Mix & Match: A Creative Approach to Planning Plant Based Meals

Mix-Match-A-Creative-Approach-to-Planning-Plant-Based-Meals

Planning plant based meals can be stressful. Hell, it can be almost as stressful as not having a meal plan at all. The only thing worse than figuring out every single detail of every single meal every week is remembering at 5pm that you have no idea what’s for dinner and nothing to cook. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We’ve created hundreds of delicious and efficient plant based meal plans since we got started in 2014, so we know a thing or two. We will show you a creative approach to save you time, money, and stress. We’ll also include recipe ideas and examples of how to build meals you’ll crave, fueled by plants.

Mix & match your way to plant based meals all week

Our mix & match approach approach utilizes a few staples that are combined in different ways along with some common grocery items to create yummy meals without the need for specific recipes. It’s a hybrid approach to meal planning that’s perfect for busy weeks or when you don’t have the bandwidth to follow one of our Gourmet or Simple meal plans (AKA Wizard Plans).

The following instructions are intended as a general guideline, and how your plant based meals turn out is totally up to you. All of the recipes and meal ideas below could work for lunch as well as dinner. 

Wondering about breakfast? We say keep it simple! Make a big batch of porridge, muffins, or a Vegan Polenta Frittata to enjoy all week. There are lots of breakfast ideas here.

Batch cooking is the secret ingredient

Instead of picking meals for the week, you’ll get creative with our secret sauce: batch cooking! Our meal plans are built on the concept of batch cooking, and this mix & match approach isn’t any different. Batch cooking is when you dedicate a chunk of time to cooking the bulk of your food for upcoming meals, typically staple recipes. It’s similar to meal prepping but doesn’t usually include the assembly of full meals.

What are staples?

Staple typically constitute a part of or the foundation of a meal rather than being a meal or dish on their own. They are basic components like:

  • Beans
  • Roasted veggies
  • Tofu or tempeh
  • Grains
  • Cheesy sauces
  • Dressings, etc.

Once you’ve chosen your staples, which we’ll walk you through below, you’ll set aside some time and get those cooked. Most people prefer to batch cook over the weekend. Then, when it’s time to eat throughout the week, grab a couple of your staples, heat them up, and/or combine them however you’d like with your other grocery items, and dinner is served! 

Mixing & matching staples for plant based meal planning helps you to be

  • Thrifty: use what you already have. Two and a half bags of corn in the freezer? Find a staple recipe for that! 
  • Creative: combine staples in unique ways all week. Use hummus in a bowl one day and in a wrap the following day.
  • Flexible: when something comes up, or your tastebuds are getting antsy and feeling like something different, you can change your approach on the fly. Using a different sauce or topping can change the flavor and keep your mouth entertained.
  • Efficient: cooking larger batches all at once saves time, and you can freeze any extras. Pro tip: Plant Fueled Life has a handy snowflake icon on recipes that freeze well. Max out the servings and freeze some for later. Your future self with thank you. 

Start building your plan

Enough introduction. Let’s choose a theme or flavor profile. This step isn’t strictly required, but it can help you narrow things down and avoid overwhelm. It also helps keep things cohesive, so you know your staples will taste good in any combination. You can choose something specific, like a Mexican flavor profile, or something broad, like just aiming for staples that are simple and healthy. It’s up to you! 

Mix & Match collections

We’ve made it stupid easy to plan plant based meals with this approach using our Mix & Match Collections. Each features a selection of curated batching recipes with a common flavor profile that you can choose from, so you aren’t starting from scratch. We’ll use a selection of recipes from our Mix & Match Mediterranean collection to walk you through building your plan.

Now, let’s get to it! Your plan will consist of the following staples:

  1. Main/protein
  2. Grain
  3. Salad dressing
  4. Sauce or spread
  5. Soup (if desired)
  6. Extras (if desired)

1. Pick a main or protein

This staple is intended to give your meals some bulk and flavor. It doesn’t have to be something that will work in every possible combination, but versatility is a plus. Things like tofu crumbles, soy curls, baked beans, baked tempeh, and roasted veggies (think baked potatoes or stuffed peppers), are great options. For our example, we’ll choose Sweet & Savory Italian Tofu Sausage

2. Choose a grain

This grain can be something as simple as cooked rice or something a bit more seasoned with loads of herbs. If you or a loved one is sensitive to gluten, go for a gluten-free grain. We recommend rotating your grain selection to encourage nutrient diversity, so if you chose brown rice last week, maybe consider farro or quinoa this week. Our choice for this Mediterranean-inspired week is Cooked Farro.

3. Select a salad dressing

We don’t think any meal plan is complete without a salad dressing. You can drizzle it on veggies, over bowls, or as condiments in sandwiches and wraps. We have hundreds of delicious vegan dressings to choose from. Check out these 30 Mouthgasmic Oil-Free Salad Dressing Recipes for some options. We’ll be choosing Island Vinaigrette.

4. Choose a sauce or spread

Sauces are an important part of our plant based meal plans. They can be served on vegetables, bowls, sandwiches, or over pasta. Spreads like hummus are almost as versatile and can be served on the side or added to other items. They can even replace condiments in sandwiches. We’ll choose Provolone-style Cheesy Sauce for ours.

5. Pick a soup

If you’d rather not have soup or stew in your mix & match plan, that’s totally cool, but we love having something in the fridge that’s ready to go all on its own. It can also be dressed up with a sandwich or salad on the side or served over your grain of the week so it’s extra filling. Embrace the soup! We won’t be choosing a soup for our example, since it’s pretty self-explanatory how to utilize them, but take a look at these tasty options! 

6. Choose a few extras

This is where you can really get creative. These extras can run the gamut and they’re mostly there to help you round out your plan and give you some additional options for combining things. They can include an extra sauce or spread, a versatile dip like salsa, cooked veggies of any variety, toppings, or anything else you can imagine. We recommend you choose things that are simple and flexible. Some options:

7. Add common grocery items

This is where you’ll add anything else you’ll need to your grocery list, like salad veggies, whole grain or sprouted bread, or nuts and seeds for topping things. For the salad veggies, we recommend that you rotate your leafy green selection weekly for nutrient diversity. If you chose romaine last week, consider spinach or green leaf lettuce this week. Also, don’t be afraid to add a few convenience items like store-bought oil-free hummus, salsa, or pasta sauce. They can be lifesavers during busy weeks. Feel free to use any items you already have on hand, as well.

Easy ways to combine your plant based staples

Once you’ve got your staples chosen and batch cooked, mix & match things to create whatever delicious plant based meals sound good to you. 

Combining our staples

Here are the staples we chose from the Mix & Match Mediterranean collection. You’d batch these recipes over the weekend.

Adding in extras throughout the week

You can batch cook any extras with your staples or throw them together as needed/wanted throughout the week. This is where flexibility comes in handy. Forgot mushrooms at the store? Sauté zucchini instead. Running short on time? Buy premade hummus (we recommend oil-free if possible) and carry on like the perfectly imperfect plant lover you are! Our extras:

Getting our common grocery items

These are the things we’ll buy at the store to make our staples come together.

  • Whole wheat pitas
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Lettuce (green leaf, romaine, butter, etc)
  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula, etc)
  • Salad veggies (tomatoes, onion, carrots, bell peppers, etc)
  • Olives
  • Seeds

You can use everything to make dozens of different yummy meals. Here are just a few ideas.

Meal one: Bangin’ Bowl

Meal two: Delicious pizza pitas

Meal three: Yummy wrap

  • Staple: Cooked Farro
  • Extra: Classic Hummus (whip up your hummus while your farro heats up)
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Lettuce
  • Salad veggies

Meal four: Tasty pasta

Meal five: Mouthwatering quesadilla with side salad

Rinse and repeat

The best thing about building a mix & match plan for plant based meals is that you can start over completely each week or cook the same staples. Since there are no set recipes for assembling meals, you can combine things in new and unique ways every time you batch plan. Or switch out a couple of staples and see what amazing new dishes you come up with. The possibilities are endless.

Let us know what delicious meals you create using a mix & match plan in the comments below! 

Wishing you stress-free yums all week.

Xo
Team Dirty

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Our Sweary Saturday Love Letters are written by our ex-boozer, ex-smoker, plant-loving co-founder, Molly Patrick.

1 Comment

  1. Janet Gleason on November 6, 2023 at 10:16 am

    I adore this. I am currently eating a half of a toasted whole wheat pita (sliced horizontally so it’s a flatbread). Hummus I had made and had in the freezer. Oven roasted veggies (I used onion (extra), mushrooms, zucchini, and red cabbage). Creamy balsamic on top. Side of greens from my garden (2 types of mustard, 2 types of napa, 2 types of bok choy) and cuke from my garden topped with island vinaigrette.

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