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How to be a lazy vegetarian?

2664 Views 25 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  bapace
Hi. I'm new to being a vegetarian. My problem is that I don't like to cook. I've always said that if you are what you eat, I'm fast, cheap, and easy. :p I guess I'm a stereotypical bachelor that way.

I've never really cared much about food, actually. I'll just eat whatever's around, from buying prepared meals (TV dinners, prepared stuff from the supermarket deli, etc) to just grabbing fast food on my lunch break at work. I do occasionally cook, and I'm actually pretty good at it when I do. But I stick to relatively easy recipes that are meant to serve 3-4 people and reheat well, so I can just eat the same thing for a week without having to cook again.

Now that I've made the decision to give up meat because I feel bad about killing innocent animals, I honestly don't know what to eat instead. Unless I go unhealthy (too much pizza), being vegetarian seems like it requires serious planning and preparation.

Since going vegetarian about 3 weeks ago, I've been mostly relying on soy based frozen foods (veggie patties and imitation hamburgers) to fill in for both the meat and the "quick and easy" factor in my diet. But I've heard that too much soy isn't a good thing, and besides, that could get old pretty quickly. I also experimented with using tofu instead of meat in a homemade fried rice recipe that I've had for years. It worked pretty well, but again, that requires cooking. I don't mind making that once in a while, but I'm glad that I get several meals out of it when I do.

I'm pretty sure I'm getting enough protein with the tofu and soy based proteins, but I'm not sure what other nutrition I might be missing. I've browsed some web sites, but they mostly seem to be focused on the "sales pitch" of convincing people to give up meat. There are also lots of recipes, but I think it's odd that I can't find a quick "FAQ" along the lines of "Here are the nutritional requirements that most people get from meat, and here are straightforward vegetarian options for fulfilling those requirements".

So I guess those are my two question. What nutritional requirements do I need to be aware of, since I probably got them from meat in the past? And what are some quick and easy options for foods to keep around the house that don't require any serious preparation?

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Hi Fromper. Welcome!

One of my favorite 'lazy' meals is veggie chili. Basically, I just dump everything into a crockpot ... let it simmer for several hours ... I spoon out a bowl of chili for dinner that evening and then spoon the remaining chili into Ziploc bowls with lids and pop those babies into my freezer. Then, they are there waiting for me whenever I need a quick, healthy veggie meal.
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On the weekend, fix a large soup or veggie lasagne, and eat it throughout the week. Taco Bell will cooperate with you on substituting refried beans for beef. Order out Indian food. Buy Amy's and Linda McCartney frozen meals. Buy Yve's or other brands of deli slices, a loaf of bread, and vegenaise (Okay, regular mayo is vegetarian. I just tossed that in there.).

Meat is primarily protein and iron. You can get these same nutrients from eating beans and whole grains.
Who's Paula McCartney? Is it not Linda McCartney, Paul's wife, or is it something different you have in America?
There are plenty of vegetarian "ready" meals out there. But instead of spending money on those ready-made meals, just cook extra when you do cook, and then you'll have stuff in the fridge to heat up later. That's what I do, as there is always a day or two where I'm pressed for time.
Originally Posted by froggythefrog View Post

Hee Hee!
What did I do?
Is there a Paula McCartney as well or is that your in-joke sort of thing? I'm confuzzled again!
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fruit, raw veg and nuts make healthful and quick, as well as cheap, snacks.

Meal wise, I like greenheart's crockpot idea - although I like stews and hotpots more than chilli. For a stew, just throw in some veg broth, canned beans of any kind, and chopped vegetables, and leave it until it's cooked. For hotpot, also add TVP mince (or a different veggie mince substitute), and fry some potatoes and add them to the top.

Curries are great for lazy people! I eat them all the time! Buy ready-made curry sauces, fry onion and add the sauce, then add a bunch more vegetables (and a meat sub. if you like). Serve with rice.

there are a lot of vegetarian ready meals here, but I don't know what's available in your area, so I suggest just label-reading like crazy until you find some you like. Once you know a selection of them by heart, you're all set.
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Originally Posted by llamapower View Post

What did I do?
Is there a Paula McCartney as well or is that your in-joke sort of thing? I'm confuzzled again!
I messed up the name.
I have basically little time to cook these days (though I DO like to cook). I buy frozen meals (Amy's, Moosewood, Linda McCartney, CedarLane, with a few from the pitifully small selection available from Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers) a lot. I've gotten to the point where I'm rather bored with my options and have begun to look for other things.

vegetarian chili (I have a recipe that basically means I open a bunch of cans and heat the stuff up)

vegetarian baked beans (another lots-of-cans recipe, done in the crock pot this time)

pasta (either macaroni and cheese or pasta with marinara - throw in veggies or some beans to add nutrients)

homemade veggie burgers (to reheat in the microwave later)

soups (I really don't like soup all that much, but they're easy to make and easy to freeze and reheat)

a can or two of beans heated in Trader Joe's simmer sauce of your choice, served over rice (also easy to freeze and reheat)

I'm looking for other options, too. I have a lot of 30-minute recipes, but these days I'm busy enough I'm looking for 10-minute recipes.

As for the nutritional question - beans (including soy) are the most concentrated source of protein. Dairy products will also provide that (if you're still eating dairy). Whole grains and veggies also have protein in them. Some people think meat is the best source of iron - your green leafy veggies do just as well with that. A good book which outlines all the details is "Becoming Vegetarian."
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Fast things that require minimal cooking: Spaghetti with sauce from a jar, bagged salad, tacos (use microwaved canned refried beans in place of meat), and canned soup (check ingredients).

Fast food places with vegetarian food: Quiznos, Subway, Burger King (some have veggie burgers), Fazzoli's, Noodles and Company, Taco Bell, Fatburger? (someone told me they now have veggie burgers, but I haven't been there, so I don't know).
If you have a Panera Bread around, they're good too. So is the Pita Pocket.
Thanks for the advice, everyone. I bought the "Becoming Vegetarian" book that was recommended. The reviews for it on were overwhelmingly positive, so I figured it would be worth it.

I also found that the local Whole Foods store, although it's kind of a trek for me compared to my local supermarket, has a much better selection of veg*n food, including easy stuff like tv dinners. I had originally been surprised by how good the closer supermarket was, but Whole Foods is even better. The TV dinners should keep me going temporarily, until I can start doing more real planning and cooking.

I do have followup questions about specific foods and stuff, but I'll save those for other subforums.


I'd suggest making a big batch of something on the weekend so you can eat it several times during the week, and fit easy things in between. There are lots of great soups and stews that are pretty easy to make. Black bean soup, lentil soup, cajun red beans and rice, minestrone, and ribollita are all good choices.

I also suggest paying a visit to the Tip of the Day Thread.
cftwo, we must be twins separated at birth.
Your meals sound exactly like mine!

About refried beans (Taco Bell & otherwise): watch out for lard. Most refried beans are made with it and it's just pig fat. I don't eat out Mexican because no one ever seems to know if there beans have lard in them. Wait...I do eat at Mexican joints like Moe's and Q'Doba because they offer specific veggie items. Otherwise, Mexican places scare me.
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I am another lazy wanna-be vegetarian. I recently found the ethnic/kosher food section at the grocery store. There are some very tasty Indian dishes that are heat and serve and Manieshivitz (I apologize about the spelling) makes bean soups that all you need to do is boil the package in water for an hour and you can eat off of them for a couple days.

Good luck on your journey...We need all the help and support we can get.
I don't like to cook either and most of the time don't have the time for it. What I usually do is pick up a whole bunch of frozen dinners that are relatively healthy (Amy's and ethnic cuisine, but these cost a lot) and add fresh veggies to them. Or I'll boil some frozen ones... You "fix up" the frozen meals to make them more nutritious. I also add whatever sauce I have (in my taste hot sauce!) It makes the meal enough for me.
Easy options that aren't very expensive (US only):

* Annie Chung soup bowls (I've just discovered this line, so I'm not fully familiar with what's vegan or not).

* Just about anything from Tastybite,

* Just about anything from Fantastic Foods/Fantastic World Foods (especially those soup in a cup thingies - yum)

* Some Thai Kitchen flavours (watch out, though - some of their flavours have crap like chicken stock in them)

* Hormel vegetarian chili

* Bush's vegetarian baked beans

* Manwhich sloppyjo sauce (super scrummy if you sub TVP instead of ground meat).

* Some Simply Asian flavours (so far, the tofu miso and the hot sweet & sour seem ok but that was only at a glance cause I was in a hurry)

*Heinz vegetarian beans in the green & pink can (cut up some good vegan notdogs in it and you have weniebeanies

* Hunt's spaghetti sauce except for the flavours that obviously aren't ok like the meated ones and the cheese flavours IF you're avoiding cheese.

And everyone else has given some great options for veg*n fast food dining.

But MY favourite short-cut isn't really cooking whole meals for the freezer, it's cooking seperate things that can be combined later. For example, I'll make up a biiiiig pot of rice so I can eat on it one night and put the rest into individual portions in zipper topped baggies for nuking later. Just about any whole grain freezes nicely, too so don't feel you're limited to JUST brown rice.

A lot of beans freeze really well, too. Some of them do get a bit mushy in the re-thawing so either slightly undercook your beans or make "refrieds" out of them when they thaw.

Frozen fruits and veggies are your friend! A couple of bags of single veggies and a couple of bags of blends will help keep the variety going, but do feel free to keep more on hand if you want.
And don't forget frozen greens like spinach and mustard greens for variety and extra nutrition. They're also lovely during times when the fresh version is a tad pricey or hard to find, too.

Tinned tomatoes (diced, stewed, whatever), tinned beans and even tinned olives or tinned green chilis/jalapenos will help round out your quickie foods pantry. If you can get raw nuts, they're also really handy for extra nutrition/extra flavour but they don't keep well in things so only use them as a garnish when serving.
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I used to live off lunches consisting of wholemeal pita bread stuffed with things like hummus, tahini, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, lettuce (romaine or whatever's in season), fried tofu and peanut butter. Not all at once, of course. I'd freeze the pitas and put them in the toaster as needed. Frozen sweet corn fried with tomato sauce or mushrooms fried with rosemary (tomato and thyme optional) are good on bread too.

Scrambled eggs (if you eat them) fried with some onion, garlic, chopped tomatoes, jalapenos from a jar and curry powder make a very quick meal. Or get some dry falafel mix (I've seen veggie, nut and soy burger mix around too), add water, fry, eat with vegetables. Oven fries and grated cucumber with mayo (or sub) will do.

Gnocchi (again, these usually contain egg) don't take as long to cook as dry pasta. Probably about three minutes once the water's boiling. Add some sauce, heat it and you're done. Instant couscous, glass noodles and rice noodles make good meal accompaniments when time's limited too.

Stir fried sprouts don't require much prep, apart from the actual sprouting part. But then again, the "effort" involved in rinsing the sprouting jar twice a day is completely worth it. Sprouted peanuts with red peppers and toasted sesame seeds are my favourite.

These days, I throw some frozen fruit in a blender with a banana, lemon juice, mint and plant milk (whatever happens to be in the fridge) or soy yoghurt before dinner to take the edge off until my "real" food's ready. The "real food" is generally at least two meal's worth of food, so I have something to reheat the next time I'm feeling lazy. So basically, I'll cook when I'm in the mood and always find something to eat in the fridge when I'm not, even if it's just nuts, bread and a spread.
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