Questiong for vegetarians: Menu planning?

Answers from Vegetarians of any persuation welcome.

First, I’m honestly curious. If this comes across as snarky or a putdown in any way, it isn’t meant to be.

Second, my question is kind of hard to phrase, so I’m going have to give an example first.
I try to do all my grocery shopping in one run a week. I sit down with the flyer from the local store and plan my meals to take advantage of specials and what’s in season and so forth. Pretty much this planning consists of no more than listing the main item for each day’s dinner, well, here’s this week’s for example:

Friday: macaroni & cheese
Saturday: hamburgers
Sunday: pork chops
Monday: salmon
Tuesday: chicken breasts
Wednesday: tortellini
Thursday: chef salad

(Sorry, hope no one’s grossed out by just the listing of meats.)

Now, of course I buy a lot of stuff besides those main items. I buy/have on hand a whole range of starchs (pasta/potatoes/rice/noodles/etc) and bags of frozen vegetables of all sorts and cans of more varieties. Plus I wander through the produce aisle collecting whatever fresh vegetables and salad type items look that week. And then there are all the ‘usual’ things, stuff we always have for breakfasts and lunches plus staples… things I just buy automatically without even having to list.

But my point is that pretty I consider meals as built around one item, usually a meat. It’s the center of the meal, and greatly influences what else I will serve that day. For instance, tomorrow’s pork chops will almost certainly be served with buttered noodles, green beans, and a cooked orange/apple relish we really like.
A long intro, but finally we come to my question: How does a vegetarian organize her meal/shopping planning? What serves to ‘center’ the meal? Or do you use a completely different system?
Also, I’d really love it if someone would list an entire ‘typical’ week’s worth of dinner menus at your house. No need to go into all the details, or include recipes (unless you want to), just…once you get past pasta and such, what do you eat?

(Yes, I’m clueless. Grew up in family of meat&potatoes eaters and haven’t strayed far.)

Neither my husband nor I are vegetarian per se, but we rarely ever eat meat at home. I just don’t like preparing it, and since I do most of the cooking, I often decide what we’re eating unless my husband has a particular request. Anyway, I’m sure it’ll differ from person-to-person, but we do a lot of one-dish meals. I usually buy a lot of veggies and fruits, a few packs of tofu, maybe some polenta, and lots of frozen veggies. Sometimes I’ll get cheese or eggs, but I do that about once a month, mostly because we don’t eat them as fast as we do other stuff.

Here’s last week’s dinners:

Matar paneer (Indian pea & cheese curry - it has a tomato & onion base with chunks of paneer and peas in it) with home-made chapatis (simple flatbread made with fine-ground whole wheat flour)
Creamy dill, veggie & potato stew with homemade ciabatta
Stir fry with tofu & vegetables
Whole wheat spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce & homemade ciabatta
Veggie pie (it’s my version of the cheeseburger pie on the back of the Bisquick box, only made with meatless crumbles and tons of veggies instead of meat)
Indian eggplant dish with lots of eggplant, tomato & onion (can’t remember what it’s called right now - bengun something) and more chapatis.

When we have Indian food, we often round out the meal with samosas - Indian pastries stuffed with a mixture of potatoes & peas or lentils - pickles and chutney. When we have pasta, I’ll usually add more veggies by making a salad.

One of the reasons I make vegetarian food so often (other than not really liking to handle meat) is that it’s pretty hard for me to get in all my daily servings of veggies otherwise. With vegetarian food, I always make sure I’m getting maximum veggie content. The bread is usually just a side and often serves a more utilitarian purpose, like sopping up juice or, with Indian food, it’s a utensil that you use to scoop up the food.

Incidentally (and completely tangential to this thread), I recently began making my own breads because someone on the Dope pointed out that it’s easy to make bread as healthy as I want by using whole wheat and flax, rather than purchasing bread at the store. It’s also far cheaper and has fewer preservatives.

I’m a vegetarian and an…unenthusiastic cook, shall we say? I don’t really get into the whole planning a meal thing because I’m just not that fond of cooking. When I go grocery shopping, as I plan to do later today, I just think of veggies I like to eat and make a (usually mental) list. Like, right now I need onions and milk and tofu and asparagus and broccoli and mushrooms. I have Boca burgers too, for when I’m too tired to make something healthful. I usually have stir fry a few times a week. I vary the veggies and spices and sauces for variety.

The only thing I really plan is my weekly soup. I make soup usually once a week that I bring to work with me for lunch. I’m thinking of making potato leek soup this weekend, but the only place I’ve been able to find leeks reliably is Whole Foods, which is sooo expensive that I can’t justify buying anything but the leeks there. Which means two shopping trips (one to Whole Foods and one to Trader Joe’s). I don’t have a car, but they aren’t far away from each other. Let’s see, I can take the Brown Line to Paulina where WF is, then take the Lincoln bus up to TJ’s…

…okay, I’m done. But that is how I plan my grocery shopping. And now you know. The transportation logistics is the most complicated part.

Oh, a menu, huh? Let me see if I can remember what I ate last week.

Monday: Was real tired and didn’t feel like doing anything, so I had cereal.
Tuesday: Boca burger.
Wednesday: Mexican rice and refried beans.
Thursday: stir fried peppers, onions, garlic, broccoli, tofu, and mushrooms with Thai peanut sauce.
Friday: Spaghetti.

I’ve had healthier weeks.

I’m a vegetarian. My wife isn’t, although she usually eats vegetarian at home.

Our meal plan often looks quite a lot like overlyverbose’s, with tofu and vege stir-fries, Indian food, and pasta dishes making a frequent appearance. Although we tend to buy our chapatis or naan from an Indian place around the corner; i like to cook, but i’m usually too lazy to make bread.

In winter, i like hearty soups or stews with bread sometimes, and we also have risotto quite regularly when the weather is cool. Sometimes, for a more traditional “meat and two veg” type of meal, we’ll pick up a tofurky, and put it wothy some mashed potatoes and green beans or broccoli. When it’s hot, bean or noodle salads are popular, especially ones with an Asian flavour, like a soba noodle salad with tofu, bean sprouts, snow peas, carrots and a chili-orange oil dressing. Yum!

It’s also possible to “center” a meal around a grain or a legume, or some other protein source. For example:

beans (pinto, black, garganzo, whatever)
faux chicken, etc
When I make vegetarian meals, they tend to be one dish meals most of the time. So my plate isn’t compartmentalized like that. I do usually make sure I include some sort of starch (rice, pasta, whatever), plenty of veggies of course, and some protein source (like the beans or tofu).

–scout, not really a vegetarian, I just have some tendencies

Monday: Cheese & veggie lasagna (made Sunday)
Tuesday: Veggie chili & Cornbread (made Sunday)
Wednesday: Made split pea, peas & carrot soup.
Thursday: SPP&C soup & cornbread
Friday: Added tomato soup to rest of SPP&C soup. Put goldfishes (crackers) on top.

All the above are served with a large veggie salad with gomashio on top. Finished with a cup of tea and on two days, some Jelly Bellys.

In my post above, i forgot to include one of my signature winter dishes: a big pan of eggplant parmesan.

Although, with its pound of mozzarella, its two cups of grated parmesan, and its fried eggplant dipped in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, this dish might be vegetarian, but it’s not for those on a low-fat diet.

I’m a pescatarian but due to location don’t get access to the type of tropical fish I grew up on. A typical week will usually be

Monday (required to be completely vegetarian): rice with avial bhaji
Tuesday: chapati with green been bhaji (saute) and spinach raita (spinach in yoghurt which has been spiced with some dried chils from Goa)
Wednesday: chapati with stuffed eggplants (eggplants are stuffed with a particular type of masala) with plain yoghurt for taste
Thursday: cubano pepper bhaji with chapati and yoghurt
Friday: Rice with beet root raita and baigan bharth
Saturday: bhindi masala with chapati

For breakfast I usually eat egg beaters and for lunch I have a salad with nuts. I also eat fruit and make my own fatfree yoghurt by mixing 1/2 cup yoghurt with 1/2 tsp. honey + thawed frozen fruit (peaches/mangoes/strawberries etc.).

I probably eat between 1000-1200 calories per day and I’m pretty full. I control portion sizes strictly, though.

mhendo, you’re in luck. I found this recipe on FoodTV after watching their show called Weighing In and it freaking rocks!

Eggplant Parm

I don’t like loads of cheese on my food, anyway but even if you add more cheese you’ll save tons of fat with not frying in oil. Also the eggplant turns out really crisp with no oil. It’s amazing. The only way in which I changed the recipe was to slice the eggplant pretty thinly and bake for longer. A few I ended up turning into crispy eggplant chips which was really yummy.

I was a vegetarian for about 12 years. Many, many people would ask me what I could possibly be eating - just carrots?
I can’t give you a menu, but I will say:

I ate:

All kinds of vegetables
All kinds of fruit
All sorts of breads and cereals and grains
All kinds of dairy (some don’t, and use substitues, I often drink soymilk and eat soy cheese, but that’s due to lactose intolerance)
Many meat substitutes

And on a good day, I often ate more than most meat eaters would per sitting.

Let’s put this in other words: I ate everything in the world except meat. There’s a lot out there. I also wasn’t a thin vegetarian :wink: I wasn’t fat, but I most certainly was… erm… “healthy”. You wouldn’t have mistaken me for a frail twig. People would be surprised: “What could you possibly be eating? You don’t eat meat!”

sigh … jellybeans. :smiley:

Where I work is not far from a very big market, so a couple of days a week I head down to the Queen Victoria to stock up on what’s seasonal. I usually organise what I cook around what’s cheap and local, where possible, then I cook from what I have in the fridge/cupboard.

Because I have limited time during the week, I tend to cook up big on Sunday afternoons. I make pots of soup and freeze portions for lunch at work and for dinner. I do the same with pasta sauce. I eat a lot of curries and stir-fries with tofu. Another favourite is frittata made with lots of vegies, or various kinds of fritters with zucchini or corn, and I can make enough so that I can take leftovers for lunch the next day (leftover corn fritters with some bitter lettuce and mint chutney makes a wonderful sandwich).

I always have lots of beans and lentils around, so cook a lot with them … beans salads in the summer and things like lentil stews in the winter.

I almost always serve things with a green salad. I buy good quality sourdough bread to eat with soups and stews, and in the winter when the wood stove is going almost all the time, I make my own bread and cook things like vegetable stews and soup that can simmer away happily for a few hours.

I like to make vegetarian baked beans and let it cook slowly in the wood stove oven overnight.

I don’t think planning for vegetarian meals is any harder than planning for carnivorous meals, it depends on much the same things: a repetoire of good recipes, sensible shopping and some organisation.

:rolleyes: What is WITH these people? Have they EVER been in a grocery store? How do they totally miss all those aisles CHOCK FULL of food between the door and the meat department? Were they raised by pumas?

Thanks for the link.

Actually, because most of my meals are relatively low fat anyway, i don’t mind going all-out with eggplant parmesan every now and again. And i think the bit i love best is the breaded, fried eggplant. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Damn you to hell. I love meat but this menu has got my mouth watering.

wanders off to make some chapati

Yeah, some strange ones come out of the woodwork when/if they find out you don’t eat meat. I didn’t ever announce my vegetarianism to the world, but sometimes people would notice. I’m from a small town. If you part your hair in a new way, everyone knows. I’m not kidding.

I’d get these doozies:

“You’re going to die if you don’t start eating meat.”
“If you don’t eat meat, you’ll get cancer.”
“I think you do eat meat, but secretly.”
“When you order a hamburger, do you tell them to hold the burger?” (…) or, the other variant, which actually always made me giggle: “When you eat a burger, what is it? Bread and pickle?”
“You eat silly (weird, strange, bizzarre, odd, funny-looking) food.” (often said when I was eating - dun dun DUN! - a garden salad. Seriously, how foreign are garden vegetables these days?)
“Aren’t your muscles worthless now?”
“Won’t you get tapeworms from not eating meat?” (Wow.)
“What section of the grocery store do shop in?” (again. Wow.)
“So, you hate everyone who eats meat, right?”
“You think you’re so great because you don’t eat meat.”
And my supervisor once came out, stood looking at me intimidatingly for a moment, then says, disgustedly: “I don’t trust vegetarians.” I never even told him I was a vegetarian! By that time, I had started eating poultry! It’s none of his business what I put or don’t put in my mouth!

:confused: :confused:

Sorry if I hijacked your topic, StarvingButStrong, but I do want to say it’s good to hear people* asking * instead of assuming, even if it’s just about a meal plan. It’s a fantastic start.

Vegetarians! They don’t starve! :wink:

i used to be into the big planning and all that, but grew out of it. I probably should do planning, but just don’t have the time or energy for it. I’m pretty healthy.

here’s my diet for the last week from what I remember, or a typical week from dinner till bed. I wouldn’t suggest it. Yes, I live alone.

sat: pasta with beans, 2 sugar-free popsicles
fri: pb sammich, half a butternut squash with nuts & cranberries
thurs: boca brat on bread, pb sammich, popsicle, some colby cheese, bowl of Special K
wed: 2 bowls of Special K, a carrot, boca brat on bread, some
tues: chili, yogurt, 2 popsicles, some colby cheese
mond: a carrot, burrito, some ricotta cheese with fake sugar & vanilla mixed in (poor man’s cannoli)
sun: pitas stuffed with red pepper hummus, lettuce, avocado slices.

I only eat tofu in stirfries in the summer, or in chocolate-mousse pie when I make it for special occasions. I eat better for lunch, and usually eat raw cauliflower & broccoli with hummus for breakfast.

I overheard my grandma asking my mom when i came home from college…“does tom still not eat meat?”–like it’s some kind of phase.

Best ever is overhearing Barney Gumble mocking Lisa Simpson in an episode when Lisa brought out Gazpacho as a replacement to eating the pig…“Go back to Russia!”.

I’m mostly veg, although I do eat sushi (go figure).

My typical week looks about like this:

Monday - Veg Lasagana w/tossed salad
Tuesday - Baked eggplant with peppers and goats cheese w/tossed salad
Wednesday - Cottage cheese with fruit, peanut better with bread (I loves me some peanut butter)
Thursday - Pasta with marinara or primivara sauce, tossed salad
Friday - sushi
Saturday - Cheese pizza (or mushroom tomato) w/ tossed salad
Sunday - veg burger w/tossed salad.

I eat a lot of salad, and I probably have sushi once a week - I need the essential oils (my Dr. said I didn’t have to start eating meat if I ate fish at least once a week.)

Because I only cook for myself, I usually make big meals and save the extra for the following day. Here would be a typical week of menus for dinner.

Saturday: Vegetable and four cheese lasagna.
Sunday: Left over lasagna.
Monday: Rice pilaf with carrots, rice, and cashews
Tuesday: Pasta with fake “meatballs” and tomato sauce, green salad
Wednesday: Tacos with corn and black beans topped with salsa, and some vegetable on the side
Thursday: Stir fry with tofu and vegetables and plain white rice
Friday: Left over stir fry and rice
Other good dishes that make enough food for several days: cheese enchiladas, baked bean burritos, spaghetti sauce with fake “ground beef”, minestrone soup (throw together noodles and whatever beans and vegetables you have on hand, great for clearing out the refrigerator), ravioli.

My kitchen philosophy is to have jars of various pastas, rice, and beans on hand, as well as various types of canned vegetables and soups. I also keep a stock of dinner items like lasagna noodles, flour and corn tortillas, taco shells, polenta, and so forth, nad I keep tons of various fake meats in the freezer.

That sounds good. What kind of peppers? Do you make the peanut sauce?

We seldom have a meal without meat, but here goes:

The potato broccoli onion bell pepper thing.

Stir fried chick peas with black beans garlic onions and whatever else sounds good.

The Caliph Fainted. Eggplant, onion, garlic, tomatoes and lemon juice.

Chicken and Mushrooms in cocoanut milk and peanut butter sauce, minus the chicken sometimes. :slight_smile:

Ever try “Saving Dinner”? I subscribe to her online menu planner, but a book is available, also. She includes main dishes, side dishes, all the shopping lists, and she give instructions for substituting for vegetarians. She is a registered dietician and just about everything I’ve tried (I’m not veggie, BTW) is good.

or You can download a weeks sample menus and shopping lists for free.