If you’re struggling to find time to cook healthy dinners from scratch, Simply Vegan Editor Holly Johnson shares her time saving kitchen hacks.
#1 Blend it!
If, like me, you don’t have the patience for chopping things up, make use of your blender instead. If you’re making curry, chilli, soup or paella, throw your onion and garlic into the blender first; if you’re making slaw, use the grater attachment.
#2 Stock up on staples
Ordering in bulk saves money and packaging and means you always have those essentials on hand to make a meal. Organise your cupboards and keep a track of basics like tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, quinoa, nuts, seeds and oils.
I store mine in Kilner jars and when they’re getting low I pop to the whole food shop. I then just have to do weekly orders of fruit and veg, from Riverford or the supermarket.
#3 Batch cook
On a Sunday evening, I’ll often make up big batches of food for the week. Chickpea ‘tuna’ is popular in our household — I use it in sandwiches or on jacket potatoes. I also prep a big bowl of salad, homemade pesto and quinoa which can be used in lunches. Store them in the fridge in Tupperware boxes.
#4 Have a plan
I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of planning my meals in advance. I like to eat what I fancy that day, but this often involves an extra trip to the supermarket for that one missing ingredient.
A good tip is to factor leftovers into your meal planning — a chilli can be made into enchiladas with vegan cheese the next night. Or leftover falafels make a delicious breakfast with guacamole and roasted tomatoes.
#5 Prep breakfast in advance
Overnight oats and chia porridge are favourites of mine because you can add so many different things to them to vary the flavour. Before bed, I throw some oats and/or chia into a bowl and cover with milk ready for the next morning. Then I simply add blueberries, frozen raspberries coconut flakes — whatever I have in stock.
#6 Catering for everyone
Thankfully, we are now at a stage where we don’t have meat in the house, but my son (now eight) is not fully vegan — yet! I get round this by making hearty, ‘meaty’ dishes like spaghetti Bolognese with blitzed walnuts and mushrooms, JusRol wellingtons with gravy and vegan sausages with mash (Richmond have been the most successful!). If I make pizzas or lasagne, I use Waitrose Vegan Creamy Sauce to add that indulgent, cheesy feel.
#7 Make cashews your best friend
Making sauces from cashews was a revelation for me when I first went vegan. If I’m planning to make mac and cheese, I’ll pour some cashews into a bowl and cover them in water to soften them up overnight and when it comes to dinner time, all I have to do is boil the macaroni and blitz up the cashews with garlic, a little miso paste, soya milk, nutritional yeast and Dijon mustard. Experiment with the recipe and you can use it for white sauce or a cheesy dip.
#8 Organise your recycling
I don’t know about you, but this is a major cause of stress for me! Whilst I refill nuts, seeds, pulses, detergents and shampoo at my local health food shop and use a plastic-free veg box delivery, I still end up with crisp and snack wrappers and empty milk cartons.
Try clearing a cupboard to store tubs for each type of waste — Tetrapacks (find your local recycling centre at tetrapakrecycling.co.uk), confectionery wrappers (find out where to recycle them at recyclenow.com), and so on.
#9 Make use of a slow cooker
If you have one of these gathering dust at the back of the cupboard, give it pride of place on your kitchen counter! Slow cookers are great for making soups, stews, curries, chilli, ratatouille and risotto. Jackfruit is also delicious when cooked slowly with herbs and spices — throw it all in before work and come home to a healthy ready meal!
#10 Create a folder of recipes
I have so many favourite recipes that I use regularly, but some are online, some are in cookbooks and some in magazines. This year, I’ve started storing them in a ringbinder — that way, anyone can access them so that I’m not the only one able to cook ‘vegan’ and I can easily find them when I need to rustle up a meal in a hurry (which is daily!).
Find out more about more time-saving hacks and vegan living here.
Holly Johnson is Simply Vegan’s editor and juggles her full-time job with cooking vegan meals for her family of four, walking her crazy cocker spaniel, early morning strength training and studying vegan nutrition.