In this vegan prep meals guide, I’ll outline everything you need to know to plan healthy meals each week with ease! Plus you’ll get your very own downloadable family friendly meal plan with grocery list!
When you are just beginning your journey on a whole food plan-based diet, it can feel overwhelming and difficult. What do you buy at the store? What do you stock up on? What easy meals can you make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? What are the best snacks? How do you keep it up in a sustainable way?
We all want to eat healthier, while also having delicious and simple meals at the ready! If you’ve ever found yourself staring at an open refrigerator full of food, yet completely stumped as to what to make for dinner, than vegan prep meals are your answer to your meal time dilemma! Some of my recipes include, what I call, my lazy vegan recipes. With only 5 ingredients, and less than 30 minutes, they are lifesavers on busy nights!
It’s a simple weekly routine that once you get the hang of, will make your life so much easier. Whether you’re a busy mom, on a budget, or just want to have healthy meals at the ready, learning the tips and tricks to meal planning will help you tremendously.
What is meal prep?
According to Meal Prep Haven, meal prep is preparing some or all of your meals before you’re ready to eat them. You may have heard the term batch cooking, which refers to preparing your meals on one day for the rest of the week.
Meal prep helps you save time during a busy week, enjoy healthier foods, as well as divide your meals into realistic portion sizes.
Instead of reaching for a packaged food that is quick, easy, and full of processed ingredients, you’ll have healthy portioned meals to go to.
Often it includes prepping ingredients that can be used in numerous dishes. Then quickly pulling those ingredients together to create a meal in less time.
Components of Vegan Prep Meals:
- Measuring out portion sizes, and placing in individual containers.
- Chopping and peeling vegetables.
- Creating quick sauces.
- Making a large batch meal to be eaten over the course of several days.
You can’t meal prep without meal planning. The two go hand in hand. Creating a meal plan, and a grocery list, and following that list when you go to the grocery store will help you stay on track and on budget.
You can plan and prep for all of your meals including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or choose one meal a day such as dinner, and then work your way to prepping and planning for your other meals.
You can create a dinner recipe, and then package some leftovers for lunch. Or create various components of a meal and throw them together to create a bowl for lunch. For example, if you have leftover brown rice, steamed veggies, and sautéed tofu, you can put them into a bowl and top with a prepared sauce from another meal.
Who does meal prep work best for?
Plant-based meal prep can work for nearly anyone!
- Busy moms who want to provide healthy meals for their family.
- Singles who don’t want to rely on take-out and frozen dinners.
- Those on a budget who want to stay on track while still eating healthy and delicious meals.
- Full time employees who don’t have the time or energy to prepare meals in the evening.
- Students who have limited kitchen equipment.
- People who want to eat healthy and follow a plant-based diet.
Not everyone is going to want to take the time and energy necessary to prep and plan meals. If you’re the sort of person that changes their mind from day to day regarding what you’re in the mood to eat, then this might not be right for you. You certainly don’t want a bunch of meals prepped for the week that you don’t feel like eating.
Benefits of Vegan Prep Meals
As mentioned above meal prep has multiple benefits. While it takes some time up front to plan your meals, and prep your ingredients, the benefits make that effort worth it!
- Ready to go healthy meals that help you stay on track with your WFPB diet.
- A simple vegan grocery list to follow so that you don’t end up buying a lot of expensive prepared foods with processed ingredients.
- Stay on your food budget by buying only ingredients you need which means less food waste.
- Utilize simple vegan kitchen tools, no need to go out and buy a lot of fancy equipment.
- Encourages the rest of your family to try new healthy plant-based recipes. Having difficulty getting your family on board, check out my 5 Tips for Raising Plant-Based Kids in a Mixed Diet Family and my Tips for Picky Eaters.
- Stock up on simple and healthy plant-based snacks, so you don’t reach for that bag of chips!
- No coming home from a busy day and being too tired to cook!
What is a whole food plant-based diet?
The difference between a whole food plant-based vs. vegan diet are in some ways subtle.
A vegan diet does not include any animal products of any kind. This includes meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, milk, and any sort of dairy items. Vegans do not exclude or limit their consumption of processed foods or oil.
A plant-based diet includes natural whole foods including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans and avoids animal products, dairy, packaged foods, and oil.
As Forks Over Knives explains, some people who follow a plant-based diet don’t completely exclude meat, dairy, and oil, but limit it to 10% or less of their overall diet.
While those who follow a whole food plant-based diet eat whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans, and also avoid all processed foods, including oil.
For the purpose of this vegan meal plan, the goal is to create healthy whole food plant-based meals. All of the meals included here do no have any animal products, and also do not include any processed ingredients or oils.
How do you create a plant-based meal?
When you decide to follow a vegan or plant-based diet, you may be nervous that you will not be getting all of the nutrients and vitamins you need.
Whether you’re following a recipe, or putting together a meal all on your own, you’ll want to be sure to include all of the components of a well-balanced healthy meal to ensure you get all of the vitamins and nutrients you need to thrive.
Components of a Plant-Based Meal:
- Starch-This includes whole grains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole grain bread, corn, quinoa, oats, barley, and whole wheat pastas.
- Vegetables-This includes everything from leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, eggplant, and so much more!
- Protein-Plant protein comes from beans, lentils, tofu, quinoa, seeds, nuts, and nut butters.
- Healthy Fats-Be sure to include healthy fats. When following a plant-based diet these healthy fats do not come from oil or vegan butters. Instead they come from foods such as avocados, nuts, and seeds.
- Seasoning-You don’t want a bland and boring meal! This is where seasoning comes into play! Include an array of different spices. Whip up a simple sauce or dressing, this will go a long way in creating delicious and satisfying meals.
What types of recipes work best for vegan meal prep?
Not sure where to start when choosing the types of meals that work well for meal prep? These recipes work well. They usually contain all the components of a healthy meal in one easy simple recipe.
- Soups are great because they are often made in one pot, they come together quickly, store easily, and include lots of vegetables, and usually a protein source such as lentils or beans. Serve with crusty whole grain bread, and you’ve got a complete meal!
- Chili another easy one pot meal, chilis include lots of vegetables, beans, and starches for a simple complete meal.
- Curry Dishes have lots of spices and flavors. Served with vegetables, protein, and a creamy sauce they are a complete meal and easy to store and serve.
- Veggie Casseroles are warm and comforting. They include lots of veggies and are simple to divide into multiple servings to be enjoyed later. They also usually taste even better when reheated after a day or two!
- Veggie Burgers and Patties these are great to make in advance and also freeze well. Take them out and warm stovetop then serve on a whole grain bun topped with lettuce and tomato for a complete healthy meal in minutes.
- Bowl Recipes from burrito bowls to buddha bowls are simple to pull together using different components from other meals. Have some leftover rice, veggies, and beans or tofu. Throw them together in a bowl and top with a sauce, and you’ve got a meal!
- Homemade Breakfast Bars or Breakfast Cookies are a fun easy breakfast option you can prep in advance and enjoy all week. They are great when you’re rushing out the door and need something you can eat on the go!
- Overnight Oats are perfect for those days when you don’t have time to cook your oats stovetop. Prep several jars of overnight oats without adding the wet ingredients. Then the night before add the wet ingredients, place in the refrigerator, and have fresh oats ready!
- Energy Balls make for a great snack or treat you can prepare in advance.
- Sauces are great to have ready. They elevate any meal. From vegan cheese sauces, oil free dressings, and buddha bowl sauces, you can prep one or a few to take your meals to the next level!
Tips and Tricks
When you’re just getting started these tips and tricks will make the process of meal planning simple, which will help you continue to do it week after week! If you’re new start small, and build up.
I suggest starting with preparing 2-3 dinners, then working your way to prepping more meals a week, or adding lunch or breakfast. Get the hang of it first before you dive completely in!
Step 1: Dedicate a day to meal planning. Set aside a minimum of 2 hours. Decide which day of the week you are going to dedicate to your vegan prep meals. I’m not saying it’s going to take you an entire day, but you do want to choose a day where you have some time and flexibility.
Step 2: Decide what you’re going to cook for the week. Are you planning breakfast, lunch and dinners? Snacks too? Or are you just planning your dinners? Decide how much you want to prep. Then figure out what recipes you want to make.
When it comes to breakfast keep it simple. Choose one or two easy meals you can make and eat over multiple days.
For lunch, think about how you can use some of your leftovers from dinner to create an easy lunch meal.
For your dinners, decide how many meals you need to make and how many servings. If you’re a single person you might only need to prep 2 meals for the week that you can eat for multiple days. If you’re cooking for a large family you might need to prep one meal for every day of the week.
Step 3: Make a grocery list. Once you know what meals you’re making create your grocery list. I find it easiest to organize my grocery list by fruit/vegetables, grains, frozen, etc. It’s something I learned from my mom, and it’s always helped me get through the grocery store more quickly, and focus on what I need instead of getting distracted by what I see in the aisles.
Step 4: Go to the grocery store and get your ingredients. I know it’s difficult, but stick to the list! This will save you time and money!
Step 1: Prepare the vegetables. Chop or peel any vegetables for your meals that you can do ahead of time. Some vegetables don’t take well to preparing in advance, such as avocado that turns brown. However, you can easily peel and chop carrots, peppers, onions, etc. These ingredients can be used to make chilis, soups, casseroles, or more!
Step 2: Prepare your grains. Do your recipes include potatoes, rice, or quinoa. You can prep those in advance.
Step 3: Batch cook. When creating vegan prep meals you can either prep your ingredients to easily have to create a meal the day of, or you can batch cook, which means preparing several meals that you reheat when you’re ready to enjoy them.
One of the keys to vegan prep meals is properly storing your food to retain freshness.
Tip #1 Store Dressings and Sauces Separately. You don’t want soggy lettuce. Yuck!
Tip #2 Store Grains Separately. Instead of adding your sauce to rice and grains. Keep it separate until ready to serve.
Tip #3 Store Chopped Fruits and Vegetables in their own containers. Chopped fruit can release their juices, and become soft, as well as some types of veggies. Keep them separated in their own air tight container to lengthen freshness.
One challenge with meal prep is over-prepping and ending up with meals at the end of the week that have spoiled.
This becomes a waste of time and money if you can’t enjoy the meals you’ve prepared.
Following these guidelines by the FDA will help ensure you prepare food that remains fresh, and don’t get sick from spoiled food.
A good rule of thumb, according to the FDA is to discard all perishable opened foods after 7 days max.
Some foods spoil sooner, such as high protein foods like beans. If you think you can’t eat all your prepared food within a week, freeze it, to retain freshness.
If you notice mold growing, or that something doesn’t quite smell right, throw it out! Don’t take the risk! Give a good smell test as well.
Be sure to also reheat your foods thoroughly before eating.
Recommended Tools and Equipment
These basic cooking tools are good to have on hand to make vegan meal prep easier. You likely have all these things in your kitchen already!
- High Speed Blender and/or Food Processor
- Baking sheets
- Cutting board
- Knife Set
- Large sauté pan
- Instant Pot and/or slow cooker
Food Storage Equipment
- Glass food storage containers (I recommend glass over plastic for safety, especially if you plant to reheat your food in these containers.)
- Glass Mason Jars-Great for storing sauces, overnight oats, and layered salads. Get them in various sizes including 4 oz, 8 oz, 12 oz, and 16 oz.
- Metal Bento Box Lunch Containers-These are great for packing your kids lunch or your lunch when you’re on the go.
- Reusable Storage Bags-Instead of using plastic these bags store veggies, and can be used to freeze items while keeping waste down!
Vegan Breakfast Meal Prep Recipes
Homemade bars, granola, cereals, breakfast cookies, overnight oats, muffins, quick breads and tofu scrambles, are easy and delicious meals you can prep in advance and enjoy throughout the week.
Vegan Lunch Meal Prep Recipes
When it comes to lunch easy and quick is the way to go! Often you’re eating lunch on the job, or between classes if you’re a student. You don’t have a ton of time, and yet you still need something healthy, satisfying and delicious. Sandwiches, bowl recipes, tacos, and salads are where it’s at for lunch!
Vegan Dinner Meal Prep Recipes
Dinner is likely where you’re going to start if you’re just being introduced to meal planning. Using shortcuts like a slow cooker, or instant pot help you utilize your time efficiently. Quick soups, pastas, tacos, stir-fries, and simple casseroles assure you’re enjoying a satisfying meal!
Meal Prep Snack Recipes
Snacks are a necessary part of the day! Having nutrient rich healthy snacks that you can quickly grab will help you stay away from the processed packaged food.
Vegan Meal Prep Sauces Dressings and More
As I’ve mentioned above having a scrumptious sauce makes all the difference to a meal. These sauces can be added to steamed or frozen vegetables, salads, bowls.
Be sure to grab your own FREE downloadable PDF of my Vegan Meal Plan, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and even dessert! It will help you get started on your journey.
If you have any questions, or comments regarding meal planning or starting a plant-based diet comment below!
If you’ve tried this any of these vegan prep meals, let me know how they turned out. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for more plant-based family recipes your whole family will enjoy!