What My Family Eats: Creating A Zero-Waste, Plant-Based Meal Plan
“So, What DOES your family eat?”
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this question… Understandably, most people are baffled by some of our family’s atypical lifestyle choices. My husband and I are self-proclaimed health nuts who have chosen to commit to a plant-based diet. By plant-based, I mean that we avoid consuming animal products, such as meats and dairy. We also avoid refined sugars and processed products as much as possible. On top of all of these restrictions, I, sadly, suffer from a hand-full of food allergies and sensitivities as well. As you can imagine, those close to us get a bit overwhelmed when trying to plan a meal with us.
I will come back to attempting to answer that question, but first, let’s talk about meal planning.
Over the past week I’ve been collecting and organizing favorite recipes to revamp our family’s weekly meal plan schedule. We instituted a consistent weekly dinner menu at the beginning of last year that had been working really well for us. Sticking to a set menu had made grocery shopping and budgeting way easier. Unfortunately, at the beginning of this pregnancy I was hit hard with extreme exhaustion and a horrible distaste for most foods. It was during this time that our meal plan was abandoned, and we haven’t gotten back on track since.
I was recently reading about how establishing a weekly meal plan can be beneficial for families with young children for several reasons. For one thing, a set menu makes life easier on the parents. Mondays are soup day. End of story. There is no debating what’s for dinner. If you don’t like what’s being served, well then I guess you are going be bed hungry tonight. Ok, that sounds a bit harsh. But seriously, limiting options for children really does help avoid the development of unhealthy picky eating habits. A set weekly menu is also an additional way that parents can provide children with consistency and stability in their lives. A predictable and reliable home environment has been found to be essential for the healthy development of young brains. Learning about these parenting recommendations inspired me to get back on the meal planning train.
So, here are the criteria that I used to help me narrow down what recipes to include in our menu:
1. Zero-Waste / Minimal Processed Ingredients – I tried to maximize the use of ingredients that I can get at my grocery store that do not come in any kind of packaging, such as loose (no plastic) produce and bulk (fill my own container) items.
2. Kid-Friendly – Including my son’s favorite healthy dishes just makes life more peaceful.
3. Variety / Flexibility – I tried to avoid recipes that were too similar in ingredients and style. I also picked recipes that can easily be adjusted, if needed.
4. Easy To Make – We can save the fancy, complicated recipes for special occasions.
I decided to take my meal planning efforts a step further this time by writing out all of my recipes I selected and putting together a typical weekly grocery list. This way, the transition will be easy when my husband takes over the shopping and cooking duties during his paternity leave. Since I’ve already taken the time to write out our meal plan, my recipes and our shopping list, I thought this would be a great opportunity to share and try to answer that question I started this post with. Below I’ve included our family’s new weekly meal plan and our typical weekly grocery shopping list. If anyone is interested in the recipes for the dishes mentioned here, just let me know. I’m happy to share!
Our Zero-Waste, Plant-Based Weekly Meal Plan
Sunday: Veggie Tacos with Homemade Tortillas / Prep For The Week Day
On Sundays I like to prep for the upcoming week as much as possible. I’m planning to make roasted chickpeas and kale hummus for snacks. Maybe make a batch of vegetable broth for freezing, if time allows. Here shortly I will also start to stock up on healthy lactation cookies and muffins. Since you can pretty much put whatever you want in a taco, this is a great opportunity to use up any left-over veggies from the previous week.
Monday: Lentil and Veggie Shepard’s Pie
Tuesday: Green Broccoli Soup with Garlic Bread
Wednesday: Quinoa Veggie Burgers with Avocado
Thursday: Veggie Fried Rice
Friday: Pasta Night
Pasta dinner could take on many variations. It might be sweet potato mac n’ chez, a vegan pesto or a simple read sauce based meal if I’m not feeling ambitious. If we are wanting some a bit more fancy, maybe lasagna or a vegan ravioli or gnocchi dish.
Saturday: Open / Eat Out Day
On Saturdays we usually end up enjoying a meal out at a restaurant and then just finishing up any leftovers in fridge. Saturday night is also when I leave whatever dried beans I need for the upcoming week out in water to soak overnight.
Our Typical Weekly Shopping List
Quick Note: In case anyone is wondering, I try to buy all organic food whenever possible. I would estimate that about 95% of what is listed below I purchase certified organic.
- Whole Wheat Vegan Bread (from a local bakery, using my own cloth bag)
- Brussels Sprouts
- Green Beans
- Sweet Potatoes
- Yukon Potatoes
- Granola Mixes (Bulk)
- Dried Chickpeas (Bulk)
- Dried Green Lentils (Bulk)
- Dried Black Beans (Bulk)
- Dried White Beans (Bulk)
- Brown Rice (Bulk)
- Quinoa (Bulk)
- Pasta (Bulk)
- Various Seeds (Bulk)
- Flours (Bulk)
- Nut Butters (Bulk)
- Avocado Oil (Bulk)
- Olive Oil (Bulk)
- Nutritional Yeast (Bulk)
- Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (Bulk)
- Roasted Almonds (Bulk)
- Various Seasonings and Dried Herbs (Bulk)
- Coffee Beans / Loose Tea (Bulk)
- Vegan Mayo (Glass Jar)*
- Tahini (Glass Jar)*
- Salsa (Glass Jar)*
- Red Wine (Returnable Refillable Glass Bottle)*
- Vegan Butter (Sticks Form in Cardboard Box)*
- Nut Mylks (Plastic Container or Box Container)*
*These items are either not zero-waste and/or are processed food products. While pretty much all of these items could be made at home from scratch, I have not yet acquired the skills or energy to tackle them myself. I try to remind myself that nobody is perfect and that I am doing the best I can at this moment. The important thing is that every little bit of effort for improvement contributes to big positive change.