The thing about the whole foods, plant-based diet is that what we see on Instagram or on YouTube is how we begin to think we should eat. The truth is, eating plants doesn’t mean a plate filled to the brim with beautiful vegetables from exotic places.
It doesn’t mean that for every meal, what we are eating has to be drastically different. This sort of thing can be done simply, resulting in filled stomachs and happy hearts.
Think of it this way: every culture and region has their staples. You know, the everyday food items that show up on your family’s plate. For me, some of those staples include rice and beans. We can use the “food staple” approach to a plant-based diet, too. No frills, no coordinated plates, no once-in-a-lifetime ingredients.
Just food. Good ol’, plant-based food.
During some downtime, I like to scroll-and-tap the endless wheel of food porn photos, just like anyone else, but it’s just not the reality for many of us. And that’s okay. Here are the food items I always have stocked in my pantry that can be stored for a very long time. They’re not exactly sexy, but they do create a great meal.
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If you ever thought kale was a superfood, you should really look into lentils. The protein and fiber content in those things are magical. They are also super affordable. At about $1.50 from Trader Joe’s, I have enough servings for a full week. You can cook them in a stew, or if you’re up for a challenge — a lentil loaf.
This is seriously a treat for me. When I am thinking about something sweet to cap my night, a peanut butter smoothie is always on my mind. Throw in 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, a very ripe banana, and your vegan milk of choice. That’s it.
So, this one might be a little strange and not the perfect plant-based food. But, there’s a reason why a tomato sauce is a must-have in my pantry. I love making homemade stews and soups. I make them at least once a week. The stews I make are tomato-based and I usually just throw in any vegetables I happen to have on hand that I need to eat soon. I also love to use tomato sauce for my beans.
Puerto Rican-style bean tip: All you need is tomato paste, a can of pink kidney beans, sazon, adobo, and extra points if you have sofrito. No oil necessary!
Coconut milk is a bit of a luxury at my place, but I use it once in awhile when I am in the mood for something with coconut curry sauce. Once a year, it’s reserved for something else that’s definitely not plant-based…coquito.
This is not exactly my favorite bean, but is definitely something I love to carry in my pantry if I am looking to end the day’s menu with a food item that is really going to tame a hungry stomach.
White Kidney Beans
They are sort of the perfect food – filling, full of fiber, and incredibly tasty. They are also versatile. With white kidney beans, I like making a quick veggie burger. These are also great in a stew like a vegan chili.
If I don’t have brown rice in my pantry, there’s something seriously wrong. I never run out of the stuff and it’s something I eat nearly every single day. With this and beans – you have the perfect comfort meal. I just throw this bad boy into a rice cooker and cook it until fluffy. No salt. No oil. Just rice and water. Boom. You now have an easy side for your lentils.
Green Split Peas
I just recently got into green split peas. This wasn’t something that I grew up eating, but when I stopped by one of my favorite grocery stores, I decided to start grabbing some up because of its affordable price tag.
When I started to cut out animal-based products, I did begin to think about vitamin b12 and how I can re-introduce it into my diet. Turns out, fortified nutritional yeast a great way to do that. It’s can be added to just about anything savory. It has a nutty, earthy, and even “cheesy” flavor. I usually add it to my regular stews.
Totally not a need, but if you care about happiness – this is important. Tea relaxes me and it’s a signal to my body that it’s time for bed. My favorite is ginger tea and I usually have a couple of boxes waiting to be used in the pantry. I also have chai for when I want a small caffeine boost.
Red Kidney beans
Ok. Can you tell I am obsessed with beans? Like, how many times have I mentioned beans in this post? Yeah, I buy pretty much every different kind I can get my hands on. Red kidney beans is most stocked type of bean in my home. It’s my favorite….so why not?
Mmm, oatmeal. Savory and sometimes sweet oatmeal.I usually carry both oatmeal and oat bran in my pantry. However, I am a little more in favor of oat bran. It has more fiber and it cooks in under a minute or so. They have more of a Cream of Wheat consistency, which brings be back to my childhood. It’s warm, soothing, and just reminds me of happiness. I don’t limit myself to this during breakfast. I even have this as a snack or for dinner. Top it with some peanut butter and a drizzle of honey and I am set.
Despite its popularity, quinoa is still rather new for me. This is also a food item that I did not grow up with, but I do try to push myself to eat new things and learn to love them. Quinoa is one of them. I am not totally in love with it, but it’s definitely an item on my menu.
If you don’t like olives, can you try, please? Because we need to be on the same page about olives! They are salty, rich, and can be added to just about any savory dish – stews, beans, salads. You name it, it can be in there. Sometimes when I am feeling a little dangerous, I take a stab at it and have as a snack.
Chia seeds are a great source of protein, fiber, and they are low in calories. They also don’t taste like anything, but they can add a great texture to foods like smoothies. A big bag from Costco usually lasts me half a year or longer. Not bad.