Hi there! I put together a short(ish) list of the foods I always keep on hand. I'm still a college student, so one of my number one priorities when shopping is sticking to my budget. Following a vegan diet and eating plenty of whole foods keeps me easily at or under that budget! Most of this list is composed of whole foods, like seasonal produce and whole grains, but I made sure to include my favorite treats! Let's get started:
- Bananas - this fruit is a special one. I have at least one almost every single day - whether in a smoothie, a smoothie bowl (what some of us like to call "nice cream"), sliced on top of dairy-free yogurt, or simply slathered in peanut butter. Here are the basics when it comes to banana-nutrition: high-carb (the GOOD KIND) and low-calorie (about 150 per banana). You also may have heard that "the browner, the better", which is true for digestion and taste. When a banana browns, its starch naturally turns to sugar (inulin becomes fructose), making them even sweeter and easier to digest. On the non-nutrition-related hand, bananas are inexpensive and versatile. I use them from smoothies to donuts, and almost everywhere in between!
- Fruits & veggies - I know that's a broad range, and not very specific of me, but that's only because I try to buy whatever produce is in season. Doing so keeps my diet full of variety and color, and my wallet full of cha-ching (more or less). In the summer, I love peaches, nectarines, and melons, as well as berries for smoothie bowls, zucchini, bell peppers, and cucumbers. During the fall and winter months, I'm all about apples, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, and pumpin (#pumpkineverything). Contrary to popular belief, filling your diet with fruits and vegetables doesn't have to be expensive! Even buying organic can be affordable for us college students. My go-to for groceries is Trader Joe's, but I also pop into Food 4 Less a few times each month, and Whole Foods if I ever need a special treat. Check out Cookie + Kate for seasonal produce guides!
- Plant-based protein powder - I always have protein powder on hand. Like, a l w a y s. Ka'Chava Tribe is my absolute favorite - I first tried a sample last year and have been buying it ever since. Click here to read all about ingredients and nutrition facts. Almost every morning, I add a scoop of this powder to smoothies/smoothie bowls for extra flavor and protein (duh). While a vegan diet can easily supply close to every single essential nutrient on a daily basis, protein is the one nutrient I've found I could use more of, which is why protein powder is a staple in my diet. Aside from smoothies, I add protein powder to protein snack balls, dairy-free yogurt, and sometimes even baked goods. Use my code hungryyhaley10 for $10 off your first Ka'Chava Tribe order!
- Nuts/nut butters - What in the world would I do without nut butter? Eat dry toast? Plain bananas? Life would be so... bland. Of all the varieties, peanut butter is my favorite - slathered on toast or a banana, mixed into cookies, paired with homemade jam for a nostalgic lunch - but any/every nut butter is packed with vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients like healthy fats and protein. Some of my go-to brands are Crazy Richard's and Wild Friends. If neither of those are on the shelves of your local grocery store, check Amazon or just opt for any jar free of hydrogenated oils, added sugar, and other strange ingredients.
- Tempeh/tofu - Another significant source of protein in my diet - my beloved tempeh and tofu. Only a little over a year ago did I start incorporating these soy-based foods into my diet. Between then and now, I've eaten them raw, baked, fried, grilled, and pan-seared (my favorite). Yes, they are both soy products, and no, I haven't experienced any health problems eating them, which is probably because I don't eat them every single day nor am I allergic. What are they? Tempeh is a patty made of fermented, whole soybeans (and sometimes grains like rice or quinoa), and tofu is the curd that forms from making soy milk, also pressed into a patty. Nutritionally, tempeh is the optimal source between the two for protein, and is thicker, more hearty in texture. Tofu comes in a variety of forms - soft, firm, extra firm, etc. When buying tofu, I usually reach for firm. However, tempeh wins it all in my book!
- Greens - Spinach, kale, and spring mix almost always have a guaranteed spot in my grocery cart. Loaded with essential nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, greens deserve to be a main component of a healthy diet. Specifically, greens carry vitamins A, C, and E, which all play roles in eyesight, skincare and immune function. Their thin-walled plant structure prevents them from storing high amounts of carbohydrates, so for those in need of low-sugar foods, eat your greens! When I'm cooking and plating my food, I always start with a handful of greens as my base, no matter what I'm eating. Even classics like veggie burgers (with or without the bun) and pasta can still be delicious atop a mound of fresh, crisp leafy greens!
- Beans - beans, beans, the musical fruit... you know the rest. The more you eat, the more protein, fiber, iron, calcium and other essential nutrients you'll absorb! I used to hate beans... like, I couldn't eat a bowl of soup if I knew it had the tiniest cup of beans in it. Upon going vegan (well, vegetarian first and then vegan, to be specific), however, I knew I couldn't just eat tofu and protein powder all day everyday, so I mustered up as much courage as I could find and forced myself to get used to them. After a month or so, I actually really enjoyed them! Beans are a part of my everyday diet, whether pureed into hummus, tossed into salads, or ground up into veggie burgers. And one can at the grocery store costs less than a dollar! My budgeting peeps, are you listening?!
- Whole grains - In my book, whole grains includes bread. Just sayin'. My pantry is home to loads of brown rice, quinoa, oats, cereals like Weetabix, muesli, granola, and even pasta. For so long, I feared grains because I believed that carbs - even the least-processed ones - would make me gain weight. Wrong! Soon enough, I learned that - especially on a plant-based diet - whole grains are essential. Most plant-based foods (besides soy and quinoa) contain "incomplete proteins", meaning they don't hold all nine amino acids our body needs in order to build muscle and carry out other basic life functions. To "complete" the protein, it must be paired with another incomplete plant-based protein. Beans + rice, nut butter + bread, and several other combinations make complete proteins.
- Dairy-free milk - Coconut milk, rice milk, hemp milk, soy milk, cashew milk, almond milk - there's a dairy-option for everyone to dip cookies in, to blend into smoothies, to wash down that Saturday-morning stack of pancakes, or whatever it is for which traditional milk is so cherished. I've found cashew milk, coconut milk, and almond milk as my favorites, and neither of them typically cost more than three dollars. Look for brands void of carrageenan, natural flavors (unless stated as vegan, it most likely comes from an animal), and little to no added sugar.
- Hummus/condiments/dressings - Hummus? Every time. Hummus always. Always do hummus. Dipping, spreading, blending, spooning - hummus is perfect. One of my favorites is Trader Joe's Eggplant Hummus. Free of oil and weird additives, this stuff carries nothing to question. Trader Joe's is also home to this insanely delicious Tahini Sauce - make it into a dressing using the recipe from my ebook! As for other condiments and dressings, I love love love spicy mustard, organic ketchup (try Woodstock Foods), dressings like Follow Your Heart, Hilary's Eat Well, and Annie's Homegrown.
- Treats - this is where I let my sweet tooth shine. Before I went vegan, cheese and yogurt were the hardest for me to give up, and for almost 8 months, I avoided all vegan versions of them. Why? I have no idea. A few months ago, I tried Nancy's Cultured Soy Yogurt and almost cried realizing what I'd been depriving myself of for so long! Now, I can't go a day without a tub of that, plus some vegan cheese (like Daiya, Follow Your Heart, and Chao) and plain cream cheese (Daiya is my favorite), in my fridge. Oh, and who can forget dairy-free ice cream?! Of course, Ben & Jerry's Non-Dairy always holds a special place in my heart, but I recently discovered Coconut Bliss Ginger Cookie Caramel and SoDelicious Salted Caramel Cluster (can you tell I like caramel?). Sure, these products can be a bit pricey, but they're treats! And the rest of my grocery cart is full of inexpensive buys, so I can afford to "splurge".
- Beverages - Besides water, the only other liquids I'll put in my body are coffee, tea, and kombucha (again, with the occasional treat). I keep medium-dark roast coffee beans on hand, as well as a grinder, for mornings when I know I'll have to brew my own cup. Typically all I need is just a splash of dairy-free milk and sprinkle of cinnamon, but if I need a little extra kick, I stir in some cacao powder and maple syrup for a homemade mocha. Caffeine and I have had a love-hate relationship - I either drank too much too often, or I'd go days without it, swearing to never drink another cup - but we're finally in a peaceful state where I don't feel addicted, but at the same time, I do crave it often. Tea is more of a night-time thing for me - a cup of chamomile or peppermint before bed makes me a happy girl.
That's about it for me! My grocery list changes a bit every week, but I stick to these basics, for the most part. Thanks for reading - feel free to leave questions/comments/suggestions down below, or shoot me an email. Check out my ebook for more budget-friendly grocery lists!