Sometimes I'm not that good at prepping and packing lunch for the week. This was one of those weeks. My schedule was kind of thrown off by my birthday celebrations last week and this week is my dad's birthday so things have been kind of cray.
Luckily there's always one place I can depend on to get quick vegan and gluten free lunches- my local co-op. I visit Mountain View Market Co-op a few times a month to get specialty items (like my gluten free oats) and for quick, tasty meals. I try not to eat out too often during the week but sometimes life happens, right?! The best part about eating at the co-op is that they have options. I've noticed that even while some places offer vegan alternatives they can be limited. Which is fine, I don't want to complain because I made the choice to eat this way, but it's such a relief to find a place that truly caters to my lifestyle. There are a few different ways you can get a meal at the co-op.
Firstly there is the Kitchen & Cafe. They have a full menu of juices, smoothies, and both hot and cold sandwiches. My favorite sandwich so far is the Pesto Panini. It comes with the options of chicken or mushrooms, dairy cheese or vegan cheese, regular bread vs. gluten free, and a side of chips or fresh fruit. ALL THOSE OPTIONS GUYS. I get the vegan/gluten free stuff minus the vegan cheese because I find it kind of overpowers all the other flavors sometimes. Essentially my sandwich ends up being a pile of mushrooms covered in pesto and arugula and it's amaaaaazing. Ordering from the Kitchen can take a little longer since everything is made to order and sometimes a line forms during peak lunch times, but it's totally worth it!
|I'm not sure if this looks appetizing but it's from the Salad Bar!|
P.S. I didn't realize I put that much dressing on until after the photo, oops.
The second and quicker option is the Hot Bar and Salad Bar. The Hot Bar is a recent addition that I think was inspired by the popularity of the Salad Bar. Every week the Hot Bar features both a vegan and animal protein main dish that is accompanied by gluten free and vegan sides. Today they had tofu and chicken curry with rice and cucumber/cabbage salads on the side. The last time I got food from the Hot Bar I had vegan BBQ tofu, sautéed herbed potatoes, grilled zucchini, and vegan baked beans. Literally everything I've ever tried from the Hot Bar is delicious and I love that they experiment with different kinds of cuisine. They definitely like to mix it up so you're not stuck eating the same thing all the time. Today I got there a little before the Hot Bar opened so I opted for the Salad Bar instead. The Salad Bar has a HUUUUGE selection of veggies and both meat/meatless toppings. For lunch today I got spring mix with onions, carrots, olives, cucumber, broccoli, and artichoke hearts. Then I topped it with tempeh, lemon garlic couscous, vegan shredded cheese, sunflower seeds, and vegan caesar dressing. All that fresh food for like $8. This was also the first time I've tried tempeh and I can definitely dig it.
Lastly there is a small to-go section in one of the fridges which is obviously the quickest way to get food. This option varies a lot and isn't always reliable but it's understandable since they put so much time and effort into the Kitchen and Bars. I've seen vegan burritos, side salads (lentil, green bean, kale), hummus, falafels, veggie tamales, and sandwiches in this section. A lot of them aren't always vegan/gluten free but that's what the bars are for! There's been a couple of times when I've grabbed a tub of hummus and a bag of carrots from there for lunch when I'm really pressed for time so it definitely serves a purpose, but the other options are just like way better when time allows.
Basically, I love my co-op. I can't afford to shop there for everything all the time but I make sure to visit when it's financially viable for me to do so. I have a yearly membership (only $20?!) which affords me discounts every once in a while and also allows me to vote for board members. I've never done so but at least I have the option, lolz. They try to use local and organic ingredients when they can which I think is SO important. I feel good about buying meals there, and it doesn't hurt that it's always delicious! It's a small health haven in our "quasi-food desert" and I'm so thankful it exists!
Do you have any local options like this where you're from?