Being a vegetarian is hard, right?
It’s only hard if you don’t have the ingredients needed for quick, easy, nutritious meals. Use the guide below the next time you’re making a grocery list, and you’re bound to have everything you need for some great meals!
- Beans — Get them all because they’re so cheap and variety is key. My favorites are black, pinto and kidney. You can eat them alone, mix them with rice or use them as meat substitutes in your old favorites. Add beans to any dish for an extra protein kick. If you’ve never made a soup or salad with beans, now’s the time to try! You can also mash beans up and shape them into patties, balls or spreads. Get creative!
- Broth — Vegetable broth can be used instead of water to add more flavor when cooking rice, pasta or other grains. It can also be used when sauteing vegetables or when making a sauce.
- Potatoes — The big 5-pound bag will never fail you. Pop one potato in the microwave for a baked treat, saute a few with some veggies or bake them for a healthier take on french fries. Be sure to try them all — golden, red, russet, sweet. Just like with beans, variety is key.
- Vegetables — This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you just buy a random hodgepodge of veggies, they’ll go bad before you can figure out what to do with them.
- peppers — Bell peppers are the most common, and they’re super versatile. If you’re feeling daring, serrano or banana peppers always add some interesting flavors.
- (or fruit) tomatoes — Have them around to add to a salad, sandwich or wrap, or dice them up to use in sauces. Sauces made with fresh tomatoes taste amazing!
- mushrooms — Portobello mushrooms are often used as meat substitutes because of their texture, but white, cremini and shiitake mushrooms also provide great flavors and textures, too. Stuff them, slice them, dice them and toss them in just about anything!
- go frozen — Frozen vegetables are great for the spontaneous soup, stir fry, pasta or chili, and you never have to worry about them going bad. If you see a sale, stock up!
Don’t get trapped into thinking you have to eat salad or kale because you’re a vegetarian! If you like your greens, sure, go ahead and eat ’em, but there are TONS of veggies to choose from. You don’t have to be a lettuce person to be a vegetarian.
- Fake meat finds — There may be days when you’re dreaming of an old dish, like your mom’s pasta with meat sauce. Instead of feeling guilty for craving a dish with meat, just make your own meat-free version. Keep veggie crumbles and veggie “chicken” strips in your freezer to have when cravings strike! Throw crumbles into chilies, pasta sauces, lasagnas, enchiladas or taco shells. Eat the “chicken” strips with potato wedges, or add them to a salad. Other options include, sausage and hot dog substitutes and veggie burgers. If you’re just starting out, try a few brands; it can take a while to find the ones you really like.
- Grains — Rice and noodles are easy to stock up on Costco and other bulk grocers. Additional options include breads (for sandwiches and flatbreads) and tortillas (for tacos, enchiladas and quesadillas). Couscous, quinoa, farro and wheat berries are some of the lesser known grains that can serve as bases for many vegetarian meals. Again, though, if they’re too weird for you, just stick to the grains you’re used to. And when you’re ready to branch out, find recipes that use new grains and with more familiar ingredients.
While you can always rely on cookbooks or the internet for recipes, start with this list to keep eating vegetarian easy, simple and cheap. If you have some of the ingredients listed above on hand, you can easily throw together a a great meal! You don’t have to be able to cook elaborate recipes with ingredients that you’ve never heard of in order to get the nutrients that you need.
What’s in your pantry?