How to stock your plant-based pantry
Now that you’ve made the plant-strong commitment, I’m sure you’re wondering how to stock your plant-based pantry, and what, exactly, goes in there, to keep you focused and plant-fueled! My goal is to keep things simple — easy food prep, time-saving ways to plan, and lastly, saving money at the grocery store.
Like anything else, this is a bit of a transition, and even after doing this for years, I still get caught short without an ingredient I need for a meal. A plant-based pantry is a nutritional powerhouse that you won’t be able to live without, and if you’re new to this, or even if you are an expert in need of a refresher, check out this list of my favorite plant-strong items.
Fresh vegetables, frozen mixed vegetables, perishable fruits in season, frozen fruits, sweet potatoes and white potatoes. Hummus, either home-made or store-bought, whole grain bread, non-dairy nut milks, citrus, nutritional yeast, and tortillas.
Depending on your climate, you may want to store your beans and rice in the refrigerator as well. Organic, pitted dates are great for a sweet tooth, and I will be sharing some delicious plant-strong dessert recipes because this is not about feeling deprived!
Just a quick note about organic: I try to buy organic whenever I can. The idea that the vegetables and fruits I consume may have been grown in soil that was compromised, devoid of nutrients after re-use, and filled with pesticides that cannot be washed off, is a huge turn-off to me, and not what I want to be eating.
However, here is a list of the “dirty dozen and clean fifteen” which lists all the fruits and vegetables that should always be organic. Take a look and use that as your guide.
Beans (canned or dried)
Beans are packed with plant-strong goodness, and there are so many available! You can stock up on dried beans and cook them yourself, or you can buy no-salt-added beans in cans for quick and easy meal prep. What’s your bean pleasure?
Black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, navy beans…there are so many to choose from.
Beans are great for chili, as an add-in for soups, sprinkled raw on salads, and in bean burritos. If you are opening a can, just be sure to drain them over a colander and rinse clean. If you are cooking them, just rinse and soak for about an hour to soften, and then cook until done.
Pastas and Noodles
No one said you’d be giving up pasta! After all, pasta is the foundation of a family-friendly feast, and is packed with delicious nutrients. Whole wheat pasta, gluten-free pasta, rice pasta, brown rice noodles, buckwheat soba noodles, spelt pasta, and black bean pasta are all loaded with different tastes and textures.
They all cook pretty much the same as semolina pasta, but some, like the soba noodles, cook a bit faster. A simple pasta marinara, or soba noodles water-fried with broccoli, or even a sweet potato lasagna are all delicious, plant-strong options!
Nuts and Seeds
This is the one category in which I caution you that nuts and seeds, by their natural make-up, are pretty high in fats and oil. Since we want to keep our oil intake to a minimum, then keep your consumption of nuts and seeds to a minimum as well.
Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, flax seeds, chia and hemp seeds are all great additions to salads and soups, oatmeal and green smoothies.
Peanut butter and almond butter (non-hydrogenated) are okay when used very sparingly, for obvious reasons. They are loaded with fat…! Tahini is great to use for home-made hummus, or in a plant-strong salad dressing, and has a delicious flavor.
Lentils are just LOADED with nutrients. Dried lentils are one of the most affordable plant-strong options out there, but canned lentils are great, too, and more convenient if you don’t have time to soak and cook. Lentils are great for a quick meal — tossed over a salad, cooked in with vegetable soup, mixed up with some brown rice. Brown and green are the most common that you’ll find, but its fun to try yellow, black or French lentils just for a kick.
Another powerhouse of nutrients, brown rice is available as short-or-long grain, and sometimes mixed with wild rice or jasmine. It doesn’t matter as long as the rice is brown and organic. Take a look at my other post about arsenic in rice, and you’ll see why organic is the best choice.
Use brown rice in stir fries, stews, soups, tacos, and a million other ways. It makes a great staple with just about every meal. You can even have it for breakfast, mixing with almond milk and cinnamon to make a porridge. An Insta-Pot Pressure-Cooker makes this cook up in no time, and one bag of rice will last for awhile, with 1 cup of cooked rice enough for a couple of meals.
I eat oats every day. Organic. Steel-cut. Hearty and delicious. Nothing like a bowl of hot oatmeal in the morning, mixed with a banana and some wild blueberries. Baked oats for dinner is a great substitute for meat, and adding oats to your day is a great way to protect your heart. Oats are packed with fiber, protein, zinc, manganese and more.
If you have time, you’ll want to get the slow-cooking variety, like Bob’s Red Mill Steel-Cut Oats, which will take about 25 minutes to prepare. If not, you can get the organic quick-oats. While not the best choice, it is better than no oats at all.
In other words, it tends to be a bit more “refined” since it cooks so quickly, but it is still a smart, plant-strong choice.
AKA “nooch” — this is vitamin B12 and is used as a base ingredient in “cheese” sauces or to top off many meals, such as pasta and marinara, in place of parmesan cheese. “Nooch” is also used in salad dressings, salads, vegetables, potatoes, rice and even popcorn! Trader Joe’s has it, and it is really reasonable in price.
As you cut out the palette-numbing salts and sugars of processed foods, you will appreciate all the new flavors and textures of whole grains and plants. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new flavors such as organic Tamari or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, salsas, vinegars, and dried herbs and spices.
My next post will discuss meal planning, grocery shopping, and prep time. Now that you have an idea of what goes into your plant-strong pantry, you are one more step closer to health!
In the meantime, I want to introduce you to the Forks Meal Planner. This is a program designed by the folks over at Forks Over Knives, and the reason I love it is because it makes my life easy. I don’t have to think about what I am going to make, or what I need to make it. Take a look and let me know what you think. It may be worth a shot, especially in the beginning, when you aren’t sure how to stock your plant-based pantry, and when turning back to old habits is just a breath away.
With weekly meal plans, Forks Meal Planner takes the hard work out of making nutritious meals.
Using simple ingredients along with simple recipes, it is a plant-strong win!
Also published on Medium.