Meal planning and prepping is an awesome way to organise your weekly food shopping. If you plan your meals and shop ahead you will save time, money and also always have healthy and nutritious meals with yummy leftovers for lunch.
Being organised, also means you can buy enough food and snacks for the week ahead so you don’t have to resort to buying takeaways or junk food which can be expensive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have treats (including junk food) but it’s not great to have them every day.
A few years ago as a new vegan, I began to work at a location that had little to no vegan options for (lunches and snacks) so I taught myself to be prepared and organise our meals so that I always had leftovers for lunch as well as healthy snacks.
To start with, it’s good to have a meal planner for the week. There are many tools you can use, I use AnyList which is an app you can download on your phone (it’s free) and you can compile a grocery list and meal plan in there. This is particularly handy if you share a house with your partner or friends and want to have a collaborative list which you can all access. You can add items and cross them off once you’ve bought them. It’s much easier than having a written piece of paper in the supermarket.
I do a meal planner Saturday – Friday night as we usually do the grocery shopping on a Friday but you could do any days you like. I allocate meals for each day taking into account how much time I have to cook, whether we need leftovers and the time of year (e.g. warm,hearty foods in winter). We mainly eat WFPB (whole foods plant based) so I use my multicooker a lot for cooking dried beans and legumes. It’s also much quicker than traditional cooking for many recipes. As I do the meal planner, I check which ingredients I need and add them to list if need be. During the week, I usually choose easy meals such as chilli, curry, lentil stew, pasta, bolognese, noodles, stir-fries etc. and many of these recipes are in the Vegan4Life recipe section so you don’t need to look far.
There are a couple of ways you can meal prep. You can either make a big batch of food at the weekend for the week ahead or, if you’re like me and don’t mind cooking during the week, you can cook and use the leftovers for lunches the next day. This way you don’t have to spend Sunday afternoon cooking.
The key is that you will always have meals planned so you can budget your costs, only buy what you need and also reduce the need to buy food whilst you’re out during the day at work, just make sure you have containers which can be microwaved.
If reheating your lunch isn’t an option, you can prepare Buddha bowls, salads, rice/pasta salads, sandwiches, rice paper rolls or even take soups/stews with you. Soups/stews can be heated and put in a thermos and they will stay hot for about 6 hours. If you’re making something cold, make it the night before to save you time in the morning. There are a great range of lunch containers with sections in (think like a bento box) so you can prep your lunch and it will stay fresh and crisp. I like to use these for felafels and salad and hummus and then just add some pita breads and you have a quick easy, awesome lunch.
There are a range of easy sandwich fillings such as tofu, vegan cheese/ham/chik’n/tuno and you can even make scrambled tofu at the weekend (there’s a great recipe on the Vegan4life site) and use it during the week on sandwiches. If you’re short on time, you can also take a sandwich and toast it if you have access to a sandwich toaster at lunchtime, this plus some soup is a great quick and easy lunch. You can buy many ready made vegan soups from Coles and Woolworths which can be easily reheated in a microwave. If you prefer something more hearty, you can pre-bake a potato in the oven so it’s cooked through and add a small tin of baked beans and some vegan cheese, or if you have leftover chilli or even a tin of tuno (vegan tuna) and vegan mayo and sweet corn. All easy to reheat in the microwave.
Remember to include snacks to take with you, great ideas are fruit, nuts, cliff/muesli bars, trail mix (easy to make your own), vegan yoghurt and fruit, smoothies, seaweed packs, vegan jerky. I make my smoothies ahead of time as they keep in the fridge, or you can prep the fruit and freeze in sandwich bags and just add liquid when you make it. If you’re on the go all day, fruit, vegan jerky, nuts/trail mix and cliff bars are handy as they don’t need to be refrigerated.
If you like to stay hydrated, fill up a refillable water bottle with water with a slice of lemon or lime, even pre-make iced tea (Twinings have a great range of teas for cold water) and take it with you. I also like to take a bottle of kombucha for a healthy but fizzy drink at lunch time. If you prefer hot drinks, take tea bags/coffee/vegan hot chocolate/vegan chai and the plant milk of your choice and you’re all set.
- Once you’re set up with anylist, (or which ever app you’re using), get into the habit of adding items to the shopping list as you use them so you don’t forget anything.
- Buy your fruit and veg from the markets or greengrocers as they are usually better quality and cheaper than the supermarkets.
- Join a group such as Vegan Specials Australia on Facebook for weekly specials in Coles and Woolworths, that way you’ll be across whatever the weekly deals are and can save money.
- Use beans, legumes and TVP in meals wherever possible, they’re healthy and cheap.
- Get a great base of recipes to rotate through so you don’t get bored.
- Consider buying a multicooker (pressure cooker) to save time cooking beans and legumes. You can also use the slow cooker function if you like to set the meal in the morning before you leave for the day.
- Make sure you plan your meals accordingly, if you’re time poor and home late, don’t plan a meal which requires a longer cooking time, choose something quick and easy that you can make without stressing.
- If you have a veggie garden or grow your own herbs, remember to compost your organic waste scraps. It’s a great way to help your garden.