I’ve gotten a few requests by friends to create a post about how to become a plant-based eater — specifically how to transform your kitchen so you’re ready to make a few meals in a pinch. We’ve been snowed in the past few days, so I used my free time to compile a list of basic pantry staples (and fridge/freezer staples) that I pretty much always have on hand. And as a bonus, I’ll share with you some of the meals you can make on the days you don’t feel like going to the grocery store for extra ingredients.
Last week my family went on a four-day Disney cruise to the Bahamas, which was super fun despite the rainy weather. If you have kids, I highly recommend taking them on one. The kids club was great, there were lots of activities for parents and kids, and the food was fantastic (even the vegan options!).
And now we’re back in Winston, where it’s freezing outside and there’s five inches of snow trying to melt. Womp-womp…
Fortunately for my family, I made sure my pantry and fridge were stocked before the snow storm hit. I usually have enough ingredients on hand to throw together a few nutritious, plant-based meals.
I have a LOT of ingredients in my pantry because I like to try all kinds of recipes. I have 12 different types of flour, almost every spice you can name, and several exotic ingredients that have only been used for one recipe. This is absolutely not necessary, so I’m just sharing the basic pantry staples that I try to always have in my kitchen.
Basic Pantry Staples
Variety of spices (turmeric, black pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon) and vegetable bullion cubes (I like Rapunzel brand)
Variety of vinegars (red wine, balsamic, apple cider, flavored)
Canned beans, especially chickpeas and black beans (low sodium)
Canned veggies, particularly diced tomatoes and tomato sauce
Variety of grains (rice, oats, quinoa, etc.)
Bean pasta (I like Pow pasta)
Canned coconut milk
Maple syrup, coconut sugar
Natural nut butters
Tamari (or soy sauce)
Potatoes (sweet & Yukon)
Lemons & limes
Variety of nuts and seeds (flax, sunflower, cashews, walnuts, almonds, etc.)
Non-dairy coffee creamer
Tofu (extra firm)
Variety of other frozen fruit for smoothies
Okay, those are the basics. So what can you make with these ingredients on the days you don’t feel like going to the grocery store?
Perhaps the easiest is spaghetti squash. Just stab it a few times with a knife, put it in the microwave on high for four minutes, flip it over, and microwave it 2-3 more minutes. Cut it in half, remove the seeds, then scrape out the stringy inside so it looks like spaghetti. Heat up some tomato sauce and add basil and oregano, if desired. Add broccoli, frozen spinach, or chickpeas to make a more complete meal.
My favorite meal to make with what I have on hand is my Simple Black Bean Soup. I typically make it for lunch and eat the leftovers the rest of the week. I never get tired of it!
One of the best ways to clean out the fridge is to make a stir-fry. Chop up the veggies you have on hand and sauté them in a little water, a splash of tamari and lime juice, and maybe some grated ginger and garlic. Add cubed tofu or edamame beans for some filling protein and serve the whole thing over rice. To change things up, you can toss everything together with spaghetti squash!
Other meals you can throw together include salads, oatmeal, smoothies, pasta, loaded baked potatoes, and bean tacos. I often make Buddha bowls, in which I cook a grain as the base, sauté kale or other greens, roast sweet potatoes, and cook beans. Make a simple sauce out of soaked cashews and spices or avocado blended with lime juice and garlic. There’s plenty of room to get creative!
I’ve found that if I keep these pantry staples on hand, I usually only have to buy two or three more ingredients to make other recipes. Eating plant-based can be very simple if you know what to buy and cook. Try starting with this list, then add a bigger variety of fruits, veggies, and spices as you need them for recipes. Have fun with it!