5 Tips for Busy Cooks

Pantry staples -grains, beans, pasta

Everyone is too busy these days—including me. Many people say they are too busy to cook, but no one seems to be too busy to eat! This is often remedied by a lot of eating out, take-out, and make-do meals. I’d like to encourage people cook and eat at home, so here are some of my tried-and-true tips for making cooked-from-scratch meals a daily reality, even after the most exhausting days:

  1. Make sure your pantry and freezer are stocked with good-quality ingredients for quick and/or “emergency meals.” My pantry standbys include canned beans, quick-cooking grains (like couscous and quinoa), white and sweet potatoes, and pastas. Plus, prepared sauces like marinara, barbecue, Thai peanut, and salsa. In the freezer are whole wheat English muffins, veggie burgers, pita bread (for quick pizzas), corn and wheat tortillas. Basic frozen veggies include corn, peas, and green beans (all organic if possible!). With fresh produce on hand, there are a myriad of nearly-instant meals that can be created with these basics. For a more details on stocking up, see Creating a Vegan Pantry.
  2. Plan three full meals for the week ahead, allowing for two nights of leftovers. And do so BEFORE you go grocery shopping to prevent running back and forth to the store all week for ingredients. There is nothing worse than walking into the kitchen after a long day without a clue as to what you want to make. I try to practice what I preach, but whenever there is a week that I’ve left unplanned, I really regret it! Just 15 or 20 minutes of meal planning per week saves lots of time and simplifies your life immeasurably.
  3. On Sunday, try to prepare a couple of basics for the week to come. Cook some plain brown rice (or other grain), bake some potatoes, sweet potatoes, or squash. Bake a quick bread or muffins, or prepare a good pasta sauce. Knowing that you have even one item that’s already prepared when you enter the kitchen at 6:00 is a sweet feeling, and the rest of the meal then comes together quickly.
    potato varieties
  4. Once a week, make a big one-pot meal that can stretch to two nights-a hearty soup or stew, chili, a casserole, or something that can be prepared in a Crockpot or other slow-cooker. Then, all you need is a bountiful salad and a simple fresh vegetable dish to accompany the meal.
    Lentil soup1
  5. Keep it simple! You need not spend hours cooking or use dozens of ingredients to create tasty meals. put post-its on your favorite quick recipes in your top go-to cookbooks.
For lots more features on healthy lifestyle, please explore VegKitchen’s Healthy Vegan Kitchen page.
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14 comments on “5 Tips for Busy Cooks

  1. Nava Post author

    Stacey, I don’t know of one, but I keep meaning to present a weekly menu plan on VegKitchen’s home page! One of these days I’ll get around to it …

  2. Dana

    There is an online menu planner I like. You just copy and paste the recipes in and it creates a shopping list for you, etc. The bonus is that it’s totally free!! It’s Say MMM. I have it on my phone too so I can pull it up at the grocery store.

  3. Ilene

    I came across this today and it was a good reminder. Made some rice and cut up veggies so at least Monday won’t be so hard.

  4. Nava Post author

    It’s true, Ilene — even seemingly small things like this can make meal prep so much easier after a long day. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Diana

    I have discovered sofrito, which is basically chopped, sauteed onions done ahead of time and stored in the fridge. Doesn’t it seem like EVERY recipe starts with sauteeing chopped onions? Feels so luxurious to have that step already done.

  6. Nava Post author

    That really is a useful thing to have in the fridge. It goes with so many things, and is a great topping for grains, pizza, potatoes …

  7. Leah

    On Sundays I like to make roasted sweet/white potatoes, roasted broccoli, a quinoa version of fried rice with lots of veggies, and then a big pasta dish like spaghetti. This way I have lots to choose from for lunches and dinner for the next couple of nights. Then I usually make another big pot meal on Tuesday or Wednesday night to get through the rest of the week. Like the article said, just add a salad or something quick on the side! I save so much time and money this way and eat healthy all week :)

  8. Nava Post author

    Leah, these are great suggestions, thanks for sharing. It’s amazing what preparing just a few basics can accomplish!

  9. Amanda

    I spent a weekend pre-coking nearly 30 meals that I then vacuum packed and froze.. Nearly a month later I still have three left an a couple of single serving ones – there are evenings when it’s just lovely to know that I can pull something out of the freezer and have a well balanced meal ready in about an hour!

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