Staples for the Vegan Pantry: Plant-Based Shopping List


“Good morning, world!” Mug of coffee in hand, you grab paper, pen and start your shopping list…

  • almond milk
  • tofu
  • ?
  • ?
  • ?

shopping cart


Uh, let’s see – you want to try this plant-based diet thingy, but you have no clue what to buy? Is vegan organic? Is organic vegan? Do I need to go to a special market? Is it going to cost me my first-born?

Completely flummoxed, you grab your second coffee, head to your cushy chair and watch an episode of Monk. Be honest, you know you’re not going to watch just one. Hours later you haven’t added anything else to that dang list. You sigh and think, “I’ll be vegan tomorrow.”

If I may…

Vegan and organic are two entirely different things. Vegan just means plant-based; no meat, dairy, eggs or honey (more on the bee topic in another blog).

Organic means grown and produced without chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides. I try to by organic whenever possible, but sometimes the wallet won’t allow. Check out the dirty dozen list to see which products are the worst offenders. Then buy non-organic for the items not on that list.

Yes, eating vegan can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want to buy tofu, seitan, tempeh, nutritional yeast, and pre-made vegan food, the grocery bill can add up quickly. I would recommend first trying to cook without these strange, new ingredients, then experiment with them one at a time.



I would definitely get ya’ some Almond milk (or other non-dairy milk, i.e., cashew, rice, soy, coconut). Trader Joe’s has the best price for organic unsweetened almond milk.

Earth Balance buttery spread. It’s amazing! You can bake with it, mash your taters’ with it, spread it on toast… It comes in several varieties including soy-free and organic. I LOVE this stuff and I know lots of non-vegans who use it. Don’t go overboard though, it still contains fat, salt and one tablespoon has 80 calories.

So, those are the only two weird ingredients you should add to your list. Not so alien, right?

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) – Known as the ‘ancient grain’. Quinoa is not actually a grain – they are seeds. Quinoa is a complete protein which makes it ideal for vegans. It is pricey if bought from your local grocer so I buy a large bag, 4.5 lbs., from Costco. It’s their own brand, Kirkland. It’s organic, pre-washed (the best part) and it’s a great price! If you want to buy a smaller bag, Amazon has a decent price on Nature’s Earthly Choice.

Brown riceorganic, if you can

Beansorganic canned black beans, pinto beans or any that you prefer. Dry beans.

Lentils – organic green, red and/or black

Maple syrupthe real deal is expensive, so you can substitute with agave or vegan cane sugar – not difficult to find. Some folks use stevia or monk fruit, but I don’t like either – they taste artficial to me. My daughter’s friend uses the monk fruit sweetener and loves it – you may want to give it a shot. Costco has organic maple syrup at a good price.  Maple syrup at Amazon.

Veggie stock – I usually make my own, but when I get lazy, I buy it at the grocery store. They usually have one or two that are organic. It’s much better to make your own, then you control the amount of salt.  Pacific Foods veggie broth at Amazon.

Peanut butter – again, I like to buy organic. But if you don’t want to pay that much, at least get the natural – no added sugar or salt – just peanuts.  Organic peanut butter at Amazon.

Organic Steel cut or Rolled oats – these are good cooked into meatloaf, burgers, cookies, muffins or added to smoothies.  Steel cut at Amazon.  Regular oats at Amazon.

Coconut oil – this is a great, multi-purpose oil, if you get some on your fingers, just rub it into your face – great moisturizer! (I’ll expound on this marvelous oil in another blog). But some people don’t like the coconut flavor it gives to dishes. You can use olive, peanut or grapeseed oil if you prefer. If you do use the coconut oil, Costco has the best price! Be sure to buy organic, extra-virgin and unrefined.  Amazon also has a great price for coconut oil.


Some perishables I like to have on hand:

Onions – I like a variety here; yellow, red, shallots, scallions

Sweet peppers – red, green, orange, yellow

Hot peppers – if that’s your thing. I like spicey!

Mushrooms – large portobello caps are great on the grill. It’s fun to try different varieties of shrooms.

Garlic – duh

Ginger – fresh is the best!

Lemons & Limes

Nuts – walnuts, peanuts, cashews… to name a few

Ground flax seed – not a necessity but a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. I like to add it to cereal, salads, veggies and smoothies. It can also be used as an egg substitute in cooking/baking when added to water (3T. water + 1T. ground flax = 1 egg). Costco has the best price, but it’s 10 lbs. – that’s a heap o’ flax!  So, I prefer to get it from  Sorry if you don’t have a Costco where you live – hopefully you have something comparable. If not, look online for some deals. It’s best to buy the whole seeds and grind them in a coffee grinder as needed. Keep unused portion in fridge and be sure to use ground, not the whole seed – ground is more thoroughly digested and you absorb more nutrients.

I’m sure there are loads of items I could have added to your list, but that’s enough for now. Ok, just one more…tahini. Tahini is a paste made from toasted sesame seeds. It’s one of the ingredients in hummus. It’s so yummy. It can also be used in salad dressings, dips, sauces or to make a delicious candy called halvah.

Tahini is easy to make. If you feel so inclined, buy sesame seeds in bulk or it will be way pricey. You can get 2 lbs. at for only $10.99.

So uncork a vegan wine or pour a cold vegan brewsky and cook up something awesomely vegan. Well, perhaps you should cook before you imbibe!

Got questions?  Don’t be afraid to ask, I won’t bite…..I’m vegan!

food wine

p.s. Some liquor is not vegan so be sure to go to before you buy.

p.p.s. is one of my favorite sites to get ideas for vegan recipes.

p.p.p.s. I am not affiliated with any of the above-named companies.






What is this Mystery Meat?: Vegan Food Demystified

Don’t be scared of vegan food, it’s just food. Ever heard
of tempeh, nutritional yeast, seitan, tofu? Do they sound foreign, intimidating or just plain gross? I have cooked with each of these ingredients but you don’t have to in order to enjoy a delicious vegan meal. If you decide you’d like to venture out, be brave and try something exotic, these foods aren’t going to put hair on your chest (sorry guys) or turn you into one of those weird vegan creatures. Hey look, Mikey likes it! You never know, you might too.

So, what exactly are these specialty items?

vegan food unsplash

Tempeh: [tem-pey]

tempeh is a traditional soy product originating from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a patty or block form. It is commonly sliced thinly then fried, baked or grilled, but it can also be crumbled to be used in soups, stews, stir-fries or taco filling. It’s got a somewhat nutty flavor. I am not a huge fan, but I eat it occassionally for a change of pace and because it’s packed with protein.

I buy it at Whole Foods but my local grocer also carries it.

One cup of tempeh has 30.8 g of protein!

Nutritional Yeast:

nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, often a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and sold in the form of flakes or as a yellow powder.

Vegans most commonly use it to make cheese sauces or cheese dips. I made a nacho sauce with it once and my non-vegan niece devoured it!

I like using nutritional yeast so I buy it in bulk – 16 oz. bag Frontier Co-op at Amazon for about $10. – otherwise it can be pricey if you use it often.  Some people complained about the taste and/or smell of this brand.  I guess I got a good batch because mine was fine.  If you want to try it out without buying a whole pound, I recommend Bragg’s – it’s more expensive, but it’s a brand I like and trust.

Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of protein (it is a complete protein) and vitamins, especially B-complex.

Seitan: [sey-tan]

seitan is a chewy, neutral-flavored, protein-rich food made from cooked wheat gluten. It is very similar to the look and texture of meat when cooked making it a popular meat substitute.

The store-bought version is generally high in sodium, fillers and other unhealthy additives. Seitan is rather easy to make from scratch, I did it so it must not be too difficult – I’m not a lover of cooking, I cook cause’ I have to eat.

Seitan is versatile – it can be baked, steamed, sauteed, simmered. It absorbes flavors well.

If you don’t want to eat soy, this is a great alternative. If you have a wheat allergy, stay away!

Seitan is high in protein but is not a complete protein, so pair it with some beans and rice.

Tofu: [toh-foo]

tofu is a soft, bland, white cheeselike food, high in protein, made from curdled soybean milk. Mmmm, curdled soybean milk – my favorite! It is also known as bean curd. You’ve probably heard of tofu but have you ever tried it? Tofu gets the brunt of a lot of jokes, but it is a great staple in the vegan world. In fact, I’m going to dedicate a whole blog to TOFU. But for now, a few facts…

Tofu is one of the oldest foods in the world and one of the most nutricious. It contains all eight essential amino acids, is rich in magnesium, phosphorus and selenium. It also contains copper, vitamin B1, calcium and iron.

What I love – it’s high in nutrition, but low in fat! Tofu, I’m so glad I met you. Ok, being honest, I didn’t love it when I first tried it, but it grew on me especially since there are so many recipes using tofu. Breakfast, lunch, dinner AND dessert – tofu has you covered.

Feeling overwhelmed? Well, here are a few recipes approved by vegan and non-vegan palates. I didn’t include tempeh because it’s not my favorite and I don’t cook with it that often. But if you want a recipe using tempeh, go to Pinterest and you’ll find dozens.

1. Garlic Pepper Soba with Chili-Roasted Tofu

2. Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce

3. Vegan Pulled BBQ Seitan

Vegan Pulled BBQ Seitan

I hope this demystifies vegan food somewhat. Don’t be afraid to try some vegan recipes, with or without these strange ingredients. If you don’t like what you prepare, call me – I have a nephew who will eat anything! But don’t give up, try another!

So whether you eat it or give it to my nephew, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Yay or nay – and why.

Eat, Drink and be Vegan!