“I just don’t have enough time”.
That’s the number 1 complaint (ok, let’s be real…excuse), that I hear from friends when they say they could never go plant based.
And honestly, it’s why I THOUGHT I couldn’t do it either. But when my “why” changed after losing my father to Alzheimer’s and I HAD to figure it out, I did. Life or death will do that to you.
Like most things in life, as Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figureoutable.”
But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a steep learning curve. There definitely was for me! I was a self-proclaimed “microwave-meal mom”. No joke. Everything I bought before going plant based, came in a box or was a frozen meal. Stouffer’s lasagna was a weekly go-to. If I had to do more than add water, heat, or bake we were in trouble!
I had a friend who use to make fun of me for eating Lean Cuisines & Lean Pockets…. Those were a staple in our household for years….ok, decades. The only thing I “cooked” from sort-of scratch, was spaghetti. Sad…I know.
If you aren’t used to REAL cooking, going whole food plant based can be daunting. But I’m gonna let you in on some secrets today that took me years to learn & discover. It’s gonna save you a lot of time & stress so that you can eat healthy and NOT live in your kitchen if you choose not to.
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1. Meal Planning
Repeat after me. Meal planning is not a dirty word! And it’s NOT complicated.
All you have to do it write down the meals you plan on having in a week and make the grocery list of all the things you need. I used to never meal plan. Mostly because everything I bought was pre-cooked in the freezer or came in a box. That meant it didn’t expire.
But when cooking whole food plant based, you will be using more ingredients that don’t have a shelf-life of more than a week. Fresh produce doesn’t last for 6 months in the pantry, sadly.
Which means you have to plan ahead.
Set aside 30 minutes a week to figure out all your meals and write your grocery list. They don’t have to be set in stone for which day when, but at least have several recipes you can make and have enough food for yourself and/or family.
After you figure out your weekly meal plan, take your grocery list & go to the grocery store ONCE. This will save you time because you will have all the ingredients on hand and don’t have to make extra trips after work because you are trying to “wing it”.
Along with that meal planning, don’t plan different meals every single day. Unless that’s your thing.
Again this is ALL about saving time and our family does leftovers every week. Double up a recipe so that it lasts even longer for the week. Just about everything (except cut avocados) will last at least a week in the refrigerator and can be heated up in the microwave.
This way you only have to cook a few different things for the entire week. Time saver!
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3. Frozen fruits & veggies
I love using frozen fruits & veggies whenever possible. They last much longer, are flash frozen so all the nutrients are locked in, AND are HUGE time savers.
I always have bags of frozen broccoli, corn, carrots, peas, sweet potato chunks, black eyed peas, edamame, mixed veggies, & stir fry veggies in our freezer.
They also have recipe starters like chopped onion & tri-color pepper strips which saves MAJOR time chopping! Hello!
Frozen fruits are great for smoothies, nice creams, and even thawing & adding to muesli or steel cut oats for a super fast breakfast.
4. Batch Cooking
Along with meal planning, batch cooking is SUPER important if you are busy. Pick one day a week (best to be the day on or right after your grocery trip) and set aside about 3 hours to wash, prep, chop, cook, and make ALL (or almost all) your recipes for the week.
This seems like it would take more time than a few hours, but it is really efficient. While you are cooking something on the stove, something else can be in the oven, you can be cooking quinoa or brown rice in your Instant Pot, blending hummus in your food processor, and making smoothies in the Vitamix. It’s ULTIMATE multi-tasking!
Plus, once your food is all cooked for the week, you are less likely to stop at a fast-food restaurant on the way home if you know you already have healthy options waiting for you. You didn’t spend all that time cooking for it to go to waste!
By the way, make sure you have plenty of supplies for a batch cooking session, like multiple silicone baking mats so you don’t have to wash in between using. I have 6!
The other great thing about batch cooking is that you only have to clean your kitchen once a week. Score! I HATE cleaning my kitchen LOL.
5. Meal Prepping
If you work outside the home, then it’s going to be really important that you have your meals prepped & ready to go!
At the very least breakfasts & lunches.
The whole idea is to prep ahead of time what you are going to eat, portion it into individual containers so that all you have to do is wake up, get ready, and grab your breakfasts/lunch on the way out the door without even having to think about it.
Make meal prepping a part of your batch cooking session by having a set of individual containers you can divide your meals into ahead of time, so you don’t have to do it in the mornings. Or if you don’t want to make it part of your batch cooking session, at least do it the night before.
Good breakfasts to have ready to go are:
- Smoothies (store in airtight blender bottles)
- Chia seed puddings
- Overnight-soaked steel cut oats
- Pre-cooked pancakes
- Homemade Muesli
Great grab & go lunches:
- Lentil soup or bean soup
- Salads (keep dressing separate)
- Buddha Bowls
- Hummus & veggies
- Chickpea Salad (make sandwiches or use as salad topper)
- Beans, brown rice, & veggies (great for a divided container or bento box)
- Pasta dishes
- Spinach Lasagna
- Black Bean Enchiladas
6. Freezer Cooking
While you are doing your batch cooking, why not double a couple recipes & put them in the freezer?
Enchiladas, lasagnas, bean soups, and so many more things are great to make & then freeze. With freezer cooking however, you combine or put together the ingredients, but don’t cook them before freezing.
Put enchiladas or lasagnas in foil pans uncooked, then tape the baking instructions on top.
Bean and lentil soups are perfect for freezer cooking – add all the ingredients to a large freezer storage bag and lay flat in the freezer. Thaw under warm water to break up, then add to either a slow cooker in the morning or large pot on the stove to cook. Make sure to label your soup storage bags so you know what it is, because they all look the same when frozen!
Along the same lines, but not exactly FREEZER cooking, I like to make ziplock bags of dry pancake mix ingredients and keep in my pantry. I write the amounts of wet ingredients I need to add on the label. That way anytime my kids say they want pancakes, they are super fast to throw together because the dry ingredients are already portioned out. It’s like my own box of pancake mix, but whole food plant based!
I hope some of these tips help you. This is exactly what has helped me to save time so that I can make eating whole food plant based sustainable and stress-free. Because if it isn’t easy & enjoyable, then you probably aren’t gonna stick with it. And I want you to be able to stick with it so you can have your BEST health, energy, longevity, and feel amazing!
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