Eat Like a Vegetarian for a Whole Week

March  1, 2016

You've likely done Meatless Monday before, and/or familiarized yourself with tofu, grain salads, the 6-minute egg. But if you've never ventured into the world of vegetariana for longer than just a day at a time, we'd like you to reconsider. There are a million reasons to eat your vegetables—a desire to eat seasonally, health, general sustainability. But mostly, vegetables are darn good. And a vegetarian diet can be a colorful, hearty, inexpensive, delicious one.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

You don't have to follow along with the whole week's worth of recipes; take inspiration from a couple of recipes, or just from one. And if you take one thing away, take this: Eating and cooking vegetarian food is pretty much the same as eating and cooking omnivorously. It's all about layering textures and flavors. And if you're worried about the whole protein thing, don't be: Build meals with the trifecta of grains-greens (and other veg)-protein as your guide, and you'll eat roundly and be plenty full.

Ready, set.... Photo by Bobbi Lin

Grocery List for a Family of 4

Arranged by area of the market

  • 1 to 2 large bunches beets (about 7 beets total) with greens attached (golden preferred, but red okay)
  • 2 large bunches spinach or kale
  • 8 medium-large yellow onions
  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  • 1 bunch fresh sage
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 large white potato
  • 1 pound carrots
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 hothouse cucumber
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 24 ounces feta
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 package extra-firm tofu
  • Two 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes
  • One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas
  • 10 cups vegetable broth
  • Grains (rice, farro, quinoa, etc.)
  • 1 pound tagliatelle or similar pasta (dried or fresh)
  • 2/3 cup pecans
  • 1 pound brown lentils

If you don't already have these things in your pantry and fridge, stock up on them, too! 1 loaf of bread you love (for sandwiches and sopping up soup), lemons, garlic, butter, mayonnaise (for sandwiches), coarse Dijon mustard, maple syrup, at least 3 cups plain Greek yogurt, Parmesan, olive oil, sesame oil, sesame seeds, Sriracha, za’atar, bay leaves, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, red wine vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

Dinner 1

Do it: Cook the grains while your sauce is bubbling away—and make 4 extra cooked cups’ worth. They’ll be lunch tomorrow. Roast the beets and rinse and store the greens; those are for tomorrow’s lunch (and for lots of impromptu side salads, too).
Tips: Use canned whole tomatoes (with their juice) instead of sauce for a winter-appropriate adaptation. Swap in whatever greens you want (arugula, kale, or turnips greens would be good) for the spinach. Trade the grains for bread for sopping up the sauce.

Lunch 1

Do it: Double the recipe (you'll be eating the leftovers later in the week), then caramelize the nuts, chop 3 roasted beets, and combine with yesterday’s cooked grains and the remaining salad ingredients.
Tips: Sub in another grain for the farro. Or another kind of nut (walnuts? almonds?) for the pecans.

Dinner 2

Do it: Use the greens from your bunch of beet instead of turnips greens to make this frittata. Serve with a simple salad and bread.
Tips: Swap the white potato for a sweet potato. Add anything else you happen to have around—mushrooms, other cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes...

Lunch 2

Do it: Make frittata sandwiches! Spread slices of bread with mayonnaise and pile on a slice of frittata, a generous amount of fresh chives, and greens.
Tips: Doctor the mayonnaise by adding a squirt of Sriracha before spreading it on—or make it herby by stirring in finely chopped chives, sage, and garlic.

Dinner 3

Do it: Eat leftover beet-farro salad for dinner, tossed with greens if you want to stretch it further. Make a large batch of lentils (about two meals worth), but leave them unseasoned—and save them for tomorrow.

Lunch 3

Do it: Shave carrots, make the dressing, and toss with the lentils you made last night.
Tips: Serve alongside grains—or tossed with more greens—for an even heartier lunch. Toss in toasted almonds or sunflower seeds.

Dinner 4

Do it: Make lentil soup—without a recipe! See what you've got in the fridge that could be tossed in. Top bowls with a big spoonful of yogurt and serve with bread.
Tips: Amp up this ad-libbed soup by sautéeing onion and garlic in olive oil before adding the lentils and broth. Add curry powder—or sherry. Any leftover feta? Use that instead of (or, hey, in addition to) yogurt.

Lunch 4

Do it: Leftover soup! Pack some bread to go with it.
Tips: Make a grilled cheese before you leave for work. Wrap it in foil and reheat in your office’s microwave—and serve it alongside your soup.

Dinner 5

Do it: Now that you've flexed your vegetarian not-recipe muscles, do it with bibimbap! Cook twice as much rice as you’ll need for tonight while you prep vegetables and protein of your choice. (Cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, avocado, and tofu are factored into the list above, but get crazy.) Pile everything into bowls and top with fried eggs. Make enough for tomorrow’s lunch, too!
Tips: Use raw (plain or marinated) tofu, or go all-egg. Season the vegetable components individually or make a big batch and let them extend into tomorrow’s meal. (This is a good opportunity to use up any leftover shaved carrots you have!)

Lunch 5

Do it: Leftover bibimbap! Keep all the components separate and assemble at work. (A hard- or soft-boiled egg is a good substitute for the fried one.)

Dinner 6

Do it: Caramelize a mess of onions, cook pasta, and then toss together with thick Greek yogurt—and top with grated Parm. Serve with a side of garlicky greens. This is a good guide, but use whatever greens you want. Multiply that recipe by two.
Tips: Add the garlicky greens—or roasted or steamed broccoli—directly to the pasta. Caramelize more onions than you think you need and fold them into an omelet later this week.

Lunch 6

Lunch 6

Do it: Build rice bowls (AKA leftovers) with the rice from Day 5, greens from last night’s dinner, canned chickpeas or white beans, and any leftover roasted beets or raw bibimbap veg. Toss with a vinaigrette.
Tips: Hard or soft-boil an egg and toss that into your lunch, too. Or make it a soup: Take anything you'd put in your rice bowl (minus the vinaigrette), top it off with vegetable broth, and microwave it at work.

Dinner 7

Dinner 7

Do it: Leftover pasta! Serve with a salad and with bread rubbed with garlic and toasted. Make curried chickpeas for tomorrow's lunch.

Lunch 7

Do it: Curried chickpeas over greens, served with a dollop of yogurt. Clean out the fridge while you're add it, and throw in any rogue vegetables. Revel in it!

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“These tips are good reminders of how to change things up and the 'do it' certainly are worth thinking about...hey, if you're making farro or rice or some other grain why not make double and then it will be ready for the next time you want it whether that's tomorrow or the day after. Kudos!”
— Scribbles

You did it! You cooked like a vegetarian for a whole week! How did it feel? Tell us about it—or about your own vegetarian cooking strategies—in the comments.

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The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


susan March 5, 2016
I would like you to ditch the toxic cans. It's really not hard to buy real tomatoes or soak dried beans and get something healthy, sans toxic chemicals.
Sarla March 4, 2016
Maybe more recipes without the eggs :-)
Ttrockwood March 3, 2016
LOVE this!!! I've been vegetarian 20+ yrs now and i often have unimaginative omni friends who pretend they want to eat more veg meals and yet can't figure out where or how to start- i'm sending this article to a bunch of people!
The recipes look great and i'll be making several this coming week
Jared K. March 3, 2016
More of these week long meal plans, please!!!
Gail R. March 2, 2016
Meat eater trying to find my veggie side. This appears to be a great way to start. Can't wait to get started.
Oksen March 2, 2016
Your tip is to put foil in the microwave? Wow, get an editor.
Caroline L. March 2, 2016
hi oksen, i'm sorry if that was unclear! it should absolutely be removed from the foil before being microwaved.
Oksen March 2, 2016
:-) The recipes sound great. I regret being grumpy about that.
Caroline L. March 2, 2016
happy cooking!
Sarah March 2, 2016
Great list of recipes. As a long time vegetarian who lives with a meat eater, it's really not as hard as everyone thinks it is! I love my life as a non meat eater and after a solid 15 years (and still going strong), I have don't even think about it anymore. Vegetarian is my way of life and it works best for me.
Jen B. March 5, 2016
Good on you Sarah! I'm in exactly the same situation as you and it really is quite easy as you say. It's always great to have more recipe ideas.
Scribbles March 2, 2016
This is a super list of recipes! Like a few others, we eat mainly veggies and grains. I do like fish/seafood and we probably eat it once a week. These tips are good reminders of how to change things up and the 'do it' certainly are worth thinking about...hey, if you're making farro or rice or some other grain why not make double and then it will be ready for the next time you want it whether that's tomorrow or the day after. Kudos!
Sean K. March 2, 2016
You have a recipe on here (Carrot, Lentil, and Feta Salad) that uses chicken stock. Be careful making it for vegetarians who would balk at that...
Caroline L. March 2, 2016
hi sean, thanks for pointing this out! vegetable stock can be substituted in any instance where chicken stock is used.
Sean K. March 2, 2016
Totally! I just know how much of a recipe zombie I can be sometimes... That's why I clicked here... to change things up. 8^)
Shayna H. March 2, 2016
This is a lovely meal plan, but the formatting is confusing. Not a big fan! Also, as a vegan, would have loved vegan options. x
Stephanie March 2, 2016
Love this meal plan! A lot of different flavors, so you don't get bored (which I easily do). May be trying this out next week... And thanks for providing inspiration for more vegetable-centric dishes. I've been vegetarian for years, but meal plans like this are still super useful.
Lynn B. March 2, 2016
Thanks for posting veggie recipes! My husband and I went mostly vegan after watching Forks Over Knives and we have lowered his cholesterol by over 50 points, so far. The best part is that now we have a vast selection of favorite veggie dishes (no oil, no cheese) that are gloriously colorful and far tastier than anything we used to eat. (He never would have thought that could be possible!) Our taste buds woke up!
Miriam March 2, 2016
My husband and I are already vegetarian, and we've been trying to get back into the meal-planning groove while also trying some new recipes. This just might be our menu for next week!
Squeemo March 2, 2016
Excellent! Thanks for posting for the vegetarians out there and for encouraging those who aren't to give it a try. Good stuff.
Linda E. March 2, 2016
I like your menus, but I really don't see going vege for a week or a month as a problem. I am a meat- and fish- eater myself, but I have 2 vege daughters. I stay with them; they stay with me; and we have lovely food, favourites from their childhood -- like blintzes, Broccoli souffle, home-made breads and spreads and pizza -- and new things as well. It's a mistake to think that veges are just one category, like "beef"; they are much much more varied than that.
But while I am happy with vege meals, I find vegan challenging, because I try to avoid buying industrially-produced food.
Bee March 2, 2016
I had to laugh when I read your grocery list to "go vegetarian"....that looks like my NORMAL grocery list! LOL I've been naturally 99% vegetarian my entire life, truly not enjoying the taste of anything except fish. I've tried the BEST of the BEST of friend's entrees that feature beef, chicken, pork, etc., and the taste just doesn't resonate with me, sadly. So, Veggie it is!
Emily S. March 2, 2016
These sound delicious! Last year I started the process of lowering our meat intake with Meatless Mondays, but just last Sunday my husband and I watched Forks Over Knives and re-vowed to really lower our meat consumption! My favorite recipe from Food52 has been the Cold Noodle with Ponzu Dressing... It saves well in the fridge so I make double and we eat it for lunch and dinners until it's gone. I even blogged about it! :) https://eemmllee.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/two-cent-tuesday-why-im-going-meatless-monday/
Meghan O. March 2, 2016
This is awesome, easy, and accessible. This is how my partner and I eat much of the time-- we're mostly vegetarian except for special occasions. Love that you include so many pulses.