New vegan tips: five ways you can make cooking meals easier and quicker
I wish someone would have shared these new vegan tips with me when I started my transition!
If you didn’t cook often before switching to a vegan diet, you might feel all of a sudden that your life revolves around preparing food. It’s unavoidable, if you want to avoid the pitfalls of an unhealthy vegan diet, you’ll have to cook more often.
The good news is that there are easy shortcuts you can implement today to become very efficient at preparing tasty, healthy vegan meals. Here are my top 5 new vegan tips for you kitchen newbies!
New vegan tips #1: prepare lots and freeze individual portions
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Even if you cook for one or two, preparing dishes in quantities of 6 to 10 portions is not only economical, it’s also more efficient. It’s a better use of your time, power, and ingredients (instead of using half cans or half bunches of greens, use everything at once to avoid leaving some in the fridge for later use… a good way to forget about them!).
However, once your meal is done and cooled, immediately package the leftovers in individual portions and freeze. This way, you’ll have ready-to-grab lunches that do not require refrigeration. This also has the advantage of not making you feel like you need to eat the entire thing in a few days, which would get kind of repetitive. Don’t forget to label each portion by dish and date it was frozen!
New vegan tips #2: let the tools work for you!
You don’t need to spend your next two paycheques on the latest kitchen gadgets, but if you are going to cook more often, a few kitchen tools are really helpful for vegans.
I started off with buying a rice cooker. Then I invested in a good blender (THAT changed my life). Kitchen tools also make great gifts, why not ask for them for your birthday, or an upcoming holiday?
Some kitchen tools will simply change the way you cook, because they will cut meal preparation time down to a minimum. Ever heard of an Instant Pot? I recently purchased one and have never looked back. I also wrote a review of a few Instant Pot vegan cookbooks that helped me get started.
New vegan tips #3: turn cooking time into dishes time
As I often eat alone, it happens more often than not that I spend an hour preparing my meal, 10-15 minutes eating dinner, and then return to the kitchen to put my dishes in the dishwasher only to realize I have another 20 minutes of pots and pans to clean.
This is why I started using my cook time (in the oven, on the stovetop, or in the Instant Pot) as cleaning time. I wash all the dishes I used for preparation, my knives, cutting board, bowls, etc., leaving only the dish in which the food is cooking to clean at the end of the meal (along with a few cooking utensils).
New vegan tips #4: optimize your veggie preparation
Anyone eating a healthy vegan diet will include a lot of vegetables in their daily meals. Obviously, these vegetables need washing and chopping before they can be used in soups, stews and salads. In some recipes, the preparation takes almost as much time as the cooking or the assembly.
There are several ways to optimize vegetable prep. I usually do my prep the same day I buy the vegetables. Cut and washed vegetables will often stay fresh and crisp all week if you follow some of these basic rules :
- Lettuce, spinach, kale and other leafy greens : wash and then run through a spinner, keep leaves whole except for the kale (you can remove the stems). Use a special freshness-preserving green bags to store your leafy greens. Close the bag loosely, then store in the fridge. Whenever you need your greens, they are ready to use!
- Carrots, peppers, celeri : wash, cut the ends, peel the carrots and place cut veggies in a plastic container with cold water. Store in the fridge. Whenever you need veggies for a salad, a saute, or any other dish, you have them ready to use! Don’t forget to change the water regularly.
- Garlic : mince entire heads at once and store in the fridge in olive oil, in an air-tight container. Make sure you use enough oil to cover the garlic. You can also buy minced garlic in oil, it’s pretty cheap and will last for a long time in the fridge.
New vegan tips #5: don’t snob the frozen veggies and fruit, or the cans!
There is nothing like coming back home with a bounty of fresh, colorful and crisp vegetables and fruit (especially after a trip to your local farmer’s market). But sometimes, in the name of efficiency, I turn to frozen veggies and fruit to prepare my meals. Good quality frozen veggies are flash frozen immediately after picking, so in some cases, they are even more nutritious than the fresh produce we find in our supermarkets. Frozen fruit are excellent for smoothies, and frozen veggies can be used in so many meals in replacement of their fresh counterparts.
Make sure to always have on hand a few bags of the following : corn, peas, mixed veggies (asian mixes are good), blueberries, strawberries, mangoes. Frozen green beans are also good, but I tend to stay away from frozen broccoli and brussel sprouts. I find that they remain watery and soft once thawed.
I know that dried legumes are more affordable than their canned counterparts, so if you have a bit of time to soak and cook a large batch of lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans or black beans, by all means, go for it! Don’t forget to freeze in individual portions (either the equivalent of a cup or one entire can – easier to match with what is typically required for a recipe). But for all those times when you want to make something quick (rice, beans and vegetables for example), having a few cans can be a life-saver.