Getting started: Vegan Pantry

I can't lie- I'm proud of my colorful refrigerator.

I can’t lie- I’m proud of my colorful refrigerator.

get rid of the garbage

Getting rid of the junk in your refrigerator is both rewarding and emotionally cleansing. It’s incredibly liberating to be able to kick your salad dressing, coagulated cheese slices, and packaged bacon to the curb. When I cleaned out my pantry and fridge, I read every label meticulously, gleefully tossing any food item that contained animal byproducts. Casein? See ya, cottage cheese thighs. Red no. 1? I’ll catch ya later, cancer. High fructose corn syrup? I’ll take my coffee without a side of heart disease, thank you very much.

(However, I did save all of the unopened goods that I would have otherwise tossed and donated them to a local food bank. There’s no need for unnecessary waste.)

Once your fridge is nice and empty, you’re ready to hit the grocery store. Typically, I buy all of these items once every two weeks, and restock the vegetables/parishables as needed.

organic vegetables

Of course you already know that you should be buying organic- so I won’t harp here. Bottom line, put your money where your mouth is and send a message to Uncle Sam that you aren’t okay with him messing with our crops. (I have starred the items that you must absolutely always buy organic. These are the fruits and veggies that have been exposed to the most amount of pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group.)

  • **Kale  – I buy about three bunches, so I can mix them in my morning green smoothie each day.
  • Spinach – Sometimes I do get lazy and buy the boxed organic kind, but of course it’s better to go with fresh bunches. Boxed spinach, even organic, is often subjected to a chlorinated wash cycle that you do not want to digest. I put about 2 cups in my morning smoothie each day.
  • **Celery – Another addition to the morning smoothie.
  • Cilantro – I throw this stuff in everything. It adds such a great fresh element.
  • Jalapeños – A great way to spice up any dish. I buy extra and chop them into dishes as I see fit.
  • Cauliflower – Incredibly versatile and a hearty texture. I love to use it in soups.
  • Broccoli – A steamer staple.
  • **Sweet potatoes – It’s very important to buy root vegetables organic. As they grow, they soak up the pesticides around them even more than their above-ground counterparts.
  • **Russet potatoes – I love a good russet potato; there’s something so hearty and comforting about it.
  • Parsley – A vitamin-packed addition to any plate. I like to add a bit to my morning green smoothie.
  • Green onions – My favorite item to jazz up a dish. I buy them by the dozen.
  • **Regular onions – Mmmm, onions. I use them in almost everything I make.
  • Asparagus – I usually serve them in conjunction with veggie burgers and a great hummus dip.
  • Broccolini – Nutrient packed, I think these are served well with asparagus. 
  • ** Bell peppers, all colors – Each week I chop a ton of peppers up and store them in the fridge for quick preparation. I add them to everything I make.
  • Garlic – Another staple addition; garlic has also been shown to be a natural weight loss food.
  • Roma tomatoesMy favorite tomato, they are a bit sweeter than regular tomatoes and are better for single-portion servings.
  • Yellow squash- a perfect addition to a sandwich or pasta.
  • Zucchini – I use them interchangeably with yellow squash.

organic fruits

I buy much less fruit than vegetables. Usually, I will only use them in my morning smoothie, rotating which type I toss in depending on my mood for the day.

  • Banana bunch (small)
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries 
  • Avocado
  • Lemons, limes

spices

I definitely do not buy spices every time I visit the grocery store. I like to buy spices in bulk – they are much cheaper and last forever. Plus, it’s pretty fun to pick out fancy flavors and scoop them into your reusable spice jar.

  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Garlic powder
  • Tumeric
  • Cayenne powder
  • Paprika
  • Arrowroot
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Oregano
  • Anything your heart desires

whole grains and beans

I do NOT bring home any grain product unless it 100% whole grain. I try to limit the amount of processed grains I consume (breads, buns, pasta, tortillas, etc) and focus mostly on quinoa and beans. But a girl’s gotta live, and sometimes all that will satisfy my carb craving is a toasted bagel with nondairy cream cheese.

for everyday use

  • whole wheat, organic quinoa
  • brown rice
  • any type of dry bean or lentil – throw these in the slow cooker and they will soften like a charm, without the added sodium

for semi-weekly use

  • whole grain tortillas
  • whole wheat buns
  • whole grain pastas 
  • whole grain sandwich bread
  • whole grain chips 

treats

  • whole grain bagels
  • whole wheat flour – perfect for homemade bread and vegan cookies

meat and dairy replacers

Again, I choose not to consume these every day; but sometimes they are all that gets me through.

  • Daiya cheese, in all variations
  • Tofutti cream cheese
  • Tofutti sour cream
  • Soy yogurt (make sure there is no casein)
  • Non-dairy milk (almond, rice, soy, hemp…)
  • Extra firm, vitamin-fortified tofu
  • Tempeh

Earth Balance Butter is so amazing it get’s its own category. This stuff has the exact consistency of “regular” butter, and is an unbelievably delicious substitute for Parkay.

fun stuff

  • Hummus – possibly my favorite thing in the entire world.
  • Salsa – Closely following hummus on my list of favorites. Make sure you buy it in a glass jar to avoid preservatives.
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