When I first stared to transition my diet to being more plant based, I admit, I felt a little lost. It seemed daunting! I was so used to choosing a meat and a couple side dishes to go with it. But without meat, where do I even begin? Overtime I have found staple recipes that are easy to whip up and that my family loves. But cooking a whole foods, plant-based diet is sometimes more time consuming than the standard american diet because I’m often making more from scratch than I would have in the past.
I am about 6 years into my plant-based journey and recently started efficiently meal planning. I had never really found a successful way to meal plan before, and the way I have figured out how to do it now is much more efficient. Keep in mind, this is just one way to do it and this is what works best for me! There may be something totally different that works for you, and that’s OK! I love to meal plan Saturday, shop and prep Sunday, and begin Sunday night.
Here are the basics of how I meal plan for the week:
Step 1. Clean out anything old and expired from your fridge
NO ONE likes a dirty fridge. Go through and toss anything expired, older than you remember, and get rid of junk! After that, give it a quick wipe down. I promise you that you’ll feel so good afterwards! Oh, and yes, I did say TOSS the junk! Even if said junk is good, toss it. Your health is more important! Here’s a list of common food additives to avoid if you need some inspiration: Top 10 Food Additives to Avoid
Step 2. Take inventory and organize your fridge
I have found that I am so much more willing to prep food for the week and store it in the fridge if my fridge is clean and ready to go. In the past, I found that a disorganized fridge was really frustrating to maneuver throughout the week. However, a clean and organized fridge is so much more inviting and once you have shopped and prepped your food, it’s fun to put it in your fresh fridge! Think that’s loony tunes? Try it. Then come chat!
Step 3: Consult your calendar and figure out which days you’ll need to make dinner, which would be better for a leftovers night, and which you’ll eat out
This was my area of downfall. I am a spontaneous (and ADD) mother who – is that a squirrel? – you get the point. Planning ahead and foresight are NOT my strong suits! I have to make an effort to make my life run even somewhat smoothly and for me a tangible way to do this is getting my calendar involved with the meal plan. This one is probably a “Duh” moment for most people, but there was a time I planned Lasagna for a night I had an outing to go to and instead I was left scrambling for something faster, so, I thought I’d better mention it. Now, I consult my calendar! For example: this coming week I have a bible study on Tuesday night, so Monday night I planned to make Lasagna! Lasagna is the perfect day before meal to make because the leftovers the next day are JUST as delicious. So the night of bible study I’ll just have to warm up some dinner and we’re good to go!
Step 4. Recipe choosing tips: Choose recipes revolving around what you already have, recipes that make sense, recipes that you can easily make extra of, and recipes that have shared ingredients
This is something else that didn’t come naturally to me. I originally just started finding recipes that sounded good without taking much else into consideration. Now, I take inventory and see what main ingredients I have and go recipe hunting based off of that! This is a money saver to use what you already have. I also tend to try and make recipes that make good leftovers. We like to eat leftovers for lunches, and sometimes dinner the next night. It’s an easy way to make sure you’re eating well with doing less cooking.
Step 5. Adopt the “make it once, use it twice!” motto and have fun!
Another time saving trick I love to do is my “make it once, use it twice” motto. One example of how I do this is on my prepping day, I’ll make a salad dressing I can use throughout the week. Another way is my cashew cream sauce. I love cashew cream and I make so many things with it! I start by making cashew sour cream and I store it in the fridge. I use it as a topping for multiple meals, I add it to lentil noodles with almond milk & nutritional yeast for my toddler, I’ve added it to marinara to make creamy vodka sauce, and I’ve even made it into a cool ranch dip by adding herbs and garlic. Soak the nuts once, make the cream once, and use it twice (or more times)!
Step 6. Create a master grocery list of items you’re missing from each recipe
Go through the recipes one by one and write out which items you don’t have, take that to the store and you’ll have what you need for the week! I tend to write the groceries into categories of the store, so when I go to the store, I can be efficient and get all the produce, then dry good, etc and my list is more visually organized.
Step 7. Go grocery shopping
Go, go go! Don’t forget to have fun. You might be buying some brand new ingredients! Congratulations on taking this step to taking better control of your overall wellness.
Step 8. Come home and organize your fridge so during the week, things are easy to find.
Unload and organize your fridge. Make it presentable, it doesn’t need to be rocket science, but having a good looking and highly functional fridge will be super helpful to your motivation & success throughout the week.
Step 9. Prep as much ahead of time as you can
I love to prep ahead of time. Look at your recipes and see if there are any veggies or fruit you could wash and store ahead of time. What would make your life easier in the long run? One thing I always try to prep are my greens. I have found that I am WAY more likely to eat more greens if they’re already washed and ready for me to eat. I love to wash my romaine lettuce and kale, dry in a salad spinner, and store in a freezer bag. I also do this with my cilantro! Did you know that cilantro is one of those herbs that goes bad in the blink of an eye? You can prolong it’s life by simply rinsing it thoroughly, wrapping in a paper towel, and sticking that inside a freezer bag in your fridge. Mine lasts up to two weeks this way beautifully.
Step 10. Set reminders for yourself if you need to do any day before prep
I am useless without lists and reminders. I have recently began utilizing alarms and reminders in my phone more often lately and I love it! I’ve become so much more efficient. Some ideas on how to use alarms and reminders to help your meal plan be a success would be: Look at your recipes, set alarms on your phone for each day to start cooking. How long will each recipe take you? Set an alarm for when you should start cooking based off of what time you want dinner on the table. Another recommendation, look at the recipes and make sure any day before prep is done and set an alarm for that if you need to! For example, some of my recipes call for soaking cashews ahead of time. I love to soak them overnight in the fridge to make super creamy sour cream! So I love to set an alert for the day before to make sure my cashews get soaked.
You can do this!!
I know it might seem like a lot, but it’s pretty simple! A little planning ahead can make everything run so much more smoothly during the week. Also, I am sure that most of you aren’t nearly as scatter brained as I can tend to be so you may not need the reminders and alarms like I do, and that’s awesome!! Skip over those steps. This is to make your life easier, so do what works best for your family. If you’re just starting out, you can try this plan or another one and then adjust to your needs as time goes on. Either way, happy meal planning and I am so excited for you embarking on this journey toward better health!