The Vegend and I each possess a trait that may drive others quite mad: we could eat the same thing every day for about a week before we really can’t look at it anymore. He tends to use this approach when food shopping–we have our staples like farro, peppers, arugula, nuts, and lemons–and I use it when conceiving of and cooking my desk lunches. I typically eat the same meal every day for a week and then do it all over again, with a different dish, the next week. Since I started my current full-time job in February 2016, I have missed maybe (maybe!) two days of bringing my lunch. I figure that this slightly nutty approach has saved me more than $4000 over the last 23 months. That’s serious stuff!
Here’s the good news: you can do this, too. The secret, like in many things, is in the prep.
Because the Vegend and I both cook and/or bake, one of us is always jockeying for the kitchen. And since I love being served his fresh, amazing, and healthful meals, I usually let him have it (I mean, have you checked INSTAGRAM for the things he’s made?). But that means that my time in the kitchen is often limited, especially during the weekend prime cooking time, when I’ve ceded the territory in exchange for an awesome brunch. As a result, I’ve condensed my desk lunch prep time to a single day or afternoon (including the food shop) and make meals for three weeks at a time. That means that I only think about the whole deal for a couple of days each month and I get to approach most Sundays with nary a care about what I’ll be eating for lunch that week. Plus, I only really have to clean up once.
To make it all work, I’ve spent hours online finding some of the best plant-based lunch options and compiling an easy-to-access list of recipes. While I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface of the amazing blogs and sites out there (leave recommendations in the comments, please!), the ones I have found have inspired me to riff on their creations and tweak to my taste.
Typically, I’ll make something that relies on fresh ingredients–like salads or soba noodle slaws–for week one since freezing is not an issue. Week two is something that’s naturally single-serve, like veggies burgers. They get wrapped in foil and popped in a labeled freezer bag. Week three is a soup, stew, or curry that freezes well. Freezing week three’s meals in single-serve glass containers may be helpful, especially if you want options during the week, but I typically freeze the whole batch in a large glass container and defrost it on Sunday. I favor glass over plastic due to the typical chemical concerns and because it’s better in the low-power, on-its-last-legs office microwave.
Cauliflower and Freekeh (Cookie and Kate)
I added butternut squash to my version so I can be sure that this recipe last the whole week.
Kale Sweet Potato Curry (Minimalist Baker)
In place of the red curry paste, I used 1 TBSP curry powder plus some red pepper flakes. We almost always have curry powder at home but rarely have curry paste. I always add more veggies than called for because that’s how I roll.
Lentil Mushroom Burgers (Oh My Veggies)
Bring half an avocado and some greens with you to work. It will feel like a summer picnic!
Peanut Sesame Slaw with Soba Noodles (Cookie and Kate)
Delicious. Again, I always include more veggies than called for.
Black Bean and Corn Burgers (Food 52)
Quite possibly the easiest veggie burger recipe I’ve come across.
Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato and Spinach (I Am Vegend)
Gotta love I am Vegend!
Mnazeleh (Chickpea and Eggplant Stew) (Tori Avey)
A delicious and unique taste on things you probably thought you knew.
Carrot Tahini Quinoa Burgers (Rhubarbarians)
I tend to skip the tzatziki and eggs to keep this plant-based. Use 2 flax eggs (2 TBSP ground flaxseed and 5 TBSP water) in place of the eggs. The cabbage is a nice accompaniment but since I freeze this recipe for week two of the plan, I do not make it.
Vegetarian Chili Recipe (Cookie and Kate)
Great all year round but particularly hearty in winter.