When I put together my meal plan for the week ahead I'm always thinking about more than the recipes I'm itching to make and specific foods I want to eat. More and more I'm focused on bringing meals to the table in the absolute easiest way possible, and hopefully trimming my food budget along the way. I'm looking to do all this without sacrificing the wholesome, satisfying meals my husband and I enjoy.
Inspired by these five quick and easy everyday vegetarian dinners (ones even the slightly reluctant vegetable-eater can get behind), I added an extra meatless night to the meal plan.
Why a Meatless Night Strategy Works
Amidst the weeknight hustle we all want a strategy that makes getting a nourishing meal on the table possible with minimal fuss and maximum satisfaction. A meatless meal, even just one a week, is one way to accomplish that. Each of these recipes exemplify just how they do it.
- It's fast: A quick-cooking weeknight stir-fry shows you that you can transform a pile of veggies into dinner with no more than 10 minutes at the stove. Chop all the veggies during your Sunday meal prep and you can put this entire meal together in 30 minutes or less.
- It's a template: The same stir-fry, along with a cheesy veggie melt sandwich, chopped chickpea salad, and slow cooker veggie pot pie are all based on a template. Learn the technique and formula behind the recipe and you can make any of these once a week and never feel like you're eating the same thing over and over again.
- It uses what's left: Meatless Monday gets all the attention when it comes to leaving out the meat, but since cooking a veggie-packed dinner is one of my favorite ways to use up whatever veggies are leftover at the end of the week, I prefer to save it for a Thursday or Friday night meal.
- It's easy on the budget: With the right recipes, meatless night can also go easy on your food budget. Filling chopped chickpea salads and hearty black bean nachos lean hard on inexpensive, protein-rich beans to bring dinner to the table, while still adding in the more affordable vegetables.
Protein and Fat Are the Key to a Filling Dinner
Just because dinner nixes the meat doesn't have to mean you're going to be hungry again in an hour. The key to pulling off a satisfying and filling vegetarian meal is leaning on protein and fat.
Nachos make the move from crowd-pleasing snack to legit dinner when a couple cans of protein-packed black beans enter the mix. They're strategically layered so every chip on the tray gets some. It also opts for Greek yogurt over sour cream for a tangy topping that also fills you up. Our chopped chickpea salad makes greens a supporting ingredient and leans on fiber-rich legumes as the base for a more filling dinner salad.
When veggie melts are on the menu, you'll get a small punch of protein from the cheese, but it's really fat that will leave you feeling satisfied. Between the sautéed vegetables, the melted cheese, a swipe of tangy Dijonnaise on the inside of the bread, there's a varied and balanced set of fats that make these sandwiches filling, without feeling heavy.
The same goes for a slow cooker veggie pot pie. This deconstructed version tops the creamy, veggie filling with buttery biscuits for a hearty dinner you can start before you head out for errands.