Here’s the thing – I’m not a chef.  I work full-time (and sometimes more), as does my partner. And we have two kiddos with dance or piano lessons every day of the week (except Sunday).

SO, our dinners have to be FAST.  Easy.  Kid-friendly.  Vegan.  And low waste.  Here’s what we’re eating this week for dinners.

Our low waste vegan meal plan for the week

Fruits & veggies for the week.

We shop for these in our cloth veggie bags that you can buy here.  I take them out of their bag for the pic but we keep them in these cloth veggie bags  in the fridge or in a hanging fruit basket in the kitchen. 

This week we bought:

  • lettuce
  • ginger root
  • cilantro
  • garlic
  • fresh tumeric
  • carrots
  • cabbage
  • sweet peppers
  • onions
  • cucumber
  • jalapeno
  • onions
  • tomatoes
  • cauliflower
  • bananas
  • brussel spouts
  • mushrooms
  • string beans (still in their bags) – see bottom picture.

 

And a day or so before we made our big grocery run, we got kale, bananas, lemons, mangos, oranges, apples, avocados, and bread in a paper bag.

quick mini-grocery run

This is a pretty typical haul for us.  I have lots of green smoothies for breakfasts.  We have lots of veggies at each dinner.  And the kids take fruits and veggies in their lunches pretty much every day.

 

Pantry staples from bulk bins

We take our own clean containers like mason jars, old veganaise jars, old olive jars, and others to fill with staples that are a little messier.  We weigh the jars before we fill them.  Most stores have a scale you can use to get the weight of your container (aka the tare weight).  Or you can ask a cashier to weigh it. 

This week in jars we bought:

  • coffee beans
  • salt
  • corn flake cereal
  • nutritional yeast. 

We put nutritional yeast on everything – pasta, salads, fancy toast, popcorn, veggies.  Nutritional yeast (aka nuty yeast) gives food a little earthy-salty flavor. Plus its got vitamins and minerals.

the main weekly grocery run

For foods from bulk that aren’t too messy, we put them straight into the same cloth bags you can purchase here.  This week in bags we bought:

  • ramen noodles
  • chocolate chips
  • sushi rice
  • cornmeal. 

We should’ve put the cornmeal in a jar – it got the bag pretty powdery and I’m still finding bits of cornmeal in our grocery bags ;).  Next time….

 

Packaged foods

We aren’t perfect and still get a few packaged goods most of the time.  We pick foods that are yummy, will simplify meal prep, and are popular with the kids.  Or essential for my coffee (COCONUT MILK!).  Or when the bulk version is out of stock.  This week olive oil was out of stock, so we got it packaged. 

So this week’s packaged foods were:

  • a yummy vegan dip called Bitchin’ Sauce that my kids will put on just about any vegetable in their lunches and on their sandwiches. 
  • Corn and flour tortillas for taco/burrito night and for lunches and snacks. 
  • Coconut milk for my coffee. 
  • Olive oil for everything every day. 

Our low waste vegan meal plan for the week

Here’s what we’re eating this week.  All low waste vegan meals:

  1. Sushi bowls with sushi rice (I found a recipe online that was yummy and easy – rice wine vinegar and sugar) plus finely sliced carrots, cucumbers, and avocado.  Plus local seaweed we get in a paper bag at the Santa Cruz farmers market.  A little dab of veganaise.  Soy sauce.  Pickled ginger from a little glass jar that we’ll reuse.  We put all of this into a bowl together.  Super yum.  Kids asked for this meal this week and they ate it up!
  2. Tacos/burritos with pressure-cooked pinto beans; brown rice cooked with onions and spices; homemade salsa made with chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onion, jalapeno, lemon juice, and salt; shredded cabbage tossed in a little veganaise; super simple homemade guacamole (avocados + lemon juice + salt), and tortillas.
  3. Ramen noodle bowls with
    • ramen noodles;
    • veggie broth (from bulk);
    • sauteed onions with fresh garlic and ginger;
    • sauteed mushrooms;
    • fresh thinly sliced carrots, zucchinis, and cabbage and cilantro;
    • beef-style TVP (boiled, drained, and then tossed in a quick and dirty “teriyaki” sauce of soy sauce, powdered ginger, peanut oil, rice vinegar and sugar;
    • plus roasted cauliflower for the side or with the bowl
    • lemon wedges. 
    • And a couple hot sauces in glass jars.

This dinner was super popular with the kiddos and grown-ups.  It probably took about an hour from start to finish, but we had leftovers to help out with other meals so I don’t mind the time too much.  Plus I love eating lots of veggies at dinner.  

ramen bowl dinner

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4.  Homemade pizza, with quick homemade dough topped with vegan homemade cashew cheese (see Nora Cooks Vegan for her awesome vegan cashew queso!).  Plus sauteed bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms.  And chopped olives. Plus a green salad and probably some popcorn and probably a movie too.  

 

So there you have it – our low waste vegan meal plan for this week.  Does this give you any ideas for your upcoming dinners?  I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz @ No Trace

Zero waste vegetarian dinners:  

What our family eats in a week (working parents – you can do it!).

 

Yes, I have a job outside being a mom.  And yes – we still eat mostly home cooked, zero waste dinners.  My hubbie and I both work full time (and then some) and aren’t amazingly organized.  But we still get it done. And you can too!

 

Now, I’ll admit that I work from home most days and don’t have a long commute on the days I go into the office.  BUT – and this is important to keep in mind! – I RARELY start on dinner before 5:30pm. We put our kids to bed around 7:30 (they read, wind down, and pass out around 8) so we try to eat dinner around 6:30.

 

BTW, this is part 2 of my series on easy zero waste meal planning for families!  In case you missed part one on zero waste breakfasts, check it out here!

 

Okay, back to easy zero waste, vegetarian dinners.  We aren’t big planners but we know the kinds of foods that we all like to eat.  So we shop for a lot of the same foods each week.

 

Big disclaimer:  These aren’t gourmet dinners.  If you’re looking for fancy, you’re on the wrong site!  BUT – these are healthy, well-balanced, low waste dinners.  And our kids LOVE them!

 

5 easy zero waste vegetarian dinners

 

Monday night’s zero waste vegetarian dinner

 

Pasta dinner with TVP and a big green salad

 

We’re lucky enough to have bulk pasta at two shops in Santa Cruz – New Leaf in Capitola and Staff of Life in Santa Cruz.  We usually fill a big bulk bag once a month at Staff and it lasts us a few weeks (depending on how many dinner guests we have!).

 

Sometimes we’ll get a glass jar of tomato sauce (and reuse the jar) or canned tomatoes (and recycle the can – cans are generally valuable to recycle in our town).  Other times we’ll toss the pasta in olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and sauteed veggies. Think mushrooms, sweet peppers, onions, broccoli, zucchini. Or whatever veggies we have lying around in the fridge.

 

For protein, we’ll rehydrate some dried TVP (texturized vegetable protein).  We can get this in bulk bins at Staff of Life and New Leaf. All we do is soak it in hot water for maybe 10 minutes, until it’s tender enough to eat.  You could saute it with some seasoning, but we often just toss it with the pasta. The TVP in bulk at Staff of Life comes in 2 sizes – large chunks and small pieces – like ground-round sizes.  The small pieces you can toss right into pasta sauce without rehydrating for added protein.

 

We make a super simple salad dressing from olive oil, balsamic vinegar, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper – all available in bulk at Staff of Life.  Or, we swap out the vinegar for fresh squeezed lemon juice (and leave out the pepper) for another super simple and delicious homemade dressing. If we have enough lemons (usually from our tree!), I’ll make extra dressing and put it in a jar to use for other dinners that week, or for lunches.

 

Salad includes whatever veggies and greens we have – usually lettuce, shredded carrots, sweet peppers, and cucumbers.  Toss it with dressing just before you sit down to eat.

 

That, my friend, is our pretty well balanced, easy, zero waste dinner number one!  Moving on…

easy pasta dinner with veggies and TVP

Tuesday night’s low waste veggie dinner

Tuesday night is taco night, amiright???  

 

Here’s what we usually do for taco night:

Homemade pinto beans.  We soak these overnight and then pressure cook them with bay leaves, chopped onions, salt, and cumin in about 30 minutes.  SOOO delicious!

Homemade rice.  Just rice. Sometimes we cook it with chopped tomatoes or onions or canned tomatoes.  Usually we skip the extras and make it plain.

 

Shredded cabbage with a little lemon juice and olive oil or a little mayo

Avocado, chopped tomatoes, and cilantro

Note:  sometimes we have homemade salsa too if hubbie has time to chop tomatoes, cilantro, onions, jalapenos, and lemon juice.  With a little salt. So yummy.  Or we pick up salsa in our own container from a nearby taqueria!

Getting salsa in our own container at a taqueria!

 

Corn tortillas.  As of this writing, we can still recycle the plastic bags that we get our store bought tortillas in, so this is honestly what we usually do.  BUT, there are zero waste options out there. We have a tortilla press and make homemade tortillas too when we have time. It takes us about 20 minutes to make everyone in the family a few tortillas.  You might also be able to find a taqueria that’ll sell you homemade tortillas. Another option is to ditch the tortillas all together and use lettuce as your shell! We don’t do that but I’m sure it’s delicious.  

 

Cheese – we do a few things for cheese.  The fastest homemade vegan cheese I’ve made so far is based on Minimalist Baker’s recipe for Mexican nacho cheese sauce.  We use ingredients from bulk for this – everything straight into the blender and then warm and serve. Super yum.

Another easy homemade vegan cheese calls for nutritional yeast plus flour (chick pea or wheat or whatever flour you have).  This is ready in about 10 minutes. All the ingredients are available in bulk. Check Bob’s Red Mill recipe here. Other times we buy dairy cheese at the store and ask them to cut us a piece off a big block.  We also buy it in plastic wrap that, as of this writing, we can recycle. As fewer and fewer recycling centers take plastic wrap, we’ll probably be opting for store-cut and homemade cheese only in the near future.    

Wednesday night’s zero waste vegetarian dinner

Okay, I don’t know what your Wednesday’s are like, but I’m usually feeling the mid-week hump by this day!  So I love a super easy meal we call

 

FANCY TOAST!

 

Yes, it’s toast for dinner.  But we make it extra specially with some homemade hummus.  We might make hummus on the weekend or that night. It’s super fast and easy if we remember to soak chick peas the night before.  Then 20 minutes in the pressure cooker. Then blend with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, a little water, and garlic. I put out cheese slices, olives (Staff of Life has delicious bulk olives), sliced tomatoes, and sliced avocado.  For veggies, we have roasted cauliflower or a big green salad.

 

The bread we get from local bakeries (Gayle’s and Companion) in our own bags usually.  Sometimes we get bagettes in paper bags if we can’t get to the bakeries.  

Super easy and tasty!

 

Thursday night’s zero waste vegetarian dinner

If we have extra chick pes aafter making hummus, we’ll often saute them with canned tomatoes, onions, and seasoning (garam masala, tumeric, ginger, a little lemon juice) to make Chana Masala.  Served with with rice and sauteed broccoli or some other fast cooking veggie. We usually have a jar of mango pickle in the fridge for a little tang and heat. The jar gets reused or recycled. We put a little salt or soy sauce (from bulk) on the rice.  Super yummy.

 

Friday night’s easy low waste vegetarian dinner

I usually don’t cook on Friday nights so we usually either have leftovers, go out to eat, or order a pizza.  I know, pizza delivery isn’t the most sustainable option. But sometimes, especially if hubbie is out of town, it’s what I have the energy for.  We ask for it without the little plastic do-hicky and we compost the box at home in our compost. If you want to invent a reusable, plastic-free pizza take-out box, PLEASE DO IT!!!  I will totally buy one from you. The world needs a reusable option!

 

So that’s a pretty typical week of zero waste vegetarian dinners for our family.  Is that helpful for you? What are your favorite low waste weeknight meals?  I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz