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