I used to make meal plans every single week. Now, it’s been months since I made one and I honestly don’t think our spending on groceries has really changed at all. Instead, I think the “just wing it” approach has actually helped minimize food waste because I’ve gotten a lot better at throwing together odds and ends than trying to make everything fit with a recipe that I planned in advance.
One of the biggest things that has helped with being able to put together last minute meals like this one is keeping the pantry well-stocked. We take our big (quart and half gallon) mason jars to the store, get them tared, and fill them with things like brown rice, almonds, walnuts, cashews, black beans, a few different kinds of lentils, and various whole grains (currently working through amaranth, farro, and buckwheat groats).
A well-stocked pantry combined with our weekly CSA delivery and occasional trips to the farmers market give us plenty of options for our favorite types of food: huge salads, soups full of vegetables, and big bowls of grains with vegetables and sauce. I’m always trying to figure out new sauces to make, and I know cashews make an awesome vegan stand-in for cream when you add liquid and blend them in a Vitamix. This sauce just takes a couple of minutes to make, and it goes perfectly over stir-fried vegetables and brown rice (or other grains).