In the beginning, we had no idea what to buy in the grocery store. Now we have the beginnings of a comprehensive list of what are, for us, essentials. I thought sharing my list from 5 weeks in might help you with yours. But remember, the plan you end up with is as unique as you are. Buy foods you're already comfortable with, make recipes you're already used to, and begin learning how to make substitutions for the meat and dairy.
We need to have plant-based milk products on hand for a lot of recipes and some kinds are better here, and others better there. You'll only know by trying them. There are a lot of varieties of non-dairy milks including almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, and oat milk, which I love.
What I choose not to buy: Sweetened milks.
I like to have a wide variety of flours, and I'm getting used to the differences as I use them. Some people like to avoid bleached white flour. If that's you, then whole wheat flour should go on your list. Personally I'm going to use my white flour until it's gone, mixing in others as I get used to them. I have rice flour, oat flour, coconut flour, almond flour, and I've heard spelt flour is one to try.
Flours made out of nuts add a hint of nut-oil to your recipes. This can make up a bit for the cooking oils some people prefer to leave out. It helps with flavor, with texture, and with keeping the food from sticking to the pan or paper.
It's sold in cartons, usually in the canned soup aisle of your grocery store, and it's great for everything. Use it as a soup or stew base, cook your veggies in it for added flavor, and use a tablespoon at a time for oil-free sautés.
If you can find it, Better than Bouillon brand broth base is fantastic. It's sold in small jars, and is a thick paste made of condensed vegetable juices. The flavor truly is better then bouillon! I get it in addition to my liquid veggie broth, not instead of it.
Beans & Legumes
Not just string beans, though you'll want those too. No, I'm talking about cannelloni beans and navy beans and pinto beans and black beans and fat free refried beans (because otherwise they contain lard–who knew?) and kidney beans and pre-seasoned chili beans. Beans are a wonderful base for so many recipes and they pack a lot of protein. Get lentils and chick peas, too.
If the gooey bean stuff the beans are swimming in turns you off, no worries. Open the can, pour the beans into a colander, and rinse it away for a whole different bean experience
Don't be afraid to try dry beans! Just soak them overnight in cool water, rinse the next day and then cook like any other vegetable. Boil or steam or add to soups or stews to boost protein and flavor.
Canned Tomato Products
I cannot get by without cans and cans of tomatoes. I buy whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, diced tomatoes with peppers and onions or green chilis. I buy tomato paste, which is very thick and condensed. I also buy "crushed" tomatoes, which really looks to me like tomato sauce. So I use those two interchangeably. In addition, I still buy the occasional jar of pasta sauce or marinara sauce if I can one without animal products. I enjoy Newman's Own pasta sauces. Read the labels and find your faves!
But everybody needs sweets now and then, and why not? Nature has provided us plenty of natural sweetener. Some vegans and some plant-based people avoid refined white sugar because of its powerful impact on our blood sugar, shooting it way up high and then letting it crash right afterward. So they look for healthier sweeteneders.
Most vegans don't use honey as they say it might be unethically sourced. I have no problem with honey as I get it from my oldest daughter's bees at her family's Five-Acre Farm. The bees are rescues and are treated with loving care.
In addition to honey, I've sweetened with:
Pure maple syrup
Florida Crystals (raw cane sugar)
Unsweetened Applesauce (can also be used as a substitute for oil in recipes.)
Bob's Red Mill Products
This is is an excellent brand and one I trust. I love the hot cereals, which come in varieties that range from 5-grain to 12-grain, plus oat bran, muesli, grits and many more.
In addition to the hot cereals, Bob's makes numerous flours and grains that I use a lot.
We are determined to try them all, with an eye on their labels. They aren't all created equal. Some are higher in saturated fats than others. But the beauty of them all is that they can make it a whole lot easier for some of us to make the switch.
Hubs and I are working our way through them all he various offerings, and these are the ones I love so far. You might like others. Hubs does.
In general, I've found that the crumbled variety work out a lot better for me than those shaped like hamburgers or meatballs. But hubs likes the burgers and meatballs just fine.
So far, my favorites are:
The Very Good Butchers Smokin' Burgers.
The Very Good Butchers Taco Filler
Field Range Apple & Maple Breakfast "Sausage" Links
Upton's Naturals Seitan
Those are the ones I've enjoyed so far. We also tried Beyond Burger which was really tasty, as are the Impossible burgers. They're just a little bit high in fat for me.
They add protein and flavor and can please those carnivorous cravings.
They can make the transition easier for those who feel they cannot give up their burgers.
Anything you are eating instead of animal proteins is benefitting you in countless ways.
My favorite magic ingredient is nutritional yeast, which, for the love of the Gods, would benefit from a marketing team and a new name. (Right after creating this I discovered Noochies brand nutritional yeast, where they are doing just that.) It's delish! It comes in a resealable bag full of yellowish powder that tastes a little bit like the orange dust you lick off your fingers after eating cheesie poufs. I sprinkle it on salads, pasta dishes, chili, and popcorn. It's fantastic.
I'm sorry to say that aside from this product, I have yet to find a non-dairy cheese product I like. But that doesn't mean you won't. And it's early and I'm still exploring! And did I mention I'm fussy?
Get some mesh produce bags or just pile it loosely into your canvas shopping bags. Scope out any farm or produce stands near you, too. They're often treasure troves!
We need lots and lots of produce. Here is my list, but you will add lots more. Try new things, experiment with recipes. I once even made Brussels sprouts edible! (My hubs loves them, I hate them.)
Sweet potatoes or yams
Zucchini (green and yellow)
Peppers (green, red, yellow, hot)
Lettuce (in multiple varieties)
Fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, bay.)
Grapes (green and red)
Whatever you can get, get. Then have fun learning to use them!
One of the things you need is a supply of easily accessible, good enough to feel naughty, not too awful for you snacks. Here are some of the things I reach for between meals to keep me satisfied.
Bob's Red Mill Cranberry Granola.
Dried Banana Slices*
In addition to these, of course, I always have fresh fruit on hand.
*Some of these can contain extra oils, sugars, and salt, so read your labels and get what you're comfy with.
I don't think I've ever given much thought to shopping for grains. But I am now! Obviously flours are made from grains, but I gave them their own category, above.
Corn Meal Barley
Flaxseed Meal (Can be used to make egg substitute in recipes - 1 tbsp to 3 tbsps water, let soak in fridge for 15 minutes before using.)
I'm sure I'll be adding more and more to this list.
One more go-to food: Orgain brand vegan protein shake powder. Add water or plant-based milk and as much fruit as you desire, or even veggies. You can get creative with this stuff! The base tastes kind of like every batter you ever made for your childhood Easy Bake Oven, until you add the fruit.
Also comes in chocolate!
Build your list
As you scour the interwebs for recipes and ideas, make notes of ingredients you've never tried, and add them to the list. Pay attention to herbs and spices and things that come up over and over in recipes, and add those to your list too. Build your collection, fill your cupboards.