A lot of people derive great joy from cooking and spending time in the kitchen. I am not among them.
As someone who is self employed, time is money, and when I do the cost benefit analysis it simply doesn’t make sense for me to spend that time cooking. There are others out there who can do it better – and more efficiently – than I can. Plus, I spent the first 8-10 years of being vegan making most things from scratch. Now I don’t have to – that’s a huge bonus!
Needless to say, I LOVE eating out at restaurants, but there’s a cost benefit analysis there too, since there are no vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants closer than a 15 minute drive to where I work (aside from Panago, and they also deliver – I exercise a great deal of self restraint where that is concerned.) Plus, who can afford to eat out all of the time? Not Pamela, that’s for sure!
With the brain-powered work I do, plus my physical activity level, I can’t afford to skimp on calories or nutritive value. Aside from my penchant for vegan fast food and shortcuts, I am militant about eating at LEAST eight servings of fruits and veggies each day, and my average is closer to ten.
Here are a few of my favourite quick meal ideas, which when supplemented with fresh fruits and veggies or a smoothie (or even a <gulp> salad), make a delicious and reasonably healthy meal! Note that these may not be the cheapest options out there, but they do tend to be less expensive than eating out, and less time-consuming than cooking from scratch.
- Amy’s microwave entrees
Back when I first went vegan there were few – if any – options along these lines. So at first I felt like I was cheating and being “bad” for loading up my cart with frozen dinners. Now, I just feel joy. It makes me so happy to enjoy nutritionally balanced and tasty meals that I didn’t have to make.
Yeah, I know. Some people don’t like microwaves. There are oven instructions for you too! But I love being able to pop it in the microwave and five minutes later, ta-da! These entrees are actually really yummy too! They are a bit higher in sodium than I’d prefer, but when the rest of your diet is basically raw fruits and vegetables, soups, salads, beans and legumes, etc. a bit of sodium in your Amy’s entrée really isn’t a big deal.
My favourites? Thai Green Curry, Enchiladas, Vegan/GF Lasagne, and Pad Thai. I am sure that some of the other ones are great too but if they contain mushrooms I haven’t let them cross my lips.
2. Fauxmage, hummus, dips and more!
My quickest meal is part of a container of Zengarry fauxmage, crackers, a smoothie and fresh fruit/crudités. Use hummus if you’re a bit more budget minded or don’t have any fauxmage on hand. Other times if I feel like I want more carbs, I heat the fauxmage with some other ingredients and use it to coat pasta (I almost always throw in some shredded kale too.) There are about a million other things you can do with Zengarry fauxmages (like spreading it all over a wrap, which you then stuff with veggies), which are documented on the Zengarry website.
3. Faux meats and prepared pilafs
President’s Choice has made my life SO MUCH EASIER with their bagged sides, like this one. No more cooking quinoa, then chopping up veggies into mitty bitty pieces, then trying to figure out how to season it. Just empty the contents into a frying pan and stir around for a bit and you’re done! I often will eat these with a modest portion of Gardein crabless cakes, a Gusto sausage, and of course, a smoothie. I also usually mix in extra kale into the pilaf, and if I have lots of kale, I will sauté some up as an additional side.
There is absolutely no shame in taking short cuts and saving yourself the time and stress of cooking if you don’t enjoy it.
There is a nutrition trend towards making pretty much everything from scratch, and for those who enjoy that, more power to you!
But for the rest of us, who struggle to find the time to nourish ourselves properly, don’t sweat it. Try these short cuts, and use your smoothies as a vehicle for nutrition. Being vegan can be simple and accessible to all!
If you are really strapped for time, you can also consider signing up periodically for a vegan home meal delivery service such as those offered by Naturally Vero, Purple Radish Kitchen, and The Kneaded Kitchen.
Get my no-fuss recipes when you sign up for the Vegan Eats Ottawa newsletter here. I am an Ottawa-based expert on the topics of veganism and vegan advocacy, sustainability, and ethical consumerism. I also consult with business clients with their marketing, communications and public relations needs, and with restaurants on adapting their menus to introduce plant-based options.