Meal planning has, for me, become a pleasurable ritual, one that allows me to feel confident about how I am preparing and balancing my meals. It all started back in grad school, when I had zero time on my hands. (Time, or lack of, is one of the biggest reasons most people I talk to say they could never be vegan: I just don’t have the TIME to cook everyday.

This blog is about everydayness: how to prepare and put together meals in a timely, enjoyable fashion, day-in and day-out.

I had been taking a fitness class at the school’s gym every Monday morning with a fellow writer friend. We met up at 6:30, worked out for an hour, and then I would head over to a local coffee shop, right across the street from the local food co-op, and peruse through cookbooks. For each day I wrote down what I wanted to make, and then, in the “Notes” section of my planner, I organized my ingredient lists. And I’m still doing something similar to this day, although I’ve since started planning my meals Sunday evenings. I try to keep in mind a couple of things as I’m selecting recipes:

1) Balance: this component becomes your ace-in-the-pocket response anytime you tell somebody you’re vegan and that person’s immediate question is, But how do you get enough nutrients? When that happens, you calmly look that person in the eye and you say, with the upmost sincerity and poise, I do a pretty good job at balancing my meals.

I’m talking protein (go for a nice alternation between soy foods: tofu, tempeh, miso; legumes: black beans, garbanzos, kidney beans, lentils, pinto; grains: quinoa, steel-cut oats, buckwheat; and other vegetable sources: seaweed, seeds and nuts, nutritional yeast, etc.), vegetables (dark, leafy greens; roots; herbs), fruits (think: color!), and grains.

2) I try my best to think about using up all of my fresh ingredients that week. In other words, selecting recipes that have some rollover ingredients. I can always interpose a recipe in-between the ones with similar ingredients, but I want to cut back on as much waste as possible (even if my compost does forgive my mishaps from time-t0-time).

3) Time. It’s a biggie (see above) and that’s why planning my recipes at the start of the week is so important for me: I’m able to glance at my schedule and plan my meals around my work schedule. If, for instance, I know that I’ll be home late on Thursday, I make sure to have an easy and fast recipe for that night. Or, on Tuesday, I jot down reminders to myself that will speed up the process for the following meal (ex: if I’m going to be making a bean dish on Wednesday, I’ll write “Soak beans!” in the margin for Tuesday to speed up cooking time on Wednesday; or, if the next meal can handle pre-chopped veggies, I’ll go ahead and make those the next before and store them in the fridge overnight).

4) Perhaps goes without saying, but I try my hardest to familiarize myself with the full recipe (it’s whole, glorious process!) before I begin to cook. It just makes sense.

5) Last, I always make enough for lunch the next day.

I hope the day-to-day food & kitchen ideas, coupled with the weekly menus, will help you to spend more quality time in the kitchen preparing the foods you love, rather than wondering what to make for dinner or what ingredients you have (or don’t have) in your cupboard. Here’s to rituals that lead to moments of joy–feel free to share your own rituals down below, and thanks for reading!