After an awesome response on Facebook about doing a pantry post (you rock btw) I raided my pantry to see what I thought I couldn’t live without. I tried to keep it to staples for fast & easy cooking, and for someone starting out on a vegetarian/vegan/healthy food lifestyle. What I know for sure is that you are a super smart and educated bunch. So you may already know the things I go off on tangents about. I am really good at tangents.
I actually buy a lot of these items online because they are often cheaper than at my local grocery store. You can compare prices for yourself, I think food is a little pricier in NJ, so for me often it makes sense to get it online. Also, I can find a wider variety of foods online. And I can avoid the food store rush at 5pm, where I often wish I had the superpower of being able to walk through things in my way. Or telekinetics. But then I would be super lazy and never move. Anyway, I have added some links to the things I buy online here. Most are affiliate links, which means you will be supporting my YA book obsession if you click through and purchase. For which I would be forever grateful.
I love whole grains because they are hearty, stay good for a really long time, and they are healthy. When I go on my vegan stretches I rely on whole grains for the foundation of meals that I want something filling and easy. Whole grains are a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, fiber, and could even help shrink belly fat according to one study. Whole grains are full of healthy nutrients, but aren’t technically nutrient dense foods because they have a higher calorie per nutrient ratio. For me what that means is to include whole grains into your daily diet, but make sure not too go crazy overboard on them.
- Quinoa - Prerinsed is best, that way it is ready to cook and saves a step (quinoa has a bitter coating that needs to be rinsed off before cooking)
- Gluten Free, or Whole Wheat Pasta
- Brown Rice
- Oats (Rolled and/or Steel Cut) the links here are gluten free oats, the non gluten free ones are cheaper if you don’t have a gluten intolerance
Beans are such an awesome pantry staple, because they add extra protein and fiber and all you have to do is open the can! They are low glycemic and a good source of folic acid. They are relatively interchangeable, I keep lots of different kinds on hand but these are the staples that I think can be used for almost anything.
- Black Beans
- Chick Peas
- Cannellini Beans
- Chili Beans - I am throwing these in here because I am super obsessed with them. When I am feeling supremely lazy I will heat up a can with a couple of diced up bell peppers and have it as a chili, or stir it up with some quinoa. I have even made tacos with them. Like I said, super obsessed.
Fat got a bad reputation in the 90s when it was singled out as the cause of weight gain. These misconceptions linger today, but fat really is healthy especially if you choose the good ones. I love a good extra virgin olive oil for almost everything, it is one of the healthiest fats out there (and the quality ones are even technically a raw food!). Don’t be fooled by other olive oils, not all olive oil is created equal. The reason I love extra virgin is because it is cold pressed and unrefined. But after the extra virgin oil is removed from the olives, they further refine the remaining oil, usually using hexane (a chemical used to extract the oil). That cheaper and much less healthy oil is what is often found in processed foods, like the mayonnaise you see that is “made with olive oil”. I love raw apple cider vinegar for similar reasons, it is super healthy and minimally processed. It has a mild flavor and can be used in almost anything.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Cold Pressed Organic Canola Oil
- Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Coconut Oil
Spices not only add awesome flavor to food, but they have recently been found to be rich sources of antioxidants. Some even have additional health benefits, like cinnamon which helps to regulate blood sugar.
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Dried Cumin
- Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
- Cinnamon – I learned that quality does matter on this one, the flavor is so much better in a good quality cinnamon. I like Saigon Cinnamon lately.
- Smoked Paprika
- Chipotle Chili Powder
My first choice for canned goods, especially tomato based ones, is jars. I realize that sentence makes me sound like a crazy person, because they are not canned if they are in jars, and umm who cares if it’s a can!? But cans are lined with plastic, often plastic that contains BPAs. Due to the acidic nature of tomatoes, these plastics will leach chemicals into the tomatoes. Even the BPA free plastics can still leach hormone disrupting compounds into the contents. So that is why my first choice is jars. With that rant over, I have to say that really, it is impossible to avoid every possible can or container with plastic. Don’t stress about it.
- Crushed Tomatoes
- Tomato Paste
- Diced Tomatoes – you can use these in place of fresh in some applications, which I have totally done in a pinch
Nut Butters and Jelly
This one is kind of obvious, because PB&J is perhaps one of the happiest and most delicious pantry raid treat. But I also use nut butters for things like making granola, almond milk, and hummus. I also had a problem for a while where I would buy almond butter every time I found a new brand. And sometimes I would buy the same brand in different flavors. We had like 10 things of almond butter, and nothing else to eat.
I know I say organic a lot, and I do choose organic as much as possible. The main reason is that in order to carry the certified organic label, food has to meet strict criteria for additives and GMOs. I have worked in the food industry and I know that it can be sneaky, so when I can, I feel safer buying organic things.
Some of these links are through Vitacost, and I just discovered that they do a referral program where you and I will each get $10 to Vitacost if you use this referral link. I have not tried this program before, but I do get food from them and though their shipping is pretty slow, everything is always in great shape (they wrap glass containers really well) and I am always happy with their quality. I figured I would share the link in case you wanted to try it out.. $10 off is pretty sweet