Vegan meal planning made easy: Save time and money with a plant-based menu!
One of the hardest things to do when you first go vegan or start eating plant-based is to figure out what to eat for dinner.
Around my house dinner is by far the most difficult meal to plan for.
Our house is super busy with 4 young kids and after a long day at home or at work, the last thing you want to do is stare into your fridge or pantry wondering what the heck to make.
I’ve come up with a super simple meal planning system to really take the edge off and help relieve meal planning stress.
Plan around a new protein
I remember meal planning back before I was vegan.
My meals would always centre around an animal protein.
Chicken thighs and mashed potatoes
Hamburger and spaghetti
Roast beef or chicken
The list goes on.
When we first transitioned to a plant-based diet I was really at a loss for how to combine my vegan foods to feel satisfying and create a well-balanced meal.
If you’re in the same boat, check out this easy system!
How to create a vegan meal plan around a plant-based protein
- Write a list of 5-7 of your families favorite vegan proteins
- Have a running list of the items in your fridge, pantry, and freezer that need to be used first
- Check your grocery store flyer for weekly items that are on sale
- Use the combined lists of items you need to use up and sale items to create a menu around the vegan proteins each day
- Be sure to leave 1-2 days blank to accommodate eating out and using up leftovers
Download this free menu planning PDF:
First, I want you to write down 5-7 of your favorite plant-based proteins.
For me that is:
- Red beans
- Black beans
- TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein
Now I match each protein to a day in the week. It’s okay to repeat your favorites or leave one or two days open to eat out or use up leftovers.
Once I have my plant-based proteins set, I go off of what I know I need to use up in the fridge.
I like to keep a running list on my fridge of items I know have to be used up soon. This has made a huge difference for me and my family.
We have saved a ton of food from the compost pile, and we have saved a ton of money from not repurchasing items I already have on hand or having to replace food that has gone bad before we were able to eat it.
Watch this video to see how I have organized my menu planning system on a white board attached to my fridge.
Looking at what needs to be used first starts the ball rolling for me to come up with a menu for the week.
3 Rules to Always save money at the grocery store:
- Use what you have first
- Shop the sales to complete your menu
- Buy 2 (or more) of items you use on a regular basis that are on sale like coffee, condiments, etc.
- Only shop once per week
- Use online ordering and grocery pick-up to save you from impulse buys and to give you a chance to really review your order and be sure you actually need everything in your cart before checking out. It’s 100x easier to put back items online then it is at the till!
The next step is to check out the store flyers and see what’s on sale that week.
I have a rule to only go shopping once per week.
This prevents me from impulse buying too often, but it also allows me to use the weekly store sales to my advantage, stocking up on items that we use regularly when they go on sale.
Once I’ve included menu items from the weekly flyer, I’ll go ahead and fill in the rest.
Here’s a mini example for you:
I know that in my fridge I have to use up tofu, brown rice, corn on the cob, celery and cucumber.
I see that in my weekly flyer lettuce and bbq sauce is on sale.
I plan to make bbq tofu with a side of corn on the cob, brown rice and a salad.
This way I can use up the tofu, rice, corn and veggies from the fridge plus I get to save on the cost of the bbq sauce and lettuce.
I make it a rule to only plan 7 days in advance because life and plans change!
Plus I usually leave a few days blank to allow for meals out or to use up leftovers.
Most of our supper leftovers are used for lunch in our house, but if you work outside of the home or prefer a lighter meal for your lunch then planning at least 2 days per week to use leftovers for dinner is going to save you a ton of money and time in the kitchen!
Time-saving menu planning tips:
- Write a grocery list as you use items throughout the week
- Keep all of your menu planning lists in one place that is convenient to update, like on the fridge
- Cook once, eat twice or more-use your leftovers!
- Batch cook rice, beans and other staples and freeze half to use in a meal later on
- Order groceries online and pick up at the store
- Prep veggies when you get home all at once so you make it easy to eat them
One of the biggest time saving tips I have for you is to keep a running list of the items you use from the fridge, freezer and pantry to cook throughout the week. As you use items add them onto the list for your next grocery shop.
This is huge for me!
It’s so much easier to have my list ready to go on shop day then to have to rack my brain or go through the cupboards and freezer each week trying to figure out what I’ll need.
I keep this list right next to my menu on the fridge.
You can use this super cheap roll of whiteboard sticker to recreate my menu planning center on your fridge!
Just use permanent marker to create your lines, days of the week and titles for “use first” items and “running low” items, then use a dry erase marker to fill in the rest week to week.
If you’re new to plant-based eating and you want a little extra help, be sure to check out my Zero to Vegan DIY program. It’s super affordable and It takes you from zero experience cooking in a vegan kitchen to an expert in no time!
Let us know down below in the comments what your favorite grocery store hacks are so we can all learn!
Here’s a pin for your board so you can come back to this post when you’re ready to put your plan into action!
This is a great free resource for you guys who are just starting out on your vegan journey!
Read 7 Ways to Eat Healthy at Home next for even more vegan lifestyle tips!