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Plant-Based Meal Plans Save You Time and Money

Plant-Based Meal Plan

This is one of our first meal plans after transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.

Plant-based meal plans are an effective way to control your schedule and food budget.  Never a big planner myself, I have learned to embrace this practice more recently.  Planning your meals in advance can help give structure to your week and ensure that you go through all of your produce before it goes to waste. When you plan ahead, it’s easy to make meals that might otherwise have seemed too time consuming or complicated.

Our Best Plant-Based Meal Plan Tips

  • Be flexible.  Once you make a menu, you don’t need to rigidly adhere to it every night of the week.  Stuff happens; you just need to have a general idea of what you’ll be making.
  • Start small.  Just plan a few days ahead.  The most I ever plan for in advance is one week.
  • Inventory your fridge and pantry as you write your list.  Use what you have so you don’t need to make any special shopping trips.  Keep in mind what you need to go through before it goes bad.
  • Plan for a leftover night. Or two!  It’s like giving yourself a night off from the kitchen!
  • Make it fun!  Josh and I like to write our meal plans on Sunday nights before we start a new week.  Believe it or not, it is actually a really nice way to wind down at the end of the day and bond.  Since cooking is one of our favorite things to do together, we keep our menus interesting with some old standards and a few new ones to try for the first time.
  • Always shop with a list.  Without one, it’s really east to end up with too much — or too little — of what you need.

Our Plant-Based Meal Plan From This Week

DayMealFoods to go through
SundayRoot Vegetable Buddha Bowlbeets, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots
MondaySwiss Chard Pastaswiss chard, lemons
TuesdayCaribbean Quinoa Bowlkale, mango, avocado
WednesdayJosh's Five Minute Saladavocado, tomatoes, green onions, mixed greens
ThursdayCollard-ritoscollard greens, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro
FridayCold Soba Noodle Saladcucumber, red bell pepper, mango, avocado
SaturdayBuddha Bowlzucchini (yellow and green), green onions, carrots, left-over rice
Plant-based meal plans make everyday life so much easier!

This was Sunday’s dinner, a root vegetable Buddha Bowl with sugar snap peas, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers and corn, topped with fresh basil and balsamic vinegar.

If you’re in need of meal-planning ideas, a great resource is The China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook by Del Sroufe.  A plant-based cookbook with several sample meal plans and shopping lists, it also gives you instructions on making a week’s worth of food at once to enjoy throughout the week!

Budget-friendly, Lifestyle, Produce Picks

Much Ado About Plant-Based BBQ

Grilled squash is a perfect addition to any plant-based BBQ.

Grill your squash in foil, flesh-side down, but watch for temperature fluctuations! Squash is not as resilient as potatoes. This one still tasted good.

BBQ season is well underway. There is a common misconception that you can’t participate in a barbecue if you eat a plant-based diet, but it’s simply untrue. It’s easy to turn any party into a plant-based BBQ!

First there are the usual sides you find at any typical barbecue: plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and refreshments. If you’re going to be loading up on fresh fruits and veggies, though, do your host a favor and bring some of your own to share. Just because you maintain healthy stores of fresh fruits and vegetables at home doesn’t mean other people do. In fact, I’ve found that hosts often underestimate by a pretty wide margin how many fresh foods to have on hand for entertaining, especially when it comes to vegetables (think broccoli, carrots, celery, tomatoes [I know: it’s a fruit] and so on).

Now for the main course.

Our top plant-based BBQ picks

  • Portabella mushroom caps (stems removed, no added oil)
  • Corn on the cob (in foil, no butter or oil)
  • Potatoes (russet, in foil)
  • Sweet potatoes (in foil)
  • Squash (in foil and in season! grill flesh-side down)
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Pizza (with oil-free crust)
  • Vegetable kebabs
  • Asparagus

Potent potatoes

My favorite foods for a plant-based BBQ are potatoes and sweet potatoes, simply due to their ease of preparation. Yes, they still take about an hour to cook, but how many barbecues have you been to where the grill was on for less than an hour?

Grilled potatoes are a hearty addition to any plant-based BBQ!

Hot potato fresh off the grill. Careful: they’re hot!

We were invited to two barbecues in as many days. On the second day, I completely forgot our grilling potatoes at home. We had to stop at a gas station to get some more, but at $0.38/lb I was definitely not complaining about the price.

Gas stations are a great place to buy cheap potatoes for your plant-based BBQ!

Affordable produce is showing up everywhere. We picked up our grilling potatoes at Kwik Trip in Plymouth. As you can see, even the avocados are very reasonable.

A winter squash in summer?

Once we arrived there was also a huge spaghetti squash on the counter that we cut in half and put on the grill. Even though it wasn’t in season, it still tasted pretty good and added some nice variety to our plant-based BBQ. As you can see in the picture above, it did not stand up as well to the heat fluctuations as the potatoes did.

Winter squash is trickier, mostly because you should really only eat it at the very end of barbecue season. The char gave it an interesting flavor, though, and in the end none went to waste.

What are your favorite plant-based BBQ hacks?

Also, if you’re from the South, and you’re cringing at our use of the word “barbecue” to refer to the northern practice of “grilling,” please accept our apologies. And let us know what plant-based foods you grill down there!

Budget-friendly, Lifestyle, Shopping

Bulk Up!

Bulking up on rolled oats, "nootch," cashews, and sesame seeds.

Bulking up on rolled oats, “nootch,” cashews, and sesame seeds.

One of the most common misconceptions about eating a plant-based diet is that it is more expensive than eating a “standard” diet.  Our experience with plant-based eating has been quite the opposite. Our monthly grocery bill is lower now than ever, and buying in bulk is a huge help.  We may buy things that are uncommon and some might consider costly, like miso paste or nutritional yeast, but when you spread the price across the number of meals you can prepare with this one ingredient, you are still getting a bargain.

When we first became plant-based, we had to learn to navigate the bulk aisles of our local grocery stores and co-ops.  We had never really spent any time shopping in this section and had no idea what was available to us.  Now, there are days when we come home with nothing but twist-tied baggies and reusable containers!  Here are a few things you should know about buying in bulk:

One side of the abundant bulk aisle at Lakewinds Co-op.

One side of the abundant bulk aisle at Lakewinds Co-op.

  • The bulk aisle is the best for buying spices, grains, legumes, oats, and other dry goods.  We avoid things like trail mixes and candy.  Even pasta and rice can usually be found cheaper prepackaged.
  • You can sometimes find organic ingredients for cheaper than the conventional versions.  We have found this to be true for things like rolled oats and lentils, so be sure to compare prices.
  • Shopping the bulk aisle is great for trying new ingredients for the first time.  You can buy as much or as little as you would like.
  • Don’t forget storage!  We hate to waste things, so we save our spice jars and bring them to the co-op when we are ready for a refill.  We even save things like rubber bands and plastic bread bag closures so we can cinch our bulk bags up!  If you bring your own container, make sure to tare if before filling.  This will save you some time at the checkout.

Locally, there are a lot of choices for your bulk food shopping.  We like Lakewinds and Seward Co-op for the best variety and prices.

Budget-friendly, Lifestyle, Shopping

My Favorite Farmers Market Tips

Farmers Market Haul 7/2016

Here’s what $10 bought us at the market last Saturday: collard greens, summer squash, broccoli, and 5 lbs of potatoes!

For me, eating plant-based isn’t just a diet, it’s a lifestyle.  When I changed the way I was eating, it had an effect on nearly every part of my life, and I mean that in the best way possible.  I started to change my perspective on many things and open myself up to new ideas and activities.

One of the things I started to appreciate much more after becoming plant-based was the farmers market.  Once a casual observer of going to the market, it became a near-necessity after switching to a plant-based diet.  With farmers market season just getting underway here in Minnesota, I thought this would be a perfect time to share my favorite farmers market shopping tips:

Midtown Farmers Market in Minneapolis on a perfect June day.

Midtown Farmers Market in Minneapolis on a perfect June day.

  • Walk the entire market before buying anything.  Get a feel for the variety, pricing, and quality of what’s available before committing to your purchase.
  • Go later in the day.  This seems counter-intuitive, but this is a tip that has worked well for me.  At the end of the market day, I’ve had an extra squash or two thrown in my bag or a 2 for 1 deal on bunches of kale.  I find that the produce is just as fresh as it was in the morning and very rarely miss out on the variety.  And bonus–you get to sleep in!
  • Get to know your growers!  Not only does this make going to the market more fun, but developing a relationship with the people who grow your veggies makes it even more likely you can get some of the deals I just mentioned!
  • Go as often as possible!  At the height of the summer, our local market meets twice a week and we make it count!  Market season is the best time of year to buy produce that is fresh, affordable and local.  Buying in-season fruits and vegetables ensures the best taste and pricing.

Where we live in Minneapolis, there are tons of neighborhood farmers markets. Many not only offer fresh, local produce, but also live music, games, and food trucks!  I’m a big fan of the Midtown Farmers Market close to our home, which is open every Saturday (and Tuesday starting in June).  Visit this link to find your neighborhood farmers market!