A well-stocked pantry is essential if you want to cook delicious vegan food on a budget. When I first started cooking, I would often get discouraged by recipes that had more than five ingredients because I couldn’t afford to buy everything needed on top of my other groceries; after all, spices and oils can be expensive when you’re on a tight budget. But when I made the commitment to go vegan, I decided to save some money and buy the essentials: spices, oils, vinegars, baking supplies, etc. Once you make the initial purchase, you won’t have to do it again; keeping your pantry stocked will only be a matter of picking up one or two key ingredients here and there. And now, when I see a recipe that has a long list of ingredients, I usually only have to buy a few items because I already have most of them on hand. Plus, it makes it a lot easier to whip up dishes on the fly when you have all the essentials.
- Scope out the best places for purchasing certain ingredients. For example, I discovered that Fresh Market, a gourmet market chain that is usually kind of pricey, actually sells bagged spices for really cheap. Every couple of months, when I’m out near the market, I swing by and stock up on spices.
- Also, don’t be afraid of places like Whole Foods, which has a reputation for being more expensive than, say, Kroger. I’ve found that if you stick to its house brand for most items, you can actually get away with spending less money for better quality food.
- Finally, buy bulk whenever possible. It’s so much cheaper than pre-packaged goods. For example, nutritional yeast, when purchased in the supplement section, can run about $15 (yikes!). A pound of nutritional yeast from the bulk aisle is half that.
So, without further ado, below is a list of essential ingredients that make vegan cooking incredibly easy and budget-friendly (most of them keep for a long time, so you don’t have to worry about spoilage). The list may change here and there, but I’ll be sure to let you know. Also, I realize that money can be an issue when stocking up, so I’ve highlighted the ingredients that I tend to use the most, so you can break up the list if you need to.
Earth Balance margarine
whole wheat flour
Ener-G Egg Replacer
red wine vinegar
white wine vinegar
red pepper flakes
Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
low sodium soy sauce or tamari
non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
Valentine Hot Sauce, or your favorite hot sauce
vegetable broth cubes or bouillon