The Daily Beet

03 Nov Adventures with Ami: Meal Planning 101: What’s For Dinner?

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What’s for dinner?

This question is tough enough some days without changing up the way you’ve been making dinner for years and tackling a new style of eating.  There are many ways of tackling this question.  Some prefer cooking from recipes, having structure and a firm plan. Others look for bulk cooking plans, utilizing large recipes divided up over the course of the week for meals. Some prefer the simplest route possible.  We will discuss all three.

The Recipe Chef

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Arm yourself with all the plant-strong cookbooks and blogs that you can gather and sit down with your computer or a notepad to start planning out your meals.  You can follow the Engine 2 -28 day challenge plans, Happy Herbivore meal plans or create a plan yourself.  Both the Engine2 plans and the Happy Herbivore plans have grocery lists or pantry guides to help guide you.  Figuring out what your grocery list will look like and how these recipes may fit together into a menu for your week can require some leg work on your part.  How many people are you cooking for? Will you double any of the recipes? If you like spending time planning and cooking, this way might work best for you.  This style of planning/cooking can take the most amount of time, especially in the beginning while you learn what works best for you.

The Bulk Chef

Spend one day cooking and reheat glorious plant-strong meals the rest of the week.  Many cooks out there are pressed for time. We are all busy with the demands of life and some find this method of meal planning very handy.  Whether you plan on cooking just the basic ingredients like rice, lentils, beans, potatoes and other whole grains or you plan a combo of recipes and bulk ingredients, doing it all in one day can be helpful.  Prepare your plan by deciding what you love to eat, then make those things in bulk.  A bulk batch of steel cut oats to have for breakfast all week long, the ingredients for black bean extravaganza for lunch at the office during the week and great dishes that keep well for dinner like shepherds pie or enchilada bake can make life a lot easier.  Baking up a tray of potatoes can equal snacks, fries, diced potatoes in soups, salads or stuffed baked potatoes for lunch.  A big pot of rice can mean having a base for your burrito bowls, stir fries, curries, a savory breakfast bowl, a thickener in soups and more. Having lentils at the ready means easy plant-strong burgers in minutes, an addition to salads, soups or sloppy joes.  Most plant-strong ingredients freeze really well, so do recipes like soups and stews, casseroles and burgers and loaves – like lentil loaf.  Dicing up your fruit and veggies for the week, while you have an oven full of food cooking in bulk, means always having snacks at the ready and raw veggies for recipes.

The Simple Chef

Looking for the least amount of time in the kitchen? The simple way to go can mean planning your meals with pre-fab healthy items.  More and more options are available for the plant-strong chef in a hurry.  From frozen grain blends like the Engine 2 product line offers to steam in bag potatoes, shelf stable rice, cans of beans and frozen fruit and veggies can mean very little prep time.  Build bowls, Jeff Novick 5 ingredient meals, keep things really simple, change up your spices, use salsa as a topper and dressing. Combine this with some bulk cooking of things like bean burgers and you can be set, well fed, satisfied and on plan in minutes.  Fresh foods like apples, bananas, salad greens and pre-sliced veggies in the produce section round out a well planned week for the simple chef.

Most folks will take bits and pieces from each method of approaching plant-strong meal planning.  They are all fine routes to take, the one that works best for you is the one that allows you to be a successful plant-strong person!

Next Week in this series: fruits and vegetables

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Ami Mackey for Engine 2
Ami Mackey

Ami Mackey is the Curator of Creative Content at Engine 2. She is also a food coach at Engine 2 and has been plant-strong since 2011. When she isn't attending to all things Engine 2, she is the Program Director at St Louis All City Boxing a nonprofit youth program. She has earned certificates from eCornell in Plant-Based Nutrition & Fitness Nutrition from NASM.

  • Jean Hayes
    Posted at 08:11h, 04 November

    I have used all of these methods and they all work depending on my time and my mood. Right now I’m in a bulk cooking mode, but by next week I may be back to simple meals.

  • Laurie
    Posted at 13:37h, 04 November

    Is there a link to find Jeff Novick’s 5 ingredient meals?

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