out of the tin with yellow mustard on top, but many people stretch salmon into croquettes made of breadcrumbs, torn bread, or crackers. Be sure to offer a delicious dipping sauce, either store-bought or made in your own kitchen. Just think how Chick-Fil-A revolutionized chicken nuggets with their Polynesian sauce.
Canned tuna is my specialty, and I just love it. Be sure to buy it packed in oil. Your body needs fats to work and for efficient metabolism. If there are ever lean times, the oil from tuna may be a life saver. Plus, packed in oil is just tastier than packed in water. Lightly drain some of the oil and dump the tuna in a bowl. Save the oil for another use. Add diced celery, onion, apple, a bit of lemon juice, your choice of pickle or pickle relish to kill the canned fish flavor, salt and pepper. By this time the amount of food in the bowl has at least doubled and you only see sparse flakes of tuna among all that other goodness. This tuna can go on a bed of lettuce, a sandwich or simply with crackers.
My father’s idea of heaven was a jar of pickled pigs feet and a tall glass filled with crumbled corn bread and cold buttermilk. Just think how this filled many nutritional needs, even though today we may might think that this meal has a high yuck factor.
SPAM, Glorious SPAM
Finally, Spam is beloved worldwide. Pinterest is filled with recipes using Spam in fried rice, hash, casseroles, quiche, soups and chowders, chicken fried, musubi, ramen, salads, spaghetti. You are limited only by imagination. I’ve made Spam tacos, and they taste much better than they sound.
As an aside, people used to get an iron supplement from eating foods cooked in cast iron. My parents cooked in various cast iron pans daily. It’s a good idea.
Canned meats are finite. That is, there’s only so much in a can. But you can extend anything. My favorite meat extenders are onions, potatoes, mushrooms, and even corn. Tomatoes are another good one. I dehydrate tomatoes all the time and put them into many, many dishes where you wouldn’t expect to see them. Fresh, frozen, canned, packed in oil, and dehydrated are all useful forms of tomatoes. Check your pantry and your deep pantry and see what vegetables are complimentary and could be added to any dish to extend and make it even more nutritious.
You want people to anticipate eating a canned ham or any other canned meat, not groaning with, “Ugh, tiny, tinny canned ham!” So go ahead and experiment with your hams and other canned meats so they are not strangers when the time comes. Good luck!



Serves 4

** package of beef leg soup bones
** butter
** 2 large onions, roughly sliced into strips, not diced
** baby carrots
** tiny Yukon gold potatoes to cover bottom of crock pot
** 1 can Campbell’s Tomato Soup
** 1 tsp dried thyme, or 3-4 fresh  4” sprigs
** salt, pepper
** handful of frozen English peas
** 1 tsp Apple cider vinegar
** water
** parsley
The bones I buy are 1” thick, four to six to a package, and filled with lovely marrow. They have very, very little meat on them, but plenty enough for flavor. The package cost $2.95.
The vinegar supposedly draws minerals out of the bones as the stew cooks. Anyway, can’t hurt. ACV is healthful and any vinegar flavor is lost to the stew.
Sauté onions until brown, slowly on stove top for about 30 minutes in 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter.
Pam the crockpot. Layer whole tiny potatoes in bottom of crockpot. When you use Yukon Golds, you don’t need to peel them. Just throw them in whole after washing. Put baby carrots in next. Then spread browned onions over carrots. Tear 1 piece of bread and place on onions. This, along with the tiny potatoes, will thicken the stew so you don’t have to make flour gravy at the end of cooking time. Now place soup bones in pot. Spread tomato soup over bones.Sprinkle dried thyme or lay 3-4 sprigs over bones. Salt and pepper lightly, as you like.
Add one soup can full of water, getting all the remaining bits of soup out of the can.
Add peas 1/2 way through cooking time. Just sprinkle them on top of everything.
Cook on high for 4 hours, until potatoes are soft and meat is falling off the bone. If using fresh thyme, at this point strip the herbs off the sprigs into the crockpot. Scoop marrow out of bones, stirring into stew. Yum! A family member lived in London six years ago and has told us that marrow was big in the restaurants at that time. Take the slight amounts of meat off the bones and return only the meat to the pot. Give the bones to the dogs.
If you are in a starvation situation, you will appreciate the grease in the crockpot. Otherwise, suction off with a turkey baster or put in refrigerator so congealed fat will be easier to remove. If you do not have plans for using the skimmed grease, give it to your dog–and he will love you forever.
When serving into bowls, sprinkle a little cut-up parsley over the stew. This adds color to the presentation and always needed Vitamin C.
Of course, you can use cut-up full-size carrots and potatoes. The smaller carrots and potatoes just cook more quickly.  Also, some people like celery, mushrooms, and red wine in their beef stew. To stretch this stew, just add more water or vegetables.
** dehydrated or freeze dried carrots, potatoes, onions, peas, canned beef chunks or dried hamburger nuggets
** canned butter
** thyme from garden
I only like the vegetables in beef stew, but the meat and fat adds such wonderful flavor. Since the stew doesn’t contain much meat, the carnivores at the table can have the few meat chunks. Serving over a piece of toast, rice, or noodles in individual bowls will increase the protein amount in the dish. Sometimes a stew recipe calls for a touch of sugar. That is not needed in this recipe as carrots and onions are sweet vegetables.

This stew is really good, easy, healthy, and fast. You will love this dish and maybe add it to your weekly rotation. Enjoy!

So, in conclusion, our world is full of varied plants, grains, herbs, and vegetables. I’ve written about my favorites, showing my particular food biases. Feel free to do your own experimentation in order to use your pantries and prepare.
This article is a starting place for changing eating habits and becoming less accustomed to eating fresh meat two or three times a day. Good vegetarian cookbooks have excellent recipes that can give you ideas.
Finally, a caveat:  Meat proteins are called complete proteins because they contain all the amino acids required by our bodies for growth and repair. But, we can meet the same complete protein requirement by wisely pairing certain protein sources in the same meal. For example, beans and rice or milk and bread are two well-known combinations.
Regarding children, never skimp on their protein requirements. Their minds and bodies have definite, specific protein requirements for normal brain and musculoskeletal development. Vegetarians can develop certain B vitamin deficiencies for lack of meat, if they are not careful. You never want to mess around with vitamin deficiencies. Those vitamin deficiencies can cause irreversible effects that stay with children and adults the rest of their lives.
Here’s a free health hint: Build a secure chicken coop, raise some free-range layers, and serve everyone in your family eggs regularly each week for good health. Eggs have long been called nature’s perfect, complete protein.
Be ready, be safe, be hopeful.


  1. I love this article. And I never make comments. Thank you so much.
    This gives me much food for thought. Preplanning is a must. You can’t work from a nonexistent pantry. The little things will matter.

  2. Your article reminds me of our “forgetfulness” about how our parents and grandparents where able to provide from a less bountiful pantry. We have many things to re-learn – hopefully, your article will get readers thinking and evaluating their food choices. Thanks!

  3. Nice article. I have two thoughts to share:

    1. The amount of iron you get from cooking with cast iron depends a lot on how well seasoned the pan is and what kind of food you are cooking. If the pan is well seasoned, you get very little iron, if any, from it. Acidic foods and liquids boiled for a long time will yield more iron.
    2. B12 is one of those essential vitamins, and it only comes from animal sources or supplements. PrepSchoolDaily dot blogspot dot com has a post on it, as well as those at highest risk for deficiency and what to do about it. Just put B12 in the search bar on the right and you’ll go right to it.

  4. This is a great article. It gives a good look into a way of life few people enjoy these days.

    My mother (who can’t cook her way out of a wet paper bag) was the Queen of Everything Canned. Growing up, we ate lots of Spam, and corned beef hash (and how I lament that corned beef in a can is NOT the same anymore!) Canned chicken made awesome casseroles, dried beef with flour gravy over toast (known by many names) macaroni and cheese with tuna and peas was a staple. And then came Hamburger Helper. I think she thought she’d died and gone to heaven.

    Basically, if it didn’t come in a can, bag, or box, my mom had no idea what to do with it. And when I moved out, I swore I wouldn’t eat that way all the time, nor feed my kids like that either.

    As soon as I moved out, gardening and canning became a way of life for me, though I still do enjoy the occasional nostalic meal, and my pantry is well stocked and well used.

    We raise rabbits, and canned they are a very versatile meat which is nutritious and yummy! I find them far easier and cleaner to raise for meat than chickens, and it surprises me that more people don’t raise them.

    Stretching hamburger: I use oat bran, oatmeal, and other hot cereals. We raise beef, and my two grown kids (with more kids) have our cow butchered, cut and wrapped every year, and we split the meat three ways. They have both commented many times about how glad they are not to have to pay store prices for beef.

    I get comments from people all the time, along the lines of “You’re living the dream, I wish I could!” to which I always say “So do it!”

  5. Thanks for the ideas to extend and add taste to canned meats. In lean times a hearty ,good tasting meal will help to lift one’s spirits at the end of a hard working day. We also like corned beef hash and roast beef hash.

  6. currently the only meat I can afford on fixed income is the polish sausage ring when it goes on sale 2 for $5, cut into 4 inch pieces and sliced lengthwise, coated with Hawaiian or sweet and sour sauce. makes 10 pieces which when fried crispy and eaten 2 at a time will last almost all week. These can also be added to cannellini (white kidney) beans or with cabbage and an onion will make a filling meal. Where I live celery is $5 a bunch (ridiculous!) and I just noticed that the smallest size cheddar cheese blocks have decreased in size again with no corresponding price drop. My mother had lots of tales about making do being one of 6 kids on the farm, anything can be stretched by the addition of noodles or rice.

  7. Thanks for the memories!! I grew up with SPAM and tuna fish casseroles on a weekly basis. Canned ham or canned chicken casseroles were “Sunday dinner” specialties! Fresh chicken or beef mixed with pasta were special occasion dinners. I still stock my pantry with all these basic casserole ingredients but my kids and grand kids turn up their noses at them. They are so spoiled with the wide availability of relatively cheap meats, fish and poultry; they will have a hard time adjusting when it is not available.

  8. Food preservation skills would be in high demand if for any reason we end up in a non-electrified society. Brining, pickling, dehydrating, butchering, and canning knowledge would be vital to any family or group for long term survival. We should all have general skills in many areas but this would be a good specialty area of expertise, and raise one’s value to a group. It would also be a good idea to have hard-copy instructions printed out.

  9. Thank you for the great article. We eat what we prep here, so that means fried SPAM and eggs for breakfast occasionally, SPAM and green pepper pizza, lots of cowboy beans, and red beans and rice. Leftover cowboy beans and leftover red beans and rice can be used in tacos, or in burritos.
    Cowboy beans- 2 lbs. pinto, kidney, great northern beans. 1 large can baked beans, liquid smoke, chopped green and red peppers and onions, bacon, breakfast sausage links cut into 1/2 inch bites. Taco seasoning, Water. Optional: little smokies cut bite sized. Cook in pressure cooker.

  10. I loved your article. So many good ideas. If you want even more variety you can learn to pressure can and can your own meat. If you can’t raise it get it on sale or when the meat department marks it down (usually early morning). Make friends with the local butcher and he/she will give you a heads up. I have used my canned meat after 10 years. Just make sure that the seal is intact.

  11. This article was a breath of fresh air. Thank you for the great ideas and it reminds me to practice by using up some canned meat that is older.

  12. In our society we are currently very blessed. Most of us can pretty much afford to eat anything we want within some reason. Even the poor who frequent food banks can walk away with pretty decent groceries.

    I remember stories from a different time. Older people than me (I am 57) speaking of lots of oatmeal with sugar policed to only one teaspoon to save money. Children getting in trouble for using too much ketchup. One moderate piece of meat and one only for each member of the family. No leftovers because the meals prepared left everyone slightly hungry to begin with. Stretching one pound of hamburger to feed six sizeable people. If you were still hungry, there was a stack of cheap white bread in the middle of the table to fill up on.

    And the descriptions above were for those who were doing ok. For some they were just plain hungry.

    When I eat a pickle I often think of a passage out of “The Grapes of Wrath”. Can’t quote it but as I recall, there is this young man who has been hired by the rich guys to plow up the fields acquired for a song at the expense of all the small farmers. Sometimes he would get little bonus for knocking a house off its foundation. He is not very popular but he is happy because in his lunch box he has a sandwich…and a pickle. The way Steinbeck wrote the passage, it always seemed to me as if that pickle was a big deal to him.

    And to think now we have an epidemic of diabetes and other illnesses from over eating.

  13. I really enjoyed your article. Raised on a farm, I’ve not experienced a lack of meat; however I can see it becoming problematic. I have been experimenting with meatless meals, but never considered tinned meats. I’ll give them a try. Most importantly is the reminder that sauces and flavorings are so important. I need up gather some recipes for them before they are needed. Thanks

  14. Great article! Spam, canned ham, tuna, chicken, potted meat, vienna sausages and even salmon last a long time. I would caution about the “chicken” vienna sausages. I have had those go bad in a relative short amount of time compared to the original vienna sausages. They have definitely come in handy in hard time situations. True, not the gourmet meal but definitely filling.

  15. “Just think how Chick-Fil-A revolutionized chicken nuggets with their Polynesian sauce.”

    Ahhh, another devotee. For the small canned hams try 4 packages of C-F-A Polynesian sauce as a glaze with a quick run under the broiler. Or even better 4 packages of C-F-A Polynesian with 1-2 packs of C-F-A Texas Pete’s hot sauce. One day my son and I will complete our C-F-A/SHTF mashup cookbook

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