How to Stock a Vegan or Vegetarian Kitchen

by in The Veggie Table, April 1, 2013

frozen vegetables
Perhaps you’ve seen this quote floating around on Facebook or Pinterest boards: “If you keep good food in your fridge, you will eat good food.” –Erick McAdams.

I couldn’t agree more. I always say a healthy diet starts in the grocery store, where you get to choose the foods that will feed you and your family. If you don’t have nutritious foods that can be combined to make a well-balanced meal, you may find it easier to order pizza delivery or grab takeout on the way home from work. Having a well-stocked kitchen means you can get creative in the kitchen, even if you haven’t been to the grocery store recently. Here are my kitchen staples to help you get started:

Whole grains: I love that lesser-known whole grains are gaining popularity, like farro, buckwheat, bulgur, wheat berries and quinoa (which is technically a seed, but fits within the whole grain category). If you can boil water for rice or pasta, you can successfully make any of these whole grains, which adds a new taste and texture to basic dishes. If there’s a new-to-me whole grain I want to try, I typically head to a health food store’s bulk bin aisle so I can sample a little bit before deciding if it’s a staple I want to keep in my kitchen. Buying a small amount from the bulk bins is usually less expensive than purchasing a large bag or box of something.

Canned or dry beans: I’ll admit I rely on BPA-free canned beans (like Eden Organic) over dry beans, since you can’t beat their convenience and cost. And to reduce some of that added sodium, I make sure to thoroughly rinse off all canned beans before eating. If I forgot to pick up tofu or tempeh for the protein part of a meal, I know I always have a can of beans that can be added to a recipe instantly for a protein punch. Or, a quick blend of canned chickpeas or cannellini beans with lemon juice and tahini results in fresh homemade hummus.

Frozen produce: What’s more convenient than produce that has already been peeled, cut, washed and cooked? I keep several bags of frozen berries, mixed veggies, peas and peeled bananas in my freezer at all times, and typically use them at the end of the week when I always seem to run out of fresh produce. Frozen veggies can be added to a soup or stir fry, while frozen berries are great mixed into oatmeal or blended into a smoothie. With frozen veggies, canned beans and whole grains in your kitchen, you’ll always be able to whip up a balanced meal in a pinch.

Condiments, oils, herbs and spices: I’m a bit of a condiment and spice junkie and have a fridge lined with a wide variety of mustards, hot sauces, and marinades, and an entire cabinet of herbs and spices. But making your own sauces and dressings from scratch is simple, as long as you have the basics on hand. Make sure your kitchen is stocked with a variety of oils (I love olive and coconut oil), spices, herbs, garlic, and vinegars. These can add a variety of flavors to an otherwise bland dish. Some of my favorites include pear vinegar to make a fruity dressing, and truffle oil, which is amazing drizzled over popcorn.

Other: This category is the most fun, because it lends to the most creativity for me in the kitchen. When I have a random can of coconut milk lying around, I’ll Google curry recipes. Or when I have a massive bag of quinoa flour I bought on a whim, I’ll figure out how to make quinoa pita. A variety of flours, canned pumpkin, dried fruit, vegetable stock, and mixed nuts may help spark your culinary creativity too.

TELL US: What kitchen staples can’t you live without?

Janel Funk, MS RD LDN, loves experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cooking. Read her food blog, Eat Well with Janel, and follow her on Twitter @DietitianJanel. Catch up on her previous posts here.

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