Start Where You Are
Making the switch to Uber-Vegetarian, as my husband calls it, was easier than you’d think. Perhaps this is because we already ate a wide variety of foods from different cultures, maybe it’s because the changing season makes me crave lighter, greener foods, but overall it hasn’t been too hard; but you really need a willingness to try new things and new recipes!
We started by deciding to start shopping vegetarian the following month, giving ourselves a few weeks to finish up the meat and cheese that was in the fridge and freezer. I’m still keeping organic whole milk, yogurt, and some shredded cheese around for my toddler, as it’s difficult enough as it is to get food into her. Think about your food goals and what things you are and are not willing to give up right away. We’ve decided to be in-house-vegetarians for the time being, being flexible when we eat out but cooking vegetarian with very limited dairy and eggs in our home.
Use What You Have
You don’t need to buy all of these items immediately, especially if you’re still using up things in the fridge; it can get pricey if you do it all at one time. I browsed vegan and vegetarian Pinterest boards to get a feel for some of the recipes I might like to make in the next two weeks and prioritized my shopping list based on that, for instance I bought lentils, but waited until the following pay period to buy raw cashews and coconut oil. So this list is things I nearly always have on hand in my pantry, and I supplement with fresh vegetables every two weeks or so. I LIKE to shop only twice a month, but it always ends up being one big trip right after payday (about $100 worth) and then a smaller trip the following week for about $50.
- Protein Sources: Canned or dry Beans (we eat a lot of chick peas and black beans), Tofu/Tempeh, Rice (brown, black, wild), lentils, fresh soy beans (frozen), Quinoa, Barley, Bulgar Wheat, Nuts (Almonds, cashews, walnuts), peanut butter, whole wheat pasta.
- Seasonings: Miso, Nutritional Yeast, Liquid Aminos (similar to soy sauce), curry paste, toasted sesame oil, vegan Worcestershire if you can find it, frozen apple juice concentrate (can stand in for sugar or honey in a lot of recipes), molasses, plus a rainbow of dried spices
- Canned tomatoes, canned corn, canned coconut milk, veggie broth, frozen veggies like broccoli, peas, and Brussels sprouts, non-refrigerated veggies like onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, red potatoes. Buy a ginger root and freeze it, and grate what you need when you need it.
- Almond Milk (I like the Aldi brand)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, coconut oil, SmartBalance, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, organic ketchup
Do What You Can
Don’t stress out about it. No one is keeping score (unless your doctor is, but that’s a different story). For instance, if Parmesan is a deal breaker for you, keep it for a while, but use it mindfully, or even simply try a few vegetarian meals a few nights a week to start.
I try to buy organic, for at least the “Dirty Dozen“, but my budget doesn’t always support that. One of the ways we have managed to keep our food bill small is by shopping at Aldi for most of our produce (things we can’t get at the Farmers Market) and dry goods. Knocks about $30-$50 per month off compared to shopping for everything at Kroger, but Kroger does have an excellent affordable house organic brand for things like beans and ketchup, and ours has a great natural foods section as well.
In my next post I’ll go over a typical weekly menu for my family, and what I bought.