I’m a big believer in meal planning. It saves time, money, and—above all—my sanity when I’m trying to feed my family well in the midst of parenting four children in three different schools, running my own business, and being in grad school!
Having a few go-to meals that I can either prep ahead of time or whip up in a heartbeat are life savers during our family’s busiest seasons. Here are five of my favorite vegetarian options:
TACO BOWLS (VEGAN).
When I tell my kids we’re having taco bowls for dinner, they all erupt into a cheer. My family loooooooves taco bowls, and I love serving them! Here’s what’s involved:
- Cooked rice (white or brown). I cook large batches of rice in my Instant Pot and freeze it in family sized portions—usually 6-8 cups cooked. It microwaves well and is ready in about ten minutes or so.
- Tomatoes, chopped.
- Lettuce, chopped.
- Cilantro, chopped.
- Avocado, cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Black beans or pinto beans. I cook large batches of beans in my Instant Pot and freeze them in family sized portions—usually 4-6 cups. I follow this recipe, which is delicious.
- Shredded cheese (if you are vegan, Daiya makes a great cheddar flavored vegan “cheese.” I buy a lot of this when it’s on sale and keep it in the freezer.)
- Taco sauce.
- Meatless crumbles cooked with taco seasoning (optional).
Everyone gets a bowl with a scoop of rice. The rest of the ingredients are in bowls on the table. The kids love assembling their own taco bowls!
CHICKPEA STEW (VEGAN)
I can whip up this simple stew from the blog “Healthier Steps” in about ten or fifteen minutes. (I usually double the recipe for our family of six.) I also make large batches and freeze it, pull it out in the morning and it’s ready to heat up for dinner.
I serve it with quinoa, rice, or another grain (like farrow or barley), which I can cook pretty quickly in my Instant Pot or cook and freeze to thaw out in the morning with the stew.
My five-year-old daughter calls this her “Favorite Stew.”
VEGAN BURGERS WITH CORN ON THE COB
My favorite summer fare! We have some variation of this at least once a week when it’s corn season. I can make this meal in around thirty-five minutes or so. It’s a family favorite as well.
- Meatless patties. We love these options from Simple Truth. I buy them on sale and keep them in the freezer. For a soy-free option, we sometimes use Carla Lee’s Nut Burgers. (Honestly, my kids are not as crazy about those, but if you need a soy-free option, that’s one to try. I’m sure there are others!)
- Hamburger buns.
- Corn on the cob with the husks on (one per person, or more if y’all love corn as much as we do!)
- Watermelon, whole. You can save yourself even more time and effort by buying watermelon already sliced, but a) I’m too cheap for that, and b) it never tastes as fresh/good if it’s been pre-cut, IMO.
Turn oven to 350. Trim ends of corn husks and place them all directly on an oven rack. Set timer for 13 minutes.
Place meatless patties on baking sheet. When timer goes off, set it again for twenty minutes and place the patties in the oven with the corn.
Meanwhile, put the buns and condiments (ketchup, butter*, etc.) on the table. Slice your watermelon and put it on a platter or in a bowl on the table as well.
When the timer goes off, turn off the oven. Remove the corn and, wearing oven gloves to keep your hands from burning, remove the husks. Pull out the patties and place them either on a plate on the table, or you can plate the buns and patties individually.
BAKED PASTA (CAN BE VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN)
This is a great alternative to lasagne. It’s the same basic premise, but with a lot less work!
- Cooked pasta (rigatoni works well, but any cooked pasta will do.)
- Two regular jars or one large jar of marinara sauce of your choice.
- Vegan meatballs. (I always have at least two bags of Gardein Classic Meatless Meatballs in my freezer.)
- Ricotta cheese (if you’re not vegan)
- Shredded cheese (asiago, parmesan, or mozzarella work best. If you are vegan, Daiya makes a decent mozzarella substitute.)
- Optional veggies: mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, etc.
Turn oven on to 350. Place cooked pasta across bottom of a baking dish. Place vegan meatballs and any veggies you’re using across on top of the pasta. Place dollops of ricotta over the veggies/meatballs. Pour sauce over the whole dish, making sure to cover meatballs and veggies. Sprinkle shredded cheese over that and bake for about twenty minutes.
GRAIN BOWLS (VEGAN)
- Cooked grain (rice, quinoa, farrow, barley)
- Sweet potato, baked in oven or microwave and then cut into bite-sized pieces
- Black beans (canned or made in Instant Pot)
- Chopped tomatoes
- Other optional veggies: shredded cabbage (purple is my favorite), sprouts, steamed broccoli, spinach, sliced or shredded carrots, chopped bell peppers, black olives, artichoke hearts—the sky’s the limit!
- Vegan Ranch Salad Dressing
This is such an easy and beautiful meal to throw together. It’s the same concept as Taco Bowls, but with different ingredients. Place 1/2 cup to 1 cup of a cooked grain into bowls. Place 1-2 T of avocado, 2-4 T of sweet potato, 1/2 cup of black beans, 1/2 cup of tomatoes, and any other veggies over the grain. Drizzle 1-2 T of ranch dressing over the whole thing. So simple, so nutritious, and so delicious!