If you are a busy parent, and want to feed your family whole foods based on plants cooked at home most nights of the week, there are not two ways around it: you have to become adept at vegan meal planning. (And also meal prep – but that’s a topic for another day!)
Benefits of meal planning for vegans
In our “busy” civilization, planning meals for the week gives you a much higher chance to:
- Eat tasty and healthy food throughout the week,
- Feed your body and mind all the nutrients you need from a diversity of foods and ingredients,
- Save money (and your waistline) by avoiding restaurants and convenience foods,
- Help save the planet by reducing waste,
- Make your family happy because you can at least try to thoughtfully choose a meal that appeals to everyone’s needs (or that can be adapted as needed),
- And have a (somewhat) peaceful meal because you’re less stressed out by preparing food at the last minute, especially when you are hungry and tired.
This is even more true for vegans because there is a lesser variety of ready-made, reasonably-healthy staple food options available on store shelves.
Four strategies to streamline vegan meal planning
You too can adopt these routines to streamline the meal planning process, cut back on food waste ($$) and be more zen on weeknights:
Draft an inventory of what you already have in the kitchen (so you can use leftovers better and avoid wasting produce, frozen, and pantry items). That’s also a good opportunity to get rid of spoiled items, if you have any.
2) Daily themes
Set daily themes such as salad day, bowl day, freezer day, fun day, etc. or go by type of cuisine (Mexican, Indian, French…). Then, choose classic, standard meals and customize them based on your inventory, the season (seasonal veggies are cheaper and often more nutritious), and your family’s preferences. Take into consideration how much time you have to cook on certain nights of the week. The themes can be the same throughout the year, or rotate a bit with the seasons. Just keep it simple!
3) Plan a prep session and JUST DO IT!
Plan a Sunday meal prep session: bake some snacks (muffins, energy bars…), mix dressings and sauces, chop veggies, marinate tofu, cook grains and beans, and maybe cook a big batch of a nice slow cooked dish (chili, curry, spaghetti sauce…). As much as possible, avoid having to refer to cookbooks or use knives on weeknights. Spending an hour or two on Sunday will save you A LOT of time on weeknights, because you will have consolidated chopping and cleaning up.
4) Freeze more!
A freezing habit: Whenever appropriate, make a double or triple batch of whatever you are cooking and freeze it for later. Pull items out of the freezer at least two to three times a week to keep a healthy rotation going.
Meal planning is a great investment of your time considering how much stress, effort and money it will save you on weeknights.