Friday Tips: Pantry Staples

Vegan Goodness:

Today we ate:

  • Breakfast: Green smoothies and tofu scramble for everyone 
  • Lunch: We all had leftover soup and leftover dal for lunch
  • Dinner: After a bit of stalling on Mom’s part we pulled together breakfast for dinner.  Potato/tempeh skillet, roasted butternut squash and waffles

Money Matters:
Today we spent the following:

  • $36.29 at Whole Foods
  • $26.77 at Trader Joe’s
  • $28.99 for a last-minute gift

Friday Tips for Living Vegan and Living Cheap – with kids!:

Pantry Staples

As another month of overspending starts to wind down (boo!) is a good time to talk about easy pantry meals.  We had a few nights this month when I was really tempted to give into the urge to get take-out.  It seemed so much easier than cooking, but I knew it was certainly not in our budget.  On those nights when various things conspired to make dinner rushed I relied on our pantry staples.  I have written in a earlier post about a few go-go dinners but these dinners only work with the right items on hand.  Here are some of the pantry staples we always keep around so that last-minute meals are super easy.

Legumes: We always have tons of dried beans (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, black-eyed pea) and lentils (brown, red, du puy).  But if you really want to be able to throw a meal together quickly, keep some cans of beans around.  A can of black beans can quickly be dressed up with cumin and chili powder – then say hello to tacos!  Chickpeas on top of quinoa or rice with a bit of lemon is a perfect weeknight meal.  Red lentils cook up in about 20 minutes.  Saute some onion and garlic, cook up the lentils and then serve it on top of rice or salad greens and you are good to go!

Grains: Grains make a great base for lots of yummy dishes.  You don’t have to have tons of different types lying around.  Just pick your favorites!  I love quinoa, and it cooks in only 20 minutes which is perfect for those last-minute rushes.  Long grain brown rice is great too if you have a bit more time.  All of these can be turned into “pilafs” simply by satueeing some onion, veggies and herbs, adding the grain, and then cooking it all in veggie stock.  Top with some beans and tofu and you have dinner!

Veggies: Of course veggies round out any meal.  But some veggies keep for longer than others and so they are better to just “have around” in case.  We always have carrots and onions ready to go, and usually we have some cabbage lying around.  All of these can be cooked up in curries, stir frys or even added to pasta.  Frozen veggies are also a great staple.  We always have shelled edamame ready to go, as well as corn. 

Tofu and Tempeh: I was tempted to label this section “protein” but protein is in everything and I don’t like to perpetuate the myth about vegans lacking in protein.  So, think of this as the “soy yumminess” section.  With tofu around I’m just 15 minutes away from tofu scramble or crispy tofu in a stir-fry.  Or I’m only 40 low-prep minutes away from baked lemon tofu over pilaf or BBQ tofu with greens.  Tempeh means that I can whip up a batch of tempeh bacon, potato/tempeh skillet or smoky tempeh cubes to throw on top of my bean and rice dish.  Best of all, these goodies aren’t going to go bad anytime soon, so I can stock up and just have them on hand.

Of course, any quick and easy meal is served well with some spices and herbs on hand.  A few extras, like coconut milk, curry paste, peanut butter, ginger, etc. can also give you more options.  But, truly, the staples listed above are the cornerstones of many of our family meals.  So, stock up on a few of these next time you go to the store.  Then, when the take-out urge hits get creative with these pantry staples instead!  Your wallet – and your waistline – will thank you.

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