Meal Planning - Great Success!

Hello, all! I'm pleased to bring you a blog about the pleasures and pains of meal planning, or at least about how things go in the Vegan Noms household. As a single person who lives alone ('cept for my pup!), meal planning can be quite a hassle. Just like every-damn-thing else to do around the house there's only one person in charge of following through. Over the last few weeks I've been trying to pay special attention to my budget, the quality of foods I am eating, and creating dishes in bulk so I save on cooking time. Some tips I have discovered:

1. Drink a green smoothie every day. This has saved my ass on many an occasion when I've had the dreadful thought: "Crap, have I eaten any vegetables today? Hmm, does the soymilk in my latte count?" (I know, legume-milk doesn't count!). Each morning I whip up a delicious green monster to take to work. Jam-packed with goodness, this guarantees that I am getting some nutrition in my tum-tum and also makes me feel more energized and better about myself, so I'm likely to continue making healthy food choices throughout the day. My favorite combo so far:
2. Make a giant serving of a simple, nutrient-packed dish you can snack on all week. This tip has also saved my apparently danger-prone ass many times, as well. For mid-morning snacks, lunch or dinner sides, post-work out protein punch, late night class meal, or nutritious hangover food whatever you make can serve all of these functions if it includes a couple variables: protein, carb, veggie, and a little bit of fat.

I made a ginormous batch of lentils and brown rice on one Sunday afternoon and dressed it with Garlic Expressions (aka liquid, garlicky crack), some cracked pepper, and chopped grape tomatoes. This stuff was incredible. I ate it as my meal a few times - with a side salad, you're all set! Easy to grab in a hurry, packed with nutrients, and so very tasty.

Another great dish I made is Mediterranean Hempseed Israeli Couscous:
Cook the couscous on the stove (1.5-2x cups of water for each cup of couscous) until tender. Drain. Add rest of the ingredients. Can be enjoyed hot or cold!

3. Legit make a dish meant for a family of four. This can backfire at times if it ends up being meh or inedible, but it can really work in your favor. I made stuffed peppers from the book 4 Ingredient Vegan, which were incredibly easy to prepare and quite tasty. The recipe is basically 4 gutted peppers (flash boiled), a can of veg chili, and a cup or so of brown rice. It also called for salsa, but it wasn't needed (especially if you have my unhealthy fetish with ketchup). And one of these bad boys is a huge serving, beware!

4. Make burgers. Yep. Simple old veggie burgers, they're all the same, right? Wrong! Joni's Best Veggie Burgers On The Planet is an ever-inspiring masterpiece dedicated to the most versatile way of preparing food ever. I've made a few selections and my favorite so far is the Denver Omelet Burger, but these Edamame Burgers are also pretty fab. I made a batch and have frozen them, so they can provide quick protein-packed meals in a pinch.

Lemon garlic aioli? Yes, please!

5. Budget. For serious. This is so stupid-simple, but I wasn't following a food budget up until about 4 months ago. Keep track of how much you're spending on food, especially eating out. Record where the best deals on certain foods are (I bounce between 4 or 5 grocery stores, depending on what I need), because if you shop around you will feel the horror of learning you just paid $X.XX for XX oz. of XXXXX at the XXXX Market and holy crap I could've been getting it for half-price here the whole time?! It's worth it, if you plan your trips well (to save on gas/biking energy expenditure!). I have a wonderful iPhone app, Ace Budget 2, which helps keep all of my finances in order so that I know where every penny has been spent. Highly recommended (it's a dollar, btw, if you have an issue with paying for apps).

So, tell me, what are some of your best tips for meal planning? And can you recommend a great recipe for small, nutrient-packed meals throughout the week? I'd love to hear from you!

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