The plant-based pantry. It doesn't matter if you are vegan, vegetarian, paleo or eat traditional foods. I think every pantry should be plant-based. It is better for our health. It is better for the environment. It is better for the budget.
A lot of us already maintain a plant based pantry. We keep items for baking, canned foods, pasta , snacks. So most of us just need a little tweaking of our shopping list in order to achieve the healthy, whole foods diet that we wish for our family.
I realize that every family has different dietary needs, different palates and often a different ethnic background, which brings a diverse mix of flavors and aromas. So, embrace your uniqueness and create what is right for you. Food is part of our culture and of connecting with other cultures.
A plant based pantry is diversity and here is what is hiding in mine:
- Beans and Legumes
I keep a variety of dried beans and lentils in my pantry. I invested in an Instant Pot ( pressure cooker) and I ditched most of the canned beans that I used to keep in my pantry. This saves me space and money, and is also healthier for my family. The variety of beans I use most often are white navy beans for soups, garbanzo beans for hummus, stews , and "no-tuna" salad, black beans for enchiladas, as addition to salads or chili. I also like to have some pinto beans and red kidney beans, for a bigger variety in our meals.
I keep two different kind of lentils on hand - brown and green. Brown lentils are great for soups, veggie burgers, and vegan versions of comfort foods such as meatloaf ,and spaghetti and meatballs. Green lentils I use mostly in salads, since they tend to keep their shape better after cooking.
Beans and lentils are a great source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. They can contain up to 20% of protein by weight. They are also a great source of folic acid, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, complex carbohydrates and soluble fiber.
Make sure you prepare all beans and legumes properly by soaking them overnight. Like all seeds they contain phytic acid, which can prevent your bodies from absorbing important nutrients.
- Grains and Starches
Rice is probably the most prominent grain in my pantry. I like to cook big batches of brown rice and use it during the week to serve with veggies or stews. It is a great side dish and a main dish. I buy white rice exclusively for the purpose of making cilantro lime rice. Sorry, but in this case brown won't do.
I also like to keep quinoa and millet, which I use instead of rice, for variety. These two seeds, as well as rice, are gluten free, which keeps the starch portion of our plate lighter and easily digestible.
I keep a variety of flours in my pantry - einkorn flour, whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour and all purpose gluten free flour. I use those to make muffins, cookies,bread, and breakfast items like pancakes,crepes and waffles.
I also keep brown rice pasta in various shapes and sizes. I like the texture better than regular pasta and I think it holds better than regular noodles in salads and Asian dishes, like pad thai.
As with legumes, make sure you prepare grains properly,especially when using the whole grain. Fortunately, it is becoming easier to find sprouted grain pastas and flours, which we can use in our cooking without taking the extra step to soak and sprout at home.
TIP: Find a place where you can buy legumes and grains in bulk. It is a lot cheaper and sometimes it is a better quality product. I like to purchase grains and flour from Azure Standard. Also, bulk doesn't mean you have to purchase everything in 25lb bags or larger. It just means that no prepackaging is involved, which is the expensive part of a product, and which saves you money. You can still purchase only what you will consume.
- Nuts,Seeds and Dried Fruit
I keep all raw nuts in the freezer and I take small portions out to use within a few days. This prevents the oils in them from going rancid and spoiling. We want a healthy snack and not something that will bring damage to our bodies. We like to roast our own nuts for snacks or put them raw in oatmeal, banana bread and muffins.
Dried fruit can be a wonderful healthy substitute for candy, when you can't get rid of the nagging afternoon sugar craving. Make sure you purchase unsweetened dried fruit, which is not treated with sulfur dioside. This means that you will have to give up the bright orange of dried apricots and the clear golden of raisins, but believe me , you will not lose any of the flavor. I tend to choose dates as a sweet craving tamer. I consider good quality dates to be the purest of dried fruit since dates do not have to be prosessed in any way. Their natural ripe state is the dried fruit you see in the store, no additional dehydration needed.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables
I keep a variety of frozen fruit - mixed berries, mango, and pineapple. I also like to have veggies like corn and peas frozen, instead of buying them in cans. I love putting frozen berries in my oatmeal in the morning , or whipping up a quick stir fry at night. Dessert is just a blender away as well, just throw some over-ripe bananas in the freezer and then blend them with a frozen fruit of your choice. Yum.
- Condiments and snacks
I try to keep mostly fruits and veggies for snacking, but when we are on the go, things like Larabars and Cliff bars are a good option. Nut and seed butters are a great way to get a protein rich snack. Hummus is another option, if you preffer something savory. I like to bring hummus and veggies with me at work, or apples and almond butter.
What do you think? Do you have most of these items in your pantry? Now, all we have to do is add some fresh friuits and veggies, and we'll always have a healthy meal ready. I usually choose one day a week to batch cook some rice and beans, which can save me time in the kitchen later.
What else do you like to keep in your pantry? Any tricks that you use to keep your family happy and healthy? I'm always looking for a few new tricks. ;)