Q. Do you prepare a lot of food ahead of time or make it as you need it?
A. Preparation is one of those skills I’m always trying to improve upon because I can be a little unpredictable sometimes (e.g. deciding to move to NYC on a whim with one month to do it!), and it doesn’t always work out in my advantage. To best answer this question, I’ll give the answer everyone hates (sorry), both…and it depends. On the weekends I’m all over the map, but on the weekdays I try to be as organized as possible to keep up with the chaos of daily life. One tip I have for better organization and to make cooking less time consuming during mealtimes (when I get “hangry” ha), is that I prepare some foods as soon as I get home from the grocery store. With these 3 food prep tips, you’ll be off to make easy vegan meals in no time (no pun intended!).
I always prepare my “core” foods ahead of time so that when it’s mealtime I’m not “in the weeds” with prep work. My core foods are my veggies, grains, and proteins. I create a system, like you see at Whole Foods (with a lot less glamour and whole lot more tupperware), where I have all my cores prepped, so worst case scenario I have some grab and go options.
1. Veggies. These are the most difficult to prep just based upon their needs to be washed, chopped, and not to mention their perishable disposition. I always buy kale. I eat kale every day, multiple times per day, so what I do is as soon as I’m home from the store or farmer’s market, I cut and clean the kale. If you don’t want to worry about this step, you can always buy the pre-washed variety, it just tends to be a bit more expensive. I also enjoy my kale in both cooked and raw varieties, so I also divide the kale up and braise enough to get me through 2-3 days worth. I have a smoothie everyday so I also prep my bananas right when i get home, I slice them and bag them, and then put them in the freezer, so that if they ripen too quickly I don’t waste them! If I’m super well prepared, I’ll even put all the smoothie ingredients in a container so that the next morning I can dump them in the blender with a little bit of almond milk or coconut water and done! I also do veggie bakes, with things like carrots and beets in advance so that they can cook while I’m doing other things, so that I don’t have to wait any longer at mealtime. I don’t prepare fruits that are delicate in advance, berries or apples, for example, nor do I prepare veggies like broccoli well in advance. I will prepare peppers in a fajita style and also have them in grab and go containers.
2. The grains are the most important to prepare in advance, in my opinion, because they take the longest, and nobody wants to wait for quinoa to cook if you’re starving after a long day at work! I’m lucky in that I just received a pressure cooker as a gift this christmas and it has been a lifesaver, but regardless, I still prep about 1-1 ½ cups of quinoa in advance of the week. I just put it in the pressure cooker or on the stove and get it out of the way and do other things since it can take awhile. I’ll do this for rice as well.
3. Proteins. I rely on beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and lentils a lot for my protein sources, but you can pick which you like most. If I’m prepping for the week, I’ll prepare beans and lentils well in advance (but you can buy canned beans or prepared lentils which would eliminate this). I’ll prepare my tofu the night of, unless i’m doing a scramble, then I’ll make it the night before for breakfast the next day because i’m not super productive in the mornings! I always marinade my tempeh the night before so that I can absorb the most flavor. If I’m using store-bought seitan, I just prep the night of because its quick and easy. If I’m making it from scratch, I like to make it in advance.
When you’re ready for mealtime all you have to do is grab and throw things together for full balanced easy vegan meals! An example of a finalized meal could be what I had for lunch, cooked quinoa, braised garlic kale, lentils with chili powder, and microwave-baked sweet potato! Or you could have tempeh instead of lentils for the same dish, etc, all super easy vegan meals! It’s not super glamourous, but it saves time, energy, and I still maintain healthy choices (until Sunday rolls around and I bake bread or splurge on vegan biscuits and gravy!).
Do you prepare food ahead of time or do you make it as you go?
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