I try really really hard to plan my family’s meals a week in advance so I can shop accordingly and only buy what I need to eliminate wastage and be more organised, but for some reason it never works! Things always change, we get caught up with spontaneous activities leaving less time to cook or we simply don’t feel like the thing we have planned to cook.
The reason I always get by anyway is because I make sure that my pantry, fridge and freezer are stocked with all sorts of staple goodies to ensure that I can whip up a yummy and nutritious dinner out of bare essentials!
Having children, I find that it is important to keep a full cupboard because they constantly want to snack, not to mention that there is nothing worse than being caught at dinner time with hungry children, a bare pantry and an empty veggie basket. Also, because it is super important to ensure that children are fed a nutritious diet to support all the rapid growth and development they go through – having a kitchen stocked with a variety of nutritious food will help you ensure your kids are eating a more varied and balanced meals.
My pantry is sectored into several different regions:
The legumes sections
Green lentils, red lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, split peas and lima beans are always fantastic to have on hand. Frozen legumes and canned beans (while many of us would shy away from because of the actual cans they are in) are very useful for the less organised folk such as moi, and dried legumes are brilliant when you have a little bit more time and can plan ahead. If you are choosing the canned version at the supermarket, try to avoid those with added sugar and salt and make sure you give them a good rinse before adding them to any cooking.
Legumes are a high in fiber and inexpensive source of protein, which support growth and repair in the body. So making sure your little munchkins are consuming enough protein is very important. This is also true for active mothers who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and fathers who are working on their muscles gain.
Grains and pasta section
Grains make up the basis of most vegan meals so make sure you are well equipped with pasta, rice, quinoa, barley, couscous, noodles, taco shells etc. Wholegrains and products made from wholegrains are much better choices so choose them whenever possible.
Whole grains are essential sources of B vitamins and fiber and some are even high in protein, and minerals such as calcium and iron (quinoa is a fantastic example) which are important for the whole family!
I know it doesn’t belong to this category, but I keep Nori sheets in this section as well to ensure I can make vegan sushi whenever I like…
Sauces, spreads and condiments
Bottled Napoli sauce, Ketchup, BBQ sauce, Vegan Mayo, Miso, Mustard, Tamari/Soy sauce, Coconut cream, Wasabi, Peanut butter, Almond Butter, All-Fruit Jam, Tahini, Tabasco, HP sauce and Tomato paste. All of these are fantastic for flavouring and encouraging the eating of more nutritious foods (wholegrain pasta with Napoli sauce, tempeh schnitzels with Ketchup, Tahini sauce on home made falafels etc).
Spreads such as nut butters and all fruit jams make for easy sandwiches, especially if you choose wholegrain sourdough bread.
Canned veggies and fruit section
Canned veggies such as tomatoes, corn, beetroot and asparagus are very useful for emergency situations when you have run out of everything and you haven’t got time to go to the supermarket. Canned fruit, such as apples and apricots are wonderful for throwing an easy dessert together (think a lazy but tasty apple crumble!).
Sure, canned veggies and fruit are inferior to their fresh counterparts, but isn’t it better to concoct a meal from a can of asparagus and a can of corn then to end up at the drive through of your nearest fast food restaurant when you are in a hurry and out of fresh ingredients? If you hate the thought of using cans you can always attempt at getting the glass sealed versions of these items. The glass jars can later be used for storage purposes around your house and kitchen.
The oils section
As mentioned by Emily, The Vegan Woman columnist and health coach, oils in their natural forms are the best (whole olives, ripe avocados, sesame seeds etc) but if you are cooking with oils choose the best oils possible for the purpose to which you are using them. We use Coconut Oil, Rice Bran Oil, Olive Oil, Sesame Oil, and we also love Macadamia oil for baking!
Fat is essential to human health whether we like it or not, especially for children. Some fatty acids are important for brain development, healthy skin, nails and hair so don’t be afraid to consume them in moderation.
The baking section
Flour (all sorts – wholegrain, buckwheat, millet, white unbleached etc), baking powder, sugar, icing sugar, chocolate chips, vanilla essence, chia seeds, and sprinkles. Baking is a fun activity to do with little kids, and we all love eating the products of our baking too!
Fun food is also ok in moderation, and we often need to bake vegan cupcakes or cookies for non-vegan situations such as birthday parties so I make sure this section of my kitchen doesn’t fall short.
The snacks section
Dried fruit (Raisins, dates etc), Nuts (Almonds, Macadamias etc), Rice cakes, corn thins, Puffed Corn, Dried fruit straps, crackers (wholegrain). Having healthy snacks on hand stops everyone (parents and kids alike) from reaching for the chips or chocolate when hunger pangs strike! Healthy snacking sets up good eating habits that support good health and a healthy relationship with food.
The vegan milks section
Soy milk, oat milk, almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, spelt milk, hazelnut milk etc. As most vegan milks can be stored in your pantry, choose your milk and make sure you stock enough so you’re never stuck without that lovely addition to your children’s morning cereal, or, perhaps more importantly, coffee – for yourself.
Herbs and spices section
Italian mix, cinnamon, mixed herbs, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, curry powder, cayenne, chilli, paprika, saffron etc . These add colour and flavor to meals that would otherwise be bland and make them more appetizing for the whole family! Many herbs and spices come free with extra nutrients and superfood properties – Did you know cinnamon was good for diabetics and that Basil has antibacterial properties? Perfect for young children in daycare who are exposed to all kinds of exotic germs!
The junk section
Right up the very top corner of my pantry, completely out of any visual region of my children is a world of vegan chocolate, biscuits and chips….shhhhhh – Though you can of course make healthy alternatives to everything.
The vegan family’s freezer
Your freezer is a wonderful resource for storing all sorts of vegan yumminess. Think frozen berries for smoothies and muffins, frozen spinach, peas and corn for no fuss side veggies, a stockpile of different breads (ordinary wholegrain bread, tortillas, pita bread, English muffins etc) just to mix things up a little and who can forget about ice cream for Sunday morning pancakes? Frozen vegan puff pastry is a godsend when rushing to put together a tasty meal – wrap anything in pastry and it tastes amazing!
The vegan family’s fridge
In my fridge, I always keep on hand vegan yogurts, plant milks, tofu and tempeh, vegan cheese, vegan cream cheese, margarine, sparkling mineral water and date and coconut rolls – I love those things!
Always remember to regularly replenish your stores of fresh fruits and veggies and you will have a well-rounded vegan storecupboard and you will be guaranteed to be able to just throw something tasty together and always have healthy, delicious snacks for your little kiddies.
Happy shopping and eating!