Whole Foods Vegan Pantry Basics Part 1

The pantry.

By strict definition it’s a separate room/cupboard off the kitchen where you store food. I will refer to pantry here as the non-perishable items (spices, dried fruit, mixes, canned goods, ect.) you have on hand.

At one point, in the not-too-distant past, my pantry looked like a normal, run-of-the-mill pantry. My cupboards were brimming with all sorts of American delicacies: Oreo cookies (I’ll let my husband claim these), Ritz and Cheeze-IT crackers, canned chicken noodle soup, canned tuna fish, Hamburger Helper, Kraft macaroni-and-cheese, Crystal Lite, ramen noodles.

I share this with you because while the contents of my pantry have changed dramatically over the years, I did start out just like many of you–with a pantry full of overly processed, overly refined foods (most laden with trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, additives, preservatives, animal products, ect.).

Had you peaked into my pantry four years ago, I would have had some of the same things that I do today (canned diced tomatoes, raisins, baking soda…) but other things, well let’s just say we’re no longer good friends. All of the canned soups I had were of the Campbell’s creamed variety: cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, cream this and cream that. Chicken and beef bouillon, jello (ick! what was I thinking!?), hmmm… Glad we’ve parted ways, to say the least. And if you happen to have any of the above mentioned foods currently in your pantry, don’t be offended. Most people do. And remember this is not a, “I’m holier than thou” game we’re playing here. I’m just sharing where I’ve come from and the place that I am currently.

Maybe some of you can relate to the following experience. I remember, when was new to the whole vegan thing, looking at recipes and thinking, “I only have one ingredient on the whole list, and I don’t even know what half of the other ingredients ARE!” I would then flip to another recipe. Same ordeal. I had no idea what many of the ingredients were and felt a little, okay a lot overwhelmed. “Where do I even start?” My head spinned at all of the new foods and spices: Agar agar, what’s that? Vegan worchestire sauce? Vegetable bouillon, did they sell such a thing? Smoked tofu? I hadn’t even tried cooking regular tofu. Agave? Sounds exotic. Not only did I not have many (or in some cases, most) of the ingredients needed to make vegan food, I had the equally perplexing dilemma of, what to do with all of my “bad” food, or what seemed like, everything in my cupboards. I wasn’t about to throw it all away. I believe I gave a lot of it away to friends and a food pantry, and some things kept for the husband.

So for the first few months, especially after I committed to eating 100% vegan, I kept things REALLY basic and simple: chili without meat, baked potatoes, pasta with tomato sauce, big salads, pinto beans and brown rice, and of course lots of fruit.

Did I throw out all of the “bad” food all at once? I’m not sure, I don’t remember. But I do know it was a process. It was an investment in both time and money to get to the place where I’m at now. Currently, I have nearly every grain that you could thing of. Every bean too. Various natural sweeteners (like brown rice syrup and agave). Dozens of dried herbs and spices. The list goes on. We still have a few non-vegan items, which are all my husbands, and he keeps them in a small cupboard, high above our fridge. Everything else is 100% vegan, with most of it being whole food.

If you’re reading this, thinking, well that’s nice for you Janae, but I’m never going to be that way because my husband doesn’t support me, I don’t have the money to redo my pantry, I already have my “system” down, yada yada yada, well consider this. You have your whole life ahead of you. Hopefully many many years ahead of you. Changing the contents of your pantry not only is possible, but it’s not as difficult as you may think.

Stay tuned, I’ll continue this conversation in the next post.


  1. Stephanie
    on August 18, 2009 at 10:48 pm said:

    Ok, this is a bit reliveing I have to say. To know that you were once where I am. I have to say though that salads and meatless chili are getting old pretty quickly… off to the library, I suppose, to check out some vegan cookbooks.

  2. BB
    on August 8, 2009 at 12:50 am said:

    Thanks Janae! Just what I needed to be reading today. Currently ovo-veg… Well, I do consume a little "lacto" on the weekend. ;PRecently had a family member pass away.. Not even 60 years old. Was a SERIOUS wake up call that I need to change my ways to ensure that I am able to be around as long as possible for my babies.A favor… Would you mind addressing how you overcame emotional eating??? Seems to always be my downfall- Grrr!! On a positive note, I DIS recently start drinking green smoothies– Yum-a-yum!! :)Thanks!!!