Even though I’ve been vegan for over a year, I still consider myself a fairly new vegan. Although I’ve learned a lot through my own experience, I am far from the perfect vegan. I do my best to eat whole, real foods as much as possible, but one recent night, I was running around from activity to activity, and had to have a Tofurky sandwhich for dinner. Everything in my kitchen required assembly, and I just didn’t have time to make a healthy vegan meal. At the time, a Tofurky sandwich seemed like my only option.
Similarly, many new vegans are quick to buy and eat fake meat because it is an easy and familiar way to make the transition from an omnivore lifestyle to a plant-based one. However, most vegans don’t choose a plant-based lifestyle because they prefer the taste of fake meat to real meat. They want to eat real, whole foods, which fake meat, even when it tastes like the real thing, is not. Fake meat, from Tofurky to Chick’n nuggets, is just as processed, if not more, than real meat.
While a Tofurky sandwich may be tasty on occasion, if you’re eating it every night because you can’t make anything else, you may be in need of some vegan life hacks. A life hack is a strategy or technique you can do to manage your time and daily activities in a more efficient way. Vegans like to claim that sticking to a vegan lifestyle is easy—and it is—when you have a fully stocked kitchen and hours to kill.
If you’re new to the vegan lifestyle, however, you can easily get discouraged if it’s not as easy as the famous vegan foodies make it seem. Eating right as a new vegan takes time, effort, and commitment, but there are small, simple things you can do every day to make your new vegan life easier.
Make Breakfast at Night
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For new vegans, Zoe Eisenberg, iEG’s managing editor and seasoned vegan of more than three years, recommends making breakfast the night before. She admits, “I’m really cranky in the morning,” so she tries to make the first hours of the day as easy as possible. Her favorite vegan breakfast foods are “overnight oats,” fruit salad, or chia seed pudding.
- 1/3 cup regular oats
- 1 cup non-dairy milk
- 1-2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 banana, peeled and mashed
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Mix everything together and place in a bowl overnight. If you want to take your overnight oats with you, put the mixture in jar with a lid for easy transportation. In the morning, you can add additional toppings to this basic recipe like crushed pecans or walnuts, nut butter, maple syrup, fresh berries, etc. Get creative!
Kendall Beyeler, a junior at Emerson College and vegan of eight months, similarly prepares her breakfast the night before. She loves making smoothies in the morning, so Beyeler cuts bananas up into four equal pieces and freezes them in bulk. When it’s breakfast time, she just picks four random pieces and pops them into her blender along with her favorite fruits, veggies, and non-dairy milk.
Dina Lauro, raw vegan chef and founder of Chunkie Dunkies, a raw vegan and gluten free cookie company, makes sure all of her fruit is frozen. She says, “I have frozen organic berries on hand all the time. I love them because they act like ice, making the smoothie super cold.” Not only are frozen berries delicious smoothie additions, but they’re also more cost-effective and nutritious than fresh berries because they are frozen at the peak of freshness.
Smoothies are a great way to get tons of nutrition from one quick and tasty meal, especially if you add vegan protein powder, like Vega One. Adding a scoop of protein powder to your smoothie, along with dark greens (calcium) and berries (antioxidants), is a great way to make sure all of your nutritional bases are covered. With such a power-packed breakfast, you’ll be smoothie sailing for the rest of the day.
Spend Time to Save Time
Experts and everyday vegans agree that another life hack for new vegans is simply to plan ahead. Jackie Sobon, creator of popular blog Vegan Yack Attack, says, “Cooking large batches of quinoa or beans at the beginning of each week makes it easier to get nutrients in each meal without having to eat the same thing every day.”
Elyssa Schwartz, iEG’s beauty editor and vegan of three and a half years, agrees. She makes a big pot of quinoa every Sunday night. Schwartz microwaves her quinoa for quick stir-frys or eats it cold on salads. “It’s a simple way to get easy protein into your every day meals,” she says.
By spending time at the beginning of each week, you’re not stuck making a vegetable stir-fry every night. While vegetable stir-fries are a nutritious staple in many vegans’ diets, many new vegans find themselves eating them almost every night because they don’t know have the time or energy to make anything else. When you have vegan basics like quinoa and beans already prepared, it’s quicker and easier to try out new recipes.
Plan Before You Shop
Kylie Bennett, a vegan of two years and creator of the up and coming vegan blog Fellowship of the Vegetable, advises vegans to take an extra ten to fifteen minutes to plan out the meals they’re going to make that week before going grocery shopping. “ If I don’t do that, I’ll end up standing in front of my refrigerator for twenty minutes every night trying to decide what I want to make,” she says. Besides saving time, meal-planning also saves you money and decreases food waste.
Like Bennett, Schwartz plans out her grocery shopping trips, but what really matters, she says, is what happens after she gets home from the store. Schwartz immediately washes and cuts all of her vegetables and then stores them in airtight containers. This makes for easy snack preparing and general cooking.
“I don’t like doing it. But I make myself do it immediately when I get home because if I don’t do it then, I’ll be too lazy to do it later,” she says.
Schwartz learned this tip from Lauren Wells, a nutritarian, who advocates the “Shop, chop, drop, plop” method of food preparation. The “shop” part means picking a day of the week to go grocery shopping. Next, “chop” all the veggies and fruits you bought immediately. To make this fun, Schwartz turns on music and has a chopping party.
After that, “drop” the vegetables into a pot and make a soup, stew or chili, which will supply you with hearty dinners the rest of the week. You can also “drop” the fruits and veggies into airtight containers if you prefer to eat them raw. The final step is “Plop,” that’s what you do into a comfortable chair after working so hard.
Buy in Bulk; Eat in Portions
Like Sobon and Schwartz, Bennett cooks beans and quinoa in bulk. She also buys dried beans in bulk rather than paying for individual cans. This practice saves her money because canned beans are more expensive for less product. She adds that dried beans last for months, as they only need to be soaked the night before planned use.
One of the main obstacles for new vegans or those who are thinking about a plant-based lifestyle is the perceived added cost. However, if you buy in bulk, plan your meals ahead, and soak the beans in small portions, you will decrease food waste and get the most beans for your buck. Go even further with this life hack by ordering dried beans in bulk online. By buying wholesale online, you not only save money, but a trip to a grocery store.
Keep It Simple
Kylie Bennett advises new vegans to ease themselves into vegan cooking by looking for recipes with simple ingredients and simple instructions. She says, “If I see a recipe that has a ton of ingredients and instructions, I’ll probably move on to another one.” With such a strong vegan internet community and so many amazing vegan blogs to choose from, Bennett believes there’s no need to choose a difficult recipe.
Bennett adds that some of her favorite simple recipes are vegan stews and chilis. She suggests filling a crockpot with legumes, broth, and whole grains in the morning so it’s ready to eat for dinner when you get home.
Similarly, Dina Lauro loves making a simple vegetable soup. She says, “I have a ton of vegan bouillon cubes, so I’ll heat up a bunch of water and put in 1-2 cubes. Then, I’ll throw in a bunch of fresh vegetables, like kale or other greens, frozen broccoli, and anything else I have lying around. It’s quick, healthy, and delicious.” Like smoothies, vegetable soup is a great way to pack a lot of vegetables into one quick and easy meal. Unlike canned soups, a homemade soup won’t contain added salt and preservatives. Like any good vegan, new or old, Lauro says, “I love to eat lots of vegetables.”