A few weeks ago, I posted a list of my top 10 pantry vegan essentials. The list was full of items that I keep on hand pretty much all the time to make sure there’s always something in the house to eat, even if I don’t feel like shopping.
Over the weekend, there was a bad rainstorm in our area, and the meteorologist on the local news said we should expect power outages. I had thought about running to the store to stock up on canned goods, but I checked the pantry, and we had plenty of food to keep us fed for a week or so if necessary. Fortunately, the storm didn’t knock out our power this time.
In addition to keeping my pantry stocked vegan essentials such as canned beans and whole grains, I like to make my fridge is always full of fresh produce, tofu, condiments, and other goods, so that making healthy meals is never a problem. I usually end up going to the grocery store about twice a week in order to make sure we have fresh leafy greens and other veggies on hand, but sometimes I do one giant shop and then store my produce in containers that help extend their freshness.
My Top 10 Refrigerator Vegan Essentials
Leafy Greens – Leafy greens are packed with nutrients, and they should be consumed every day. Where else are you going to find calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc, as well as Vitamins A, C, E and K in one tidy package? Leafy greens are also full of fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll, and many, many other micronutrients and phytochemicals. I make sure I consume at least one leafy green vegetable every day.
Lots of Colorful Fruits and Vegetables – You can definitely be vegan without consuming fresh fruits and veggies, but you’ll be much healthier with them in your diet. Fruits and vegetables are not only high in vitamins and minerals, they’re also rich in phytonutrients, which are known to help boost the immune system, sustain healthy blood sugar levels, act as antioxidants to protect against aging, regulate hormones, aid in optimizing brain function, support heart health, reduce blood cholesterol, improve lung function, and repair DNA damage responsible for some cancers, among other things.
Tofu – Some people see a blob of white gelatinous goo. I see a block of extremely delicious and versatile food. I use tofu a lot, and I use the extra-firm variety in most of my recipes. To prepare your tofu for the recipes, just take it out of the package earlier in the day, wrap it in a kitchen towel, and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. If you’re short on time, you can press the towel-wrapped tofu by placing a heavy object, such as a cast iron skillet or a heavy cutting board, on top of it. Fancy tofu presses are available, but they’re not necessary.
Tempeh – Tempeh is a cake made with fermented soybeans. It’s native to Indonesia, and it is a main source of protein for many Indonesians. Some people have told me that it tastes a little too fermented. To get rid of that fermented flavor, you can steam your tempeh for a few minutes before adding it to your recipe. Simmering tempeh in a bath of warm water or broth will help remove the fermented taste, as well.
Seitan – Seitan is made with wheat gluten, and it has a hearty, meaty texture. There are several different brands on the market, and my favorite is Uptons Naturals. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can make your own seitan with vital wheat gluten and broth. If you have celiac disease or a gluten allergy, you’ll want to skip the seitan.
Vegan Cheese – Back in the old days, vegan cheeses were akin to (barely) edible crayons—although they didn’t melt. I’m amazed at the speed with which new dairy-free cheeses are hitting the market. For melting on foods such as pizzas and lasagnas, I like Daiya and Follow Your Heart. Miyoko’s Kitchen, Treeline, and Kite Hill are my favorites for snacking on. I also like to make my own cashew cheese to have on hand for tacos, avocado toast, and tofu scrambles.
Hummus – What would vegans do without hummus? Hummus had helped me out of many food-related pinches. There have been times when I’ve been on the go without my own snacks, and hummus has been the only vegan option at the local convenience store. Hummus has been my friend at non-vegan parties and potlucks. I love to snack on hummus with cut vegetables, slather it on sandwiches, and pile it on salads. You will always find at least one tub of hummus in my fridge at any given time.
Green Juices – While I do make a mean green juice, I don’t do it often, because I really, really hate cleaning my juicer. I like to buy cold-pressed juices and keep them on hand for those days when I need a little a little afternoon pick-me-up.
Condiments – I keep the condiments in the rack on the door of the fridge, and it’s always packed. We always have several different types of hot sauces, mustards, and vegan mayonnaises on hand in order to give our sandwiches and salads a little extra somethin’ somethin’. While I tend to make my own salad dressings with cashews or tahini, I like to have a bottle of pre-made salad dressing handy, just in case I don’t have the time (or energy) to make my own.
Non-Dairy Yogurt – I like to have yogurt with fruit and granola for breakfast a few times a week, and sometimes I have it for an afternoon snack, too. Much like with cheese, when I first went vegan, there was one brand on the market. Now there are so many different kinds to choose from that I find myself rarely buying the same type twice. I like Kite Hill, which is made with almonds, and So Delicious, which is made with coconut milk.
What are your refrigerator vegan essentials?