PLANT-BASED MEAL PREP | Plan Ahead & Save Time
Very few of us have the time to commit to creating a plant-based banquet every day. It’s hard enough to get your workday started with a good breakfast in your belly!
Fortunately, there are plenty of hacks to having hearty meals without the hassle. Whenever you are planning your meals, think whether you can make double, triple, even quadruple the amount for later use. Soups, bolognese, lasagna and chili all freeze incredibly well, so by making more than you need you can box up the leftovers for a quick and easy meal solution when time is running short.
If your mornings are always a hectic rush of getting ready for work and trying to get to work on time, you can pre-make your breakfast too. Bircher muesli, overnight oats and chia pots offer a solid nutrition hit and can be made quickly the night before to soak in the refrigerator overnight, ready to grab and go in the morning.
There are plenty of hacks to having hearty meals without the hassle
Lunches too can be planned ahead. Whether it’s microwaveable leftovers or an abundant salad box, it’s easy to have these things ready to go once you get into the habit of thinking ahead.
Here are a few basic tips to get you set up to become a meal prep warrior:
When doing your grocery shopping, try not to buy meal to meal - it’s both expensive and time-consuming. Invest in a few staple ingredients, such as rice, couscous and pasta, as well as some dried herbs and spices. Mixed herbs or dried oregano go great with Italian dishes, while ground cumin and smoked paprika offer a ‘meaty’ flavor punch to your meals. Then, of course, you can buy curry powder or Garam Masala for a taste of India.
A good-quality, low-sodium soy sauce is also a good investment, especially for Japanese food or stir-fries. And if you’re feeling adventurous, pick up some nori sushi sheets and some sushi rice.
You’d be amazed at how easy it is to create your own sushi at home
Braggs liquid aminos are similar to soy sauce, but more versatile. Though quite expensive, a little goes a long way and it’s a great way to add some extra richness to your meals.
Frozen mixed vegetables are also handy to have in your freezer. Good for risottos, fried rice, or even just as a side, they are higher in nutrition than regular, store-bought veggies and also very versatile.
Some fresh vegetables are also good to buy in bulk, such as pumpkin, squash, potatoes and carrots, though the majority of fresh produce - salad vegetables and fruit - will spoil in a fairly short period, making buying in bulk pointless and wasteful.
Oats are another great staple. You can use them for oatmeal, granola or bircher muesli and you can even use them as the base for smoothies. Place in a jar, cover with water and soak for at least six hours. Then add two tablespoons plus a cup of water to your regular smoothie ingredients for a carb and fiber-rich milk substitute.
Keep it Contained
Buying some good-quality plastic containers is an investment worth making. They are perfect for transporting meals, as well as storing, freezing and reheating them. It’s worthwhile getting a few sizes - one or two large ones for meals in bulk, then three or four portion-sized boxes.
Freeze your meals individually for quick meal solutions when time is short
You can use your plastic containers for your meals on the go too, or you might like to invest in a stainless steel bento or lunch box. Just remember that you can’t put it in a microwave!
To make your meals in bulk, you might also want or need to purchase a larger pot or a large lasagna dish.
These all may all add up and seem like an expensive investment, but they are just that: an investment. They will more than pay for themselves in the long run.
Multiply Your Meals
Many dishes, especially dinners, can be made in bulk and then refrigerated or frozen for later use.
Mince-based meals are particularly good for this; bolognese, chili, shepherd’s pie and so on. Vegetable protein mince is very common and you can usually find a large bag of it in the freezer section of your grocery store. Then simply use as you would a meat mince, though there is no need to fry or brown it in advance. If you want a bit more of a rich, ‘meaty’ flavor to your meal, you can add a dash of Braggs or some ground cumin.
Cook these meals as you would normally. Then you can either portion them out into individual containers or simply let it cool and freeze the leftovers in the dish you cooked in.
Fresh-cooked vegetables, such as in stir fry, don’t freeze or keep so well. Having for lunch the next day isn’t so bad, but by the following evening, they won’t be nearly as nice.
Sushi, however, has a good 24-48-hour lifespan. Sushi rolls are surprisingly easy to make, though can be a little time-consuming. If you have an hour in the evening, make sushi for dinner, with an extra roll for lunch the following day. Easy to wrap and transport, they are great for meals on the go.
Grabbing a bowl of bagel or slice of toast on your way out the door is fine, but it’s not exactly nutritious or sustaining
By prepping a substantial breakfast the evening before, you’ll not only save heaps of time in the morning, you’ll also set yourself up for an energized and nourished day to avoid those pound-packing snacks.
If you’re a savory kind of breakfast guy, Asian is a great way to go. Indonesian nasi goreng is a quick-and-easy, delicious, balanced and flavorsome meal any time of day and so simple. You can have the night before and save leftovers, or even freeze a batch to thaw overnight for the following day’s breakfast.
Bircher muesli and chia pots are amazing grab-and-go options. Save a glass jar give it a good wash, then fill with the dry ingredients, top with milk or water and leave in the refrigerator overnight. That’s it.
So simple, and good to eat on your daily commute, at your office desk or in your morning break
If you take these points into account and start to implement them into your daily schedule, you’ll soon find that they become quick and easy, and save you heaps of time on the other side. So for every meal you make, think to yourself, ‘how can I make this easier, and can I make double for later?’
1 cup rough-chop greens (silverbeet, flat kale or bok choi)
½ a carrot, cut into matchsticks
¼ red bell pepper, cut into slices
¼ - ½ zucchini, cut into matchsticks
4 small mushrooms, sliced
Tofu. You can buy pre-marinated strips, or marinate diced plain tofu yourself in a little soy, sweet chili sauce and peanut butter, for a simple satay
½ tbsp oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tbsp honey, agave nectar or coconut syrup
Your choice of noodles or rice
Slice all the veggies and place in a bowl.
Begin cooking your rice or noodles according to packet instructions
Heat your oil in a large frypan on a medium-high setting
Throw in your veggies and toss gently but constantly
Continue mixing until the mushrooms and green begin to reduce in size
Drizzle the sweetener and soy sauce over the veggies, add your marinated tofu and continue to stir. You want to keep the veggies crispy, so ideally you’ll only be heating for about 10 minutes
Drain your rice or noodles, place in bowls and divide your stir-fry between them, or place half of everything in a container, allow to cool and freeze or refrigerate for later use
This recipe also works if you just want to create bolognese. You can also add a can of black beans and some chili powder and cayenne pepper for a simple chili.
For the bolognese:
1 pack vegan mince
1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 cans (14oz/400g each) chopped tomato
Sea salt & black pepper (To Taste)
For the white sauce:
6 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp all purpose flour
4 cups (960ml) soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
2 tsp yellow or wholegrain mustard
Sea salt & black pepper (To Taste)
For the Topping:
vegan cheese slices or grated mozzarella-style vegan cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 430°F (220°C) while you prepare the sauces
Slice the mushrooms and then add to a pot with soy sauce
Sauté the mushrooms in the soy sauce for a minute. Then cover the pot and leave on medium heat until the mushrooms have released their water
Then remove the lid from the pot, add the mince, stir and simmer for a couple of minutes
Add the cans of chopped tomatoes and bring to a simmer again
Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for a few minutes and then add sea salt and black pepper to taste. You want quite a thick sauce, so let the water evaporate off for a while, making sure you stir frequently
Prepare your white sauce:
Add the oil to a fresh pot and turn to medium-high
As the oil is heating, sift your flour into a bowl
When the oil is hot (but not sizzling) add the flour all at once whisk thoroughly with the oil to remove all lumps
If it starts to stick at any point, then turn down your heat.
Then add the soy milk in three of four stages, whisking at each stage until the mixture is consistent. You want the final mixture to be thick but runny, so adjust the amount of milk accordingly, or add a sprinkle of flour if too thin
When the white sauce is consistent thickness, remove from heat and add salt, black pepper and mustard
Prepare your lasagna:
Layer the tomato and white sauce with spinach lasagna noodles in an oven-safe rectangular dish (approx 9” ×13”).
Start with a layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of spinach lasagna, then tomato sauce followed by white sauce, then spinach lasagna and repeat. Finish with a layer of white sauce then add your vegan cheese slices or grated vegan cheese and then top with sliced tomato and a sprinkle of salt and black pepper.
Place into the oven and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Sushi can seem daunting, but it’s actually really simple, and you can fill with whatever you like.
1 pack nori seaweed sheets
1 cup sushi rice
½ carrot, cut into matchsticks
½ cucumber, cut into matchsticks
¼ red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
A handful of scallions (optional)
½ avocado, sliced
1 cup tofu or seitan strips, or marinated tofu, sliced
2 tbsp miso paste or vegan mayonnaise
2 tsp wasabi (optional)
Firstly, you’ll want to pick up a bamboo sushi rolling mat. Many major grocery stores have them, or an Asian grocery store. They’re really cheap and a huge help.
If you can’t find one, get something quite firm that will roll - a placemat, a face cloth, a thin magazine, or something similar. You want it nice and flexible, but not too floppy, so you can apply pressure and form the sushi roll. Then wrap or cover it with plastic wrap.
Cook sushi rice according to packet instructions and allow to cool. It can still be a little warm, but not steaming. Layering it on a tray or large plate helps cool it faster
Meanwhile, slice up all your veggies and tofu and lay them out on a plate or tray for convenience
Place one sheet of nori on your rolling mat
With a large, flat spoon, spread a layer of rice to the nori sheet. You want to leave about ¼” at the sides and edge closest to you and leave about ⅓ of the sheet furthest from you uncovered
Spread a thin line of miso, mayonnaise and/or wasabi along the middle of the rice, from side to side
Add your veggies and tofu on top of your miso/mayo. You want to build them up along the center of the rice, leaving plenty of space top and bottom
Once you’ve added all ingredients, lift the front edge of your rolling mat and, tucking the veggies in with your fingers, roll the sushi forward smoothly, keeping the rolling mat quite tight and applying a little pressure
Roll until you have about ½” of the nori sheet left sticking out the top. Dip your fingers in some water and dampen the top edge of the nori sheet
Finish rolling, making sure the nori sticks to itself along the top edge
Repeat until you have finished all rice and ingredients. This recipe will make around 4 rolls
You can eat just like this or, if you want to slice, make sure you use a sharp knife and wet the blade with each cut to prevent the rice from sticking.
Dip in soy sauce, serve with pickled ginger or whatever you choose.
BASIC BIRCHER MUESLI
1 cup oats (100 g)
1 ½ cups plant milk of your choice (375 ml) 1 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp Sultana raisins
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp agave or rice syrup
Fresh raspberries, blueberries or any sweet fruits you choose. Grated apple or pear can also work really well
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl (except the fresh fruit) until well combined
Spoon into a sealable jar or container and press down gently before topping with fresh fruit
Keep in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours
If it’s too dry for you, you can add more milk just after serving
The bircher muesli will last in the refrigerator in a sealed container for around 2 to 3 days.
Similar to the bircher muesli, chia is amazing for protein, antioxidants, fiber and nutrients. It’s a lighter meal, though still quite filling, but it’s good to add nuts, seeds and fresh fruit to help you fill up.
¼ cup chia seeds
1 cup almond milk
fresh fruit (for topping, ie. strawberries and blackberries)
nuts and seeds (you can use to top or mix through)
Maple, coconut or agave syrup
In a medium bowl, gently stir together the chia seeds and almond milk. Transfer to jars or sealable containers and set in the refrigerator overnight.
Give the chia seed pudding a good mix in the morning, then top with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds
You can add more sweetener, a spoonful of coconut yogurt, a teaspoon of cacao powder or anything else you choose
Bryan is a 'self-taught' plant-based activist, discovering the benefits of eliminating animal products from his diet over 10 years ago. Since that time, he has advocated not only for a social shift in dietary and environmental awareness but also to reverse the construct that meat consumption is somehow tied to manliness and machismo.
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