by Audrey Wright
I feel that now, more than ever, people are needing help navigating their nutrition day-to-day. With so much uncertainty and unknown surrounding us; that can quickly leak into our kitchens. This leaves us with a bit of “analysis paralysis” as we try to figure out what we need to do to continue working on our personal physical and mental goals.
So, what is a practical, affordable, and stress-reducing way to do this? Get BACK TO BASICS! In this blog, I’m going to show you how to reduce your grocery bill, time spent in the kitchen, and work towards your goals in most circumstances.
I like to end my weeks, typically Friday’s, by writing out a quick, brainstormed meal plan for the following week. This allows me to get organized to grocery shop Friday evening or first thing Saturday morning (right now, every 3-4 weeks) and move forward with a plan. A plan helps prioritize your meal prep order once you get into the kitchen and utilize what you already have on hand; therefore helping reduce food waste as well as your grocery cost.
One of my most recent meal plans, while in competition prep, looked something like this:
Breakfast: Protein overnight oats
Snack #1: Steamed, shelled edamame and bell peppers
Lunch: Salad veggies, tempeh, avocado, and a low-calorie dressing
Snack #2: Seitan, cucumber slices and salsa
Dinner: Potatoes, seitan, steamed veggies and our Macro-Friendly Vegan Cheese that I had pre-prepped
As you can see, I tend to follow a template for my meals: Protein, carbs, veggies, fats, and a sauce/spice to tie it all together. I create variety within this by changing up the type of seitan that I make, broccoli for green beans, avocado for cashews, and BBQ instead of low-calorie ranch. The options and combinations are ENDLESS and allow you to never get bored by the “same old same old” bro-style meal plan while still controlling time and budget.
After I jot down this plan, I quickly input everything into My Fitness Pal to make sure it would allow me to hit my macro goals for the following week. After some serving size tweaks I had everything plugged in within 5 minutes; sparing some macros to allow for flexibility as “life can happen” and things can often need to be adjusted!
From that point, I get my grocery list together. I do my best to make sure I am using the most items from my pantry, freezer, and fridge that I can and then fill in any holes with a grocery store trip. Some common, low-cost items I always make sure to have stocked are:
- Batch seitan
- Frozen veggies
- Greens (fresh and frozen)
- Tofu (stock up at Asian markets)
- Canned beans
- Avocado (can freeze)/nuts/seeds
- Chopped snacking veggies to throw with protein
- Frozen and roasted edamame
I try to utilize canned, frozen, bulk sections, and international stores as much as I can! For more information and ideas, check out one of our latest YouTube videos where Giacomo shares his tips and tricks to Vegan Bodybuilding on a Budget!
Once I have grocery shopped, I organize my “plan of action”. I take a look at what is going to take the longest on my meal plan and start from there. For the example I give here it looked like the potatoes would take the longest, followed by tempeh, steamed veggies, edamame, and chopping. Simple. Simple. Simple.
The macro-friendly vegan cheese and seitan were already bulk-prepped, so I did not need to factor that into my prep time. Once or twice a month I spend 1-3 hours preparing enough seitan for 2-4 weeks or more. I find this ends up SAVING me both time and money over the month, ensuring consistency and predictability especially while in competition prep and is a no-brainer to pull out from the freeze the night before I meal prep. Giacomo shared this tip and I have found huge value in it!
Things like the cheese I always make as much as I can when I try these recipes as they can sometimes be a little more labor-intensive and not what I want to spend my time making every meal prep day.
Finally, it is time to get cooking! This particular meal prep week took me a grand total of 30 MINUTES to prepare. That is IT! That was 5 days worth of lunches and dinners, and some snacks and breakfast for Monday. I prefer to prepare my snacks and overnight oats the night before as I find they taste better, and the veggies do not go bad as quickly. It takes me all of 5-10 minutes to throw everything together the night before.
I absolutely love this style of meal prepping and flexible dieting. It allows for me to mix up the flavors and have fun while trying new ways of cooking old favorites (tofu in the instant pot – trust me, it’s a knockout!) while keeping things predictable, simple, time-efficient and insanely affordable. Don’t get it twisted though – I love trying to latest and greatest vegan product as much as the next person! I just try and limit this to no more than 5-10% of my grocery purchases and save it for weekends when I have a little more time to unwind and get creative in the kitchen.
Hopefully, by the end of this blog, you feel better equipped to get “Back to Basics” and bring some consistency to your days in order to relieve some stress and feel GOOD mentally and physically.
We would love to hear from YOU! What are some basic or staple recipes you would like to see?
As always, please reach out to our team with any fitness or nutrition questions you have! We are here to help.
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