Oh ya- I have a cookbook fetish. Why? Because I have a dirty confession to make- I didn’t learn how to cook until 5yrs ago. I started becoming fascinated with cooking very late in life- after I had my daughter. Effectively what happened is that I realized that the food I was eating wasn’t actually food, and I had a really hard time switching to a whole foods diet because all of the processed food tasted “funny”. So I learned how to make it myself.
If you don’t know how to cook, or don’t have many meal-making skills, I recommend any of these four cookbooks. And if you are a busy person who doesn’t prefer to spend your life in the kitchen, I also recommend them.
Me? Well, I could move IN to my kitchen and vacation at the local farmers market, but I’m disabled. That’s right, I’m disabled, but that doesn’t stop me from providing my family with nutritious choices! I have fibromyalgia, which makes it difficult for me to sit or stand for long periods of time. Any prep that takes more than 30min is too much! Besides- my son is almost 3, and he requires a lot of supervision, so spending too much time in the kitchen isn’t practical for that reason either.
This post is going to be aimed at strategizing ways to make a whole foods plant based diet practical for busy or other-abled people. The argument that people don’t have time to cook is a valid one, but there are ways around it. If I had to recommend just two cookbooks, I’d recommend the above Everyday Happy Herbivore by Lindsay Nixon, and Dr. McDougall’s above cookbook of 300 recipes in 15min or less, titled The McDougall Quick and Easy Cookbook.
My first piece of advice you’ve heard before- you will need cooking equipment. Now, I’m a minimalist, but when it comes to food prep, I tend to sway in the better-safe-than-sorry direction, because things that seem extraneous can actually save you a lot of money. Look at a coffee percolator, for example- a pound of organic coffee lasts me a month, and costs about $12, but a small coffee at your local chain can be anywhere from $1.30 to almost $4. The savings are just undeniable. I also feel this way about my yogurt maker, as I consume yogurt daily, but I could live without a toaster. You have to find what works for you.
Among my basic pieces of advice, I also like to point out that some homesteading practices are just not practical depending on your family composition. Canning veges may not be cost effective for a single person because veges are cheaper by the bushel, and should be consumed within two years. Sure, you could buddy up with someone, but it might be wiser to just be a locovore and make weekly trips to the farmer’s market. Similarly, if you have a large family, you might have storage issues when it comes to preparing food too far ahead, and might find yourself losing room in your refrigerator. One slap in the face for me and my family of 3 is that even with my bread machine, making my own bread wasn’t economical! I did a cost analysis on my cheapest homemade loaf of gluten free vegan bread, and found out that not including energy expenditure, I was paying over a dollar more for my homemade bread. I found a comparable loaf of bread that I really enjoy at my local market, and it is lower in parts per million than the flours I was using. This bread is by a company called Deland’s, and they are certified gluten free. Their ingredients are organic, but I believe they are waiting on organic certification. I suggest that you research them yourself if you’re thinking of buying bread.
My last piece of basic advice is to determine your budget. For a single person, I recommend about $8 a day, or more, depending on how little food prep you are willing to do, and how many snack items you’re buying. For a family of two, the local foodstamp budget is about $6.08 a day per person totaling around $365 a month, but I find this amount to be impractical, and I recommend at least $450. For a family of 3, I recommend about $650 a month. Essentially, anywhere between $7-9 a day per month should be a practical amount for a whole foods plant based diet. Some folks find this to be ridiculously low, but I assure you, organics don’t have to be expensive. If you choose to buy exceptional ingredients, remember to be mindful of how they got to your location and whether or not they’re sustainable.
There you have it, the basics, including the right tools, the right rules, and the right budget. Now to get down to business. When I sit down to do the weekly meal planning, I often browse through my books. They keep me grounded so that I’m not biting off more than I can chew. I never choose more than one complicated meal. An example of this would be pizza night for the week- making homemade pizza cheese from Happy Herbivore’s book is a breeze, but making crust is one extra step that we do to maximize our budget. Depending on how opposed to canned tomatoes you are, you may even make your own sauce. Making a meal like this every day of the week isn’t practical, nor is it practical to make it along with 4 other meals in one day to prepare for the week.
Once I have an idea of what I’d like to make, I pick five meals. I also pick two homemade snacks to make. These are usually something like kale chips, granola, healthy pie or crisp, or whole grain cookies. This will help me determine what snacks I need to pick up at the grocery store. We always have popcorn for air popping, homemade yogurt, fruit, vege sticks and hummus, and sometimes pretzels, but other items I recommend include trail mix (you can diy if you can shop from the bulk bins), dried fruit, nuts or roasted edamame, seaweed snacks, or crackers. My children abhor vege sticks or celery with peanut butter, but they’ll snack on homemade pickles and applesauce.
When choosing my five meals, I determine them by the carbohydrate involved. The categories I use are noodles, rice, potatoes, bread/biscuit/wrap, and extra (which can be double of any other category). In a given week, we could have baked mac and cheese with broccoli, stir fry, mashed potatoes with meatless loaf and a vege, chickpea tacos, and miso with mochi. Of the five meals, each should make at least two servings per person, so that lunch times can be comprised of leftovers.
The final step to this process is to set aside a time to obtain the ingredients, and to set aside a time to cook the meals. This could mean many things- you could do prep all at once on one day and cook a meal every night, or cook all of the meals in one to two nights. I prefer to do everything all at once and bang it out in a couple of hours. I feel this conserves energy because I can put many things in the warm oven at once. If you’re working on a hot plate and a microwave oven, it might be easier for you to cook a little bit at a time.
I’ve provided two weekly plans that I have done myself as an example. I did not factor in caloric value, but if that is something you need to watch, Lindsay Nixon sells meal plans with recipes for a VERY reasonable price. I’ve included as many links as were available from her site and mine. For recipes not on my site, I recommend King Arthur gluten free flour.
Portabella pepper fajitas (Lindsay uses these with a pepper recipe from her book)
Rice and beans and corn
Fake chicken (Better than Chicken is gluten free) alfredo
Potato dogs (baked potatoes with condiments), brussel sprouts, and roasted zucchini and squash
morning glory muffins
Always around- popcorn, pretzels, yogurt, kale chips
Not chicken pot pie over noodles
Tofu scramble with hashbrowns
Baked bbq beans with biscuits and spinach
French toast muffins
cinnamon raisin oatmeal
rice krispie treats
Always around- popcorn, applesauce, yogurt, kale chips