A well-stocked pantry is important for a successful vegan diet. If you have the staples in the pantry and a handful of nutritious fruits and veggies in the fridge, you can easily pull together a healthy plant-based meal in no time.
I think many people fear a vegan diet because they think it requires a whole new way of thinking about food. The reality is that you can often get away with converting an old standby just by replacing the meat with beans, tofu, seitan or any of the meat substitutes now available even in non-specialty stores.
You can often buy most of these items in bulk, which means you can bring your own containers like reusable cloth bags or plastic containers (I’m not an advocate of bringing glass jars) which helps reduce your waste. Buying from bulk bins is also a cost-effective measure because you can buy what you need instead of buying a big bag of something that you might only use once or twice.
Last, I based this list on my experience and how I cook. I use every item on here regularly. I try not to use anything too exotic when I’m cooking because I want to have items that will be used in multiple recipes and not something that will sit on a shelf for months or even years. With this list you should be able to make soups, salads, pancakes, Indian, Chinese, Thai…whatever you might be craving!
You can buy dry or canned beans. I’m not very good at planning my meals too far in advance and I don’t have an Instant Pot so I tend to stock up on canned beans. Clearly, dry beans are a better choice for zero-waste, but metal cans are infinitely recyclable so I toss them into the recycling.
If you buy anything canned, please be sure to read the ingredients list. I was shocked when I realized that not all canned beans are made the same. Some have additives like disodium EDTA, calcium chloride, and even high fructose corn syrup. Be sure to look for cans that are BPA free.
Lentils (Brown, green and/or red) – no soaking required so I buy these in bulk.
All-purpose flour (preferably unbleached)
Whole wheat flour
Rice (Black and brown are the most nutritious, but white works too)
If you’re looking for healthy and/or gluten-free options there are plenty of brands that make pasta from beans or rice. At my local grocery store, the gluten-free pasta can be found in the health food aisles and not with the traditional pasta’s. The types of pasta you keep stocked are more of a personal preference, but keeping a spaghetti or fettuccine around is a good idea for lazy food evenings because every once in awhile, when it’s been a long or rough day is there anything easier than making a quick spaghetti with pasta sauce and a side salad?
Sweet potato noodles
For Baking or other uses
Cacao or Cocoa powder – I use these interchangeably
Sugar, unbleached – just check to make sure it’s vegan, otherwise, it’s sifted through bone char. Also, no need to buy brown sugar because I have a hack for that.
You can also buy date sugar, coconut sugar or stevia. Sometimes I use these, but to be honest, sugar is one of the few vices I have in my life. I’m pretty good at keeping it in check. I substitute maple sugar as much as possible.
It’s pretty important to keep a good supply of spices on hand. These are easy to find anywhere that sells bulk items so again, if you’re on a budget, you can buy small amounts.
Nuts and seeds
Vinegars and Oils
You don’t need to use oil to cook; I tend to use it sparingly, but I like having it around and some oils really help to enhance the flavor of foods.
Apple cider vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil (first cold pressing ONLY)
Miscellaneous and Refrigerator items
Coconut milk (canned)
Roasted red chili paste
Tapioca flour – the most optional item on the list, but it has come in handy