Stocking a Healthful Kitchen
“Having a variety of nutritious ingredients on hand – particularly fresh fruits and vegetables – is key to ensuring that you can whip up delicious, healthful, compassionate meals any time. Though a lot of junk food is technically vegan (Cocco Puffs, Oreo Cookies and Skittles), my intention is to guide you toward healthful plant-based foods, and I’m always walking the line of making suggestions that allow for fast, easy cooking, while recommending foods that are as whole as possible.”
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge
When you look in your cupboards, fridge and freeze:
1. Identify all the foods that are already vegan – keep those.
2. Identify all the foods that are not vegan – get rid of those – give them away, feed them to the dog, chuck them – whatever.
3. Replace what you have gotten rid of with new foods or the ingredients to make new foods.
Day 3 is a tiki tour of the vegan pantry, fridge and freezer. It’s a tour with a lot of detail, and for me personally, not as useful as if I lived in the United States. Colleen lists brands and quite a few products not available here, though I have found some NZ and Australian brand alternatives.
Fortunately, the majority of ‘vegan’ food, for me, is just more of the same food everybody else eats, but without the animal abuse. These days the regular supermarket isn’t as important as it used to be. More and more of my grocery shopping happens at the fruit and vegetables shops or Bin Inn (bulk grains, nuts, spices etc.), and some of the smaller Asian or speciality grocery stores. I still go to Vetro – of course, and the different local fruit farms, depending on what is in season; and I have added Village Organics to the list of semi-regular shops. The Farmers’ Market moved out to Te Rapa, and we haven’t got out there again, maybe next weekend?
Anyway, Hamilton is still a vegan-friendly place to shop because ‘vegan’ food is just food. Being vegan has caused me to notice more of what food is available around me, to become more conscious of what I am eating and to get out of the rut. I have been enjoying this aspect of the vegan journey.
Unfortunately, I am not able to do a full sweep of my pantry, fridge and freezer. I still have to live with my wife’s meat, milk and cheese, and a few other things that contain animal products. We probably also have things with animal by-products I am not yet aware of, but it’s a process.
As I mentioned, this chapter has a lot of detail – too much to cover in one post. Instead, I am going to list the top 10 things I thought about after reading through this chapter.
Soups – make lots for winter and keep them in the freezer. This was something I did even before going vegan. On a work day it is so easy to grab a container from the freezer as I walk out the door, and then heat up later for lunch in the microwave. From about April, two or three times a month, I make a large pot of soup and then store what’s leftover in containers in the freezer. If I make a different type of soup each time, I end up with a lovely range of soups to get me through the winter.
Curry pastes – get some. Curry pastes are something I don’t know how to make well myself, so are worth buying. They are quick and delicious. Just add a bit of coconut cream and toss in with stir fries, curries, potatoes, rice, noodles or cooked vegetables. I just need to stay alert for fish sauce or paste in the Thai curries.
Nut and seed butters – add more to my pantry. These are ground up nuts or seeds with a bit of added salt. Tahini and peanut butter have long been staples. I started using almond butter last year in baking. There are several others I’ve noticed on the shelves that I want to explore more. They are pricey, but seem to last a while.
Oil – dial back cooking with it, buy high quality and use it sparingly as a condiment. I have wonderful olive oil I use like this dashed over salads, steamed vegetables or hummus. Colleen recommends truffle oil on lentils at the end of cooking; am going to try that. These oils are expensive, but if brought in small quantities, used for flavouring rather than cooking and stored correctly they should last awhile. A small amount of oil can also be used in cooking to stop things sticking; be sure to use an oil with a high smoke point.
Nutritional yeast – find out new ways to use it and use it more often. It is an important source of B vitamins, especially B12. It isn’t the cheapest product, but it is not overly expensive, and completely worth the money. It is great for vegan mac and cheese and seitan.
Vegan ice cream – keep it in the freezer. Another expensive product – Little Island Chocolate Dairy-free Ice Cream, but we don’t eat it often. This ice cream is beyond delicious, but it is made with coconut cream and sugar, so hardly a health food. All the ingredients, including the chocolate, are Fairtrade.
Ready-made vegan pastry – look for some in the supermarket freezer. On Thursday, my vegan work colleague had made a delicious vegetable and tofu pie. The pastry was from Pack and Save, so I need to go look. I haven’t yet looked into making vegan pastry, especially something to replace puff pastry, but making your own can be time consuming. It would be great to have some in the freezer for when I wanted to make something requiring pastry.
Lentils and beans – cook them more often. I love lentils, but for some reason am more lukewarm about beans. Yet, they are super nutritious, filling and cheap (especially if dried). Use canned beans, they are easier to digest anyway, though the metal packaging is less great for the environment. I really do need to learn to love beans!
Vegan cheese – don’t bother. It is almost impossible to find, expensive and I didn’t really like it that much. I have been reading about nut cheeses that seam more like creamy, nutty spreads that sound like they should be delicious, so one day I might give that a try.
Vegan meats – keep as backup in the fridge for visiting meat eaters. Apart from the vegetarian sausages I eat every now and then when I want comfort food (childhood nostalgia), I am not personally that interested in vegan meats. The range is tiny anyway (unlike the US where they seem to be dozens of brands and hundreds of options). I have tried a couple of things like the burger patties and pasta ‘mince’ sauce. I also tried making a couple of things like meatballs made out of lentils. It has all been okay, but not really worth it. However, I will keep some as back up because it will matter to others, if not so much to me.
And I would add one other vegan pantry essential – liquid smoke!