This time of year, some of you will be making New Year’s resolutions. If yours involves losing weight, reducing your meat consumption, saving money, or some combination of the above, you’ll be much more successful if you plan ahead and cook at home as much as possible. About a year and a half ago, we switched from eating out four or five days a week to eating at home five to six days a week.
The transition from eating in restaurants most of the time to cooking at home most of the time could have been a real pain, but I learned early on that the key to sticking with it was making sure eating out was a bigger hassle than making dinner at home. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share several of the tricks I used to accomplish that. Today, we’ll start at the beginning: with the grocery list. The stricter your dietary restrictions, the more important it becomes to have appropriate ingredients on hand at all times.
Below are my suggestions for shopping on a vegan diet; a lacto-ovo diet, which allows eggs and dairy products; and a pesco-pollo diet, which eliminates red meat but keeps fish and poultry — not really vegetarian by any definition of the word, but a good way to lose weight, fuel an athletic goal or start phasing out animal products gradually.
If you’re planning to go vegan, it’s useful to have on hand:
* Beans — red, black, pinto, garbanzo and blackeyed peas
* Diced tomatoes
* Black olives
* Chopped green chiles
* Marinara sauce
* Tahini (sesame paste)
* Peanut butter
* Lemon juice
* Lime juice
* Cider vinegar
Condiments: relish, giardiniera, Nayonaise, hot sauce, enchilada sauce, wing sauce, barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce (or Bragg’s liquid aminos)
Oils: extra-virgin olive oil for sauteing and a heat-stable oil for frying
Grains and dry goods:
* Old-fashioned oats
* Dried TVP
* Nutritional yeast
* Flour (all-purpose and whole-wheat)
* Tortillas (large flour, small flour and small corn)
* Breads: hamburger buns and sandwich rounds
* Tortilla chips
* Pita chips
* Leavening: baking soda, baking powder, yeast, cheap beer
* Trinity (peppers, onions and celery — buy separately)
* Vegetable blends (Mediterranean-style and stir-fry)
* TVP crumbles
* Veggie burgers
* Cut okra
In the fridge:
* Crescent rolls
* Silken tofu in aseptic package
* Soy or almond milk (plain and vanilla)
Yellow or white onions
Whatever’s in season for salads
Nuts and seeds (soynuts, sunflower kernels, mixed nuts, Spanish peanuts, raw cashews)
Clif Bars (most, if not all, are vegan)
From the above ingredients, you can make chili, chili mac, tacos, taco bowls, pasta, stuffed baked potatoes, burgers, Philly sandwiches, nachos, hummus, falafel, hoppin’ John, red beans and rice, fried pickles, burritos, beans and cornbread, minestrone, tortilla soup, smoothies, sloppy Joes, barbecue, and a host of other meals.
If you’re planning to go lacto-ovo vegetarian, you can add to that list:
* Egg noodles
* Grits (yes, they’re vegan, but I only like them with cheese)
* Swap the margarine for butter
* Frozen cheese tortellini or ravioli
* Greek yogurt
* Sour cream
* Cheese: shredded cheddar and mozzarella, cream cheese, string cheese, Parmesan
* Buttermilk or kefir
* Frozen buttermilk waffles
This list will add baked pasta, casseroles, stuffed breadsticks, stroganoff, quesadillas, omelets, fritattas, egg sandwiches, loaded baked potatoes, cheese grits, enchiladas, seven-layer burritos, stuffed mushrooms and huevos rancheros and several other options.
If you’re easing in with a pesco-pollo diet, add:
* Frozen chicken breasts
* Frozen seafood (salmon and shrimp)
* Canned tuna
* Canned biscuits
* Smoked turkey sausage
This extends your options to include tuna salad, chicken and waffles, chicken and dumplings, tuna marinara pasta, seafood gumbo, shrimp and grits, salmon and salad, chicken casserole, chicken-noodle soup and more.
You don’t have to have all of these items, but I try to keep most of them on hand so I can get dinner on the table fast. Stock up on shelf-stable items when they’re on sale, and adjust the list based on what your family enjoys eating.
Happy cooking, and good luck with your goals, whatever they may be.