Eating vegan sometimes requires some creativity, and that can translate to more time spent in the kitchen. While some people love experimenting with recipes, there’s not always enough time in the day — especially during busy weekdays — to prepare something delicious. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make vegan meals quick and easy. All it takes is a little bit of prep work in advance.
Here are eight tips for vegan meal preps that lead to tasty breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, even when your schedule is packed.
1. Divide and Marinate Tofu
Tofu is a soy-based food that is rich in protein, manganese and calcium. It’s a staple for vegan diets, because you can use it in so many different ways. Blend it in smoothies, turn it into mousse, or grill it like meat. For the best flavor, you can marinate tofu, then serve it alongside your favorite grains and veggies or between bread for a flavorful sandwich.
When you’re ready to meal prep, divide your block of tofu and marinate each block in different sauces and/or seasonings. This way, you can enjoy tofu all week long without getting bored of just one flavor profile.
2. Chop and Store Veggies
Chopping vegetables can be one of the most time-consuming parts of cooking a meal. Hardy vegetables, like onions, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts or carrots, can be washed, cut and stored in the fridge about a week in advance. Then, when it’s dinner time, you can just grab the amount of each vegetable you need and be on your way.
Not all veggies are good candidates for this, though. Softer vegetables, like tomatoes, eggplant, or zucchini, will only stay good for a few days. Still, you can wash and chop these veggies a couple times a week rather than daily.
3. Batch-Cook Grains
Grains are great candidates for making in advance and storing in the fridge. Rice, quinoa, farro, and bulgur wheat are nutrient-dense options to consider when you’re meal prepping. You can cook a large batch at once, then store it in a container for three to four days in the fridge. Reheating grains is easy, too — just pop them in the microwave on in a pot on the stove. Some grains, like quinoa, are also good served cold on top of a salad.
4. Buy Canned Beans
Canned beans are a huge time-saver. Not only are they full of protein, but they also take no time to reheat in the microwave, on the stove, or in the oven. Dry beans take 4 to 12 hours to soak before cooking, so using the canned variety makes for quick and easy meals.
5. Freeze Leftovers
Many foods, like lasagna or soup, are safe to store in the freezer and may last months. So if you take time to cook up one large batch of food, you can freeze your leftovers and enjoy them for weeks, if not months. You can even patty up veggie burgers or bake homemade bread and freeze it for later.
To store your frozen leftovers, keep them in air-tight containers to prevent freezer burn. Reusable silicone food bags are a great option, and you can also save food in glass jars as long as you leave enough room at the top of the jar to prevent it from exploding.
6. Don’t Forget Snacks
Most vegans will warn you not to leave home without some snacks on hand. You never know when you’ll get hungry, and vegan food isn’t always readily available at events or nearby restaurants. The quickest, easiest snack for vegans is fresh fruit. Items like oranges, bananas, and apples require no extra storage container. They are ready for you to eat them right away.
You can also prep snacks in advance, like homemade protein bars or granola. Batch cook them all at once so you have snacks to eat all week long.
7. Prep Sauces, Dressings and Dips
The same old beans and grains might start to taste boring after a few days. But don’t let your prep work go to waste. To make each meal feel fresh and exciting, you can add homemade sauces or dips. These, too, can be made in advance and stored either on the counter or in the fridge.
8. Plan Recipes or Meals in Advance
Even if you love getting creative with your meals each day, having a backup of outlined recipes can save you from wasting food. Before you head to the grocery store and start chopping your veggies or cooking those grains, consider a few meals you’d like to have throughout the week. If you really don’t want to think about what to make each day, plan recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus snacks and desserts, for every day of the week.
Based in Los Angeles, Paige is a writer who is passionate about sustainability. Aside from writing for EcoWatch, Paige also writes for Insider, HomeAdvisor, Thrillist, EuroCheapo, Eat This, Not That!, and more. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Ohio University and holds a certificate in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She also specialized in sustainable agriculture while pursuing her undergraduate degree. When she’s not writing, Paige enjoys decorating her apartment, enjoying a cup of coffee and experimenting in the kitchen (with local, seasonal ingredients, of course!).