Bulk Freezer Cooking Vegan Style

frozenI’m busily getting ready for a little down time at the end of May and beginning of June, so I am trying to make some double meals now and put one into the freezer. I’ve done three this week and have several more planned. I could be getting them done faster, but I’m trying to do this as I make the meal to serve that night, so I’m not adding a lot of time to my day getting it done.

Here is what is on the list to make right now:
Mexican lasagna
Eggplant and brown rice casserole
Faux-cheeseburger casserole – done
Chili – done
Butternut squash soup
Split pea soup
Dal (curried lentils) – done
Breakfast casserole

I would like to do at least 5-6 more. What are your favorite vegan meals to freeze ahead for later?

A Working Vegan Household Cook – Survival Tips

5 oclockSo, if you have been reading daily this month: first, bless your heart and then second, you may have noticed that I missed yesterday. I’m finding it a challenge to post daily all month, mostly because I don’t cook vegan food daily. Yep, that’s what I said.

Like many of you, I work outside the home and am also engaged in the activity of feeding my family. And that requires some negotiation of expectations (mine more than theirs) about what it means to provide a meal.

There are a number of strategies that I use to cope with the multiple challenges of working, feeding my family, getting some exercise time, doing household chores, and not losing my mind.

First, I have let go (mostly) of the idea that I need to be the cook every day. I don’t like to order out, but about once every week to ten days, we do. Last night, I was bone tired, busy, and annoyed. Mr. non-VeganAsana recommended we order pizza or something. I felt a little bad because Ms. VeganAsana Jr. was home from college and I thought I should make her a home cooked meal. But, ultimately, we ordered the pie. For the vegans, we got this great pizza from a local place, Stella’s, that is called the Salad Pie. It’s a salad on pizza crust. I meant to take a picture, but I ate it instead.

Second, I plan the week’s menu ahead so that I don’t spend a lot of time each day trying to figure out what to make. I don’t assign meals to days, because I like the flexibility of being able to decide which item to make which day depending on my time and energy level. The only exception I made to that is that I typically make the “meat” (sorry) meals early in the week right after we grocery shop.

Third, when I make something really labor intensive, like lasagna or eggplant non-parm, I try to make enough to freeze a second batch. Knowing you have a homemade meal in reserve is a good feeling.

Fourth, but related, I have embraced the leftover. When there are leftovers in my house, if they are vegan, they will be eaten. I’ll use some for lunches, but the rest will be served for dinners. I have no hesitation in repurposing items to serve them again. Chili becomes nachos or chili dogs. Spaghetti with marinara becomes spaghetti casserole. Recycling rocks.

Fifth, I have stopped feeling like I have to feed everyone, or even anyone, all the time. Three evenings a week, I have a yoga class pretty shortly after I get home and don’t want to eat beforehand. Now that Ms. VeganAsana is away at school, I just don’t bother to make a vegan meal, necessarily, on those days. If the meal I’m making happens to be vegan, that’s great, but if the omnis want something more omni (and especially if that something is also easy), then that’s what I make. I am also willing to let people forage now and then. Remember those leftovers? Those are fine to be eaten, and if the teens don’t want them, they will not expire from eating PB&J or making themselves another type of sandwich or some quick nachos from canned beans.

Those are my key strategies for making it through a week.

They are also part of why I started having VeganMoFo burnout at the end of the month, because I just don’t cook enough vegan items each week to post pictures of. I’m pretty ok with only having missed one day this month! As always, it was good to participate in the MoFo and to see what everyone else is making and writing about.

What are your strategies for making it through a week of cooking?

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Meal Planning – Not Fun, but Worthwhile

GroceryListbyMegStewart

Image by MStewartPhotography on Flickr

As Saturday evening approaches, I start to prepare myself for the festivities ahead. Party with friends? No. Out to the bars? Nope. A little time in the casino? Nuh uh. Movie and popcorn? Hardly. Saturday night is meal planning and groceries. Oh yeah, I know how to live it up!

Meal planning and grocery shopping are not my two favorite chores. I don’t actually know anyone who has them on that list (though I am sure some of you are out there). But, they need to be done and my life goes much more smoothly when they are.

Without meal planning, my grocery shopping strategy is to go through the sale ad, see what is a loss leader that we need to stock up on (far fewer than I used to when I was buying more prepared foods), catch a few other things on sale, and then try to remember everything we’ve run out of recently and restock. Some weeks, that works fine. Others, I get the groceries home on Sunday and realize that, while I have purchased $200 worth of groceries, I don’t seem to have anything to make for an actual dinner.  Ooops.

The better plan, for me, is to start my Saturday night fun by coming up with 5-6 dinners for the week. I consider what we haven’t had for a while, what seems fitted to the weather or to the most recent crops in my area, what I’m in the mood to make, and whether anyone has written something on the “Dinners that I Hope Happen Soon” board on the refrigerator. I only select 5-6 dinners to make because there will almost certainly be leftovers for 1 night, and there may be a pizza night or an event in there that takes up the other one. I try to vary the prep time across meals, so that I have some flexibility.

Once I have an idea of what I plan to make that week for dinner, I can then create a shopping list that includes all of the ingredients that I need. It also allows me to start making some tentative decisions about which meal to serve which night, though I leave those pretty loose, so that I can adjust based on how a day unfolds and the amount of time available. If I buy items that I worry will spoil quickly (though those are usually things for the omnis and not the vegans), then I know that the meal that involves them will probably be Sunday evening (grocery pick-up day) or Monday at the latest.

For breakfasts and lunches, because it is “serve yourself” around here, I don’t plan specific meals. Instead, I just keep a general list of things we should have available and try to replenish each week.

Once I make my list of dinners, and buy what I need for those, I can fill in the rest of the shopping list around that.

This process makes my week so much easier. Each day, I come home from work and look at the list and figure out what I am up to making that night, and what I have time to get done. If I am out of the house for a night and Mr. VeganAsana needs an idea, the list is available on my desk. Sometimes, I switch it up as I go, because I decide I want something different, I end up with a fresh ingredient that I didn’t plan for, or time becomes an issue. But, the plan is there, so I have a starting place.

Using this system also allows me to look at each meal for nutritional purposes and determine what I need to adjust. It’s easy for me to make too many carbohydrates and not enough of anything else if I just throw together meals at the last minute.

So, that’s my basic strategy for meal planning. What’s yours?

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