When learning I am vegan, I hear often from others, “I just don’t have the time to cook every day,” or “I could be vegan if someone else did all the cooking for me.” It took me an adjustment at the beginning of my transition because I had to build up a new arsenal of recipes and learn how to use new products, but after 6 months I was prepping food with more speed and ease. By a year into being vegan, my cook and shop times were back to their regular schedule. In the morning, I spend about 15-20 minutes preparing breakfast for me and my 3 kids, which includes juicing for all of us. Lunch time prep for myself takes about 15-20 minutes, and dinner takes me about an hour, which includes making school lunches for my kids the next day. These times seem pretty average and reasonable to me, and worth it to eat delicious, healthy food at every meal.
In order to keep to these time frames, I invest my time wisely throughout the week. There are some tricks to my trade and I would like to share them with you today. Ideally, you’ll try these techniques and find that cooking vegan doesn’t take a huge time investment, or at least more than you are already spending in your kitchen.
- Shop once a week.
- Plan your menus for the week.
I cannot emphasize this step enough. When I plan my dinners (and lunches) for the week, I am giving my self a roadmap for the week. It not only allows me to get the grocery shopping done in one trip, but also relieves me of figuring out what to cook everyday at meal times. I just look at my planner and see what’s on the menu.
- Wash your vegetables and fruits as soon as you get home from the grocery store.
While you are putting the groceries away, load your fruit and veggies into a bath in the sink. Later in the day or week when you are prepping a meal, everything is clean and ready to go. All you have to do is pull the items out of the fridge or pantry.
- Use semi-homemade products when you can.
No one is giving out awards for how much time you spend in the kitchen, so why not get a little help when you can. I recently tried a jarred curry sauce at Trader Joe’s that was terrific. I had a delicious tempeh curry meal on the table in half the time because I didn’t have to make the sauce from scratch. Trader Joe’s has lots of great add-ins and meal “starters” that you can use to help get your own meals along. If you are supplementing with good brands, getting a little help from a box or can go a long way in your meal.
- Use canned beans.
- Cook beans and grains in bulk.
When you do make beans or grains from scratch, be sure to double the batch and freeze what you aren’t using for your recipe so you have fresh stuff ready to go for the next time you need it.
- Get a few basics down.
Practice a few recipes for vegan proteins – tempeh and tofu. Know how to press tofu. Get comfortable sauteeing greens or throwing together a salad and dressing. Master the elements of a macro bowl. Once you are in your comfort zone, you will have a few go-to recipes that will help you get meals on the table quicker.
- Use your leftovers.
I hated eating leftovers for the longest time, until I went vegan and realized that leftovers were my savior to a quick, healthy meal. Use the leftover tempeh from last night’s dinner to make a macro bowl or salad for lunch. Use last night’s leftover garbanzo bean mixture as a filling in a wrap for today’s lunch. You are cleaning out your fridge, saving money, and eating well when you eat your leftovers.
- Keep a well-stocked pantry.
Once you have mastered a few basic recipes and staples for your weekly menus, you’ll see patterns in products that are used. Keep canned beans and dried legumes at the ready. Tahini, shoyu, and an assortment of oils are stocked in my pantry. With my well-stocked pantry, I find I can always throw together a quick meal if I need to, plus I have the basics I need to keep up with my weekly meals.