Where’s the Grub?

Most of the time, I’m in this category. I just want my food to be there when I’m ready for it (except when I’m wanting comfort food. Then I want it to just be there and I want it to be familiar and comforting). To demonstrate how simple and efficient plant based eating can be, I’m going to describe my approach. This doesn’t mean you have to do it my way. This is just to give you ideas. The principles are:

  • Don’t have anything in the house that you’re not willing to eat, because you will (I will, anyway).
  • Prepare lots of food at one time. I prepare a whole week’s worth of meals on the weekend so I don’t have to worry about food preparation the rest of the week.
  • Stay on top of what you have on hand so when you go to the store, you know what you need to get. I use an iPhone app called Grocery Gadget to manage my shopping list. I typically cruise the kitchen with iPhone in hand just before we go to the store to make sure my list is up to date.
  • Keep it simple.
  • If you have to spend time in the kitchen, find a way to make it fun. I like to listen to podcasts while I work.

I eat the same thing almost every day and I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen so it’s important to me to make shopping and food preparation as smooth, stress-free, and painless as possible. The secret is planning ahead. Here’s what works for me.

My daily food consists of:

  • Breakfast
    • cooked oat groats (about a cup — this could be any grain. I just happen to like oat groats.)
    • frozen wild blueberries (half a pound)
    • walnuts (a small handful)
    • a banana
    • Dandyblend or black tea
  • Lunch
    • rice, beans, canned tomato, frozen vegetables, spices
    • steamed kale with mustard
    • a banana
    • green or black tea
  • Supper
    • rice, beans, canned tomato, frozen vegetables, spices
    • an apple
    • a banana
    • Dandyblend or green tea

I eat this every day and don’t get tired of it. Every so often, I’ll tweak it a bit. For a while I was using oat groats (and no tomatoes or frozen vegetables) in my lunch and eating a bag of frozen vegetables with a cup of oat groats for supper. Eventually I realized that oats have a higher fat content than rice and decided to substitute rice at lunch and supper to lower my fat intake a bit. (Oats are around 15% calories from fat; rice is around 7%).

Each weekend, I cook the ingredients for my rice and bean concoction. Often Karen will cook the beans for me on Friday. That consists of throwing a 1 pound bag of beans (pinto, kidney, garbanzo, whatever kind you like — I usually use pinto) in a crock pot, fill it with water, and put it on high for four hours. Even though it takes a long time, they can be ignored until they’re ready to come out. If Karen doesn’t get around to cooking my beans on Friday, I’ll put them in first thing Saturday morning and they’ll be done by lunchtime.

The second step is cooking the rice. I use a rice cooker to cook oats and rice for the week. While the oats or rice are cooking in the main pot, I have kale steaming in the basket that sits over the pot. I can steam a whole 1 pound bag of chopped kale during the slightly more than one hour that it takes the grain to cook. The first third of the bag gets 35 minutes of steaming (the water takes a while to warm up), the second third gets 15 minutes, and the last third stays in until the cooker timer goes off, around 20 minutes. Once the grain finishes cooking, I have three three-cup tubs of steamed kale in the fridge and ready for lunches for the coming week. Cooking a batch of rice and a batch of oats steams almost a week’s worth of kale (six servings).

Once the beans and rice are cooked, I dump them together in a big bowl. Actually, I have to use two big bowls because we don’t have any bowls big enough to hold the whole thing. All I need for the tomatoes is a can opener. It’s important to me to use canned tomatoes that don’t have a lot of added salt. They can be difficult to find sometimes, but they’re out there, so look for them if this matters to you. I put a 14.5 ounce can in each bowl of beans and grain.

Next I dump in the frozen vegetables. I use a frozen mix with broccoli, carrots, green beans, and some more beans. One 12 ounce bag of the frozen veggies goes in each bowl. I like pearl onions, so I get bags of those frozen and split a bag of them between the two bowls. I spice both bowls to taste, stir everything up, and scoop it out into my 3 cup tubs. I divide the two big bowls of mixture into 14 tubs, two per day for the coming week.

I even stack the tubs in the fridge for simplicity and efficiency. On my shelf in the fridge (the bottom one), I can make stacks three tubs high. So each day is a stack of three tubs — two rice/bean tubs topped by a kale tub. When I’m leaving the house in the morning to go to work, I grab the top two tubs off the next stack, squirt some mustard on the kale, some hummus and/or hot sauce to the bean tub, add a banana (sometimes two) to my lunch bag, and I’m on my way.

When I get home in the evening and I’m ready for supper, there’s my second rice/bean tub waiting for me. Add an apple and banana, and I’m ready to eat.

Oh, Karen makes a killer hummus dressing that I like to put on my tubs and sometimes on my kale. The original hummus recipe is from Dr. Esselstyn’s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. A version is also on the Engine 2 website. The short version is “hummus without tahini (easy to make blending a base of chick peas, lemon and garlic then adding to taste cumin, vinegar, red peppers, parsley or cilantro”. The idea of thinning it to dressing consistency with orange juice and vinegar comes from Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 book and is mentioned in various places on the web. We like it thicker than the way Rip does it in the book.

I should also acknowledge that the rice/bean tubs I make are based on the framework Jeff Novick describes on his Fast Food DVDs implementing the concepts around calorie density he discusses in Calorie Density: How to Eat More, Weigh Less, and Live Longer!

Good luck on your plant based journey. If something doesn’t work for you, keep tweaking it until it does.


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