Have you ever just wandered around the grocery store not totally sure what you need, but knowing you have nothing to eat at home? Or have you ever stared into your fridge after a seemingly successful grocery shop, only to have no idea what to make? Trust me, we’ve all been there. I remember when I started grocery shopping for myself I would have so many incidences of this. As the years have gone on, I think I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing exactly what I like to have stocked in the fridge based on what I like to eat, to the point where I hardly ever take a list shopping with me anymore.
Today I’m going to share with you my fridge and pantry staples. These are items that I just feel a little bit more comfortable and at ease knowing I have them on hand. That might sound weird to some people, but as someone who gets hangry very easily, knowing I have my favourite ingredients on hand at all times just makes me feel like I can get through the day a little bit more seamlessly. On the other hand, a small panic always creeps in when I know I’m on the last can of chickpeas….. Cue me running to the store immediately to stock up.
I’d also like to note that I do the majority of my grocery shopping at a small, independent produce stand in my neighbourhood that sells produce very inexpensively. This allows me to buy more produce while still on a budget. I do the majority of shopping for grains, spices, nuts and seeds at a bulk food store as it tends to be less expensive.
Ideally, I would buy everything in-season, locally and organic, however, I’m a busy Masters student on a tight budget, so that isn’t really realistic for me. I do the best I can- I try to eat seasonal fruits and vegetables as often as I can, as they’re better for the environment and taste way better. However, things like bananas are never going to be a seasonal fruit here in Canada and I don’t intend on cutting them out of my diet. If I have the option to buy local or organic at a reasonable price I will make that choice, but my main priority is eating enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. I don’t think anyone should feel ashamed for the foods they eat and choices they make. At the end of the day, we’re all trying to do the best we can! Do whatever works for you and fits with your budget and lifestyle.
This list is simply meant to be a guideline if you’re not sure where to start, what ingredients to buy, etc. I don’t buy all of these ingredients at once, as some of the pantry staples last a few weeks or longer. Tailor your grocery list to whatever works best for you, your lifestyle, and how many people are in your household! I shop for two, so am able to get a lot of fresh produce at once without worrying about it going to waste. If you are shopping for one or are worried about the possibility of food waste, I’d recommend relying more heavily on frozen veggies and fruit, or splitting up your grocery shop to twice a week. Again, it’s all about finding what works best for you.
I’ve divided my staples into categories of vegetables, fruit, grains, dried legumes, canned foods, nuts and seeds, grains, freezer staples, condiments and miscellaneous. Of course there is some crossover between the categories (are frozen strawberries a fruit or freezer staple? You decide). I’ll save spices for a different blog post where I can get really in depth with how I like to use them.
I’ve also provided some examples of how I use each ingredient, but check out my Instagram for in-depth recipes!
Kale: My boyfriend and I go through at least 5 heads of kale a week (not an exaggeration). I mostly put it into smoothies, but I also love it for making salads (just make sure to massage it with lemon first to soften the leaves), stir fries, and kale chips.
Arugula: This is my favourite green to add to salads, sandwiches, pizzas and bowls because of the peppery flavour.
Cucumber: Perfect for dipping in hummus, or adding to sandwiches and bowls.
Broccoli: I love broccoli for adding to stir fries, roasted with garlic powder and salt, or on top of homemade pizza.
Red onion: Good for adding flavour to mexican-inspired dishes, sandwiches, and greek salads.
Yellow onion: A staple for almost every dish!
Sweet potato: I have one of these almost every day in the form of fries, diced and roasted for bowls, or baked and stuffed with beans and rice.
Yellow potatoes: Perfect for homemade baked fries, curry, or mashed! I usually buy a 10 pound bag once in a while to save money. Make sure you store potatoes in a cool, shaded place. Do not eat potatoes that look like they have a green hue to them under the skin- this is a sign that a toxin has been produced that may cause nausea or intestinal upset.
Bell peppers: A staple for stir fries, salads, or raw dipped in hummus.! I usually stick with yellow, orange or red bell peppers.
Carrots: Perfect for dipping in hummus or to add to my peanut-lime noodle bowl (recipe here).
Mushrooms: I used to hate mushrooms but now I’m so obsessed with their hearty texture and versatility! I add them to stir fries, nourish bowls, pasta sauces, pizza and mushroom gravy.
Garlic: A staple for almost every dish.
Ginger: I love adding ginger to my homemade kombucha (learn how to make it here), turmeric lattes, my peanut lime sauce and stir fries.
Strawberries (frozen): These are extremely inexpensive the produce stand I shop at (usually 2 pounds for $3), so I typically buy a few containers of these a week and wash then freeze them to use in smoothies. If you don’t have a produce stand near you that sells inexpensive produce, I’d recommend going to the freezer section! Frozen fruit is often frozen when at its peak ripeness anyway, so it may taste better.
Apples: A weekly staple for dipping into peanut butter for a snack or adding to oatmeal.
Bananas: I couldn’t live without bananas. My boyfriend and I calculated that we go through 21 bananas on a weekly basis minimum. You can usually find bananas in the 50% off section of most grocery stores’ produce section, which is where we try to buy them. I always put one in my morning smoothie, but they’re also the most perfect “fast food” when I’m running out the door and need something quick and easy. They’re also great dipped in melted dark chocolate and frozen. The list goes on and on.
Medjool dates: I always snag a box of these when they go on sale at the grocery store (otherwise they can be a bit expensive). I absolutely love them pitted and filled with peanut butter as a snack, or just plain on their own. They make a great sweetener blended for sauces, desserts, or homemade turmeric lattes.
Oranges: I don’t get these every single time I grocery shop, but I absolutely love oranges as a refreshing snack in the summer.
Lemons & Limes: These are always on sale at the produce stand I shop at (6 for $2.50), so my fridge is always stocked. I absolutely love the tartness they add to a dish. Whenever I’m cooking and think that a dish could do with a bit more salt or a little something extra, usually a sprinkle of lemon juice fixes it. The acidity really livens up a dish. I drink lemon water rather than plain water most of the time (for the Vitamin C and because I love the taste), and love adding lime to Mexican inspired dishes, Vietnamese cuisine, etc.
Avocado: If you follow me on Instagram you know that I’ve recently fallen in love with organic avocados. They’re actually less expensive than the conventionally grown ones at a co-op grocery store near me ($0.99 each), and taste SO much better. As I said, I don’t usually buy organic, but avocados are an exception. I try to buy a couple at once at different stages of ripeness so they don’t all go ripe at once. When they are ripe, I put them in the fridge to slow down the ripening process so they don’t go bad as quickly.
Chickpeas: Again, if you follow me on Instagram you know I’m obsessed with chickpeas. I love how versatile they are and they provide a protein and fiber punch. I tend to get both dried and canned chickpeas. I prefer the taste of dried chickpeas after they’ve been soaked, rinsed and cooked, but I don’t always plan ahead.
Lentils: Perfect for adding to soups and stews for some extra protein and fibre, cooking in Dahl, or making into a taco “meat” substitute.
Low sodium canned tomatoes: Great to have on hand for homemade pasta sauce, Chana masala, and anything else you’d want to add tomatoes to. Conventional canned tomatoes tend to have a lot of salt added to them, so I try to go for low sodium or no salt added. If I can’t find low salt or no salt added, I’ll just use conventional canned tomatoes and reduce the amount of salt I add to the dish.
Canned chickpeas: Perfect for when I haven’t planned ahead enough to soak and cook dried chickpeas. I use chickpeas in basically everything… Roasted in salads and nourish bowls, homemade hummus, chickpea mash, chickpea blondies, etc. Check out my Instagram for specific recipes!
Make sure you rinse canned chickpeas and black beans very well before using them, as a lot of the gas-causing attributes of chickpeas is in the water they’re stored in.
Canned black beans: Perfect for making into veggie burgers or sauteing with chili powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika and salt to add to tacos, burrito bowls, etc.
Coconut milk: I make a delicious curry soup with coconut milk for a base, but it’s also great to keep in the fridge to make coconut whipped cream, or to add to traditional curry recipes.
Nuts and seeds
Tahini: the base of most of my salad dressings and sauces. I eat tahini probably every single day and love it for its high calcium content.
Sunflower seeds: Less expensive than cashews, so I tend to use them as a base to sauces in replacement of cashews.
Cashews: I usually save cashews for decadent desserts or when I don’t want the slight sunflower seed flavour that can sometimes result from making sauces out of sunflower seeds. They’re perfect for acting as a thickener in sauces or desserts.
Peanut butter: An essential to add to smoothies, desserts, or to eat with fruit or celery. I always buy peanut butter that has peanuts as the only ingredient. This is another product that I try to buy organic when it’s on sale.
Chia seeds: I buy these from the bulk store so they’re a bit less expensive. I usually make chia seed pudding with them (recipe here), and love them for their high protein, fibre and omega-3 content. They’re also great added to smoothies or sprinkled on cereal.
Flax seeds: My main source of omega-3’s throughout the day. I also get these at the bulk store, but make sure to store them in the fridge so that they don’t go rancid. I always add a few tablespoons of flax seeds to my smoothies in the morning, and use them as an egg replacer in baked goods (1 tablespoon of ground flax: 2.5 tablespoons of water replaces one egg, let sit and gel for a few minutes before using).
Make sure to always get ground flax seeds so you can get all the benefits of the omegas and protein, as our body can’t break down flax unless it’s ground.
Sprouted bread: Sprouting grains and legumes allows us to get more of the nutritional value from the food. I always try to stick to sprouted breads and wraps (unless I’m getting a delicious loaf from the bakery around the corner) as I find them easier to digest.
Brown rice: A staple for curries, burritos, stir fries, and many more meals.
Oats: Used mostly to make oatmeal, but I also use them in baked goods and added to smoothies occasionally.
Quinoa: Again, I get this from the bulk store to add to salads, nourish bowls, or in stir fries.
Popcorn kernels: One of my favourite snacks ever is popcorn with nutritional yeast and salt. I swear it tastes exactly like Cheesies.
Brown rice pasta: This is my pasta of choice. I think it still has a good texture, but provides more fibre than traditional pasta. I also personally feel that my digestive system handles it better than regular pasta.
I tend to use my freezer to store frozen fruit, bread, and vegetable scraps that I plan to turn into a veggie stock.
Frozen edamame: I love edamame for adding to salads, sushi bowls, stir fries, pasta sauces, and basically anything else. It’s a great source of protein and fibre. Read more about soy here.
Sriracha: My boyfriend got me addicted to sriracha. I love adding it to stir fries, tacos, burritos… basically anything.
Dijon mustard: Perfect for sandwiches and making a homemade vegan caesar salad dressing or mixed with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup for salad dressing.
Vegan mayo: There’s a few good brands of this. I like Vegenaise best, but Hellman’s also makes a good one.
Curry paste: A lot of curry pastes have fish sauce added to them, so if this is something you’re concerned about just check the ingredient list!
Vegan butter: Earth Balance makes a great vegan butter, but Becel also makes a good one that is less expensive. I don’t eat a lot of vegan butter, but will use it on popcorn or in baked goods.
Rice vinegar: Essential for homemade sushi or adding a bit of acidity to curries.
Miso paste: I am obsessed with miso paste for its umami flavour. I love it on its own in a simple homemade miso soup, or added to sauces.
Hoisin sauce: Perfect to add to stir fries or pho.
Soy sauce: A pantry staple. I tend to use soy sauce in replacement of salt in a lot of Asian dishes because I enjoy the depth of flavour it adds. I typically add it to stir fries, pho, curry soups, or homemade sushi.
Apple cider vinegar: Great for adding to salad dressings or adding a splash to soups to add some acidity. I also use it as a chemical-free cleaning product.
Cashew milk: My preferred plant-based milk for adding to my morning coffee, chia pudding, oatmeal and homemade desserts. Try to get unsweetened plant-based milks and sweeten to your own taste if desired.
Nutritional yeast: I don’t think I could live without nutritional yeast. It adds a cheesy flavour to vegan mac and cheese, salad dressings, vegan parmesan cheese, and pasta sauces. It’s also a great source of vitamin B12 (a nutrient that can be low in a plant-based diet) and protein.
Nori sheets: Perfect for snacking on or making homemade sushi.
Kalamata olives: I love snacking on these plain, or adding to greek salads, pasta, or homemade pizza.
Sundried tomatoes: Great to blend into a pesto or pasta sauces.
Salt: An obvious essential. I tend to go for pink himalayan salt or sea salt because I prefer the flavour to typical table salt. Iodine is added to most table salt in Canada, and is an essential nutrient that can be challenging to get without iodized table salt. If you follow a plant-based diet and choose not to buy iodized table salt, try to consume nori regularly which is rich in iodine.
Pepper: Another obvious essential.
Coffee: I’m definitely a morning coffee drinker. I always get Fair Trade coffee and try to go for organic as much as possible.
Chocolate: I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, but I like to have a bar of good quality chocolate on hand just to be prepared if the craving does strike. My favourite brand is Camino, but there’s tons of great brands out there! I tend to go for a dark chocolate (70% or higher).
Coconut oil: I buy a huge jug of this and use it when I’m cooking at high temperatures as it has a higher smoke point than olive oil.
Olive oil: I mostly use this for salads or when I’m not going to be cooking at a very high temperature.
I hope this post was helpful! To find out more about how I use all of these ingredients, check out my Instagram page @tastingtothrive_rd.