A whisper from the woods

Food for Thought, September 2023

Sep 7, 2023

How to cook more efficiently: save time, save money, eat healthy

September is here and Summer is shortly coming to and end.

Soon, fresh, light, and vibrant salads and smoothies will give away their central place at the table, and be replaced by warm and comforting stews, soups, and porridges.

On the other hand, there is a new school year about to start. Students will go back to their schools and universities and their free time will be limited.

With the youngsters in mind (and of course, everyone else who is pressed for time, but still wants to enjoy healthy and nourishing meals), it felt appropriate to talk about meal-prepping. It is not the first time the subject comes to light on the blog, but this article will not only give you a start-to-finish idea of something you can prepare for your working week, but also help you crack the concept of meal-prepping, so that you can adapt it to other recipes, to your time, and your food preferences.


Why is meal-prepping worth considering?

For those who enjoy getting spontaneously creative in the kitchen and, on the other hand, have time to preparing more or less fancy meals, making a meal plan for the week might not be that appealing.

However, if you are indeed pressed for time – because you have an assignment deadline coming or a final exam approaching – planning ahead might be what keeps you from eating junk food, take out, or ultra-frozen-ready-to-serve meals from the supermarket. These options can weigh pretty heavily on both your health and your wallet.

Making one meal at a time is not efficient timewise. Apart from the time you spend cooking, you have to think about what you will cook for each meal. However, when you cook in bulk, you save other precious resources like energy and water. Another advantage of meal-prepping is that you have a better idea of the what you are eating, and hence, if you are lacking any specific food or nutrient groups.

And finally, planning ahead can help you save money since you are not blind shopping, and buying things you don’t actually need. Besides, products don’t usually come in individual sizes. If I need a cauliflower, I need to buy one entire cauliflower head, which naturally, will serve more than one person / meal. This can be quite a relevant aspect when we’re students.

So, to sum up, meal-prepping can help you:

  • To eat better,
  • To save time,
  • To make more efficient use of energy and water, and
  • To save money!


Putting it into practice

Creamy tofu with Brown Rice and Broccoli


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (optional)
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • One-inch-sized ginger piece, minced
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup water / wine (to deglaze the pan)
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 chilli pepper, minced
  • 300g firm tofu
  • 180g (1 cup) raw brown lentils, soaked
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (plus ½ can of water)
  • 1 can of full-fat coconut milk
  • Juice of ½ lemon

Serve with:

  • 190g (1 cup) brown rice
  • 1 broccoli head

Instructions (for the cury):

  • In a pre-heated pan or wak, start by sautéing the ginger, followed by the garlic, and lastly by the onion (you can choose to omit the oil, but know that it plays an important roll in releasing the natural aroma from the spices).
  • Add the spices. Let them sauté for 1-2 min while constantly stirring to prevent them from burning.
    (Very important: when cooking a curry, sauté the spices before adding any liquid. This will allow them to release much more of their flavor).
  • Add the wine/water to deglaze the pan.
  • Add the bell pepper and the chilli pepper and sauté for 3-4min.
  • Add a can of diced tomatoes and a can of coconut milk. Rinse the can of tomatoes and add that water to the wak. Let this sauce come to a simmer.
  • Add the soaked green lentils and the tofu, and let it simmer until the lentils are soft to your liking.
  • While the curry is cooking, boil the brown rice, and steam the broccoli head.
  • You can optionally squeeze some lemon juice, once the curry is done. Taste for salt and it is ready to go!
  • Store the curry, rice and broccoli in air-tight containers and enjoy throughout the week

Note: Don’t forget to add salt to your liking throughout the cooking process. If you add salt in stages while you cook, it will never have bland food.


The math

In the table below, you’ll find a rough calculation of how much this recipe costs, ingredient-wise (of course, this will change according to where one is shopping).

I have included the price of all ingredients, spices and seasoning, except for salt.

One can eat fairly cheap on a plant-based diet. Planning ahead can help, too!







Curry powder


Garam Masala




Smoked Paprika




Bell pepper


Chilli pepper


Firm tofu


Brown lentils


Diced tomatoes


Full-fat coconut milk


Brown rice


Broccoli head








* The recipe above serves 4 – 6 meals, depending on how much you eat. The calculation of the total cost per meal was made considering 5 meals.


Please share this. Thank you!


  1. Tiago

    Great article! And I can confirm the meal is tasty 🙂

    • Kika Gusmao

      Thank youuuuuu!

  2. Jennifer Troyan

    Thank you for talking about meal prep. I do this sometimes and feel encouraged to be more consistent about it. The recipe sounds great too!

    • Kika Gusmao

      Writing this article and preparing the recipe also encouraged me to do this more often. I can tell you it was a big pleasure to have this delicious meal prepped and ready to go.


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