Meal planning can make your life easier, and it’s super helpful for newcomers to vegan eating and experts alike. In this post, we’ll cover all of the basics of cooking plant-based meals in advance.
What Is Meal Planning?
If you’re new to the concept of meal planning, here’s a brief explanation:
- Meal planning involves cooking lots of food in advance and then eating it over the course of a week. Most meal planners pick a specific day to cook for each week, then portion out their food into containers, which they grab and take to work, school, or anywhere else.
- The purpose of meal planning is to save time and energy. By minimizing the time you spend in the kitchen, a vegan meal plan can make your week way simpler. This way of cooking takes the pressure off you to get in the kitchen after a hard day of work or early in the morning when you’ve just woken up. Instead, you can just pull something you’ve already made out of the fridge and dig in.
- Meal planning is flexible. You don’t have to cook only once a week to follow the meal planning mindset. The goal is to find a system that works for you! Whether that’s prepping meals multiple times per week or just once, there’s no wrong way to do it.
Now that you know what meal planning is, let’s talk about why you’d want to give it a try and how to get started.
Why Try Meal Planning?
There are plenty of reasons to start planning and cooking your meals in advance. Below are some of the biggest perks of this cooking strategy:
Meal Planning Can Boost Your Self-Control
We’ve all been there. You’ve got a quick lunch break and no time to go back home and cook. You didn’t bring anything to work to eat, but the only restaurant you can reach in time is a fast food place down the street. You’ve been trying to stick with your vegan eating plan, but there’s so little time!
There’s no shame in finding yourself in this predicament, but there is a way to avoid it! Instead of caving and eating something less than ideal, meal planning can prepare you for circumstances when you don’t have time to cook.
When you’re tempted to go out to eat, spending extra money and potentially eating unhealthy food, try packing a pre-planned lunch and a few healthy snacks instead! Over time, building up a habit of making your own food can keep you healthier and happier.
To get into the practice of cooking for yourself, meal planning is a great place to start! It’s simple, and it reduces the number of meals that you have to cook. That’s a big win!
Meal Planning Can Save You Money
Eating out costs a lot, especially in the long run. Over time, your food budget can blow up from going to lots of restaurants, especially when you make it part of your daily routine. Eating out every once in a while is no big deal, but meal planning is definitely better for your wallet.
One of the biggest perks of planning and cooking your meals ahead of time is cost efficiency. Cooking food in bulk costs way less than ordering an individual meal from a restaurant. Plus, when you plan out your grocery lists before hitting the store, you’re less likely to buy things you don’t need.
Meal Planning Makes Vegan Eating Easier
Eating vegan can sometimes be a little tricky – but meal planning makes it way easier! You’ll be far more likely to get all the vitamins and minerals that you need, especially calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12, if you plan out what you’re eating in advance.
When you cook ahead of time, you’re far more likely to have plant-based food ready to go when you need it. That way, you won’t be hungry while everyone else chows down on burgers and fries. At first, eating your pre-planned meal might make you feel like you’re missing out, but it’s worth it to stick with your vegan diet!
How to Get Started With Vegan Meal Planning
Ready to get started with vegan meal planning? We’ve got all the info you need to hit the ground running.
Find Recipes That You Love
To begin, you’ll need some simple, tasty recipes that you wouldn’t mind eating multiple times per week. The best recipes for meal planning contain just a few ingredients and are nutrient-dense. That means they’ll be quick to make, they’ll fill you up, and they’ll meet your body’s needs.
Well-loved vegan meals include cashew cauliflower, pasta with tomato, spinach, and whatever other veggies you may have lying around. Do a bit of research, and you’re sure to find staples that you love.
You can use recipes for breakfast, lunch, or dinner to meal plan – just multiply the ingredients to make multiple batches of food.
Pick Up Reusable Containers
Once you’ve got some recipes, stock up on a meal planning staple – reusable containers. You’ll use these all the time, so we recommend getting more than you need and choosing microwave-safe, long-lasting material like glass.
Your meal prepping containers will need sealable lids – they’ll be spending some time in the fridge – and it never hurts to get numerous shapes and sizes. That way, you’ll never come up short when you make more food than you expected.
Freeze Food if Needed
One of the best parts of vegan cooking is that most plant-based ingredients can last a long time without going bad – especially if they’re frozen. If you’ve cooked a ton of food and want to make it last as long as possible, stick it into pre-portioned containers and drop them in the freezer. That way, you’ll have food ready to go whenever you need it.
Use Your Containers for Portion Control
Another perk of meal planning is that this style of cooking can help you keep better tabs on how much you’re eating. Thanks to the reusable meal prepping containers, you’ll be able to see exactly how much you’ve eaten in a day – and eat the same amount tomorrow. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just establish a healthier relationship with food, meal planning can help.
Try cooking up quinoa or some lentils on a Sunday, portioning them out, and then building meals around that.
Try Some Cooking-Free Recipes
If you’re new to meal planning (or cooking in general), it might seem daunting to cook so much food. Luckily, there are plenty of meal prep recipes that don’t require any cooking at all. Instead, you’ll use fresh ingredients to make ready-to-eat meals. It’s super simple, convenient, and often a healthy option for breakfast or lunch.
Some staples of no-cook vegan meal prep are vegetable sandwiches, pita wraps, peanut butter overnight oats, and giant salads topped with canned beans or almonds. Yum.
Mark All of Your Containers With a Date
One of the trickier aspects of meal planning is keeping track of all of your food. After all, you’re cooking a lot! The best way to make sure that you’re eating fresh food is to date each meal that you make. That way, you’ll be able to determine whether it’s still good.
In general, it’s best to eat everything that you’ve prepped before cooking more. That way, you’ll minimize the risk of ending up with more food than you can handle.
Mix Things Up a Bit
One of the criticisms that’s commonly brought up about meal planning is that it can get – dare we say – boring. This can be true, but only when this cooking method is done a certain way. If you make the same meals over and over again for weeks on end, you’re bound to get pretty tired of the food you’re eating. Humans are creatures of habit, to be sure, but we also crave adventure and excitement! That’s why it’s helpful to try different recipes as often as possible.
Meal prepping doesn’t have to mean that you eat a bowl of brown rice, chickpeas, and kale every night for months. While you can find this depiction of pre-planned vegan meals all over the internet and social media, it’s far from the only way to do it.
To keep things exciting, try rotating your recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at least every week. Experiment with new ways to cook proteins like tempeh and tofu, or learn every single vegan variation of avocado toast that exists—there are tons of delicious vegan recipes out there just waiting to be sampled.
Can You Meal Prep Vegan Dessert?
If you’re a vegan with a sweet tooth, you’ve probably been reading all this meal planning info and wondering, can I prep my desserts in advance?
Yes! Vegan meal planning leaves plenty of room for delicious desserts. From cookies to bars to energy balls, there are tons of simple, sweet, and yummy recipes for vegan treats that you can make last the whole week.
If you want inspiration for vegan-friendly desserts, check out our magazine and MiiRO TV. There, you’ll find recipes for everything from truffles to chocolatey smoothie bowls. We like to think of ourselves as plant-based dessert pros, and we’ve always got something tasty up our sleeves that you’ll love.
Meal Prepping Can Be a Game-Changer for Vegans
If you’ve been struggling to make a vegan diet work for you, give meal planning a try. It can simplify your life, reduce your cooking time, and help you keep up your self-control, all the while saving you some money.