Setting up your vegan pantry is an essential step to being able to easily create meals on a whim. For people who have been vegetarians all their lives, setting up the pantry will not be a struggle. However, if you’ve just recently converted to a vegan, you’ll probably need to start from scratch. You may have some ingredients on hand, but most of your pantry may not be vegan friendly.
Of course, this list will not include perishable items such as fruits and vegetables. However, even some perishable items, such as certain brands of tofu, soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, etc can be stored on the shelves and not in the refrigerator because of the special packaging.
STEP ONE: TAKE INVENTORY
The first step to building a vegan pantry is to take inventory of what you have. This step is mostly for those who have just become vegans. However, if you have been vegan for a while, you will also benefit from this. The goal is to go through and think about everything that you have and determine if it supports the vegan lifestyle.
You may also want to look at the ingredients lists of all your packaged foods to determine if any of the hidden ingredients listed in the previous chapter exist. Even if you have been vegan for a while, you may still find some foods in your pantry that you should not have there.
If you do find a lot of foods to get rid of and they have not been opened, do not throw them away. Give them away to a local food pantry. Just because you will not eat them does not mean that someone will not benefit from them and appreciate having something to eat.
STEP TWO: STOCK YOUR VEGAN PANTRY ESSENTIALS
It isn’t entirely necessary to have a large pantry filled with tons of ingredients and packaged foods. All you need to do is sit and think about the things that are really important to you. If you don’t bake that often, for example, don’t bother buying baking supplies until you really need them. If you are the type of person who loves cereal and has a few bowls a day, you may want to keep packages of nut milk, soy milk, rice milk, and extra cereal in your pantry so you don’t need to run to the store all the time.
Once you figure out what you need and what your eating preferences are then you can start buying things to put in your pantry. If you do not take the extra time to think about what you need, you’ll end up purchasing things you won’t eat. Then, the food will go to waste. Just stock the essentials and if you need other things, you can buy them as you go along.
STEP THREE: PURCHASE ANY EXTRAS
It can be expensive to stock your pantry all at once. There are certain ingredients that you may need once in a while, such as tomato sauce and other items. It isn’t important to buy some of these extras at first. You can add to your pantry gradually as you go shopping or as you realize you need them.
In general, it is nice to have the ingredients on hand to make a few simple meals such as pasta dishes, soups, and grain and legume dinners such as rice and beans. Think about the kinds of foods you like to eat and purchase the extra ingredients to have them on hand.
If you are on a tight budget, you can take care of these items as you go along. Plan your meals in advance and write out a shopping list. You can buy these extras at the beginning of the week and store them as you buy them.
AN EXAMPLE OF A VEGAN PANTRY
Even though pantries may differ from household to household, it will be helpful to view a sample pantry. You can use this as a starting point while trying to figure out how to stock yours, or you can take this list to the store and start shopping! It’s up to you.
It may help to think of your vegan pantry in terms of categories such as breakfast items, snacks, etc. Here’s a rough list:
• Whole grain hot cereals such as oatmeal or cream of wheat
• Cold cereals to eat with soy milk, nut milk, or rice milk
• Vegan friendly pancake mixes
• Vegan baked goods such as muffins
• A variety of healthy snack items such as granola bars
• Vegan treats such as cookies and cakes
• Crackers and other baked items
• Nut milk, soy milk, rice milk, and tofu in special packaging to help it store in the pantry and stay fresh longer
• Canned soups, soup mixes, and other boxed meal products such as vegan macaroni and cheese
• Nuts and seeds such as almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and pecans.
• Pasta – look for whole wheat varieties
• Items like spaghetti sauce, capers, pickles, extra ketchup, salad dressings, etc
These are just a few examples. Buy things that are in accordance with your preferences
• Whole wheat rice
• Buckwheat flour
• Wheat flour
• One vegetable oil to cook with
• At least one kind of flavorful oil such as cold pressed olive oil or roasted sesame oil
• Tamara and/ or soy sauce
• Vinegar – you can keep several kinds on hand such as balsamic, rice wine, and red wine vinegar
• Salt, pepper, and herbs and spices
• Leavening agents such as yeast, baking powder, and baking soda
• Vegan friendly egg substitute
• Different kinds of flours
• Sugars and other sweetener products such as maple syrup and rice syrup
This list is just designed to be a jumping off point. It is almost impossible to come up with a blanket list because peoples’ food preferences vary greatly. The approach most people like to take is to purchase things one at a time as you need them.
Remember to look at the ingredients, especially when you are buying packaged food. As we’ve explored, there are often hidden ingredients that are not vegan friendly where you would least expect them.