Feeding Your Family When There Is No Meat, by S.E.

Imagine that you are nine months into a long-term crisis. You have a garden, you’ve stored food and you have a healthy flock of chickens for meat and eggs. Then the unthinkable happens. You lose your flock to disease, thieves, or predators, or maybe your animal feed has run out. What do you do now?! How will you feed your family with no meat?   Sure, you can try your hand at hunting, but so is everyone else, and maybe it’s not safe enough for you to venture off your property due to violence or disease. This article is designed to help you think about ways of getting adequate protein into your family…  …when there is no meat.

A bit of background. Following my series of back-to-back illnesses in 2017 ranging from bronchitis and strep throat to pneumonia, I felt that my immune system was not functioning correctly, likely due to inflammation issues related to diet. I decided to undertake some nutritional research to try and fix this problem through diet. (I am not someone who likes medications). A few months later we opted to give the Whole Food, Plant Based way of eating a try. You have probably heard of this, it’s becoming quite popular – even with professional and Olympic athletes. Essentially it consists of eating only plants – fruit, vegetables, grains and beans. No added oil, no meat, no dairy, no fish, no processed sugar and minimal salt. Yes, it’s a big lifestyle change but the proven benefits to your health are numerous. People are reversing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments.

I do not consider us vegans. The word “vegan” conjures up negative images in my mind of hippies screaming at you while you eat your steak. Additionally, many vegans eat sugar products like Oreos and lots of unhealthy vegan processed foods like Impossible Burgers. In contrast, Whole Food, Plant Based eaters cook the majority of their food from scratch and we do our level best to avoid processed foods. We also cast zero judgement on anyone else’s eating choices. We are only eating this way for our own health. No agenda.

Feeling Better on a Better Diet

We have each lost many pounds and have kept it off for almost two years. We are healthy and slim in our mid-50s! We do not count calories, protein or anything. We simply eat when we are hungry and eat what we like within the parameters of our choices. We take zero medication – our food is our medicine. All of our bloodwork tests have been excellent. We are as energetic as we were in our 20s. It truly feels like we’ve found the Fountain of Youth.

Okay, all of that said, since we have been eating this way for several years, we would like to offer you advice on how to survive if you have no access to animal products (or oil). It can be done!

Disclaimer: We are not nutritionists, just very well-educated people on this topic.

There is protein in literally every food you eat. Do not stress about lack of meat if or when that happens to your family. It’s nearly impossible not to get enough protein if you eat a variety of beans, fruits, veggies and grains.

Tips for eating meat-free if it becomes necessary:

  • Grow & store dried beans. They are super easy to grow and are quite prolific. We buy good quality ones from companies like Rancho Gordo and then we plant the ones we like. We save the seeds from year to year. Here’s a list of the beans with the highest protein – in grams per cup.   Edamame (31g), Lentils (18g), white (17g), cranberry (16.5), split peas (16), pinto (15), kidney (15), black (15), navy (15) & lima (15)
  • Store lots of grains. They fill the belly, mix well with beans & vegetables, they generally stay good for years and they are delicious. Protein per cooked cup is noted – steel cut oats (10g), kamut (9.8g), quinoa (8g), whole wheat pasta (7g), wild rice (6.5g), millet (6g), couscous (6g), rolled oats (6g), buckwheat (5.7g), wheat berries (5g), cornmeal (4.4g), white rice (4g), barley (4g) etc.
  • Squash seeds and pumpkin seeds score big on protein. Growing these also gives you a double food source – the flesh and the seeds. One ounce of squash or pumpkin seeds contains 8.5g protein.
  • Grow and store seeds for vegetables that are high in protein. Protein per cup noted – bean sprouts (aka mung beans, 49 g), lima beans (15g), green peas (8g), sweet corn (5g), artichokes (4g), brussel sprouts (3g), potato (3g), asparagus (3g), broccoli (2.6g), cauliflower (2g)
  • Grow peanuts. They are delicious boiled, roasted or made into peanut butter. They pack 6.9g protein per ounce and are also a source of fat.
  • Plant nut trees ASAP. Look for varieties that mature quickly like hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds. Almonds have 6 g protein per ounce. Walnuts and hazelnuts have 4.3g protein per ounce. Nuts are a great source of protein and needed fat.
  • Sunflowers provide beauty as well as fat and protein (5.5g per ounce)
  • Many seeds are an excellent source of protein. One tablespoon of ground flax seeds has 1.3g of protein. You can add one or two tablespoons into your oatmeal each morning and up your daily protein count by almost 3g.
  • Plant fruit trees, berry bushes and grape vines ASAP for a good perennial source of healthy calories; even fruit has protein – a peach has 1.5g, 1 cup of blackberries has 2g, 1 cup of apricots has 4 g, etc.
  • Microgreens are another fantastic source of overall nutrition and can be grown indoors year-round under grow lights. They generally provide 1-3g of protein per serving. There are so many tasty types – here are a few to consider – chia, arugula, basil, broccoli, cabbage, beets, clover, kale, pea shoots, radish, & sunflower shoots.
  • Plant plenty of spices to add to your veggies for maximum flavor
  • If you have no oil, it is easy to water-saute your veggies. Put them in a pan, add a few tablespoons of water and stir away. Add water a tablespoon or two at a time as needed. Be careful and don’t add too much water, you don’t want to boil the veggies. You can also grill veggies.
  • Eat your greens every day – they are packed with nutrition and heart healthy – spinach, cilantro, kale, broccoli, arugula, beet greens, mustard greens, sorrel, swiss chard, turnip greens, etc. If you live in a warm climate you can put shade cloth over some of these and grow them almost year round
  • Make sure that you eat a good variety of fruits and vegetables for maximum nutrition
  • Keep your USDA growing zone in mind when you are selecting what to grow for protein. Select varieties of trees, bushes and plants to are proven to do well in your area.
  • Grow only sources of protein that you know that your family will eat. It does no good to have six hazelnut trees if your family hates hazelnuts. If you are the only one in your family who will eat broccoli, consider a different vegetable with similar protein counts. Beans are not an option to omit. If you have family members who don’t like them, you might have to mash them with onions or spice them heavily because they will need them for protein. Start introducing them now and find creative ways to make them like/tolerate them. For example, I recently made a “lentil loaf” and it wasn’t bad! It had lentils, carrots, celery and onions in it. Ketchup on top just like the real thing.
  • You could also store some protein powder – regular or vegetarian. The shelf life of it will be limited – but it would give you time to grow your beans!
  • Don’t worry about amino acid imbalances or protein “combining” – i.e. beans and rice. The combining myth was disproven decades ago.
  • If you get nothing else from this article, then please take this advice. If you are not eating meat either by choice or by necessity, then after about a year you will become deficient in Vitamin B12. This can cause a host of serious problems from weakness, shortness of breath and even blindness. A B12 deficiency is also showing up in meat eaters lately because of declining soil quality and because so many animals are being raised indoors. You can get B12 from dirt or from a simple supplement. They are cheap and readily available. We take one 2,500 mcg B12 per week. Please store some!  JWR Adds: Every family should also store multvitamins tablets, vitamin D3, and Magnesium

A few interesting facts:

  • You would find it easier to homestead without having to care for animals. If you don’t go in to your garden for a few days, the plants will still be okay. Animals need daily care and lots of food.
  • Historically, meat was a luxury, usually small side portions were eaten just a couple of times a week; meat has only recently become the main dish of a meal.
  • Did you know that Thomas Jefferson rarely ate meat? He preferred fruit and vegetables.
  • Roman gladiators had a diet that was mostly grains. They were called “barley boys”
  • Britain during WWII was a true SHTF situation because they had been importing 2/3 of their food and could no longer do so due to the Germans bombing their supply ships. As a result, the government asked (forced) the farmers focus on crops for people and not on raising livestock, most of which were culled early on. The thinking was that you get more calories if the people eat the food that is grown. If the livestock eats the food, they return less calories than they ate. Simple math. There is a great eight-part series called Wartime Farm about Britain during WWII. It’s entertaining, educational and interesting to see how overbearing their government had become.

This lifestyle is not for everyone but if you are intrigued, the following are three good sources to explore the Whole Food, Plant Based way of eating. Be careful doing your own research because many films and videos contain lengthy discussions about animal abuses, climate change, et cetera, and are very political. I avoid those, they are aimed at vegans. I just want the facts without the agenda.

  1. You Tube Channel of Dr. Michael Greger. Author of “How Not to Die” and “How not to Diet”. Very scientific and informative – a full third of his books are references.
  2. You Tube Channel of Libertarian Doctor Pam Popper – also very scientific & informative.
  3. Game Changers Movie – $3.99 on Amazon and Free on Netflix. (Warning: There is one brief subject pertaining to men that young children should not watch in this movie)

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates


  1. [ we operate a small organic teaching farm near the outskirts of vegentarianist central — Eugene Oregon, we may have some experience in the matter ]
    [ please forgive the flow, I’m one-finger typing on the telephone before heading outside to work at 5am ]

    I agree — most vegentarianists are among the unhealthiest people I know.
    Just because some crud has no animal products listed on the box doesn’t automatically make it healthy.
    My suggestion — dump the contents; you could be healthier eating the box.

    Are Twinkies© and French fries vegentarianist?
    Living fermented foods use yeasts/fungus… are they vegentarianist?

    I agree — ‘healthcare’ comes from our gardens, working in them and eating from them.

    One questionable decision is soy products such as edamame aka soy beans.
    Almost a hundred percent of soy is non-organic, Genetic Modified, then sprayed with Round-Up© and millions of tons of petroleum-based chemicals to compensate for dirt long-stripped of nutrients.

    Here is a Rule Of Thumb:
    If minerals are not in the soil, minerals cannot be in the crops.
    Plants rarely magically create something out of nothing.

    Vegentarianists are big on soy.
    I hear rumors of soy interfering with the interrelated human body systems, changing human males into ‘soy-boys’ with female characteristics such as fat storage in their chest and rump.

    Pregnant women strip-mine their body’s stored DHA to feed the fetus.
    Our only known source of DHA is pelagic fish.
    Supplementing the mother’s diet with fish oils, krill oils, and cod liver helps the mother feed the life growing inside her.
    DHA is not available in a vegentarianist diet.

    Some vegentarianists ruin their animals’ health by restricting their captive pets and livestock to vegentarianist feed.
    Unfortunately, few animals are willingly vegentarianist.
    Every animal thrives on a varied diet.
    Avowed vegentarianists, cattle consume enormous amounts of bugs as they free-range their pastures.
    Any examination of survival traits immediately shows successful survivors are here today because their ancestors adapted to an ‘opportunistic diet’ in their species distant past.

    And do not get me started on vegentarianist soda pops, vegentarianist hydrogenated oils, or vegentarianist soy-based baby food.
    Or vegentarianist modeling of animal-based foods such as ‘toefoo-furkey’ to replace the gobler on your Thanksgiving table, toefoo ‘salmon loaf’, and toefoo patties to slip between your hamburger buns at the barbeque.

    What causes arthritis? Cancers? Allergies? Dementia?
    Cause, meet effect.
    Do grains contribute to a leaky gut, allowing undigested proteins to cross into the blood, activating an extreme immune stress response?
    Does that grain-caused stress injure arterial and venal channels, increasing the body’s need for cholesterol to patch the damage… narrowing the channels and raising blood pressure?
    Cause, meet effect.

    For most animals, a healthy diet consists of plants (and bugs, and fish, and animals…) from a vast variety of organic sources opportunistically gathered as we stroll and sprint and climb through our gardens.
    The “…popular…” vegentarianist fad is an artificial construct offering few health benefits… and those benefits would be temporary at best, fatal at worst.
    But if it makes you feel better messing with it, have fun.
    Speaking of guilt:
    In the locker rooms at the gym, the hand blow-dryers have signs guilt-tripping hand-worshers into believing they are saving Amazon forests by eliminating the use of paper towels… while simultaneously, each piece of exercise equipment mandates spraying it after use with disinfectant then wiping it with paper towels from the dozens of rolls of paper towels sitting all around the gym.
    Do not get me started.
    [ suddenly remembers to breathe ]

    1. Black soy beans, and only the black ones, have very tiny amounts of phytoestrogens. I think that is why black soy beans taste like just plain beans. The phytoestrogens are bitter. Yellow soy is the worst, then green soy.

      On the other hand, black soy beans, being black, have huge amounts of really desirable phytochemicals. That’s phytochemicals, not phytoestrogen.

      (The actually aren’t black, they are midnight purple. The Japanese use them to dye silk.)

      Soybeans have by far the highest amount of protein of any bean. They are technically a complete protein, as they do have all of the necessary amino acids, but one or two of them are in small amounts.

      Soybeans have gotten a bad reputation, which in general they deserve. Black soybeans give you all the good, and none of the bad.

      1. Forgot to mention: Eden Foods has organic black soybeans in 25 pound bags, as well as canned black soybeans. They are the most highly prized Japanese variety. You can eat them, or plant them. Also, Eden Foods is a Christian company.

    2. Large Marge!
      I really needed to smile, and when I read this from your post…

      “If minerals are not in the soil, minerals cannot be in the crops.
      Plants rarely magically create something out of nothing.”

      Well, I not only smiled. I really laughed. It’s just so true. Some of the funniest moments come down to explaining what should be very obvious, and doing so simply.

      Thank you!

  2. I love meat but rightly noted that meat consumption was never intended to be what it is today. Firmly believe that our over eating of meat, dairy and factory chicken causes much of the health issues the partakers of such are experiencing. (Along with fast/ processed foods and sugar)
    Mentioned in another response – the work of Dr. Joel Furhman is notable; especially his book, “Eat To Live”. He addresses the history and fallacy of the USDA since it’s inception order President Lincoln to promote all things cattle which includes dairy.
    One interesting point he makes is that if milk intended to nourish a 600 pound calf is so healthy for humans… why other than “herd mentality” would we not drink elephant, bear, rhino and pig milk???

    1. It is the reverse, but I will wholeheartedly agree with the factory food problem. Farm fresh eggs, grass fed beef, etc. are far better.

      They used to fry in beef tallow or sautee in real butter. Now they use unnatural vegetable oil which is NOT something any human has ever eaten in quantity. Even how we cook food has been frankenfactorized.

      The problem is that the refined sugars, frankenfoods like High Fructose Corn Syrup, “white” flour. They stay fresh forever, have lots of calories, but no nutrition. Sugar, in particular, was a luxury food and originally used as a spice, not in itself (like candy).

      You can directly correlate the increase in type 2 diabetes, obeseity, and other problems to CARBOHYDRATES, not meat. The ratio is against you, people who switch to carnivore (paleo) tend to drop pounds and feel healthy. People who switch to organic desserts and junk food get and stay just as fat.

      As to other milks, have you ever tried to milk a bear? Elephant? Rhino? Goats, especially certain breeds produce lots of milk. It takes breeding to get animals to produce milk without having an infant animal around – we have Jerseys and Holsteins for milk, we don’t even use Angus for milk.

      Not mentioned above is hunting, which is a source, and the only source of food in winter before preservation and storate. So meat is a natural source of food.

      One more detail is much is genetic. Northern Europe with its winters needed sources of nutrition during winter, so meat and milk are the best tolerated (also alcohol). Lactose intolerance is something nearer the equator. Also they have fruits year round so tend to handle a more mixed diet better. Japanese don’t get fat on rice. The Innuit and Native Americans could exist on a pure meat diet.

      But I will end repeating the factory frankenfood is bad. Recently I travelled for a job and made my usual egg salad. What I make at home with eggs from local farms was bright and deep yellow. What I made from the breakfast hard boiled eggs at the hotel was dull yellow-white. I also notice the taste of the meat is different (when it doesn’t say it is local, etc.).

      Zoe Harcombe makes it very simple (though not easy). Eat real food. That’s it. Fresh produce, properly raised animal products. Butter, not margarine. Natural, not “low fat”. Not the heavily processed blobs of salt, fat, and HFCS with chemical flavorings. Also she says not to eat carbs and fats in the same meal. So have your pasta with a sauce that doesn’t have much fat, and don’t have fatty meats with potatoes.

      1. There is no increase in diabetes. diabetes is mostly genetic, you get it from your parents or grandparents. Statistics are funny, they often mislead or misinform. There are two factors that have created a perceived increase in diabetes in the U.S.
        1. the increase in diversity. Northern Europeans have pretty much the lowest rate of diabetes so 50 years ago the U.S. had more people of Northern European descent so the diabetes rate was lower than it is today with a much increased ratio of African Americans and people from Central and South America. These groups have diabetes rates that are 2-4 times higher than people from Northern Europe. Native Americans have even higher rates.
        2. Some years back the medical community recognized that about half of Americans with diabetes were diagnosed. Often diabetes don’t show up until the persons 20’s and 30’s even later sometimes. So they began a program to identify undiagnosed diabetes. A very successful program that appeared to increase the rate of diabetes. But it did not, the rate was the same just more people who already had diabetes being diagnosed.

        If you have diabetes, diagnosed or undiagnosed, your diet can be part of your treatment. If you do not have diabetes, diagnosed or undiagnosed, your diet will not give you diabetes.

    2. That’s cuz you can’t milk elephants rhinos bears or bison…. Too mean

      Or rabbits squirills mice rats cats…. Too small

      Every culture that had milking animals did so and when they stuck to a diet that was well rounded and proportionate they were healthy

  3. CORD7,
    Wondering if you ever tried to milk an elephant, bear, rhino or pig? Even a very tame horse is virtually impossible to milk. We milk cows and goats because they will stand still for the procedure when trained.

  4. After eating organic foods for years and years , I worked with a nutritionist that designed a detailed diet for me based on my blood type and ethnicity. After 6 months of strict adherence to the diet, I lost about 10 pounds, the pain in my joints disappeared, my regular heart burn was gone. In short, I felt like my body had been reborn! Today at 67, I feel like I’m in my 30s. My diet is centered on vegetables and fish, the only meat allowed is turkey.

  5. I grew up on a farm and ate a nice healthy mix of mostly veggies and humanely raised or hunted meat. After college I moved to Texas for a bit and saw how cattle were raised in muck up to their bellies and didn’t eat beef or much meat till I returned home. In those years I learned to like a wide variety of grains and beans that we didn’t raise growing up. It changed my eating and the way my family has eaten for 30 years. We are definitely much healthier eating few processed foods, a ton of veggies, some grains, and humanely raised meats. I vote balance but understand that in some situations, we might have to go meatless. I’ve prepared for that eventuality and pray I don’t have to ever live the feast/famine cycle of the early Native Americans and other early cultures. (I’m also an anthropologist and archeologist and have studied early cultures in depth.)

    1. I’ve lived in and around cattle in Texas my whole life, never seen nor heard of a cattle operation as you’ve described. If one existed the USDA would shut them down no doubt, and likely euthanize the herd for disease concerns. I’ve seen a few factory chicken farms like that, but only because of periods of unusually high rain amounts over the winter/spring months combined with overwelmed (or under engineered) drainage.

  6. I have a different take on diets. If you look at diets from a latitude standpoint before the advent of mass transportation, you will see all eating more local. At equator you will see high vegetarian diets that slowly progress toward more meats, less vegetables as the latitude moves north. All these people lived and their bodies adapted to local fares. If you think SHTF, then realize your diet will be dependent on where you live in the long run. All these arguments over which diet is best, seems a waste of time to me. It is decided by nature. Even the Eskimos had a complete diet in extreme environment. We are omnivores, so we can and have been able to live in any environment pre industrial.

    Survival toward thriving is not about warring with nature, but, following it.

    1. Your point about latitude is well said. And true.

      You also need to look at your ancestry – where your forebears lived for at least 1,000 years. If they were all from the same general region, you will do well to eat what they did. If you are a geographic mongrel, you will have to pay attention to your body and try to figure it out.

      I knew two women. One was a Phillipina, born in America and married to a German. He loved meat and potatoes, and as a good wife, she cooked and ate meat and potatoes for years. Her stomach always felt like lead. She did this for years, until one day she decided to clean out the hip deep mess in the basement. After finding various things there, she divorced her husband.

      We talked about food. She was about to go on some fashionable eating plan, so I asked her where she was from (I knew), she said the Phillipines, and I asked what they ate there. Fish, fruit, vegetables and rice. I told her to try that. Result: a very happy Phillipine-American.

      The other woman was a geographic mongrel, mostly northern and southern European, with a dash of Mongolian. However, the Mongolian genes were tough, and she did best on a mostly Mongolian diet (dairy and meat), with a bit of southern European fruits and vegetables.

  7. Thanks for the information; it is quite helpful. We eat beef and pork sparingly, maybe once every 2 weeks; chicken about once a week, fish once a week and beans, grains and salads about 5 days a week. We live on a farm so we raise most of our own animals and we love our farm fresh eggs. Fresh garden fruits and veges are our favorite meals. I think our diet is healthy and well rounded. No meat would be a bit boring but we could do it.

  8. equitorial science seems right, my family is from nordic europe where for 7 months of the year they only ate reindeer meat, root vegetables, reindeer milk/cheese and a few dried berries. I grew up on meat and potatoes and feel weak when I don’t eat meat, -beans and greens do a number on my innards.

  9. In the eighteenth century the British navy was providing there sailors with meat in one meal a week. Where as the American navy was feeding it’s crews meat once a day. This was due to the availability of fresh meat in the colonies. And, of course, this has never changed. This is why today Americans on average are 5″-6″ taller than most Europeans. We are a land of meat eaters

  10. My wife’s ancestry is Punjabi, although she was not born in India. As such, my diet is Indian, consisting mainly of dosa (an Indian fermented bread containing mostly rice and beans), dahl (beans), lots of veggies, and a little meat. I make my own dosa from grains, which requires a wet grinder to make properly. I love dosa, and eat it every day, although I use more methi (fenugreek) seeds than in the traditional recipe, and I sometimes add a little rye or barley if available. Since it contains both rice and beans (urad dahl) it is a complete protein, and since it is fermented, it is good for you.

  11. S.E. Thanks for taking the time to write this article. Two topics which are impossible to research, so I don’t, are health and nutrition. Everybody disagrees, very authoritatively of course, so it’s impossible to know who is correct. So I just try to use common sense, avoid factory meats and corporate creations, and it seems I’ve arrived at many the same foods as you have. You’ve given me other ideas to research like, duh, why didn’t I think of growing edamame? And let’s try a row of kamut this year. I’ve been growing my own dried beans and trying a few new varieties each year having fun with that. I’m going to expand it this year. Thanks again for the article.

  12. Loved the article. Listen to a show on sunday mornings from a doctor who says much the same thing. Stay away from the sugars and processed foods go heavy on the veggie and small on the meats. My opinion is a lot of this is based on your work load also. If your cutting firewood or building fence eat a little extra. Opposite for rest or rainy days.

  13. This is what the hippies call “going vegan” and I never thought I would see it mentioned here outside of derisive humor or disparagement. Come to think of it, hippies were and still are the original preppers.

  14. Wartime Farm is one of my favorite series. The same people did Wartime Kitchen, Victorian Pharmacy, Tudor Farm and one other. I learned a lot about living without modern conveniences that I can apply in a SHTF situation.

  15. Interesting article and thank you for sharing. I did extensive nutritional research after I was diagnosed with a rare type of Lymphoma after being extremely healthy for 50+ years. While I required chemo therapy since my red blood cells were dying off in masse, crowded out by the cancer cells, I allowed myself not one processed food item from that point on. Except for the months where I couldn’t keep anything down, and had no energy to prepare food, I ate saltine crackers (yuck!). I can hardly look at them now. I do think we all need to look at ourselves and our families nutritional requirements, look at the availability of fresh and local organic foods, and work from that perspective. I fondly remember Cheez-its! Now, everything is cooked from scratch using whole ingredients and if I can’t grow it, source it locally, I buy it with hopes that the organic label actually means something. I do eat way less meat, but that’s mostly because I buy pastured beef, pork, and chicken from a local rancher and it’s pricey! I’m sure the chemo arrested the downward trend in my health, saved my life actually, and I feel better than I have in almost 6 years. My rules are: no pesticides, no GMO’s, no highly processed foods, local and “organic”. Those rules work well in growing zone 5, but it forces you to “put up” food when it’s available during the summers. My opinion after doing my own research: animal fats are important for the body, so the goal is to make sure the animal fat is from a “pure” source, pasture raised, no GMOs or pesticides, etc. The body is highly adaptable to various types of food regimens, but what it can’t overcome very well are poisons (pesticides, etc) and nutritionally deficient foods. Just my humble opinion and the direction I took for better health.

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