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When I first became a plant-based vegan I was completely confused about what to buy. I didn’t have a vegan grocery list, and I had no idea where to start.
The first time I went to the grocery store after becoming vegan I spent hours reading labels on everything I picked up. I was shocked by all the added ingredients in things I had been buying for years, and the way manufacturers fooled me into thinking something was healthy by plastering buzz words on the front of their packaging like “whole grain” and “healthy.”
I wished I could print out a list of what to buy, go to the grocery store, and grab what I needed. With two kids in tow lacking patience, my time at the grocery store was limited. I could not walk the aisles and read every single ingredient in everything before I bought it. Lucky for you I created a complete list you can print off and take with you to the grocery store to stock your pantry and fridge full of nutritious and filling foods to help you on your journey to a plant-based vegan lifestyle.
What do you eat when following a plant-based vegan lifestyle?
Everything except for meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, and fish. Seems simple enough, right? Not so much when you’ve been following a typical American diet most of your life.
Here’s a complete breakdown of what to eat when following a plant-based vegan lifestyle:
- Produce/Fruits and Vegetables
- Whole Grains
- Nuts and Seeds
- Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives
- Beans and Lentils
- Vegan Baked Goods
What should you include on your vegan grocery list?
It might seem limiting at first when you think of all the foods you used to eat, and you see the list above of the things you can eat. Exactly what should you buy? I’ve got you covered! I’m going to show you how to shop and fill your cart with new and exciting foods you and your family are going to love without feeling deprived.
Don’t forget to grab your FREE printable shopping guide HERE!
Let’s break down each of these categories so you can see how many options you have.
Fill your cart with colorful seasonal produce. Fall is harvest time so that means that there are an abundant fruits and vegetables in season to take advantage of. In the summer that means berries, peaches, and cherries. Spring is the season for asparagus, spinach, greens, onion, and carrots. In winter that means lots of squash.
Whenever you can, buy organic, or follow the EWG Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Lists. These lists outline the 12 fruits and vegetables you should always buy organic due to pesticide exposure, and the 15 fruits and vegetables you do not need to buy organic because of limited pesticide exposure.
There are some fruits and vegetables I always have on hand because I use them so often for snacking, baking, and cooking. Those include…
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Pepper (red, yellow, orange, green)
Breads and Tortillas
You can still make delicious sandwiches, wraps, tacos, and burgers when following a plant-based vegan lifestyle. However, you’re no longer going to opt for the white sandwich bread. Here’s why…many breads are already vegan, but not all breads are plant-based. What does that mean? If a bread or tortilla is made with enriched flour, even if it’s enriched wheat flour, it’s no longer a whole grain. The goal of a whole food plant-based vegan diet is to eat foods that are minimally processed. The word “enriched” means that it’s been through a process to strip the grain of it’s core nutrients making it more easily digestible.
That might seem like a good thing, but it’s not. When you keep the grain in tact as in 100% whole wheat flour you gain fiber and nutrients from the grain. You also stay fuller longer than if you eat foods made with enriched flour because you digest them more quickly leaving you hungry more quickly. You’ll actually eat less breads when you eat whole grains because you will feel fuller. If you’re gluten free look out for processed breads. Just because something is labeled gluten-free does not mean it’s healthy or unprocessed. Read the labels to see what types of flours are used in these breads and tortillas. See my post on whole grains for a complete understanding of the importance of carbohydrates and whole grains.
The breads and tortillas you’ll buy…
- 100% Whole Wheat or Whole Grain Breads (Dave’s Killer and Ezekiel are good options)
- English Muffins
- Whole Wheat Tortillas
- Corn Tortillas
- 100% Whole Wheat Pita
Pastas and Grains
Same as above goes for pastas and grains. No more white pasta. It lacks nutritional value, and when you’re vegan you need to get nutrients from all your food sources. Instead of white pasta you’ll get 100% whole wheat pasta. Now, I usually cook with lentil and chickpea pasta because it has added protein and it’s naturally gluten-free.
You’ll also buy grains you might not have used in the past like farro, bulger, and quinoa. Quinoa is actually a seed but I put it in the grains section because of the way it’s cooked and prepared. These whole grains taste great in salads, as side dishes, as base for loaded veggie bowls, and stir-fries. Oats are another staple. You probably know them best for breakfast, but with oats you can also make your own granola, as well as use them in desserts, and main dishes.
- 100% whole wheat pasta
- Chickpea pasta
- Lentil pasta
- Quinoa (great protein source)
- Brown Rice
The bulk of your protein is going to come from legumes. Legumes include any food that derives from a seed pod. That includes all types of beans, lentils, peas, and soybeans. Beans and lentils are a staple in plant-based cooking. You’ll use them to make fillings for burgers, tacos, loaves, salads, soups, curries, stir-fries, snacks, and many others.
You can purchase canned beans to save prep time or you can purchase dried beans to save money. I cook my beans in the crockpot overnight, and when I wake up I have a week’s worth of beans prepped. I also buy canned beans for those times when I need to pull together a recipe and I haven’t prepped my beans for the week, or I need multiple types of beans.
You can purchase already prepared lentils from places like Trader Joe’s. However, I always buy dried lentils and make them myself. They cook so quickly, unlike beans, that you don’t really need to save the prep time with lentils. I like using a variety of lentils for different purposes. Check-out this post for Lentil Tacos where I outline all the types of lentils and their different uses.
I also buy some canned items that I keep in stock that I use in many recipes. Canned tomatoes, and canned coconut milk are always on my weekly shopping list.
- Black Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Garbanzo Beans/Chickpeas
- Pinto Beans
- Brown Lentils
- Yellow or Orange Lentils
- Black Lentils
- Diced Tomatoes Canned (fire roasted and regular)
- Coconut Milk Canned (regular or light)
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds offer healthy fats and protein. They are also key to making spectacular sauces, and for baking up some decadent desserts. You can also make your own dairy free milks, and cheeses with nuts. Purchase raw nuts and nut butters whenever possible. This means that they haven’t been roasted in oil. Also look at the ingredients when buying nut butters. There should be only one ingredient. If you’re buying peanut butter the only ingredient should be peanuts. Many nut butter brands add sugar and palm oil to make them sweeter and more easily spreadable. I usually always have on hand peanut butter, almond butter, and raw cashews.
- Peanuts and Peanut Butter
- Cashews and Cashew Butter
- Almonds and Almond Butter
- Raw Walnuts
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Chia Seeds
- Flax Seeds of Ground Flax
When it comes to non-dairy milk you don’t need to have all types of milk on hand in your refrigerator. I recommend buying one type of non-dairy milk a week and experimenting to see which one you prefer. I typically use almond milk because I find that it’s versatile and easily incorporates in the recipes I prepare without adding a strange flavor. Cashew milk is a bit more creamy. Many people like soy milk, and oat milk has come into play in recent years as it mixes well with coffee. See my Easy Homemade Oat Milk Recipe to try making this one on your own. When buying non-dairy milk purchase one without added flavor or sugar. That vanilla sweetened almond milk has a bunch of added sugar and will taste strange when you use it in recipes that call for a milk substitute.
- Unflavored Original Almond Milk
- Unsweetened Soy Milk
- Unsweetened Cashew Milk
- Original Oat Milk
Baking and Cooking Essentials
You can still enjoy sweet indulgent baked goods with a plant-based vegan lifestyle, only you don’t have to feel guilty or get a sugar high as a result. I use natural sugars as much as possible, that means pure maple syrup instead of white sugar.
I use a combination of ground chia and water or ground flax and water as an egg substitute in baking. You can also use a combination of gluten-free flours to create gluten free treats, or whole wheat flour. Nut butters are also used to bind ingredients.
When I’m cooking oil free I use vegetable stock to sauté my vegetables, or I use soy sauce when making a stir-fry. I sometimes use oil in baking or cooking, but use it sparingly, and if there’s a way to leave out the oil, I do. When I do use oil I use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
- 100% Whole Wheat Flour
- Gluten-Free Flour Blend
- Almond Flour
- Baking Powder/Baking Soda
- Pure Maple Syrup
- Vanilla Extract
- Cocoa Powder
- Vegan Chocolate Chips
- Vegetable Broth
- Nutritional Yeast
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- White Vinegar
- Soy Sauce
There are so many spices and my cabinet is full. I collect spices as I create new dishes, but if you’re just getting started with plant-based cooking and not sure where to begin, these spices are used in many recipes and really add flavor.
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Chili Powder
- Salt and Black Pepper
Before you head to the grocery store, or try to make your own list, I’ve already done the work for you!
The items on this list are my go-to’s, but I do use other ingredients as needed. This is a great place to start when you’re just beginning and setting up your plant-based kitchen.
Check-out my post on the 10 Essential Plant-Based Kitchen Tools!
I also have a complete printable pdf of all the kitchen tools you’ll need to prepare your amazing plant-based recipes with these ingredients. My bet is you already have many of them in your kitchen! Grab my Essential Cooking Tools PDF below.