How to stock your plant-based pantry

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.

Refrigerator Staples

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

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.

Brown Rice

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.

Oats

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.

Nutritional Yeast

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.

Spices

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.

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12 thoughts on “How to stock your plant-based pantry”

  • This is a hugely informative post 🙂 Organic foods may be more expensive, but you’re right – who wants all those chemicals and who knows what in their food? The taste is better and organic foods are bursting with nutrients. I love your list of foods to keep a good stock of. My sister always complains that being a vegetarian is restrictive because she doesn’t have a lot of food to choose from. I’ll show her this post. Now her only excuse for not eating well will be laziness 😀

  • You have answered one of the biggest questions I have about a plant-based diet, what foods to buy and keep on hand. I have been thinking about migrating to an all plant diet, as I have been reading about the benefits, but it’s been a struggle. I really like the idea of beans, lentils, etc, which can all be kept in the pantry. I was thinking more along the lines of just fresh food, so it’s nice to know there are other options as well. Rice, nuts, oats, I love all of those, so maybe I can make this work. Thank you for sharing, this is a very thorough and engaging article.

    • Hi Steve, and glad my post was able to help figure this out. It’s not easy, but after stocking up with the essentials, it makes the routine that much easier. Yes, you need beans, grains and legumes along with plants. Go for it!

  • Thank you Amy for this very useful article. I have wanted to start cooking and eating with more healthy and plant-based foods for a while now but sad to say, my pantry is sadly lacking in almost everything! I will definitely take your list and use it to create the basis of my food stocks.
    One question about lentils – I’ve heard that you really need to soak them for ages before cooking. I know you said you can get tinned lentils but are they as good as the soaked ones? Can you use them in cooking and recopies ? Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks again. Gail

    • Hi Gail! Yes, I use organic, canned lentils all the time, and it saves so much time. They are just as healthy as the soaked ones. No worries about that. Who has the time to soak lentils…? We have to do what works. Thanks for writing!

  • I really like this post. I love the way everything is explained in a simple and straightforward way. Lot’s of lovely ideas for healthy foods. I actually fancy giving this a try! Thank you.

  • I clicked through to your article on arsenic in rice and I get shivers. My son was very sick and we were feeding him a lot of chicken and rice. We did a heavy metals/essential minerals hair test and he was sky high in arsenic as well as aluminum and mercury. I could explain the aluminum and the mercury but it took me a while to figure out that the arsenic was coming from the chicken and the rice. I remember reading that non-organic chicken gets high in arsenic and GMOs because they feed the chicken lots of rice and corn.

    Needless to say we eat organic chicken and we don’t eat rice at all!

    Thanks for all the nutritious ideas for the pantry. This post was a great find.

    • WOW — I am so glad your son is okay now. That is very scary and thank you for sharing yet another example of why we have to be so careful with what we eat.
      That would make sense that the non-organic chicken eat lots of rice — but I wonder what the organic chickens eat…! Anyway, rice is great, but only little bits here and there. Thank you for writing!

  • Hello Amy! I am also into the essential oil niche and my wife and I are also eating vegan and trying to plant our own garden this year so this website really perked my interest! I love your content here. We need more great advice on food. I’ve been thinking about branching out and also discussing food like you but maybe I should stay in my niche for now since I don’t have traffic. You’re putting a lot of hard work into this and I think I will be back!

  • A great resource to use to stock up on all the basics for a plant based diet. I clicked through and am intrigued by that Instant Pot though! I’ve been thinking about trying one for awhile now. Think I’m gonna take the plunge!

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