“Hey Siri, what is the best vegan substitute for milk in chocolate cake?”
Sound familiar? Same.
When I made the switch to becoming Vegan I had literally no idea what I should be buying weekly as staples or even what substitutes would be best for what recipe.
Here’s what I found out: being vegan is about an entirely new lifestyle. If you’re planning on being a vegan, I highly recommend giving up on the notion that you will eat the same things… but with non-dairy or meat substitutes. Life will get complicated with all the time spent measuring and Googling replacements. You may not realize it now, but those two minutes spent asking Siri what a good replacement is will get frustrating. Instead, be open to trying new tastes and textures! You’ll be shocked at how delicious the alternatives are!
Completely changing your diet without the right tools is like working on a car without any spare parts. Sure, you could just use what you have already, but what happens when you need a new engine and can’t build it out of your old car seats?
You go get yourself a new engine. That’s what happens.
When you go Vegan, get yourself a new engine and let go of any preconceived ideas about what you think you will be eating and embrace foods from all cultures and places. Becoming Vegan is less like limiting your options and more like expanding your perspective on what you can enjoy meal-wise.
This is what you need to have at all times in order to survive in a plant-based diet:
*note that in the key, any items listed as having packaging can be made from a bulk item to create a zero Waste option
Key: BLK = Found in bulk section, R= packaging is recyclable, C= packaging or skin is Compostable
*Note: recycled and compostable packaging does depend on brands, however the ones I denote do come in brands that allow for this
*Note: for bulk items, bring your own container into the store and write the tare ( weight of the container without anything in it) on the container so that you know how much to pay for at the check-out.
- Flour ( about 2.5 lbs per week) – BLK
- Sugar ( 2 lbs will go a long way) BLK
- Salt (Sea Salt) BLK
- Pepper BLK
- Non-Dairy Milk : Soy, Coconut, Almond, and other… Almond Milk is heavier and sweeter than soy, but soy has better potential to be used in cooking because of it’s lack of flavor. Coconut is great in Asian cooking and in desserts. Any of them unsweetened will work perfectly fine in cooking, however they do come in flavors for general drinking. You could also buy raw almonds, soybeans, oats etc to make this zero Waste R
- Cashews ( 3 lbs per week) You can use this to create sauces and “cheeses” for creamier recipe. *Buy raw and unseasoned BLK
- Nutritional Yeast: ( .5 lb) This will give “cheese” sauces their flavor BLK
- Baking Powder: non- aluminum BLK R
- Baking Soda (used for everything from cleaning to cooking) BLK R
- Rice ( choose your favorite! Mine is jasmine or brown) BLK
- Quinoa ( I alternate weeks that I buy quinoa with weeks that I buy rice) BLK
- Pasta (If you want quick and easy meals, pasta is a must! Penne proves to be very versatile) R
- Coconut Oil: There are two main types of organic coconut oil- refined and unrefined.
- Refined: Not much flavor, made from dried coconuts, heats to 400 degrees F
- Unrefined: Coconut flavor, made from fresh coconuts, heats to 350 degrees F
- I go back and forth between them, but have found I prefer refined for cooking, so long as it is organic. R
- White Miso Paste! If you want delicious Japanese soups in ten minutes and creamy flavorful sauces, this is your jam. *Make sure that this says it is vegan on the label. Traditional Miso Paste is made with Dashi which contains flakes from fish. R
- Vegannaise: This guy is so/so. If enjoyed mayonnaise previously, then go ahead and pick up a bottle to make the transition easier, but I don’t find I need it anymore. R
- Bananas: These bad boys are going to be your best friend. From overnight oats and quick smoothies to decadent desserts and ice-creams, bananas are a must. *Wash organic bananas lightly after purchase because flies tend to lay eggs in the peel and then you’ll have annoying fruit flies for days on end. C
- Earthbalance Vegan Butter sticks: Perfect in pies or on bread, I pick up one pack each week. C R
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: You probably already have this, but believe it or not, it is offered in the bulk section of some markets! Bring that bottle and reuse! BLK
- Vinegar: White and Apple Cider. Also found in the bulk section, these goodies are great for fast flavor or for household cleaning and beauty hacks!
- Oats! I prefer using regular rolled oats over the quick rolled, but that is personal preference BLK
- Herbs: * All are in bulk sections and compostable. If fresh, buy in season at Farmer’s markets.
- Basil: fresh and dried
- Oregano: dried
- Thyme: dried
- Rosemary: dried
- Allspice: comes powdered
- Cinnamon: Powdered for cooking and baking, but sticks for infusing
- Nutmeg: Powdered is much easier, unless you prefer the struggle of grating a tiny nut
- Paprika: comes powdered
- Parsley: Dried, but fresh parsley is also lovely on pastas and in soups
- Chili: Comes powdered
- Red Peppers: Comes crushed
- Cumin: Whole AND powdered
- Ginger: I buy my ginger whole and use a mortar and pestle to grind it as I use it medicinally, but many prefer the powdered version
- Curry: Comes powdered in many flavors depending on the cuisine
- Onion and Garlic: Both come powdered
- Vegetable Broth: Comes powdered to reduce packaging! (Crazy, right?!)
- Turmeric: if you are used to Indian cooking, like I am, this is a staple
- Fruits and Veggies: Eat in season! There’s a great list of what is in season when on http://www.cuesa.org/eat-seasonally/charts/vegetables You can search by season, or by recipe! C
- Odds and Ends:
- Onions:2 large yellows a week are fine for cooking, but red onions are delicious on sandwiches and in salads
- Shallots: These sweeties are a chef’s secret weapon. Spicy and tangy, you can create masterful recipes with one or two a week
- Garlic! Buy it fresh! Store in open air and you have meals for weeks
- Bread: There are plenty Vegan options available, but look for my post on some favorites coming soon!
- Condiments: Mustard, Ketchup, Soy Sauce, Worchestichire Sauce, Soy Ginger Sauce…. the list is endless, but many of these can be made at home, so check back here for some recipes coming shortly!
There are so many others I could add on, but this is the list I wish I had when I did grocery shopping for the first time on my own. Disregarding being Vegan for a moment, most people that I have met don’t even know what herbs are which and how you should use them! Tagging along with that, there are so many other people that count on meat as the center of the meal that when that is taken away they are uncertain of what else there could possibly be to eat. If this is you, have no fear! I promise that together we will have you licking your fingers and begging for more “rabbit-food”.
Here’s a quick chart of what flavors you can achieve with certain herbal blends from Visual.ly.com
Happy eating! Check back soon for some scrumptious meals and tips on buying bulk!