Here’s a master list to use when you’re stocking up on healthy ingredients and essentials. Filling your kitchen with healthy foods makes cooking delicious dishes a pleasure, not a chore. Although it looks like a long list, it’s worth it to stock up on condiments and frozen goods, since they will last for a long time.
For vegetables, stock up on carrots, celery, beets, and bell peppers, because they have a better shelf life than other vegetables. You can use them in stews, for making stock, with dips as a snack, and in a lot of other types of recipes.
For fruit, stock up on apples, grapes, berries, and pears. These last a long time in your fridge, and are good for snacking or in oatmeal and baked goods. (You can freeze fresh fruit for even longer storage; see our tips below.) Be sure to stock up on some citrus fruits, too: Zested, juiced, or sliced, citrus fruits bring fresh, tangy flavor to any dish, and lemons, limes, and oranges all last around two to four weeks if stored in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Seal lemons and limes in ziplock bags for optimum storage.
4. Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs add flavor and freshness to almost any recipe you’ll make. My favorites are cilantro, parsley, thyme, sage, dill, and rosemary. If the herbs are damp, then wrap them in a dry paper towel before storing; if dry, wrap them in a damp paper towel before storing.
5. Dates and Dried Fruit
It’s always a good idea to have dates and dried fruits in your fridge, where they will last longer than if they were stored at room temperature. Keep your favorites on hand, whether they’re raisins, dried figs, dried apricots, currants, or cranberries. You will get a lot of use out of a small amount in place of sweeteners and in baking.
6. Nuts and Seeds
We use them sparingly at Forks Over Knives, but nuts are good to have in case you don’t have nut milk—you can quickly make some nut milk at home. You can also use nuts and seeds to garnish your salads or main dishes.
7. Plant-Based Milks
Plant-based milk is great for making baked goods and any dish that requires a creamy texture. Stock up on any kind that you like, whether it’s almond, soy, rice, cashew, hemp, or rice. We recommend looking for unsweetened, unflavored varieties with short ingredient lists. Our favorite store-bought varieties are Eden EdenSoy, Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk, Silk Unsweetened Soymilk, and Almond Breeze Unsweetened Almond Milk. Or you can easily make your own nut milk at home. Just like with nuts and seeds, we recommend using sparingly.
Good quality store-bought salsa makes cooking easier, as you can use it in main dishes and as a dip or a dip ingredient.
Some good oil-free hummus is always useful to have in your kitchen, since you can use it as a dip or as a sandwich spread. For store-bought hummus, our favorite brands are Oasis Zero Fat Hummus, Roots Oil-Free Hummus, and Cedar’s Fat & Oil-Free Hummus. Or whip up one of our delicious low-fat hummus recipes at home.
11. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavor to food, so it’s a good vegan ingredient to have on hand. You can use it in pasta, in dips, and in other savory dishes.
12. Miso Paste
Miso is a flavoring agent that’s great for cooking, and along with nutritional yeast, adds a good cheesy flavor to dishes. Our favorite is Miso Master Organic White Miso.
13. Tahini or Peanut/Nut Butters
Tahini, peanut butter, and other nut butters are good for making sandwiches, dressings, and baked goods. We recommend looking for varieties that contain no added sugars or added oils.
14. Tamari or Soy Sauce
Tamari or regular soy sauce is useful for making Asian dishes, for overall flavor, and in dressings. Look for low-sodium varieties, such as San-J Tamari Light.
15. Hot Sauce
I love hot sauce because it adds spice and kick to dishes. When you buy it at the store, try to find an oil-free brand with just a few ingredients.
16. Cacao Powder
Keep some cacao powder in your kitchen to make any dessert that requires chocolate.
For the Freezer…
17. Cooked Beans
Whenever you make a batch of beans, double the recipe so that you have extra to freeze. This cuts down a lot of prep time during the week.
To thaw: remove from the freezer and thaw in the fridge overnight, or run under hot water to use them immediately.
18. Cooked Grains
Just as with beans, grains freeze and reheat beautifully. Store extra cooked rice and quinoa in your fridge and quick meals will be a breeze.
To thaw: Remove from the freezer and thaw in the fridge overnight, or steam them to use them immediately. Or place the frozen grains in a bowl, and set into a larger bowl partially filled with very hot water.
19. Frozen Vegetables
Stock up on frozen vegetables such as corn, vegetable medleys, edamame, and green peas, and you will always have healthy options when you’re cooking.
20. Frozen Fruit
When your grocery store is having a sale, stock up on frozen bananas, frozen berries, and other frozen fruits. You can use them when baking and snacking or in smoothies. Frozen fruit also makes for a delicious addition to nice cream. You can freeze fresh produce, too: Most fruits and peppers can go straight into the freezer (once sliced and placed in freezer bags); while other fresh produce, such as tomatoes and leafy greens, benefit from a quick blanching first.
21. Garlic and Ginger
Garlic and ginger are excellent to have for flavoring savory dishes, so I store minced garlic and grated ginger in small freezer bags when I have extra. You can also store fresh whole ginger root in the freezer. (Bonus: Frozen ginger root is easier to grate than fresh!) There’s no need to defrost it before using.
Always keep corn, rice, and/or whole wheat tortillas on hand. These freeze well, and tortillas are endlessly useful when making tacos, wraps, quesadillas, and other handheld meals.
Now that you’ve given your fridge a makeover, check out our list of Plant-Based Pantry Staples to finish stocking your kitchen with healthy essentials.
For more guidance in healthy cooking, check out Forks Meal Planner, FOK’s easy weekly meal-planning tool to keep you on a plant-based path. To learn more about a whole-food, plant-based diet, visit our Plant-Based Primer.