The term “meal prep” has become fairly popular in the fitness world in recent years, but it’s not just for those who got to the gym every day and count their macros. It’s an excellent practical tool for anyone wishing to save some time in the kitchen throughout the week while still enjoying meals that are both nutritious and delicious. When you first transition to a vegan diet and lifestyle, trying to figure out which foods to eat or not can get intimidating and confusing at times, so we decided to team up with our friends atSur La Table, our favorite cookware store, to bring you an easy-to-follow vegan meal prep guide that you can use for inspiration.
What does “meal prep” even mean?
“Meal prep”, as you may have guessed, is short for “Meal preparation” and simply means preparing your meals ahead of time and storing them in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to eat them. There are no strict guidelines, so how exactly you meal prep is up to you. One of the most popular ways to do this is to prepare several servings of the same dish and then ration it in reusable containers for the week ahead. This is the most time efficient method and optimal for those who don’t mind eating the same thing several days in a row.
Another method is known as “batch cooking”, where you prepare staple foods that take the longest to cook ahead of time and then mix and match throughout the week. You can think of it as a mini salad bar in your fridge. This can (but doesn’t necessarily have to) take just a little longer, but is wonderful for those who prefer a little more variety on a day to day basis.
Some staple foods that are ideal for batch cooking since they take longest to cook:
- Legumes (beans & lentils)
- Root Vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beets and squashes
- Grains like quinoa, rice, barley and millet
Note: for convenience’s sake, you can also use canned beans and lentils, but using dry legumes will be the most cost effective option. Using an electric pressure cooker like an Instant Pot will allow you to cook all of these staple foods in no time!
The most important thing to keep in mind when you meal prep is that not all foods stay fresh for the same amount of time and that certain combinations change a dishes texture if they’re left in the fridge for too long. More on this will be mentioned with the meal ideas below.
Before we get started with some meal ideas, here are some of the reasons you might want to consider meal prepping:
- It saves time: for those who lead busy lifestyle and/or have children, spending extensive periods of time in the kitchen isn’t always an option. Preparing your meals ahead of time will significantly reduce the cooking time of your meals since you’re prepping cooking all the foods at the same time.
- It saves money: When you have homemade meals ready to go, you’ll be less likely to spend money on takeout food, but you’ll also save on groceries since you can use the same ingredient for several meals and rely on foods you buy in bulk.
- It makes eating healthy easier: Having a fridge full of healthy meals will make you less likely to want to resort to processed foods and unhealthy snacks throughout the day.
Breakfast Meal Prep
Smoothies are the perfect nutrient-dense, quick and easy breakfast. And if done right, they can actually taste like a milkshake or dessert.
Meal Prep Tip: As mentioned above, some meals don’t stay as fresh as others when prepared in advance. Smoothies are an excellent example of that. It might be tempting to blend a whole batch at the beginning of the week and simply store the jars in the fridge, but trust me, the texture will suffer and they won’t be quite as enjoyable. So here’s a trick: Prepare the dry ingredients ahead of time, store them in the freezer and then simply add your liquid of choice right before you have your smoothie, which will take less than 30 seconds.
Eco-friendly tip: When storing smoothie (or any other) ingredients in the fridge, make sure you’re using an eco-friendly reusable container such as Stasher bags instead of single use plastic. It’s a very easy and effective way to reduce your household’s waste and they’re convenient and easy to use.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie
(ingredients per person):
Meal prep ingredients:
½ cup quick oats
1-2 bananas, sliced
½ tbsp chia seeds
1 ½ tbsp cacao powder
1 cup plant-based milk of choice
1 tbsp peanut butter
Meal prep directions:
- Place all ingredients in a stasher bag and freeze.
- The morning of, simply blend the content of the stasher bag in a high speed blender like a vitamix with the plant-based milk and peanut butter and enjoy!
Notes: 1. you can replace the banana with avocado if you wish. 2. Feel free to add a scoop of vegan protein powder. 3. If you’d like to sneak in some greens for an extra boost, you can add ½ cup fresh spinach.
Smoothie bowl: To turn this into a smoothie bowl, follow the same instructions as above, but use a little less plant-based milk to make the smoothie base thicker. Transfer to a bowl and add your toppings of choice, such as: goji berries, blueberries, strawberries, pumpkin seeds, oats, slivered almonds.
Which Blender to use? When it comes to efficient blenders that get the job done, nothing beats a high speed blender like a vitamix. It’s the best way to get the smoothest consistency possible and it can also be used for sauces, sorbets and soups. They’re a little pricier, but well worth the investment and will last you for years and even decades.
What if you don’t like smoothies? For those who dislike smoothies, there are many other options like breakfast muffins, waffles, pancakes and savory breakfast burritos. Muffins can be frozen and then thawed in the fridge the night before.
Meal Prep Tip: Freeze leftovers and ripe produce to avoid food waste.
Freezing leftovers and produce is the best way to eliminate or at the very least significantly reduce your food waste. This is also ideal for single households when you can’t find smaller package sizes or you prefer buying bigger quantities to save money. When you buy a fresh loaf of bread, for instance, simply slice it the day you buy it and freeze however much of it you don’t think you’ll be able to finish in time. That way you’ll always have some ready when you need it too!
Frozen fruit is excellent for smoothies and fruit-based ice cream! So how exactly do you freeze fruit?
- Peel anything that needs to be peeled and remove the seeds of the fruit if necessary. Note: apples, pears and even kiwis don’t need to be peeled.
- Chop or cut the fruits, but only if they’re difficult to break once frozen. It’s tempting to cut bananas into small slices before freezing them, for example, but that’ll likely result in a big frozen banana chunk since the slices will stick together (unless you mix them with dry ingredients as demonstrated above). Bananas are very easy to break and cut once frozen, so the most practical thing to do is to simply leave them whole after peeling them and then freeze them in a stasher bag.
Note: follow the same steps to freeze vegetables, but add in an extra step where you blanch the veggies, which means submerging them in boiling water, then cold water and patting them dry with a kitchen towel before freezing them.
These are the Stasher bags we love:
Lunch & Dinner Meal Prep:
For lunch and dinner, the possibilities are endless! You can prep pasta, sandwiches, tacos, salads, macro bowls and much more. Here’s an example of a filling and healthy lunch idea you can easily pack in a jar or lunchbox and enjoy on the go.
Chickpea Quinoa Lunch jars
Lunch jar ingredients:
Meal prep (makes 4 servings)
1 ½ cups cooked quinoa
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
1 zucchini (or cucumber)
4 cups mixed greens
2 bell peppers
2 celery stalks
1/4 cup almonds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
1 pinch sea salt
½ tsp cardamom (optional)
Other optional ingredients:
Green onions, fresh chopped cilantro.
- Tahini with lemon juice, garlic and sea salt.
- Olive oil with lemon juice and sea salt.
- Balsamic vinegar.
- Mashed avocado (note: avocados don’t stay fresh for very long after you open them and they don’t like the cold, so be sure to store them separately at room temperature until you need them)
- Chop the bell peppers and celery using the OXO Good Grips vegetable chopper.
- Spiralize the zucchini or cucumber using a spiralizer.
- Optional step: toast the almonds in a skillet with a little olive oil for 2 minutes.
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and then store in glass containers in the fridge.
Note: store your dressing of choice separately and only add right before eating.
About the OXO Good Grips Vegetable Chopper: The perfect way to quickly chop and dice produce in no time at all. It also doesn’t take up too much space and is incredibly easy to use and clean.
About the OXO Good Grips Spiralizer: This is probably one of the most fun kitchen tools in existence. Easily spiralize virtually anything: cucumbers, zucchini, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, beets and much more. It comes with three different blades so you can make thin spaghetti-like veggie noodles, thicker veggie noodles and veggie spirals that are perfect for salads.
- Cut Veggies & Hummus or Nut/Seed butter
- Nuts, Seeds or a Trail Mix
- Fresh Fruit (Apples, Bananas, Tangerines, Papaya, Berries…)
To save time in the kitchen, we also love the Instant Pot:
Keep it eco-friendly by using glass jars for storage:
Text & Photography: Kim-Julie Hansen.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Sur La Table. All opinions expressed are our own.