Prepare these ingredients over the weekend and use them to create a host of dishes during busy weeknights. These vegetarian meal-prep ingredients require a little planning over the weekend but make healthy-eating at home not-so-elusive!
Why is Meal-Preparation important?
Meal-Preparation is often referred to as planning and making our meals ahead of time, possibly over the weekend. Meal-preparation helps in these busy lives of modern times; when cooking fresh meals from scratch each and every day can be overwhelming. The advantages of meal-preparation are numerous:
1. Eating healthy home-cooked food during busy weeknights
2. Having a choice of fresh ingredients, to begin with
3. Being creative with cooking
A little planning for meal-preparation over the weekend makes healthy-eating at home not-so-elusive!
I’ve tried completely-made meals for the entire week as well as simply chopping the vegetables and storing them. But for us, the most comfortable and delicious turned out to be partly-prepared food or Meal-Prep-Ingredients.
How to Meal-Prep – Vegetarian?
Although the ideas for meal-preparation abound, there is so much information that it is very easy to get confused about where to start. Solution: Start simple, start small. I’ve benefited beyond my expectations with a simple meal-preparation four-step strategy:
1. Prepare the ingredients over a weekend
2. Preserve them naturally
3. Store them in glass/steel containers – No plastic for storing food
4. Customize the ingredients to make multiple dishes on a weeknight.
Please pick and choose the ingredients – even making a few should help. Also, In my meal-prep routine, I prepare a few snacks to munch on during the week.
Benefits of “make-ahead ingredients” for meal-prep vegetarian
1. The food isn’t stale – Because the tempering and final touches are given right before the food is served, you will love the freshness of the food!
2. The ingredients can be turned into multiple dishes – Making the ingredients help to turn the dishes customizable on the day of cooking. As a result, you can reduce monotony over the week.
3. Saves Time – This one is obvious but the amount of time that you can save is beyond belief! I take almost 2 hours to prep these ingredients for the whole week. Moreover, on a weeknight, it takes less than 30 minutes to get a meal ready.
Ingredients that can be prepared over the weekend and be used to create a host of dishes during busy weeknights.
Sign up to Download the PDF meal-prep ingredient list and meal ideas!
1. Minced Broccoli-Ginger Mix
Grate a medium-head Broccoli (7 ounces/ ~200g) and an inch of ginger to form a minced mix. I simply love this mix and use it to make multiple dishes ranging from stuffed parathas/bread or broccoli rice. Here is a post on four recipes that we can convert this Broccoli-ginger mix into. There’s a recipe where I stir fry it to make Keema-Broccoli Peas, or make the delicious Rice and Broccoli Pilaf, with Paneer (Cottage cheese) to make Broccoli Paneer Bites in Airfryer and Broccoli Parantha or Indian Broccoli Flatbread! Due to Broccoli’s nutritional value – rich in fiber, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and folate, this is a must-prepare ingredient for us.
Meal-Prep Tip: Please add 1 tbsp of lemon juice to ensure this mix is preserved well.
2. Onion-Tomato Paste
Grind one cup each of chopped onions and tomatoes and roast with spices of your choice. Watch Video here. Simply add this onion-tomato paste to soaked lentils and pressure cook to have one-pot daal (lentils) ready to go with the meal. Or, add it to your favorite curry – saves so much time! If there is one ingredient that I prepare without fail over the weekend, it is this one. If you are running short of time to prepare a meal, this is a savior.
Meal-Prep Tip: You may freeze it in a silicone ice tray and then store it in a glass container in a freezer for ~ 10 days.
3. Spinach Paste
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of greens in our foods. Spinach is rich in iron and antioxidants. Therefore, to make sure we include it in our diet, it is easiest to add it to our smoothies. In order to prepare this paste, add the leaves to hot water and when tender, grind into a paste.
As discussed in the post 10 foods for a Healthy Body and Mind, including green leafy vegetables in our food daily helps us maintain good health. Moreover, this paste is great for specifically three purposes in our household:
1. Spinach Curry (palak paneer, palak-makhana, etc.)
2. Spinach rice
3. Knead it into the flour to make green chapattis/breads.
Meal-Prep Tip: Although it will last for 4-5 days, I do add a little lemon juice to preserve it well.
In addition to the spinach paste, I prepare this green-herb dip every week. This dip has coriander, mint leaves and goes well with snacks or meals. To top off the advantage list, this is a great source of Vitamin-C. I introduced apricots to the dip to add a great tangy flavor. Emphasis on greens is easier during meal preparation because one can shop and plan at once and at peace.
Meal-Prep Tip: Lemon juice in the Dip enhances flavor and preserves the nutrients. You can also freeze it into cubes and it’ll last longer.
4. Roasted Foxnuts
Roasted Foxnunts are a rich source of calcium – therefore a great idea to roast and keep during meal-preparation. Once roasted, we enjoy this healthy snack as-is or make a curry out of it for a wholesome meal.
Meal-Prep Tip: Store in an airtight container in a cool place.
5. Caramelized Vegetables
Breakfast can be made super quick if you’ve access to caramelized vegetables. I shallow-fry chopped onions, carrots and bell peppers that can be used while preparing Poha, Cheelas, and Vermicelli Poha. It can be spread on a sandwich as well. You can also add nuts to this mix in order to pack more nutrients.
Meal-Prep Tip: Oil is a natural preservative. Therefore, instead of chopped vegetables, I caramelize them in oil and a tbsp of lemon juice to pack the nutrients and preserve well.
6. Roasted Cauliflower/Beets
I bake/roast one or two vegetables, which can be quickly made into a curry during the week. Mix the chopped vegetable with oil and spices, roast in an air-fryer, oven or stovetop. Again, adding just a table spoon of lemon juice goes a long way in preserving the vegetables.
Meal-Prep Tip: The oil and lemon juice does the job of preserving it well.
7. Roasted and Ground Peanuts
Roast and grind Peanuts to use in breakfast dishes like Sabudana Khichdi (recipe video here). Peanuts are rich in fiber, protein, and magnesium. Often, it is easiest to add the ground peanut powder to the side of rice – adds flavor and nutrition!
Meal-Prep Tip: Store in an air-tight container – It easily lasts for a week.
8. Ground Flax Seeds
Besides the known protein and fiber, flax seeds are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids in a vegetarian diet. Therefore, to leverage this benefit, we eat it every day. If you are looking for other healthy foods to eat every day, please refer to the post, 10 foods for a healthy body and mind. In order to consume flax seeds, it is easiest to roast them until brown and grind them into a fine powder. Then, add a spoonful to our smoothies, rice or kneaded flour. Here is a flax-seed rice recipe that we love! Also, if you’d like to read, here is an article on Omega-3 fatty acids.
Meal-Prep Tip: If possible, grind Flax seeds every week. Also, store in an air-tight container. You can store the powder in a freezer in order to make it last longer.
9. Kneaded Dough
During the weekend meal-prep, I knead whole-wheat dough which lasts for 2-3 days. Thanks to our favorite kitchen appliance, the kitchen aid mixer, kneading is actually not a big task at all. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most-used appliance in our kitchen.
Meal-Prep Tip: A little oil during kneading and a little milk will make the dough soft and make it last for a bit longer.
10. Roasted Nuts
I roast a few nuts in ghee/clarified butter and store them for snacking during the week. As a bonus, one can take them to work in order to have a quick and healthy snack. Nuts, specifically almonds and walnuts are rich in mono-saturated fats, Vitamin E and Omega-3 and are an important part of our 10 everyday foods for a healthy body and mind.
Meal-Prep Tip: Store in an air-tight container in the freezer for them to last longer.