Just as the information contained in this post has come to me slowly, so has my engagement with vegetarian practices. In middle school, it seemed my mother cooked a meal with meat each night. In high school, when sometimes left to my own devices, I ended up eating turkey sandwiches on the daily and in college, I went full-fledged vegetarian before bouncing back to a routine where I presently eat mostly veggies and some meat (along with a shit ton of sugar). And this is because I've seen the way my dad eats and have simply fallen in line. I would never tell anyone to eat a certain way because everyone has developed a way of eating that is uniquely theirs. And, frankly, I've never understood the idea of cutting out entire food groups if you're not a card carrying member of the "severe allergy tribe." This being said... there are a few ways eating (mostly) vegetarian makes your life a bit simpler.
Aside from the health benefits of a reasonable, vegetarian diet (i.e. one not wholly reliant on carbs) there are a few advantages of vegetarianism when it comes to cleaning. During the school year, a hectic schedule means I eat very little meat: too impatient to heat it up when I can dunk broccoli in a bathtub of blue cheese dressing. But during the summer, when I have more time and a carnivorous fiance, I cook meat pretty much each day. Ergo, I've noticed I have to plan a bit more (which is nice) but also use a few more dishes compared to when it's just me, myself and the flexitarian I.
Let's, for a moment, switch to water usage. While I didn't want to wax poetic about how much environmental damage we can diminish when we don't eat cows who eat massive amounts of plants and shoot methane up in the air, eating more veggies makes quite an environmental impact in our daily lives. While my father's medical background led him towards a vegetarian diet, it also instilled in him a slight fear of germs. Ergo, we learned from an early age that anything which came in contact with raw meat was to be washed thor-ou-ghly. This meant plates, our hands, forks and cutlery. It's pretty much the one thing I learned from my dad in the kitchen. And when it comes to washing our hands and plates and then sterilizing the latter in the dishwasher, we're talking about a whole lot of water. So lets... breakitdownmeow...
Along with washing our hands after they came in contact with meat, we were also told to do the same with dishes (like any normal household). This does create a few extra dishes when cooking meat, however. When my fiance and I grill chicken in the summer, there's the plate which holds the raw chicken (where you season it and then wash your hands) and the fork which brings the chicken from plate to the grill. There's also often the knife in which we use to check for "doneness". Then there are the plates and utensils we use to eat the meat itself. Needless to say... all this stuff is rinsed and then thrown in the dishwasher when it's done which adds up to a hefty amount of water down the drain(s).
Granted, salad often has to be prepared on a cutting board and placed in a bowl with tongs which eventually need washing. But me, being the somewhat crunchy kinda-vegetarian I am often just gives these items a soapy rinse before putting them in the drying rack. Additionally, veggies don't often require a knife for consumption. For a family of four, that's four less utensils per night or about 1,500 less utensils in a year which need cleaning.
If you're cooking either meat or veggies indoors, cleanup is generally the same. In this regard, cooking elements in the oven often amounts to throwing out some aluminum foil while stove-top cooking (which I like) often involves more soaking and scrubbing of the pan. But, over time, cooking meat, which releases oil, as opposed to veggies which release water may require one to clean their oven more often or scrub their pans more thoroughly. And, if you're like me, you just end up throwing those pans in the dishwasher (which takes about 15 gallons of water to run).
When it comes to our diets, small things add up. If you look over at the website, Meatless Monday, you'll learn that when Americans cut back on beef from 2005 to 2014, "the resulting reduction in pollution [was thought to] equal the emissions of 39 million cars, or about one-sixth of the number of cars registered in the United States," according to the New York Times. And while we need meat, a slight reduction can help our cleaning routines, the environment and, of course, our waistlines.