While browsing the Internet I came across this article which I thought would be helpful to people who are new to the vegetarian lifestyle. I remember searching for hours for things I could eat when I made the switch (grocery shopping took forever!). I hope this is useful as you set up your vegetarian kitchen. When you have the common ingredients already on hand cooking is a breeze.
A vegetarian pantry has different needs from a more general pantry. It is important to keep vegetarian foods on hand that will provide energy and nutrients; and substitutes for other non-vegetarian food products. This article will help you achieve you goal of a well-stocked and healthy vegetarian pantry, all in the span of just a few hours.
- Clean out your pantry. If you are changing to a vegetarian diet, or even if you are simply updating an existing impoverished vegetarian pantry, it is time for a good clean out. Remove all out-dated food, any food with unsuitable animal-derived products (ovo-lacto vegetarians can keep more foods than vegans) and remove anything that lacks labels but you aren’t quite sure what it is. Wipe down all the shelves and allow to dry.
- Go shopping. It is always a good idea to stock a new pantry with as many fresh items as possible at the same time, so that the items date together. If you are simply restocking, keep items that are still plenty in date but note them. Make sure to write a list of the items that you need, so that you are not overwhelmed by choices or forgetful as to what you need.
- Select your items in food groups. A vegetarian pantry that is stocked with the basics should contain:
- Grain products: rice (especially brown, arborio, jasmine, basmati and sweet), millet, couscous, quinoa, kasha, wild rice (aquatic grass), buckwheat, barley, polenta, and whole grain flours.
- Pasta and noodles: pasta made from grain products (e.g., wheat pasta, rice pasta), noodles (e.g., udon, buckwheat etc.). Try to avoid quick-cook noodles; these tend to have a lot of the healthy nutrients removed and are often high in trans-fats.
- Legumes: dried legumes (peas, split peas, lentils, puy lentils, chickpeas/garbanzo, kidney beans, pinto beans etc.), tins/cans of legumes, shelf-stored tofu.
- Instant mixes for veggie burgers, falafels, etc. Try to prefer organic options and low sodium.
- Vegetables and fruits: There are various ways of storing these in the pantry:
- Tins/cans of fruit in natural syrup, tins/cans of some vegetables. Try to avoid sourcing a lot of your fruit and veggies in this way because canned varieties lose nutrients, have high sodium, and can leach chemicals from the can soldering/composition into the food over time. Always choose cans that are free from dents, and be sure to check use-by dates.
- Preserved fruit and vegetables. Follow the instructions carefully if you make your own at home.
- Dehydrated fruits and veggies can also be kept in the pantry for reconstitution.
- Dried fruit. A must for both eating and cooking with. Apricots, peaches, pears, apple, nectarines etc. are all great choices. Beware of added sugar; dried pineapple, strawberries, paw-paw, kiwifruit etc. often have considerable added sugar.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds should be eaten quickly to ensure that they remain fresh. Only purchase small amounts at a time. It is handy to always have on hand walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, pecans and sesame seeds. Peanuts are a personal choice given modern allergy problems. Nut and seed butters are also very useful to keep on hand; consider tahini, peanut butter, cashew nut butter, almond butter etc. Some require refrigeration on opening.
- Flavourings: There are a number of key flavourings that no vegetarian pantry should be without. These include:
- Nutritional yeast
- Soy sauce, shoyu, tamari; look for low sodium options
- Vegetable broth/stock cubes, liquid or powder – check ingredients carefully!
- Cheese sauce or cheese substitute sauces in packets; packet soups
- Seasoned vegetable salt (there are numerous good brands around)
- Concentrated liquid stock or flavouring derived from vegetable, herb and spice sources (a few drops will do each use)
- Curry powder
- Seasonings such as herbs, spices, salt, pepper etc. Dry your fresh herbs for seeing the winter through
- Seaweed products for seasoning, including dulse
- Flavoured vinegars, dressings
- Sweeteners such as raw and organic sugar, stevia, rice syrup, agave syrup, honey, maple syrup, xylitol etc. Select whatever suits your needs, preferences, and dietary requirements.
- Have a few treats in store. It is useful to have some treats on stand-by for guests, children and the munchies. Good products include dark chocolate, soy chocolate, chickpea crisps, wasabi peas, sugar-free cookies (sweetened with alternatives), microwave popcorn and raw kernals, etc.
- Keep a few quick packet mixes for cakes, muffins and pancakes. Prefer organic and low-sugar versions where possible. It isn’t always possible to be a saint and make your own baked goods from scratch; having these packaged possibilities still allows you to add fresh fruit, macadamia oil in place of saturated fats and you have the choice of using eggs or not. This is far better than resorting to store-bought goodies.
- Have milk on hand. It is always handy to have some shelf milk on hand for times when you run out and guests arrive. Depending on your needs, you can purchase dairy, soy, nut, grain and other milks that can be shelf-stored. Flavoured milks are also handy, including chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.
- Keep an eye on use-by dates and discard products that go beyond these. They might seem all right, but once stale, items never taste quite as fresh. They also do not provide the same nutrients as fresher, in-date items. Circulate goods at the back of the pantry and bring them to the front at least monthly, if not more often. It’s easy to forget about items you can’t see, and the less you waste the happier your wallet will be.
- Places to stock up on vegetarian pantry foods include health food stores, health food co-ops, large health-food oriented super-stores or supermarkets, fruit and vegetable stores, some bulk/wholesale stores, local markets (farmer’s markets etc.) and straight from boutique stores on farms.
- Don’t over look your local supermarket. Many “regular” grocery stores are now catering to the Vegan crowd by offering several varieties of soy milks, tofu and vegetarian meat substitutes as well as organic produce.
- Some specialty grocery stores are also great to visit in and discover new flavours and textures; try Chinese, Lebanese, South African, Italian, West Indian, Samoan, etc. stores for new ideas.
- Some artificial sweeteners, while low in calories, have been implicated in health problems in some individuals. Research carefully before choosing an artificial sweetener option. Stevia is a good, natural sweetener alternative that avoids potentially problematic chemicals.
Things You’ll Need
- Items as listed in article
- Shopping bags – take your own
- How to Pack Vegetarian School Lunches
- How to Eat Healthy as a Vegetarian
- How to Celebrate World Vegetarian Day
- How to Be a Lacto Ovo Vegetarian
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