Meal Prep Plan: A Week of Easy Vegetarian Meals

Meal Prep Plan: A Week of Easy Vegetarian Meals

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Grace Elkus
Sep 28, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

I've been doing my own lazy version of meal prepping for a while now — tossing together lunches at 9 p.m. on a Monday while I halfway watch The Bachelor, or slicing veggies and fruit for a snack the night before I plan to eat them. So it wasn't until I dove into a true Power Hour session that I understood the real value of meal prep: how it vastly frees up my week ahead, puts me in full control over my meals, and in turn makes me a much less stressed person.

With the exception of some fish or shellfish here and there, I eat a mostly plant-based diet, and everything I meal prep is vegetarian (most seafood doesn't lend itself well to advanced prep). Breakfast and lunches are my biggest meal prep priorities, but I like to get ahead on weeknight dinners, too. This plan will help you prep a week's worth of vegetarian breakfasts, lunches, and mix-and-match dinner components in just under two hours.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I live with my sister and a friend, and we tend to do our own things for breakfast and lunch but eat dinner together most weeknights. That being said, if I prep a big-batch breakfast, they'll happily dig in.

I have a high tolerance for repeating breakfast and lunch, but I like to switch it up for dinner. I prep grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches in their entirety, sketch out a loose plan for dinners, and prep a few components ahead of time to minimize weeknight work. To reduce waste, I save any vegetable scraps, stems, and stalks from the Power Hour and repurpose them throughout the week.

My Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: A satisfying, packable breakfast for myself, plus some extra for my roommates (five days).
  • Lunch: Lunch for me, leaving one day free to eat leftovers or go out with coworkers. Ideally this lunch can be easily doubled or tripled in case my roommates want to get in on the meal prep (four days).
  • Dinner: Dinner for me, my two roommates, and whichever friend or boyfriend comes over to see what's cooking. I like to leave Friday free in case I'm traveling or going out to eat (four days).
  • Nutritional Goals: I work out most mornings, so I need a protein and carb-heavy breakfast to help me recover and fill me up until lunch (I'm typically starving by breakfast time). In general, I prefer vegetable-centric meals.

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: One to two people for breakfast and lunch, four people for dinner
  • Prep Time: About two hours
  • Meals Covered: About 80% (no weekend meals)
  • Weeknight Cooking Required? Moderate — 15 to 20 minutes of light cooking to get dinner on the table.

My Meal Plan

Breakfast

Lunch

  • Farro Salad with Fennel, Chickpeas, and Green Olives: Grain salads hold up well in the fridge, and I never get tired of this particular combination. I alternate between packing it with a hard-boiled egg and chopped fresh veggies.

Dinners

  • Broccoli Tofu Stir-Fry
  • Hummus and Veggie Pita Pockets
  • Miso-Tahini Kale & Apple Salad
  • Shakshuka with Feta
(Image credit: The Kitchn)
(Image credit: Grace Elkus)

My Shopping List

These are the ingredients I bought or used for my plan. I also relied on pantry staples like olive oil, coconut oil, tamari, red and white wine vinegar, tahini, and miso.

  • Produce: 2 bunches kale, 1 head broccoli, 1 small fennel bulb, 1 red onion, fresh herbs (such as parsley, mint, and dill), 2 bell peppers, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 1 bunch carrots, 1 apple, 1 orange, 2 lemons
  • Protein: 2 (14-ounce) blocks extra-firm tofu
  • Dairy: Plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and almond milk (or whichever you prefer for muesli); feta cheese; 1 dozen large eggs
  • Refrigerated/frozen: Hummus, frozen brown rice, frozen blueberries
  • Dry goods/bulk: Pearled farro, 1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, pepitas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, rolled oats, unsweetened flaked coconut, dried fruit/nuts for muesli, 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • Bakery/olive bar: Whole-wheat pita bread, pitted Castelvetrano olives
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

My Sunday afternoon prep list is as follows (and we've created a handy pinnable image with the menu and prep list, if you're interested!):

  1. Press tofu: I heat the oven to 350°F. I line a large plate with paper towels, add the tofu blocks side-by-side, cover with more paper towels, and set my cast iron skillet on top to weigh it down.
  2. Cook farro: Meanwhile, I bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add 1 cup farro, and cook until tender. I spread it onto a sheet pan to cool.
  3. Toast muesli and seed sprinkle: While the farro cooks, I toast muesli ingredients in the oven (this formula lets me use whatever I have on hand). I combine 1/4 cup each pepitas, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast until golden. I'll use this mix to add crunch to my lunch salad, the kale salad, and the broccoli stir-fry.
  4. Wash and chop herbs and kale: I rinse and dry the herbs, chop about 1 cup's worth, and add to a large bowl (this is the start of my lunch salad). I place the remaining herbs in large jars filled with cold water and store them in the fridge to keep them from wilting. I rinse, spin, and chop the kale and place the stems in a large airtight container (this is my stir-fry kit). I add a few handfuls of the leaves to the salad bowl, wrap the rest in paper towels, and store in the fridge to be used for Wednesday's kale salad.
  5. Toss together muesli: I combine the toasted oats and nuts/seeds in a large bowl, add a handful of dried fruit, and transfer to an airtight container.
  6. Make lunch salad: I add the farro to the salad along with a can of chickpeas. I chop the fennel bulb (placing the fronds with the herbs) and add half the chopped fennel to the bowl with a handful of chopped olives, crumbled feta, and some of the seed sprinkle. I zest the orange over the bowl, slice it in half, and squeeze the juice into a liquid measuring cup. I add a splash of white wine vinegar and whisk in olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. I toss the salad with the dressing, then divvy it up into lunch containers and place the remaining fennel in the stir-fry kit.
  7. Cook tofu: I pat the tofu dry and cut it into cubes. I heat a splash of coconut oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high and cook the tofu, undisturbed, until the undersides are brown and crisp. I add a splash of tamari, shake the skillet, and cook until the tofu is crispy all over. I let it cool, then transfer to an airtight container.
  8. Hard-boil eggs: I fill the now-empty farro pot with water and bring to a boil. I add 5 eggs (2 for lunch and 3 for pita pockets) and cook 8 minutes. I rinse under cool water, let cool, then store in the fridge.
  9. Make miso-tahini dressing: I'll use this for the pita pockets, the stir-fry, and the kale salad.
  10. Chop veggies and pickle onions: I peel and chop the carrots into sticks and slice the peppers into strips. I chop the broccoli florets, peel and chop the stalks, and transfer all of it to the stir-fry kit. I thinly slice the red onion, place it in a jar, cover with red wine vinegar, and transfer to the fridge.

That's it! My fridge has never been more organized, and I can't wait to head off to work tomorrow with breakfast and lunch in hand, and dinner halfway done.

(Image credit: Grace Elkus)
(Image credit: Jenny Chang-Rodriguez)
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

A Week of No-Waste Vegetarian Meals

Breakfast: I alternate between eating the muesli as overnight oats and pairing it with yogurt or cottage cheese. No matter how I eat it, I always top it with frozen blueberries. Because I've packed my own delicious breakfast, I'm not tempted by the sugary granola or cereal at the office.

Lunch: I happily eat my farro salad every day, adding a dollop of hummus or some chopped avocado if it's up for grabs at the office.

Dinner: I combine what I've prepped with some pantry staples and condiments to whip up easy vegetarian dinners with a variety of flavor profiles.

  • Monday, Stir-Fry: I sauté the contents of the stir-fry kit (broccoli florets and stalks, fennel, and kale stems) with some of the miso-tahini dressing and a splash of soy sauce. I toss in some of the tofu to warm it up. I serve it over microwaved brown rice and finish with some of the seed sprinkle, fennel fronds, and Sriracha.
  • Tuesday, Pita Pockets: I fill pita pockets with hummus, some of the sliced carrots and bell peppers, feta, olives, cherry tomatoes, pickled red onions, a halved hard-boiled egg, lots of fresh herbs and fennel fronds, and a drizzle of miso-tahini dressing.
  • Wednesday, Kale Salad: I massage the kale I saved with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. I add the remaining tofu, sliced apple, some pickled onions, fresh herbs, and seed sprinkle and toss to combine. I thin out the miso-tahini dressing with lemon juice and use it to dress the salad.
  • Thursday, Shakshuka: I sauté the remaining bell pepper and cherry tomatoes with garlic until softened. I add the can of tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. I simmer until thickened, then crumble in feta. I create 4 wells in the sauce and crack an egg into each. I cover the skillet and cook until the whites are set but yolks are still runny (3 to 4 minutes), then top with pickled onions and fresh herbs. I serve with the remaining pita.
  • Friday: I'm on vacation!

* * *

If you're following a vegetarian diet, especially if it's new to you, figuring out exactly what to eat can be challenging. This puts it all together for you.

If you're not specifically looking for a vegetarian plan, there are even more Power Hours coming your way (see all the plans so far). If you do cook primarily vegetarian meals, I'd love for you to share your own favorite meals and meal prep strategies.

Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.

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