▶ Podcast Episode 66: Grocery Day Meal Prep
You've heard me talk about the weekly habit that has changed my life in the kitchen the most many times in this blog. Sometimes I've called it batch cooking, sometimes I've called it meal prepping, sometimes I've called it my one pot of beans, one pot of grains ritual, sometimes I've called it the lifesaver, the money saver, the time saver, the sanity saver. We even have a whole section dedicated to this in our online program, with new batch cooking sessions coming soon. It doesn't matter how you call it, it can change your life and your way of eating! Why? Because you invest a little time in it, but it saves you 5 times as much throughout the week. It helps you build quick and delicious meals, and it helps protect you against the "I have no idea what to make for dinner brain fog syndrome".
I first learned about this little weekly habit from Alicia Silverstone and her book The Kind Diet. In it, she talks about how making a pot of beans and a pot of grains a week can save you so much time the following one. It doesn't mean you'll be eating beans and rice every day, it means you have a sturdy base, already made for you to add additions or transform it into delicious dishes. A pot of beans and a pot of grains suddenly gets transformed into bean burritos with all the fixings, a seven layer dip, a veggie bowl, a big salad with tons of layers, veggie burgers, you get the idea.
So the moment I went vegan many moons ago, my Saturday farmer's market day meant that after I came home I would always make a pot of brown rice, a pot of beans or lentils, a pasta sauce, and sometimes a soup. Throughout the week this saved me a lot of time and I've kept this practice going ever since.
Enter magical Brazilian kitchen fairies
aka Verena Kacinski's Minha Cozinha Virou Um Jardin
The beauty of time passing is that little magic fairies come in from time to time and reward you for such good meal prepping behavior. My little fairy was my friend Verena who not only has the most beautiful kitchen on the face of this Earth, but she is an organization queen who forced me to get my act together, and she showed me a brand new perspective on meal prepping. Instead of focusing on the big staples like the beans and the rice, she would teach me that it was the small things that really made the difference throughout the week. It was having little toppings already chopped, some roasted vegetables that only needed to be warmed through, and perhaps a sauce or dressing. The washing and drying of greens for quick salads throughout the week. The pre-chopping of vegetables, the raw veggies already cut into sticks for the quickest crudité grab-and-go snack. A little hummus for it. A little cashew based cream cheese.
For her, it was really all about a semi-transformation of what was in her shopping bags before they hit the fridge.
I actually call it the Elton John glitter that makes the dish.
The sprinkles that are the excuse to have the sundae.
It took meal prepping to a whole other level for me and I've been practicing religiously ever since, and adding it to my previous practice of making some staples.
The great news is that every Saturday, Verena guides us through her very own "Ritual de Sábado" or Saturday Ritual in her fabulous instagram stories through beautiful photography and great ideas (there is seriously no other instagrammer whose stories I love more than hers). She lives in Brazil, so you'll get to practice a little Portuguese, but her stories are so visual that even though I can't speak an ounce of her language I can totally understand what she's doing. Her regular instagram posts can be translated with the click of a button so I know you'll fall in love. She also happens to speak perfect Spanish and perfect English and she's the sweetest person I have ever met, so you can ask her stuff if you're wondering what the heck is "salsinha" (parsley) or "cogumelos" (mushrooms), two of the questions I asked her this week when I was drooling over something she posted.
Her work is as varied and incredible as she is, she has a wellness and self-improvement blog as well, but when it comes to food, I'm talking about her amazing blog Minha Cozihna Virou Um Jardim ("My kitchen turned into a garden"... I mean that name alone), as well as her Instagram account.
Since this very small shift of looking at what I was already doing (my batch cooking) in a completely different way, aka, giving my fruits and vegetables a "pre-fridge makeover" has made my life so much better, I thought it was time to give you some ideas that you can do at home. Verena will always be the queen so make sure to follow her asap! She also has a fabulous set of highlighted stories with quick and easy meal ideas, but I want to tell you about some the little things I've been doing every week after I shop.
Getting a bit of meal-prepspiration
- Since instagram is the new quick access pass to inspiration, from time to time I'll also be adding stories of what I do on my meal prep day to a highlighted story called "Meal Prep Ideas" in our instagram account (those are the little circles under our instagram information in our profile).
- Doing a simple search using the #mealprep or #veganmealprep will give you lots of visual inspiration.
- Just in case you're more of a Pinterest junkie, I've also created a Pinterest board to which I'll be adding meal prep tips, cute jars, organization tips, and meals that are perfect for making in advance!
- Of course, the belle of the ball, Verena and her awesome instagram to the rescue!
Now you have many different places to get your meal prep inspiration from every time you get your Insta (or Pinterest) on. Verena being the queen bee (you'll get glimpses of her incredible kitchen to boot), and me being the little worker bee trying to learn as much as I can from her. What can I tell you, praise where praise is due! And yes... I'm an insta stalker when it comes to fridge order and meal prepping. It hasn't become a problem though (wink!).
Some vegan meal prep ideas
Keep in mind you don't have to do all of them every week, pick as many or as few as you'd like. Do one thing if you can only do one thing. Here's what the rest of the week will look like, it will look like the most beautiful salad bar/ buffet with endless options and combinations every time you open the fridge.
1) Wash and dry greens, in my case this means lots of kale, which I also tear into bite sized pieces and place in a container with some paper towels in the bottom and top. Kale is a sturdy green, and it will hold up really well. I prefer to keep pre-washed salad mixes in their own bags until using.
2) Wash and dry cherry tomatoes so you can grab and go.
3) Peel and cut some carrot sticks to have for snacks.
4) Quickly blanch veggies like green beans, broccoli or asparagus (add them for just a few seconds to a pot of boiling water) and then place them under cold water or in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Use these for salads, stir fries or warm them up as a side throughout the week.
5) Roast some veggies. I love roasting parsnips apples and garlic cloves, or potatoes with rosemary, or whole potatoes or whole sweet potatoes. Place them in containers and use them throughout the week.
6) Pre-soak cashews in water, and/or make a cashew sour cream or a cheesy mac and cheese sauce. Use it for burritos, to add to your stuffed roasted sweet potatoes or baked potatoes, make casseroles, seven layer dips, quesadillas or mac and cheese throughout the week.
7) Roast whole bell peppers, peel them, slice them and keep them in a jar for a colorful addition to salads or bowls throughout the week.
8) Make pesto or tomato sauce for pasta, sandwiches, wraps or veggie bowls.
9) Roast eggplants to make dips, purées or babaganoush.
10) Thinly slice leeks to add to stir-fries, sautées or to add to sauces or roasted veggies, not to mention soups,
11) Thaw some frozen corn and keep it ready and handy for salads.
12) Thinly slice mushrooms and use for a quick breakfast toast or sautée, or as a topping for pizzas.
13) Make a batch of our famous vegan Nutella.
14) Make a dressing for the week.
15) Make a batch of baked barbecue tofu or crispy tofu in the oven and use it to top salads or bowls.
16) Make a batch of hummus or any dip you love for snacks.
17) Organize other staples in pretty jars so that they're inviting when you open your fridge (nothing is prettier than a jar of blueberries or raspberries). Smaller jars will help you organize things better than larger ones.
18) Cut up other fruit so that it's quick and easy to grab (my favorites are pineapple, mango or papaya), or make a yummy fruit salad.
19) Make a pot of beans, lentils or a grain like brown rice, quinoa or couscous, it's my old time classic for a reason.
Do what you can, and start adding what inspires you. You'll be surprised as to how much you start enjoying cooking time and meal time too. It's an all you can eat buffet in your very own fridge.
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