Here’s the thing — vegan processed foods are faster and easier than cooking from scratch. You take it out of the carton or plastic, you pop whatever it is into the microwave, you heat it up, and you have a meal. It takes, what? Five minutes?
Not so fast.
The debate concerning vegan processed foods and cooking is gaining momentum, so let’s talk about it. It’s important to realize that there are plenty of benefits of preparing vegan food that you don’t get from processed foods.
But for this article, we’re going to focus on three different aspects, or costs, of vegan cooking: time, money, and energy. I’m going to be honest with you about what cooking is like and what you can gain from it.
Before we get into that, here’s a full disclosure: I am not a nutritionist or a chef. I’m just someone who’s found that vegan cooking has worked for me. That’s why in this article, I’m not touching on actual vegan nutrition. I want you to do that research for yourself.
I also live in Los Angeles, California, where farmer’s markets and vegan staples and ingredients are very easy to come by. I understand that most people don’t have the same access to the vegan foods I have here. So again, I’m not going to be touching on any particular brand of processed food or vegan staple.
And in the interest of being completely transparent: I’m one of those people who likes doing things the hard way. I make my own almond milk and flour and I don’t use vegan substitutes like butter or cheese. I cook with whole foods, and it’s very rare I’ll even think of having vegan processed anything.
So now that’s all out of the way, let’s get to the article, shall we?
Yes, you’re going to spend more time in the kitchen. You’ll have to wash, cut, store, and prepare your food. You’re probably going to research how to keep fruits, vegetables and nuts, because let’s face it — most of us don’t understand how to store whole foods properly.
And that’s not even touching on having to learn new recipes. You’re going to spend time researching vegan meals and how to cook them. Luckily, the lovely people of The Minimalist Vegan can help you out with some great finds. But you’ll also do some exploring on your own.
You’re going to have to trust me — it will all become easier and faster. You’ll find that your food doesn’t take that long to cook. You’re going to notice that cleaning up is a breeze. Even vegan baking is going to feel like a breeze after your first few attempts at making bread or a sweet dessert.
Cooking is also a meditative, mindful way to get you to connect with your food. Why? Because you’ve gathered the food with the intention of making a satisfying meal, and you’ve cooked it with that same intention.
To me, that’s time well spent.
Here is where a lot of people walk away from the vegan lifestyle — the financial aspect. Well, I can tell you from personal experience that it doesn’t have to be expensive. For me, it’s actually cheaper than buying ready-made meals or eating out.
There are options to save money. You could go to a farmer’s market, which are becoming staples in metropolitan cities like the one I live in. There are at least three farmer’s markets day in a six-block radius near my home every week and one I can take public transportation to. And I’m sure there’s one you could make a trip to in your local area.
Fruits vegetables are very affordable, provided that you buy in season and locally. Buying in season means that the produce is fresh and in large quantities, so I suggest learning what fruits and vegetables are available to you based on the season. And if you find yourself using a lot of one type of produce, buy it in bulk. Most vendors at farmer’s markets will give you a discount.
Once you get into the habit of buying your produce and nuts in season, you’re also going to learn how much you actually eat. We generally buy more than we need when it comes to food. On a vegan diet, that food goes bad, so try to buy what you need when you need it and no more.
An alternative to this is to buy frozen produce, which run a few dollars per package, or learn how to freeze vegetables that you buy fresh. There are studies that show that frozen fruits and vegetables keep nutrients better than produce you find at the store, so you don’t have to worry about losing nutritional value.
Once you get comfortable with the cooking aspect, you’ll know how much food you need for a week and you’ll end up saving a lot of money. You just have to keep an eye out for produce on offer, make sure you know what produce is in season, and buy in bulk the produce you use the most.
Is there a lot of energy needed for preparing vegan food? Well, yes and no. It depends on your perspective and how you much your food matters to you.
Take me for example. I don’t like processed vegan food. I prefer knowing exactly what’s in my food and I love to cook. I can spend the energy tracking down the ingredients I need for a great meal and cooking it because it’s important to me. So I don’t see it as an energy drain because it makes me happy.
My husband is the opposite. He prefers food that is easy to prepare, which means a lot of processed vegan foods, soups in cans, and stuff he can just chuck into the microwave. You won’t find him baking or cooking something he can buy pre-made.
The energy cost is up to you. Do you want to spend time learning about food and nutrition while also learning how to cook, or is that something that right now isn’t a priority? That’s a question only you can answer.
I will say this: I wasn’t a cook until I made my health a priority. When I first learned about vegan cooking, I made a lot of mistakes. I ruined meals. I wasted money on a lot of produce that ended up going badly.
But I also learned a lot: about myself, about my food philosophy, and about how important my health is to me. And I am grateful to blogs like The Minimalist Vegan and others who taught me simple ways to make delicious meals.
Preparing vegan food
So there you have it — the three things you’ll want to consider when thinking about vegan cooking. I haven’t covered everything, just the main points people talk about when it comes up in conversation. This is a great place to start, and we’ll cover more about vegan cooking in other articles.
I do want to stress that converting to vegan cooking will take time, so don’t rush the process. No one gets it right the first time out. You need to be patient with yourself. With time, vegan cooking will become a natural part of your life, so enjoy the process.
Can you think of any tips and tricks you can share with us about vegan cooking? How about a favorite simple recipe that you love to make over and over again? Share it with us in the comments below!