Preparing fresh meals from whole foods three or more times a day can feel overwhelming.
It can be easy to fall back on processed or take out food when it feels impossible to cook from scratch, especially on a busy weeknight.
Over time, after lots of trial and error (and still learning), we’ve developed some shortcuts that make things more manageable.
Here are three things we do to save time when preparing whole food plant-based meals.
1) Make extra
When you’re preparing staples such as quinoa or other ingredients like beans that can be used in various ways, make extra.
If you need three sweet potatoes for your recipe, chop four. You can roast all four and save the fourth for another recipe later in the week, or freeze it to grab when you’re way to busy to cook everything fresh.
This also works for complete recipes. Double a favorite soup recipe and freeze portions for easy lunches or weeknight meals.
Always make enough of a recipe for more than one meal. The way I see it the time in the kitchen isn’t worth it otherwise!
2) Roast everything
While cooking on the stovetop often requires standing over your food, stirring and checking, roasting is pretty hands-free.
We often rough chop veggies like sweet potatoes and broccoli and toss them in the oven, freeing us up for 30 minutes of playtime with our three-year-old.
We take a few seconds to turn the pan halfway through the cooking, but other than that it’s a great low maintenance way to cook.
3) Eat the same thing every day
Everyone loves variety, but preparing something new for breakfast every day is just too much to ask for our family. We make a large baked oatmeal twice a week, and this feeds my husband and daughter all week (I usually eat lunch or dinner leftovers for breakfast – another time saver).
They might mix it up a bit with some fresh fruit, nuts, or peanut butter on top, but the base is the same – just cut a slice, warm it up and breakfast is ready.
Oatmeal is loaded with nutrients on its own, and we add mixed berries and chia seeds to make it that much better.
Bonus: Use prepared foods
Of course, the best-case dream scenario is to always cook 100% organic food grown in your backyard or as locally as possible.
But we’re not always working with the best-case scenario. Sometimes we just need to get the food on the table stat before our entire hangry family implodes.
This is a great time to use minimally processed prepared foods. This includes frozen vegetables, pre-chopped refrigerated veggies, frozen cauliflower rice, pre-cooked quinoa, etc. You get the idea.
Always check labels for the least ingredients and processing possible. Avoid sauces that may be loaded with salt and sugar, and ingredients you don’t recognize as food.
While these convenience foods may not be perfect, they may help get you through a busy night when you would normally end up going rogue.
Preparing more than you need for that day, making use of your oven, being happy with less variety, and using prepared foods can help make whole food cooking manageable every day of the week.
Plant Based Substitutions
Learn easy substitutions for meat, milk, eggs, sugar and oil in your favorite recipes.