I’d like to take you along on one of my grocery hauls! Here’s a little inspiration and guidance on how to build your own plant-based, whole foods grocery list.
A couple things before we start:
- Stay along the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s where all of the healthy food is.
- Make a list and stick to it. That will keep impulse spending in check.
- Buy organic as much as possible. But don’t feel you have to get organic versions of every last item. I always buy organic apples, peaches, and strawberries since they are higher in pesticide residues than mangoes, papayas, and bananas. I always buy organic leafy greens.
Also, I do not get all of the items on this list every week. This is a comprehensive list of foods that I typically buy or keep in stock throughout the year. This list is intended to help you plan out your own plant-based grocery shopping list.
Okay, let’s get started!
Fruits can be divided into two categories – year-round and seasonal.
Every week, I stock up on bananas (a green smoothie staple), oranges, lemons (for my lemon tonic water), and then I supplement with whatever fruits are in season. That means stonefruit (peaches, cherries) and berries during the spring and summer months, and apples, pears, and pomegranates during the fall and winter months.
Staple Fruits – I Buy These Year-Round
- Oranges *
* Oranges and grapefruit tend to be better during the fall and winter months.
Seasonal Fruits – I Buy These When They Are In Season
It’s also fun to try exotic fruits every now and then. Be adventurous and try starfruit, passion fruit, guava, lychee, etc…
I always keep a couple large bags of frozen fruit in my freezer. Wild blueberries, cherries, and mango chunks are my favorites to use in green smoothies.
- Mixed berry blends
- Sweet cherries
What About Dried Fruits?
I will occasionally supplement with dried fruits, but they are a once-in-a-while treat. I always keep dried goji berries on hand for green smoothies.
As a green smoothie addict, I use a lot of leafy greens. I go for the most mineral-rich varieties like kale, dandelion, and bok choy. Collard greens are great to use in either green smoothies. Don’t be a afraid to branch out and try rapini, beet greens, and even radish greens!
- Dandelion greens
- Baby kale (less bitter than regular kale)
- Kale (curly, Lacinato/”Dinosaur”)
- Baby spinach (Pre-washed tubs are convenient.)
- Baby bok choy (milder than regular bok choy)
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
- Beet greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Butter lettuce
- Leaf lettuce (green is slightly more nutritious than red)
- Mixed greens (mesculin, baby romain, spring mix)
Vegetables are a big part of my diet. I add broccoli, carrots, celery, tomato, and sometimes even beet to my green smoothies.
Cooking veggie staples for me include zucchini and broccoli – two of my favorites. I have also fallen in love with brussels sprouts, which is a great fall/winter veggie.
- Sugar snap peas
- Bell peppers
- Onions (my favorite is red)
- Brussels Sprouts
- Edamame (I don’t eat it often)
I sometimes buy frozen vegetables. I always keep a large bag of frozen broccoli in my freezer.
Starches & Other Produce
- Sweet potatoes
- Potatoes (particularly red, white, and russet)
- Mushrooms (crimini and shiitake are the most nutritious)
- Ginger root
- Turmeric root
Budget Tip: If you haven’t already, get a membership to Costco or BJ’s. Both places offer great prices on produce, and much of it is organic. You can also get organic frozen fruits/veggies, brown rice, quinoa, beans, and other healthy staples. It’s well worth the membership fee!
Grains, Beans & Legumes
Grains are a bit controversial in the natural health movement. Based on my research, there is nothing detrimental about supplementing your diet with whole wheat.
Sprouted grain bread is a yummy indulgence, but not a regular part of my diet. I’ll splurge on the occasional pretzel bun for a black bean veggie burger, or I’ll get whole wheat wraps. I love using the sprouted grain tortillas from Ezekiel 4:9 for my black bean tostadas.
I avoid white bread.
- Sprouted grain bread (occasional indulgence)
- Tortillas (corn, sprouted grain)
- Wraps (sprouted grain, whole grain)
Other Whole Grains
- Oats (Old-fashioned, rolled)
- Brown rice (both long and short grain)
- Wild rice
Beans & Legumes
Beans are great to keep on hand. I’ll keep dry black, red, white, and garbanzo beans (chickpeas), as well as lentils, on hand.
I will also keep a few cans of various beans in case I need/want to make something quick, and don’t have the time to soak and cook dried beans.
- Black beans
- Red beans
- White beans
- Kidney beans
What About Soy Products?
I don’t eat a lot of soy products. I will occasionally use organic tofu. I prefer firm or extra-firm tofu.
Nuts, Seeds, & Oils
Raw nuts and seeds provide healthy fat (especially omega-3’s) and protein in a plant-based, whole foods diet.
- Peanut butter (all-natural, no additives) *
- Almond butter (all-natural, no additives) *
- Almonds (raw)
- Cashews (raw)
- Walnuts (raw)
- Pecans (raw)
- Sunflower seeds (raw)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
- Flaxseed (I prefer to get whole, not pre-ground ground)
- Tahini (sesame butter) – for making hummus
- Coconut oil – It’s the ONLY oil that I cook with.
- Olive oil – Use sparingly for salad dressings.
- Butter – (Earth Balance is best vegan option, otherwise, I recommend organic butter from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows.)
* Feel free to use any of the nut butters.
Plant-Based (Non-Dairy) Milks
I like using unsweetened plant-based milks in my green smoothies. It makes them richer and creamier, and most of the store-bought brands are fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.
There is some controversy and alarmism about certain ingredients in plant milks, such as carageenan. The current, peer-reviewed scientific literature shows that carageenan, the type used as a food additive, is safe and not of concern to human health.
If you would still rather avoid it, you can either make your own plant milks, or check labels. On November 18, 2016, the National Organic Standards Board voted to remove carageenan from the list of approved substances for food items labeled “organic”, so seek out organic brands if you are still concerned.
- Almond milk, (my favorite)
- Coconut milk, (second favorite)
- Oat milk
- Rice milk (Much thinner than almond/coconut milk)
- Hemp milk
- Organic soy milk (I rarely use it)
- Flax milk (I rarely use it)
Read more about the different plant-based milks available, or make your own almond milk using a blender!
Note: All plant-based milks should be unsweetened.
While I mainly focus on plant-based whole foods, I use a variety of pantry items that enhance my recipes.
Superfoods & Smoothie Boosters
- Protein powder (I use NutriBiotic vegan rice protein)
- Raw cacao (powder or nibs)
- Chia seeds
- Dried goji berries
- Sea vegetables (dulse, kelp) – good source of iodine in strict vegan/vegetarian diets
- Hemp seeds (hemp hearts)
- Maca root powder
- Bee pollen
Budget Tip: You will get much better prices if you buy pantry items online. I get a lot of these superfoods through Amazon.com.
Spices, Herbs, And Seasonings
- Chili powder
- Sea salt (My favorite is red Hawaiian, or smokey sea salt)
- Black Pepper
I rarely use added sugars, but certain recipes need a little sweetener. Honey is pretty much the only one I use. Vegans can use either maple syrup or agave syrup as suitable alternative.
- Maple syrup
- Agave syrup
Sauces & Condiments
While I aspire to make 100% of my sauces all the time, it’s just not practical. We’re all busy, so it’s better to buy some quality, organic sauces to use in a pinch vs. struggling to find the time to make every last thing from scratch.
- Organic soy sauce
- Lemon/lime juice
- Vinegar (apple cider, balsamic)
- Salad dressing (vinaigrette)
- Vegan mayo
- Vegetable bouillon
- Vegetable broth
- Nutritional yeast
Meat & Animal-Sourced Foods
As I’ve said before, a plant-based diet doesn’t have to mean strict adherence to a vegan diet. I prefer to remain inclusive and let people approach this way of eating on their own terms, and in their own time.
There is nothing wrong or unhealthful about supplementing your diet with small amounts of animal protein if you feel you need it, or if you feel more balanced when it is included.
When I do buy these foods, I make sure they come from small, local farms, or carry third-party, independent labels indicating humane agricultural practices.
- Eggs (Pasture-raised or backyard only)
- Beef (Grass fed and finished)
- Poultry (Free-range)*
- Pork (Pastured)
- Fish (Wild caught from sustainable fisheries only – NO farm-raised)
* There isn’t much regulation around terms like “free range”, and these terms can be misleading. “Free-range” doesn’t always mean “access to pasture and sunshine”. Look for third-party certification when it comes to “humane” labeling, too. Who certified the humane standards? An industry-backed organization? Or a independent third-party? Google the farm or supplier to see just how the animals were raised if in doubt.
If you can buy directly from local farmers. You will also help the local economy as well! (Same goes for buying veggies, too!)
I hope this shopping list outline helps you plan your own plant-based grocery shopping list.