COMPLAINT #2: I DON'T KNOW HOW
A lot of times, when I cook for family or friends, they will go on and on about how good the food is. Please understand this is not me bragging about my cooking prowess. They normally just have some idea in their heads about what this “vegan” food is going to taste like, and are genuinely surprised when it just tastes like good food. Then they will say things like “if I were a better cook then I could eat like this no problem” or “if I had more time, or someone to cook for me, then I could go plant based” or “If I had time to find all those weird ingredients you use, my store doesn’t even sell that stuff.” They truly don’t know how far the plant based food industry has come with meat and dairy substitutes, and how easily they can find these things at their local grocery store, or online.
When we first went plant based we ate salad and rice bowls. I had no idea how to cook vegan food. If I couldn’t cover it in cheese then I was at a loss. I was raised by southerners and we fried all the meats, ate all the butter, and drank all the sweet tea. I had no idea what vital wheat gluten was, had no clue what I was looking for when I finally went searching for nutritional yeast, miso paste, or agar powder. I was LOST. We did not have any vegan friends at the time to consult. I googled. I googled the origin, I googled the health benefits, I googled pictures, I googled where to buy this stuff. And y’all, I am the worst, THE WORST, at computing. Ask my husband or kids. But I have amazon prime and amazon prime has almost anything you want, if your local grocery store does not!
I did not have a ton of free time during the week to experiment so I would try new recipes on the weekends. Gradually over time, I learned a lot. It was exciting to not eat so many salads and rice bowls (but seriously, I still love a solid salad). Once you start trying this stuff and realize it is not actually hard to cook, you get excited. Once you succeed at a recipe or two the confidence soars! You start thinking about all the foods you miss from your meaty/cheesy days and you want to try and make them plant based! We eat a TON of fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. They are the foundation of a healthy plant based diet. But we still miss those foods we used to love, and you can still make them, AND you can make them far healthier than before! You don’t have to sacrifice taste and the foods you always loved when you go plant based! I Promise!
We still eat pretty simply during the week. Things that are quick like tacos, pasta, salads, stir fry, veggie burgers, and left overs. I write my grocery list with a pile of cookbooks in front of me and my favorite food blogs opened on my computer. I spend an hour every two weeks planning what I want to cook and write my list accordingly. This way I am not standing at a loss with the fridge or pantry door wide open with no idea what to make. I have a menu written out and just choose something from that. Simple and quick things during the week, and the more exciting stuff on the weekends. This also helps with waste. I was terrible at shopping when we first changed diets, and threw out so much produce that had gone bad because I did not have a plan. Consider fruits and veggies that are in season and not likely to spoil quickly. Make sure you cook the ones first that may not last until your next shopping trip!
So my advice is this. You can cook for a plant based diet. Even if you don’t currently cook, if you can read instructions, you can learn cook! Eventually it will become old hat, and instinctive, hopefully . In the mean time, using a cookbook or recipe is a great start. But don’t get discouraged if a recipe didn’t work. It could be something you did, BUT it could have just been a bad recipe. I have had my share of new recipe failures! Just keep at it. I have a few great cookbooks listed on my pantry staples page you may want to check out! They are a great starting point! I am also giving you a list of some quick weekday lunch and dinner ideas! And if you can’t find the ingredients you need at your local grocery store, again check my staples section for links where can order online! Just remember you can't throw in the towel before you even dip a toe in.
Easy Plant Based Lunches
- Salad: with marinated tempeh or tofu if you want protein. You can also add nuts or rinsed canned beans, or vegan cheese.
- Sandwiches or wraps: Tofurkey, you can find it in your grocery store in the produce section normally. Where they keep the tofu and vegan cheeses. My kids love it! PB&J, Hummus and veggies, Avocado and veggies, Tofu egg salad, Jackfruit “chicken” salad, Vegan grilled cheese (Follow Your Heat brand american is super good!), vegan cream cheese and jelly (my kids favorite)
- Plant Based Soups (homemade or from a can)
- Hummus and veggies
- Leftover tofu quiche (its good cold too)
- Quick oatmeal
- Chia seed pudding with fruit and nuts
- A protein bar and some fruit
- Spicy buffalo chickpea salad
Quick Weeknight Dinners
- Tofu quiche
- Pasta with marinara and meatless crumbles (we like Beyond Meat brand)
- Easy enchiladas
- Tacos with meatless crumbles and vegan shredded cheese ( we like Beyond meat brand crumbles and Follow Your Heart cheddar shredsI
- Quick veggie/tofu stir fry
- Frozen veggie burgers (make homemade on the weekend and freeze or store bought)
- Pizza. Most grocery stores have dough ready made to take home and bake. Add marinara, vegan cheese shreds, and whatever veggies you like.
- Quick soup or chili (great to start in your slow cooker in the morning and its ready at dinner)
- Carrot dogs (make a batch on Sunday and grill them Monday or Tuesday night)
- A big salad with tempeh or tofu.
- Jackfruit bbq (start in slow cooker in the morning and it will be ready by dinner)
- An easy veggie slow cooker curry recipe
- Tofu Scramble loaded with veggies (we love breakfast for dinner!)
- Waffles or pancakes with fruit
- Vegan breakfast burrito (breakfast for dinner!)
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Become familiar with a few meat and cheese substitutes if that will make your transition easier. Do a little reading about things like jackfruit, seitan, tempeh, or tofu if these are foods you have never tired. It’s truly not too hard for anyone who really wants to try. And trust me, if you have kids, they might really love the new diet! Mine surprised me big time. Four kids who are happily plant based and love the foods they eat! Kids that used to love chicken fingers and Doritos!
Find the recipes that work for you and the websites, blogs, cookbooks, online support groups for plant based eating.
Do the pre-planning before you shop. Have a menu planned out to cut back on food waste, and to make your week night meals quick and easy.
Do the research on new pantry items you may need. Use the internet or even call your local stores and ask if they carry certain items if you are unsure. Remember you can order a lot of it online. Check my pantry staples list!
Use the weekends to try new and exciting recipes or to do some meal prep for the week!