one of the many things I get asked when offering advice for people wanting to transition to a vegan diet is what staples I have around. one of the main blockers for many people that I’ve spoken to is that veganism seems complex and expensive for a beginner.
I’ve pulled together this basic list based on the things I have on my shopping list over and over again, and which ensure you have a healthy and balanced diet whilst making the transition.
dried products: these are a cheap and easy way to bulk out your meals, and because they’re dried they last for. ev. er.
- herbs and spices – my staples are paprika, basil, garam masala and turmeric. you can easily add to this based on your preferred meals: for example, I love curry, so I also have cumin, coriander and fennel seeds always on hand
tinned products: tins are, again, a good way of making sure your food lasts ages.
- coconut milk
- kidney beans – try to get the ones in chilli sauce so you don’t have to drain them before using, just whack em straight in
- chickpeas – you can also get these dried, but I use the water from them as aquafaba for baking
- baked beans
- chopped tomatoes/passata
protein: it’s really important to make sure that rather than just cutting out meat/dairy, you’re replacing it with something!
- ‘chicken’ pieces
- sausages – linda mccartney are often touted as the best, but the texture of fry’s is better for transitioning vegans, I’ve found
- plant milk – try lots of different types! everyone has a personal favourite, and once you find yours it will change your vegan experience dramatically!
- plant butter – sunflower and olive are the most common, but avocado is also worth a try
- vegan pesto – this is definitely an ‘optional extra’, but as I eat a lot of pasta this is something I get through a lot of and it’s becoming much more readily available
- oil – rapeseed and olive are my must-haves, and coconut is great if you’re a keen baker. buy in the biggest bottle you can reasonably store, and decant into clean and empty squeezy bottles to use (ketchup bottles are ideal for this!)
- tortilla wraps – I don’t eat a lot of bread, so I freeze tortilla wraps and defrost them one at a time for sandwiches/burritos/baked tortilla chips
- nutritional yeast – a.k.a. vegan crack. this fish-food looking dust will add a cheesy flavour to your meals, and the fortified with B12 version is ideal as B12 is notoriously difficult to get as a vegan!
- soy sauce
- sweet chilli/sriracha sauce
fruit and veg: try to buy local and in season where possible, as they’ll be cheaper and more delicious! I won’t patronise you by assuming you don’t know what fruit and veg you like/want, but these are my personal staples as they’re the most versatile and keep really well
- potatoes – keep potatoes somewhere cool, dry and dark. mine live in a cardboard box in my pans cupboard
- carrots – trim any greens and submerge carrots in a container of water in the fridge. switch the water out when it starts to go cloudy. carrots can keep for weeks in this manner!
- onions – my onions and garlic live on a cupcake stand next to my oven for easy access. do not keep onions with your potatoes! they cause the potatoes to sprout for some reason
- peas – big bags of frozen peas will last forever and are much easier to store
- sweetcorn – tinned or frozen sweetcorn is best as again, it lasts much longer than fresh
- spinach – I buy bags of baby spinach which are on offer as they’re about to go out of date and freeze them immediately. they keep for months, and you can just break chunks off to cook with
I have added all of these items to a basket on tesco and it came to around £40. this is a good chunk of cash, I know, but bear in mind a lot of this stuff will last for months and months so future shopping baskets will be much cheaper! you can obviously pick and mix things from this list, as well – it’s unlikely that one person is going to need all four of those proteins, for example.
bear in mind that going vegan is hard. it’s a big change and cannot be done overnight! this is intended as a guideline to help you know where to start, not as a be all and end all of what you should be eating. take care of yourself and do your best, that’s all anyone can ask.
catch you next time,