Cooking has always been a hobby for me, since dinner is my favorite meal of the day. Being a vegan cook makes it even more fun because I can experiment with all kinds of new and fun animal-free ingredients.
However, like everyone, I go through slumps, and sometimes I just don’t feel like thinking about all the planning that goes into making a meal. I don’t mind the cooking part. I just don’t want to have to stare blankly at the refrigerator and wonder what I am in the mood to pull out and turn into something wonderful. My husband, David-being rather clever and worried that I might stop cooking altogether-came up with an idea. Write down on a sheet of paper five to seven meals that you want to cook for dinner each week and stick it to the fridge with one of your favorite animal magnets. You don’t have to cook the meals in any order; just pick and choose from that list during the week.
If it sounds like a simple idea, it is. Does it work for me? Yes. I plan my weekly meals on Saturday morning, while drinking my soy cappuccino and munching on my freshly baked vegan chocolate chip scone. Then I make my grocery list, according to my refrigerator list. And with food prices rising in the uncertain economy, my grocery and meal lists keep me from wasting food-and money!
I don’t have to think about my dinner plan on the spot after I have been working all day and am exhausted. I have about 15 basic everyday meals that I rotate, and if I am feeling experimental, I will throw in a new weekly recipe from one of my vegan cookbooks. Some recipes I make once a week; some I make once a month. This list was also devised with the help of my clever husband.
Typically, my list would include recipes with grains, like brown rice or spelt; a pot of adzuki, pinto, or black beans to go with plain rice or make into wraps, soup, or chili; pasta recipes with a variety of sauces, such as peanut sauce, pesto sauce, mac and “cheese,” or just a jar of store-bought red sauce; baked or oven-roasted potatoes; a fun dinner, like pizza or cornbread smothered with Earth Balance soy butter and maple syrup; baked casseroles; a pot of soup; and so on. If I know that my week is going to be busy, I will soak and cook my beans at the beginning of the week and store them in my fridge (I’ll be writing more about tips on cooking beans in the near future … it’s not as scary as it seems!). And I always put together a big green salad with lots of cut-up raw vegetables on top to go along with every meal.
One last thing: Save your refrigerator lists. I date mine and put them aside so that I can use them again. By planning ahead on your day off, when you have time to relax and think, you can save money, and your weekly meals can be put together quickly and easily.
How do you make meal time easier? Share your tips.