Now more than ever is a great time to set yourself up with a cohesive and useful pantry full of staples that work with each other to make simple, delicious, nutritious and cost-effective meals.
I am going to talk you through a shopping list for your Covid-19 (Caronavirus) isolation pantry. Here I will list all the elements of a “capsule” / “mix and match” pantry based around plant-based nutrition loaded foods. I will also give you some background information on why these are great foods to have in your pantry and the sorts of recipes they can be used for. Stay tuned over the coming weeks as I share tips and recipes for cooking with these staples. And don’t forget there are already 100s of recipes of the Veggies & Me blog here for you right now. Just use the ‘recipes’ tab to browse or search using the search bar at the bottom of the page.
Below you will also see my Veggies & Me stopping list. This is what I suggest you have on hand at any time but I have now added a few more options due to the current extreme situation.
Beans and legumes
Beans and legumes make up a large portion of the diet of many of the healthiest people on the planet. They are cheap, readily available and store for a long time either in their dry form or in cans. There are a number of reasons why beans and legumes are so healthy firstly it’s their high fibre content which makes them highly effective in promoting optimal gut health. Our beneficial gut flora need fibre to thrive and a healthy gut means our body’s immune system is firing on all cylinders. Beans and legumes are also an excellent source of protein with zero cholesterol.
Beans and legumes can be used in so many different recipes from bean chilli, bean/lentil & vegetable soup, lentil curry, bean & roast veggie salad, crispy roasted chickpeas, falafel, bean dip and hummus.
So many recipes have a tomato base and I find passata is a great universal choice. If you read the list of ingredients on the back of the jar you can find many brands that have none or very little additives. Avoiding canned tomatoes can also be beneficial in avoiding exposure to the BPA present in some cans. Also, by choosing passata in glass jars you can then reuse the jars for storage in your pantry or for freezing with stocks and soups.
Tomato passata makes a great base for bean chilli recipes, soups, slow cooker classics, pasta sauce, casseroles and curries.
Normally I would buy most of my veggies fresh (or grow them myself) but I do always keep frozen peas and corn on hand. In addition to these I would suggest that now is a great time to buy some additional frozen veggies like carrots, broccoli, spinach and cauliflower. These are inexpensive, will last a very long time in your freezer and insure you will have ready access to a variety of veggies if you need to remain in isolation for any extended period.
Ideally veggies should really be the biggest component in any meal we are eating. Eating veggies, especially green leafy ones, is our greatest defence again disease. A diet high in fibre and antioxidants protects our immune system and goes as far as to avoid or slow down chorionic illnesses like heart disease, type II diabetes and obesity.
Along with your veggies buy a large bag of onions and some fresh garlic bulbs. These will store for a really long time in the fridge and are an essential part of so many recipes.
Fruit often gets a bad wrap and people often believe it should be avoided if you are looking to lose weight but it is all about making wise choices. Choose apples, pears and berries as they are high in antioxidants and fibre. Apples and pears also store well in your fridge and berries can be purchased frozen. Banana are also a great source of energy and can be simply frozen in their skins once very ripe for baking at a later date.
A small amount of dried fruit is also handy to have in your pantry as it provides a concentrated boost of energy when you are looking to fuel up and it also makes a great sweet addition to salads.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are an essential part of the plant-based diet. They are very versatile, store well, are packed with good fats and minerals and can be purchased in their raw form in bulk cost-effectively.
Peanuts are a great cheap protein rich food. We love them as simple peanut butter but they can be also enjoyed sprinkled on salads or mixed with seeds and dried fruit for a great high energy long life snack.
Almonds also make a great spread and are our favourite source of home-made plant milk. If you find yourself with a little extra time on your hands you might like to try making your own almond milk.
Cashews are actually one of my favourite nuts and I use them a lot. They end up in our pesto (along with pine nuts) and also make a wonderful creamy base for pasta sauces and curries.
Flour is worth having on hand for so many recipes. Baking and eating freshly baked bread is one of life’s simplest and most enjoyable pleasures. Buy bakers (00/strong) flour for baking bread and making pizza dough. You can either make simple dough with yeast (which you should also add to your shopping list) or make your own sourdough started by simply mixing flour with water and letting the natural yeasts develop over time.
If you are going to bake muffins and cakes I would suggest incorporating wholemeal flour into your recipes. You can substitute ½ regular white flour for wholemeal to reduce the GI of your recipe. Look at picking up baking powder if you are purchasing plain flour or your baking won’t rise.
You can experiment with your baking further by adding in whole or ground rolled oats and trying the range of gluten free options that are available now.
Grab some sugar while you are buying flour as this is good for baking and making preserves and pickles. Purchase more nutritious versions like raw or coconut sugar and investigate alternatives like stevia, maple syrup, dates and honey.
People have been eating naturally fermented foods for thousands of years and there is a lot of evidence to suggest that these foods promote health. It is believed this is due to the live “good” bacteria in these foods that support a healthy gut and boost the immune system.
Try making some sauerkraut or kimchee to put away in your pantry for later and buy some now to enjoy immediately. Both sauerkraut and kimchee turn somewhat simple or humble dishes like salads in sandwiches into a flavourfully eating experience. Making your own fermented foods is super cheap, fun and simple.
Miso is another one of those traditionally fermented food, eaten by the healthiest people on the planet, that is worth investigating. It will keep for years and adds that classic umami flavour to your recipes. Experiment with mixing soy, maple syrup/honey and miso together into a glaze for roasted veggies or add to simple salad dressings.
I know that if I am stuck at home for the next 6 months I am going to be eating pasta! Life is too short and life is just better with pasta. Again many of the worlds healthiest and longest lived people eat pasta and that’s all I need to know. Obviously this is not an everyday food and you can choose many gluten free, wholemeal and pulse enriched options now which increase the nutritional profile.
Rice again is a great pantry staple. Rice comes in many varieties so you can maintain your interest with brown, wild, arborio and white (preferably basmati) varieties. Beans and rice are a classic cheap and cheerful combo which can be enriched with all sorts of veggies. My family also loves risotto that we make loaded with mushrooms, green veggies and I keep it dairy free using olive oil, veggie stock and nutritional yeast (as opposed to butter and cheese).
Plant based milks are a booming industry and there are so many to choose from. These are perfect for making your own coffee at home, with your breakfast cereal and in a range of baking. Generally we just use soy and oat milk but these are long life so you can stock up on a variety and keep things interesting.
Tea, coffee and wine
Life is pretty dull without tea, coffee and wine so make sure you have yourself set up with your favourite beverage rituals. If you can’t go out to your favourite cafes for coffee and bars for wine then it is important to maintain some sense of normalcy.
Olive oil, salt and pepper
There are many different oils available which a good for a range of different recipes but in the interest of keeping things simple just stick with high quality extra virgin olive oil. Buy high quality salt like sea salt and make sure you have some fresh black pepper.
Herbs and spices
Having the right (a variety) of herbs and spices is how cooking from pantry stapes is transformed from bland to amazing! It is important to have a range of options but not so many as you will be wasteful. Check out my suggestions in the shopping list below for a great place to start.
Tinned black beans
Dried red lentils
Soft corn tortillas
Nutritional yeast / Savoury yeast flakes
Ground flaxseeds or chia seeds
Light coconut cream
Mixed seeds or seeds of your choice (e.g. sunflower, sesame, chia)
Extra virgin olive oil
Tea, coffee, wine
Spice and herb blends: Mexican spices, curry blends, Italian mixed herbs, ground coriander, ground cumin
Salt and pepper
A selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables
Green veggies (e.g. beans, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, cucumber)
Orange veggies (e.g. carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato)
White veggies (e.g. potato, cauliflower, mushrooms)
Variety of frozen veggies like carrots, broccoli, spinach and cauliflower