11 Fridge Must-Haves for Your Vegan Grocery List
Picture this: You just had the longest Monday in the history of Mondays. It’s late afternoon and the gremlin in your stomach is already grumbling, so you open the refrigerator to figure out what’s for dinner. And, yikes, it’s emptier than a water park in winter!
If you can relate to this scenario, join the club! I’ve had my fair share of those omg-my-fridge-is-barren moments. And I don’t know about you, but despite being a two-time cookbook author, putting together my vegan grocery list used to give me mind-numbing brain farts (proof it happens to all of us). But thanks to the tasty tips I’m about to share, I haven’t had any mealtime mayhem in a while!
Welcome to Part 2 of our fridge-stocking series! A couple of weeks ago, I gave you 5 overarching guidelines for shopping, stocking and storing plant-based groceries (check out that post here if you haven’t yet). And, as promised, we’re taking it a step further today…
I’m inviting you into my kitchen to talk about the specific staples I always keep in my fridge. This really is my secret to simplifying and sticking with a healthy plant-based diet! Once I figured out the ideal combo of fruits, veggies, proteins, sauces, grains, etc. to keep on hand, shopping and cooking got a whole lot easier. Now my fridge is always brimming with goodies that are easy to mix and match to make quick, nourishing, vegan meals.
For each food on my list of must-haves, you’ll learn…
- What to look for at the store: How to spot the freshest produce and decode confusing labels, plus other ways to simplify trips to the grocery store.
- How to store it for maximum shelf life: We covered storage basics in Part 1 of this series, but today I’ll share more detailed tips for each food on the list.
- How to use the ingredients in plant-based meals: Of course we have to talk about what you’re going to do with all of these delicious groceries! I’ll recommend a couple of recipes that feature each food.
By the way, you don’t have to be vegan to benefit from this blog. I am, so naturally all of my refrigerator staples are, too! But these foods are great additions to any diet, and I encourage you to create a version of this list that meets your unique needs. Your fridge, your choice, got it?!
Ok toots, the wait is over… Let’s talk fridge faves!
11 Refrigerator Staples to Add to Your Vegan Grocery List!
1. Leafy Greens (1-2 types)
Shock of all shocks, leafy greens are at the tippy top of my plant-based diet grocery list! Well, I suppose it’s not all THAT surprising—you know me, queen of greens. My go-tos are baby spinach and kale (curly, green, purple, dino, I like it all!), but you can also enjoy collard greens, Swiss chard, arugula, romaine, mustard greens, etc.
At the store: Look for crisp greens that look and feel fresh. Avoid anything slimy or wilted, or greens with brown spots or yellowing leaves. Go organic when you can—kale and spinach are both on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen list, which means the conventional varieties tend to be high in pesticide residues.
In your fridge: Wash greens with cold water when you get home from the store, then spin them in a salad spinner (or leave them to drain) to remove excess moisture. Then you have a couple of options: Wrap the greens in a damp paper towel or small dish towel and store them in the crisper in glass containers. Or, like we talked about in Part 1 of this series, try something like Debbie Meyer GreenBags or these cotton bags for a plastic-free option.
In plant-based meals: Throw spinach into this yummy Calming Greens smoothie from Crazy Sexy Juice or try one of my most popular recipes, the Crazy Sexy Kale Salad from Crazy Sexy Kitchen!
2. Hand-Held Fruits (1-2 types)
Portable fruits are must-haves for midday snacks. Oranges, apples and pears are my personal faves—they’re delicious on their own, but can also easily fit into smoothies, juices and other recipes.
At the store: Citrus fruits that feel heavy for their size tend to be the ripest and juiciest. It’s a good sign if you can pick up a bit of their zesty smell through the rind. Apples should be firm and free of cuts or bad spots (it’s ok if they have a couple bumps and bruises—don’t we all?). Peaches and pears are easily damaged when they’re ripe, so I often go for the slightly underripe variety then let them ripen in a paper bag at room temp for a couple days.
In your fridge: Some folks keep these totable treats out of the fridge because they prefer how they taste at room temperature. That’s totally fine, but they usually don’t last more than a couple days that way (especially if you live somewhere particularly warm and humid). Otherwise, put these fruits in your crisper drawer and wash them just before you dig in!
In plant-based meals: You don’t need a recipe for this one—just wash, peel if applicable and chow down! If you’re in the mood for a refreshing sip, try this Citrus Shine from Crazy Sexy Juice.
Want to add even more plant-based power to your kitchen? Download your free cheat sheet to find out how to use my 10 favorite nutrient-boosting ingredients!
3. Colorful Veggies for Raw and Cooked Meals (3-5 varieties)
Let’s load up your vegan grocery list with a rainbow of veggies! When I’m shopping for the week, I usually choose a couple of veggies I really enjoy raw, like carrots and cucumbers for snacking, juicing and blending. Then, I grab a few for cooked meals, such as mushrooms, broccoli and eggplant. I like to mix it up from week to week and buy local (or go to my garden!) whenever possible.
At the store: Aim to get a variety of colors, because different colors mean different nutrients! Plus, what’s better than seeing a rainbow every time you open the fridge? Pick veggies that are firm, free of discoloration and don’t look slimy. Get in-season produce when you can!
In your fridge: Other than leafy greens, you don’t need to wash most produce before putting it in the fridge. Just put it in the crisper drawer and wash right before you plan to use it. Veggies like garlic, onions and potatoes can usually be stored at room temp. Pro tip: If your broccoli or carrots go limp and rubbery, hope is not lost! Give them new life by trimming a bit off the end and putting them in a cup of filtered water (just don’t submerge the head of the broccoli).
In plant-based meals: In the mood for a raw-licious dish? Treat yourself to my Beetroot Ravioli & Cashew Cheese from Crazy Sexy Kitchen. If veggie-packed comfort food is your jam, try this Creamy Mushroom & Kale Pasta from my Test Kitchen!
Ah, berries! You can always find these little antioxidant superstars in my fridge. They’re great on their own, on top of yogurt or oatmeal, in smoothies—you name it. I get them in season whenever I can and freeze my bounty to last the rest of the year.
At the store: Berries are another regular on EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, so opt for organic when possible. Look for berries that are dry, plump and rich in color. Steer clear of anything wrinkly, and take a peek at the bottom of the carton for signs of mold.
In your fridge: Keep berries in their original packaging and wash them right before you plan to eat them. If you have frozen berries, transfer enough to last a couple of days from the freezer to the fridge and let them defrost for a few hours (depending on their size).
In plant-based meals: This Mixed Berry Crisp, a favorite from my Test Kitchen, is perfect if you’re after something sweet. Or, kick off your day with this refreshing Strawberry Ginger Chia Pudding. Delish!
5. Plant-Based Protein (1-2 options)
Protein is essential for numerous bodily processes and helps make meals more satisfying. There are plenty of options to choose from, such as organic, non-GMO tofu or tempeh, beans and other legumes (either homemade or once you open a can—no need to put dry or canned beans in the fridge), nuts and seeds, and certain vegan “meat” substitutes in moderation.
At the store: Soybeans are one of the most genetically modified crops in the US, so I always look for USDA Organic AND Non-GMO Project Verified on tofu and tempeh labels. Canned legumes are a quicker option than making them from scratch—just go with varieties that don’t have tons of added salt or preservatives. Same goes for nuts, seeds and especially nut butters—they’re wonderful on their own and don’t need added oils, sugars, etc.
Plant-based meats have gained a lot of popularity recently, so you might be wondering where they fit into your diet. I enjoy them occasionally, but I’m selective about the brands I trust because many are highly processed. I encourage you to read the ingredients list carefully and watch out for stuff you can’t pronounce—a list with the fewest possible ingredients is usually best! I’m planning to write a whole blog about plant-based meats soon, so stay tuned for more info and specific recommendations!
In your fridge: Plant proteins that come in sealed packaging, like organic, non-GMO tofu, usually have a pretty long life, so let the best by date guide you. Once you open the package, leftovers will stay good in your fridge for about a week. Keep extra tofu in water in an airtight container. Cooked legumes usually last in the fridge for 3-5 days in an airtight container. Nut butters are often shelf stable when they’re sealed, then need to go in the fridge once opened. And you might be wondering why I keep my dry nuts and seeds in the fridge—it’s because they can last up to 6 months in there (whereas it’s more like a few weeks in the pantry)!
In plant-based meals: This Morning Glory Cinnamon & Almond Baked Oatmeal packs a healthy punch of protein and good-for-you fats. And this Country Tofu Scramble from my Test Kitchen Tuesday series is a regular at my breakfast table.
6. Whole Grains (2-3 options)
Whole grains contain lots of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Our bodies digest and absorb the sugars in these complex carbohydrates more slowly than simple carbs (like soda, refined flours, etc.), which means they provide more sustainable energy and are less likely to cause blood sugar spikes (learn more about whole grains here!). Plus, they’re deliciously filling and help bring different ingredients together to make a perfect plant-based meal!
At the store: Save some money on your grains by shopping the bulk bins! And you can help save the environment too by bringing your own reusable containers (I use mason jars). Quinoa and brown rice are staples in my fridge, but there’s a whole grain out there for everyone—gluten-free options included! As far as bread goes, Ezekial is number one on my vegan grocery list because it’s made with sprouted grains, which make it easier to digest than many other breads.
In your fridge: Whole grains can go in the pantry, but the fridge gives them an even longer shelf life! I like to put grains like brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat in wide-mouthed, quart-size mason jars because it allows me to identify them quickly. Most whole grain breads can go on the counter for a few days, but they’re less likely to develop mold in the fridge (especially if you live in a humid environment).
In plant-based meals: I love serving my Save the Tuna Salad from Crazy Sexy Kitchen on toasted whole grain bread! And this Vegan Risotto with Asparagus and Lemon from my Test Kitchen features farro (or short grain brown rice for a gluten-free option).
More must-haves for your fully-stocked fridge!
Here are some more of my fridge staples to add to your vegan grocery list…
7. Vegan cheese: Kite Hill cream cheese to top my whole grain bread and Miyoko’s Classic Double Cream Chive for snacks (go here for my in-depth review of vegan cheese options!).
8. Soy sauce substitute: low sodium tamari or coconut aminos for dressings and stir fries.
9. Nondairy milk: Oat and almond are my current favorites!
10. 1-2 ready-to-go sauces: I batch cook sauces ahead or choose premade options with minimal ingredients. Having them on-hand can quickly transform bland ingredients into a meal—I dig pesto for whole grain pasta or a Thai-style peanut sauce to toss with veggies.
11. 1-2 dips for veggies or whole grain crackers: You can usually find this Smoky Southwestern Hummus in my fridge!
Your fabulous fridge is complete!
I hope these ideas from my fridge give you more ways to enjoy plants and nourish your fantastic self. The only question is… what will YOU cook with all of these amazing ingredients? Whatever it is, I sure hope you invite me over for dinner! 😉
Your turn: What’s the #1 staple food on your vegan grocery list? Let’s share ideas in the comments below!
Peace & fresh foods,
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