Meal planning doesn't have to be complicated, it doesn't have to take you hours and it will enable you to have delicious, nutritious meals every day without much thought. Planning a simple weekly menu for your meals will not only save you money and save you time but it will prevent you making bad food choices throughout the week, keeping your mind, body and soul happy and full of goodness.
How to create a plant based meal plan
I have been plant based for 3 years now, so my meal plans are always packed with veggies, whole foods, grains and carbs. We do have 'treat nights' and we aren't super strict with anything which for me makes eating a joy...as it should be! What I want to make clear is, my food choices are generally guided by what feels good. When I meal plan I am not counting calories or using it as a form of dieting, it's purely my way of planning out my weekly food to ensure my family and I are well fed and we can enjoy the time we have together without slaving over a recipe or stressing over what to eat each night.
I have a 3 year old son, Indio, and a 1 year old daughter, Calia, who both eat what my husband and I eat. So our meal planning is a holistic one, where we all eat the same things.
I will write another post about plant based eating in general, but this one will give you a guide on how I plan my meals each week. So here's how I start.
1. What does your week look like?
So the first thing to think about is what your week will look like. Are you out any evenings, are your kids at nursery / after school clubs. Plan out your week by what is happening that could impact your meals and how much time, or lack of time, you have to prep and cook.
2. How many meals do you need to plan?
Now you should have a clear idea of how many evening meals, lunches and snacks you will need for the week. It always surprises me when I've assessed what my week looks like to notice that actually the amount of meals I need to cook is far fewer than I think. Even if we are eating in every night (which at the moment during Covid time is every night) many of the recipes I choose will make more than one meal so there are leftovers for another night in the week, bonus! I tend to just plan the evening meals, and then write a list of a few lunches I may want and a few snacks - but I keep those flexible depending on the day.
3. Find recipes that excite you
Next is the fun bit. Give yourself 30 mins or so (I usually do this on a Saturday) and get all your favourite cook books out or search the web for inspiration and just flick through and list out any recipes that you fancy that week. Be realistic with how long each recipe will take and how much time you want to spend cooking. I always go for the quick ones during the week and maybe at the weekend I'll include a slightly longer one. I sift through my favourite cook books every week. Those I always turn to are Deliciously Ella Quick & Easy, (the Deliciously Ella app is also amazing), 15 Minute Vegan by Katy Beskow is also wonderful for quick, easy and yummy meals (her Tagine is delish!) and another favourite is the Green Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer - all the meals in that book require just throwing all the ingredients into a tin and roasting...it's brilliant!
4. Write your shopping list
Once you've decided on your meals, write the ingredients you need to buy. I do online shopping as I find it saves me time as I don't have to battle the super market with the kids, and I also find you can usually get the more unusual ingredients (if there are any) much easier by simply searching in the search bar. I tend to reserve a delivery slot for a Monday so everything is fresh for the week ahead. Make sure you adjust your recipe ingredients according to how many portions you want to make of each meal. I often double up a recipe, and pop a portion in the freezer for another time.
What about snacks, breakfasts and lunches?
So, breakfasts for us tend to be either porridge, pancakes or toast, all with some fruit so this makes things easy, and each week I just top up whatever it is we are low on. I have a couple of wonderful, easy (and healthy) pancake recipes (all vegan) that I go to a couple of times a week as treats - the kids love them and they are nutritious, filling and so simple ( I will share the recipe soon!). For lunches, I tend to include 2 or 3 simple, planned lunches like jacket potato and home made beans, pea and courgette fritters or I stuff a pitta with whatever is in the fridge. But quite often we end up having leftovers from the previous night's dinner and just mix it up, so adding a salad or some sourdough on the side. Easy and quick. I also always have a huge pot of humous in the fridge as I am an addict, I use Abel & Cole for my fruit and veg delivery and I always add their humous as it is gorgeous. Avocados are another thing I always have in the fridge, so versatile and so great for sandwiches, dips and smoothies
How do you keep things nutritious?
OK, so I don't often plan my meals thinking about whether I've got enough protein, fibre, leafy greens etc etc. because I've found that actually the meals I choose tend to be well balanced. Being plant based, the amount of veg we eat is so great I don't have to think about that, I tend to just make sure there's always a variety of colour on every plate, some good grains and carbohydrates. We aim for whole foods (grains, pulses, legumes) and therefore know that we are getting a good mix of protein, complex carbs, vitamins and fibre. We drink fortified Oatly Oatmilk and all take B12 and Omega DHA & EPA supplements just to make sure we are getting all we need.
Sample Plant Based Weekly Meal Plan
Below is a PDF sample weekly food plan that I have created to give you an idea of the types of meals I plan each week. You can mix in and out other meals you like but it will give you an idea of how I structure the week. You'll see Sunday is quite blank because I like to leave that day for us to be inventive and use u whatever we have left or to have a treat day :)
I hope you find this useful, I'd love to know how you plan your meals each week and any great go to recipes you can't live without, please do leave a comment below.
I'd love to know your thoughts on this and how you plan your weekly meals. Please feel free to leave me a comment, especially with any delicious recipes you use and love!