6 Tips for a Better Vegetarian Dinner
Sometimes it can be hard to prepare vegetarian dinners. At the end of a long day, the thought of preparing a vegetarian dinner can be daunting.
After all, evenings are meant to be a time of rest, relaxation, and a chance to enjoy the company of friends and family.
It can be tempting to just go out to eat or mostly consume convenience foods for dinner, but it doesn't have to be this way.
Not only are these options not as nutritious as cooking at home, they are more expensive as well.
While it is fine to do this once in awhile, it is expensive and not so healthy to do this on a regular basis.
Try these tips for making dinner time more simple and relaxed:
1. Remember that simplicity is key.
This sounds obvious. Clearly, you probably aren't trying to serve a gourmet meal every night.
Although putting in a little extra effort to make a scrumptious vegetarian dinner once in awhile is great, it can be tiring to try to do this everyday.
Dinner doesn't have to be complicated to taste great!
There are a variety of
easy dinner recipes available that can make a great vegetarian dinner.
It's amazing how many excellent vegetarian recipes call for about five ingredients or less.
It is possible to have quick, tasty meals that are full of nutrients without turning to pricey convenience foods or going out to eat at a restaurant.
2. Prepare as much as possible the day before or in the morning.
Whenever you can, try to have dinner preparations underway the night before or even the morning before, if possible. Decide what you think you might like to have and make sure you have everything you need.
Personally, I find it less stressful to grab an ingredient from the store on your way home than it is to have to run out at dinner time when you are hungry.
Go the extra mile and cook parts of your meal to heat back up later that night. You can even cook the entire meal before hand to heat up later or invest in a slow-cooker.
This way you can assemble desired vegetables, spices, and other ingredients, then turn it on and relax for a few hours before dinner.
3. Always have kitchen essentials on hand.
While vegetarian kitchen essentials vary from person to person, having certain ingredients in your home at all times or at least most of the time is helpful for making an easy, nutrient-rich vegetarian dinner.
Consider stocking up on the following items: brown rice, frozen vegetables, canned beans, extra-virgin olive oil, spices (like garlic and basil), whole wheat pasta, and tomato sauce.
The ingredients listed above work well for me, but make adjustments as needed.
4. Keep a few frozen dinners on hand.
By frozen dinners, I mean two things. One option is to buy a few of the better vegetarian frozen dinners available, such as Amy's.
However, I understand that these items are full of sodium, not as fresh as homemade meals, and are costly. For these reasons, I prefer to cook my own easy vegetarian recipes instead of buying convenience foods.
The second option is to cook a large amount of a vegetarian dinner at once and freeze it for later.
For example, you could cook a pot a vegetarian chili or macaroni and cheese for dinner one night, then freeze the leftovers for future meals.
These readily available back-ups have many benefits. You always know that you have something to eat at home. Even if you are short on kitchen essentials. They can also be good for vegetarian lunches when you are at home.
5. Go shopping with meals and snacks in mind.
I wish I were organized enough to plan out all my meals for a week or two in advance, then go shopping accordingly.
It is also a challenge for me to keep an accurate inventory of what I have in my pantry and refrigerator. If you are an organized person and can stick to a system like this, go for it.
However, if like me, you find this difficult, you can still have organized, well-thought-out shopping trips. Here's the trick: keep future meals and snacks in mind when you shop.
Before you go to the store, quickly look through your kitchen to determine what you already have.
While at the store, think about which foods you can buy to make meals and snacks with things that you already have at home. For example, if you have crackers in your pantry, buy some hummus or cheese for a healthy snack.
If leftover vegetarian chili or soup, buy some bread or potatoes to serve with it. This isn't fool-proof, but it works fairly well for me.
6. Invite people over for dinner.
This idea may sound counterintuitive, but let me explain. Sharing a meal with others doesn't need to be a complicated arrangement. Ask your guests to bring a dish, which will save you time in the kitchen.
Or you can make an arrangement to have them over for dinner once week, in exchange for sharing a meal with you within the next month.
They may be able to give you easy vegetarian recipes or easy dinner recipes that can easily be modified into vegetarian dishes that you can cook again on your own.
With guests coming over, even close friends and family that you feel no need to impress, you will likely feel more motivated to cook and way less likely to order takeout.
Plus, in these tough economic times, saving money and appreciating the good things in life is appealing to almost everyone, so this idea will likely be popular with your friends and/or family.
Can't make this a regular event? No problem, even doing this once in awhile can be nice. Another option is to join a local vegetarian dinner group that meets regularly. Conversation and laughter makes meals much more fun and relaxing.
Enjoying a delicious, nutritious vegetarian dinner does not have to be a hassle or time-consuming.
The advice listed above has helped me to follow a healthy vegetarian diet, stick to my budget, and spend time with my friends and family, despite my busy schedule.
Some of these tips may not be useful for you, so take what helps and forget the rest.
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