Saturday, August 14, 2010

Frugal family vegan feasts - all week!

Barriers to becoming vegan:
I know, I know...
  • No meat? No fish? No eggs? No cheese? No milk? What do I eat now?
  • My family would kill me. And then eat me.
So here's some help.  I'm not a recipe cook and there are zillions of great recipes online, so these are mere wisps of inspiration for you, from me and my experience at getting dinners into 2 vegan kids and a non-vegetarian husband with only a few complaints.

Even if you have zero, nada, no way nohow interest in going vegan, I challenge you to try just one of these meals once this week to see how delicious it can be to lose the cholesterol and saturated fat.
All these meals are
  1. Kid-friendly
  2. Recognisable to husbands and other tall variety people
  3. Easily prepared in vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore versions at the same meal
I encourage you to make all your ingredients from organic wholegrains and homegrown vegetables and herbs.  They will be much more nutritious...

Ha Ha!  And back in my world, these meals are our staples because the main ingredients are easily found readymade in vegan versions in a supermarket. (A quick label check will see you right.)  Even so, these meals are pretty good nutrition and value.  Move over chicken nuggets!   
  • With all these great fresh vegies to chop, my food processor is my best friend

Monday - Mexican Beans
You can serve the basic ingredients with corn chips, rice, or tortilla wraps (corn or wheat). Many flavoured corn chips have milk powder - read the label.

  • Beans, refried or whole - I buy El Paso refried beans and Watties mild chilli beans
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Olives
  • Gherkins (dill pickles)
  • Shredded carrot 
  • Guacamole 
OK, I lied.  Mexican night isn't Monday, it's whenever the avocado is ripe for the guacamole.  My famous guacamole is just avocado, generous squeeze of lemon juice, and salt.  Bet you didn't know that breastmilk containers (cylinders) are the best for saving extra guacamole?  Not much surface area to oxidise.

Tuesday - Chinese Stirfry
Thousands of good recipes are readily available by Googling, and here's what we do:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Courgettes (zucchini)
  • Soy sauce
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Honey (not vegan, use usual substitutes)
  • Ginger
  • Cornstarch/water for thickening once veggies are cooked
Serve over any variety of rice or rice noodles or bean thread noodles.

  • Cashews (we like ours added at the table instead of in the pot)
  • Tofu
  • Other meat substitute
This one (and Thursday's curry) is a bit of a cheat for the kids. They don't like my sauces but will eat steamed broccoli and cauliflower with plain rice (or with a bit of soy sauce and cashews).  In any case, we all get fed.

Wednesday - Waffles
Well, why not?  Win points with kids of all sizes by turning the day upside down and serving waffles (or pancakes) for dinner.  We don't often have time in our rushed mornings for a yummy cooked breakfast anyway, but it's a simple dinner.


Standard waffle and pancake recipes can easily use subsititute milk (rice, soy, almond) and omit any egg.

So this dinner doesn't feel nutritionally deprived:
  1. serve fruit and nuts and/or vegetable sticks with salad dressing dip before serving out the main course
  2. provide some nutty spreads as well as the usual sweet stuff

Thursday - Indian Curry

(same list as for Chinese stirfry...well, that's what's in the crisper!)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Courgettes (zucchini)
My Sauce
  • Soy or rice or coconut milk
  • Small spoon of prepared curry paste
  • Big spoon of fruit jam
  • Salt or vegie stock to taste
  • Cornstarch to thicken
  • Optional tin of tomatoes

Friday - Soup and Sandwiches

OK, let's keep it simple at the end of a hard week.  Whether you've lovingly simmered your own veggie scraps and leftover scrapings into soupmission, or twisted your wrists round the tin opener, soup is good food.
  • I do both, but the rest of the family prefers the tinned soup - both Watties Vegetable and Pumpkin soups are vegan.
Pick your favourite filler upper on the side - my kids love toast fingers for dipping and I often serve extra veggies/salad if they're eating more toast than anything else.  Bread rolls with hummus, sandwiches, crackers, croutons....

Saturday - Pizza

Yes, vegan pizza is surprisingly delicious.   And most basic pizza bases in the supermarket are vegan, as are the pizza sauces.

Vegan toppings
You can use any of your usual favourite veggies - ours are:  
  • Olives
  • Mushrooms
  • Courgettes (zucchini)
  • Tomatoes
Remember there are good fake cheeses and meats out there too.  I sampled some astonishing vegan salamis tonight at the 2nd Saturday Vegan Potluck with Alice Shopland (of AngelFood) - when those babies hit the shelf we may have to indulge.

As I finally admitted to DH, you can have too many veggies on a pizza.  If you load it up too much, it won't cook well and it will be watery.  So long as you have a flavourful sauce, the pizza will be delicious with a light sprinkling of each veggie.

Sunday - Sausage, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Our whole family loves mashed potatoes (as compared to steamed unpeeled potatoes, which only mum  loves).  
The prep time compared to steaming up some rice in the microwave means that there must be some home time involved for this meal.  But it's not that bad.
  • Mash your potatoes with salt and your favourite rice or soy milk (soy is creamier)
  • Many powdered gravy mixes are vegan - otherwise you can DYI with cornstarch and veggie broth
  • The gravy is for us - my kids have tomato sauce with potatoes in every form and I've learned to live with it

The kids and DH love Fry's vegan sausages with this meal.  They are happy with them heated between two plates in the microwave - so easy!

Wait, there's more...
Hey, you made it to the end of the week!  And I didn't even cover our other regulars:
  1. Readymade spring rolls, samosas and oven chips
  2. Italian pasta (same hot veggies as with Chinese and Indian though the mushrooms and courgettes go in the sauce)
  3. Takeaways :-)  The rotten kids will happily eat takeaway Chinese and Indian sauces, but not mum's.
Any of your basic meals can be made more of a treat (for reluctant vegans, or almost anybody) by adding a modest amount of a favourite fake meat...for those whose waistlines and bank accounts can take it!  Remember that fake meats are not a terrifically healthy or ecofriendly choice, except when compared to meat.

So if I've inspired you to give it a go, let me know!


  1. Your kids eat vegetables!!!???!!!

  2. I've been struggling with this. Not even veganism, just vegetarianism! We decided to eat vegetarian at home (so we wouldn't buy any meat ourselves) -and of course organic free range dairy products- but eat whatever is served when we are at someone else's place. Well, my daughter loves meat and will pick those pieces of meat with her fork with a skill, and leave the yummy steamed veggies. Sometimes I can sneak a few small bits in by feeding her..
    Tell me she will get used to and start liking veggies!!
    And I feel guilty trying to get her to eat vegetarian as she clearly likes meat. (I do too, it's not that!)
    I fear she eats too much from her favorite food group, which is the GRAINS. She eats loads of muesli and bread and crackers. We have healthy stuff so it's good, but I'd love to get in more veggies and protein! She spits out beans which we like for the taste and lots of protein..

    Have your kids ever eaten meat? What do you do in places where others eat it? They don't want to have what their dad is having?

    Thanks for the recipes though!!! I was just saying I want some new easy and tasty veggie recipes!

  3. I will answer more in a real post, because this is a common problem. I can at least describe what I did and do.

    Dad almost never eats meat and cheese at home. Alex has eaten a few bites of meat and has varied in his excitement level. I'm happy that it hasn't turned into a demand trend because that would be difficult.

    I've also started talking about what meat and cow milk is and he is responding to that more and more.