Let’s face it. Eating a whole food plant based diet involves a lot of food prep. All that chopping, sautéing, grating…the truth is, it can take up a lot of time. But with a little bit of careful planning and creative thinking, it’s possible to not only eat well, but also have the odd night off cooking, dining on all the delicious goodness you’ve got leftover in the fridge.
Here are 5 ways you can make cooking with whole plant foods a whole lot less effort:
Working out what you’re going to eat ahead of time is one of the biggest timesavers there is. Think of it like this: you only have to think about what’s for dinner once (instead of Every. Single. Day). As well as that, you only have to shop once (instead of rushing to the shops after work and arriving home exhausted), and you know ahead of time which ingredients you'll need prepped, saving you even more time.
Here's how it works. Once a week, sit down and choose half a dozen meals that you’d like to make during the week. Write them down and stick them on the fridge (so you can remember what you decided), crossing them off the list as they’re made. If other family members want to have a say in what’s for dinner, they can help you create the list, or pick something off the list you've put together.
Next, take your recipes and write a shopping list of the ingredients you’ll need. Do the shopping. Now you’re set up for the week!
2. Prepping ahead
So much time can be saved by preparing batches of ingredients that you know you’ll be using during the week. For example, finely chopped garlic and ginger, stored in airtight containers will last you the week, as will diced onions. Grated vegetables like beetroot and carrot are great to have on hand to toss into wraps, salads and soups. Wash and spin greens and herbs and store in airtight containers in the fridge, so they’re ready and waiting when you want them.
The key to successful prepping is to look ahead at what you’ll be using during the week, and do it all at once. For example, say you have 3 recipes that use 2 cloves of garlic each, instead of chopping 2 cloves each time, chop 6 cloves at once and use just what you need, storing the rest for the other recipes.
3. Use timesaving tools
Also on the theme of prepping, a good food processor can be your best friend in a whole food kitchen. Mine has a mini bowl that I use to finely chop small things like garlic and ginger, and a larger bowl with a grating attachment, a julienne attachment, and a shredding attachment with a variable width. If you’re wanting to cook whole plant foods in a minimum of time, a food processor is a must.
Being creative about how the same ingredients can be used in different ways can give you variety, without all the cooking you'd have to do if you made each dish from scratch.
For example, a marinade for tofu can double as a delicious dressing another dish. Roasted veggies can be whizzed into soup, served alongside salads in a nourish bowl, piled into filling wraps, and made into entirely new dishes, such as salads. Think ahead as to how you might use ingredients you’re cooking for one meal, in another way.
Nourish bowls are the ultimate mid-week lifesaver, and can come together beautifully from a random selection of leftovers in the fridge.
5. Cook double
If you want to repurpose foods, then it’s essential to have leftovers, so always think big and cook double!
Cooking with whole foods can take a bit more planning and prep to make happen every day, but the bonus is, when you eat this way consistently, you’ll have more than enough energy to cook up a storm each night or two!