The pattern that has evolved for me is preparing some cold dishes ahead, so they're always ready to grab. That might include Tabouleh, or French Lentil salad, Black Bean Salsa, and usually I make some hummus so I can quickly make crackers with hummus and cucumber (and I like some sprinkles of Tajin or Siracha, or Sambal). Also I always have some quinoa, which I like to add to salads (minimum one a day, and meal size), and brown rice, or other whole grains.
Some of the tools you will find yourself looking for are a salad spinner, a mandolin, and generally sharp knives, plus I like to have a mortar and pestle around for crushing garlic and grinding spices. All these and more add convenience to your life. However, the one instrument that is absolutely indispensable and the key secret weapon for the vegan lifestyle is the rice cooker. And with rice cooker I mean a serious, top of the line automatic rice cooker, which must have a GABA brown rice (GBR) cycle and a timer function. The reason for having GBR is nutrition: GABA brown rice is simply more nutritious because the germination cycle allows Gamma-aminobutyric_acid (GABA) and other nutrients to develop, making it much more nutritious in the same way that various sprouts (beans, broccoli) are so exceptionally healthy. The timer thingy is phenomenal because it makes your life easier than having your own cook (rice cookers are endlessly patient), and you can put on your breakfast at night, to be ready when you wake up, and put on brown rice for dinner after you finish breakfast, so it's ready when your day is done. The extra money for the fancy models is easily worth it.
Here are two of my favorite designs (I am considering primarily the smallest models, for a one person household):
- The ideal might be a rice cooker with Induction Heat and a pressure cooker, but Zojirushi doesn't make one in the smallest size, so my favorite is their NP-GBC05 which has a 3-cup capacity that is great for one person households and small families. I have had this one for years, and I can honestly say that without it, my transition to a fully vegan lifestyle would have been almost unthinkable.
- Another phenomenal option would seem to be the Cuckoo CRP-EHS0309F, which is the same small size (3 cups), and offers generally the same conveniences as the Zojirushi, but it adds the pressure cooker feature, which does save time when you're in a hurry. Admittedly the timer should allow you to always cook ahead, but sometimes you forget, or you have a change of plans, and then saving time does count.
So, there you have it. The one thing to know is that brown rice has a shorter shelf-life than white rice, because it is more "alive." So you do not want to over-buy brown rice, lest you end up eating stale rice all the time. There are plenty of choices at most good supermarkets, and in our neighborhood Chang-Li is my favorite destination for rice, although, when I have a chance, I like to get some mixes like Organic 10 Mixed Grains at MayWah, or any one of the Lundberg varieties. Lundberg is the leader of the pack in terms of quality organic rice varieties and various products. The closest place you can get it in our neighborhood is at Good 'n Natural on White Plains Road by Pelham Parkway, which is one amazing health food store. Other places where you'll find Lundberg rice include Fairway, Whole Foods, and most any healthfood store in town.