How To Cheaply And Healthily Stock Your Vegan Kitchen
Being a new vegan can be overwhelming, especially if you’re on a tight budget. But by centring your diet around whole foods like fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains, you can make veganism an incredibly cheap and healthy way to live.
With that in mind, I’ve made a list of the most useful staples to keep in your kitchen. It’s largely based around what I consider to be essentials, so not all of it will apply to everyone. If you have food allergies, you may need to substitute certain things – I’ve listed the cheapest available options, for example peanut butter rather than almond or cashew, but you can alter this according to your needs. Let’s get started!
Fill your cupboards with wholegrains, starches and pulses – they’re cheap, filling, easy to cook and nutritious.
– Stock up on canned beans – kidney beans and chickpeas are usually cheapest. Add them to everything – curry, chilli, soup, stews, wraps and so on – or blend them with spices to make falafels and burgers. To save more money, buy dried beans. Remember to soak them before cooking them.
– Use canned tomatoes (chopped or plum) as a base for curries, stews and pasta sauces.
– Tomato purée thickens and adds flavour to tomato sauces.
– Canned coconut milk is very versatile – it can be used for curries, creamy pasta sauces and cake frostings.
– Keep in plenty of wholegrain pasta and brown rice – it’s most affordable in Aldi and Lidl.
– Get any other grains you like, such as couscous, noodles, barley, or quinoa.
– It’s useful to have two bags of lentils, one red and one green. Use them in dhal, stews and soups. Red ones cook quickly but tend to break down, green ones keep their shape but take longer to cook.
– Own-brand wholegrain cereal and porridge oats make quick and healthy breakfasts.
– Wholemeal bread and wraps are good for lunchtimes.
– Get some baking potatoes or sweet potatoes. Eat them as jacket potatoes, mash them, make them into chips or roast them. Store white potatoes away from the light so they don’t go green!
– Onions and garlic improve any savoury recipe.
– Cornflour thickens up watery sauces.
– Don’t forget your favourite hot drinks – tea, coffee, herbal infusions, hot chocolate and so on.
Most condiments are already vegan, and will liven up any meal.
– Use nutritional yeast to make cheesy sauces and add extra flavour to soups and stews, or sprinkle it on pasta dishes and pizzas instead of cheese. It also contains a host of vitamins and minerals, and you can buy it fortified with B12.
– Peanut butter is lovely when spread on toast or crackers, mixed into porridge or added to stir fries. Dip fruit in it for a healthy snack.
– Soy sauce is great for stir-frying and seasoning.
– Wholegrain mustard adds flavour to sauces and soups, and can be eaten with veggie roasts.
– Apple cider vinegar makes a good salad dressing. It can also be used in baking, as it reacts with bicarbonate of soda to help things rise.
– Get any other condiments you like, such as sriracha, ketchup, pickle and sweet chilli sauce.
I’ve kept this to a minimum, since spices are expensive. Over time, you may want to build up your spice collection.
– Curry powder and chilli powder make quick spicy dishes.
– Dried mixed herbs add flavour to pasta or pizza sauces and stews.
– Mixed spice or cinnamon is a must for fruit cakes and banana bread.
– Turmeric has a multitude of health benefits and is good for making colourful yellow rice.
– Use salt and black pepper for seasoning.
The following types of fruit are almost always cheap, but you may also want to get more expensive fruit when it’s on offer.
– Bananas are so versatile – they can be eaten as snacks, sliced on cereal/porridge/toast, added to smoothies, frozen to make banana ice cream and used for banana bread if they get too ripe.
– Apples keep for ages and are always useful to have around.
– Pears and oranges are usually reasonably priced.
I haven’t listed dairy-free yogurts and cheeses, or meat alternatives like ‘ham’ slices. I tend to get these as an occasional treat, as they’re not so cheap and don’t have a lot of nutritional value.
– UHT own-brand soya milk is the cheapest plant milk.
– Always have a bag of leafy greens such as spinach, rocket or kale in the fridge.
– Other cheap vegetables include broccoli, red cabbage, carrots, courgettes, aubergine and mushrooms.
– Houmous and salsa can be used as dips, or added to sandwiches and wraps.
– Dairy-free spread is usually very affordable.
– Value brand orange or apple juice is good if you get bored of drinking plain water. Dilute it to make it last longer – it’s also better for your teeth that way.
– Olives or sun-dried tomatoes make great pizza toppings.
– Pickled beetroot, gherkins or onions are good for snacking on or eating as a side with lunch. Beetroot is nice in sandwiches with houmous and salad.
– Bottled lemon juice adds flavour to sauces and curries.
Getting some convenient frozen foods is a good way to avoid giving in to temptation and ordering a takeaway. It’s really useful to be able to throw together a relatively healthy meal in a matter of minutes.
– Peas or green beans make a quick side.
– Spinach cubes are a convenient way to add greens to your meal.
– Sweetcorn brightens up any chilli or stew, makes a delicious pizza topping, and can be quickly defrosted and put in a wrap.
– Oven chips or potato wedges are ideal when you don’t have the time (or the energy!) to chop and cook potatoes.
– Vegetable/bean burgers, falafels or meat alternatives are also good when you’re in a hurry.
– Frozen berries can be added to cereal, porridge and smoothies.
– Wholegrain bagels or English muffins are delicious toasted and spread with peanut butter for a quick snack.
Baking (skip this if you don’t bake!)
You certainly don’t have to give up baking when you go vegan. There are multitudes of vegan recipes out there, and you won’t even taste the difference.
– I like to have both wholemeal and plain flour, so I can mix and match them according to what I’m baking and who it’s for.
– Caster and granulated are the cheapest kinds of sugar – you may want to get brown sugar too.
– Raisins or sultanas are good for fruit cakes and scones. You can also sprinkle them on your cereal.
– Cocoa powder is a must for chocolate cakes and brownies. It can also be used to make hot chocolate. Get Fairtrade cocoa and chocolate if possible.
– Use dark chocolate chips for cookies, brownies and decorating cupcakes. Check they’re vegan, as some brands have milk in.
– Don’t forget any other add-ins you regularly use, like desiccated coconut, almond flakes and seeds.
– You’ll need raising agents – bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, and yeast if you make bread.
– Vegetable oil is neutral in flavour and so is the best choice for baking.
– Golden syrup is the most affordable option for recipes like flapjack which require a liquid sweetener. It’s also good instead of maple syrup on pancakes!
– Custard powder is usually vegan, and it works with any plant milk.
That’s all, I hope this list was helpful! If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to get in touch with me via my blog.