Want to go vegan or try eating more plant-based meals? That’s awesome; great for you! Eating more plants and “veganizing” recipes is incredibly simple to do when you know how to start and what to buy. Lots of people appreciate the idea of eating vegan, but have no earthly idea of what to do when it comes to shopping and cooking plant-based. We’ve been there ourselves and can tell you, it can be easy with a some key vegan staples.

While you can certainly use faux meats and cheese, you also don’t have to use any if you don’t want to! Don’t directly assume that eating plant-based means eating mock versions of animal foods. Here is a list of our favorite vegan staples you can buy when you visit your local store. No matter if you shop at Whole Foods or Walmart, you can find all these vegan staples at your local store. Purchase the following weekly.

1. Fresh Fruits

Bananas, apples, pears, oranges, berries, avocados, coconut, and mangoes are some of the best due to their high fiber content. Fruits also help provide you with key sources of carbohydrates you need for optimal energy. They also contain plenty of potassium, fiber, and antioxidants like Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Use fruit as your go-to snack instead of cookies, ice cream, yogurt, and commercial granola bars. You can also chop fruit into oatmeal, blend it into smoothies, or serve it on top of salad.Though organic is best, don’t sweat it if you can’t afford it right away. Organic foods taste better and are better for you but you shouldn’t avoid fruits altogether if organic doesn’t match your budget. Alternatively, you can use these tips to buy organic foods while on a tight budget.

2. Vegetables

All vegetables are fantastic for you; don’t leave any out of your diet unless you truly hate the taste. On the same token, don’t knock it til you try it either. Vegetables can help improve cravings for unhealthy foods and it takes just a couple weeks for your taste buds to change if you’re currently eating lots of animal-based foods instead of vegetable-based foods. Some of our favorites are carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, red peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, celery, and cucumbers. Though some of these are technically fruits, their nutrient profile classifies them as a vegetable. Vegetables have fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, B vitamins, and even protein. They help curb your cravings for high fat foods and can easily be added to any meal. Try adding veggies to vegan spaghetti, making wraps for lunch, and even tossing a few into your first green smoothie if you haven’t already had one.

3. Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are packed with fiber and protein, along with iron, B vitamins, and potassium. This includes: black beans, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans, chana dal beans, green peas, split peas, green beans, mung beans, soy beans, white beans, navy beans, and any other kind you prefer. These little powerhouses are a great source of magnesium and calcium, which help keep your bones and nervous system healthy. Soak your beans and legumes overnight before cooking them if you find them hard to digest. I find preparing them in the slow cooker while I’m working is a really simple way to cook them without much work as well. They can be added to soups, stews, salads, and even made into dips such as hummus. My favorite weekly staples are: chickpeas, endamame (soybeans), green peas, green beans, and lentils. Try a new one each week and enjoy them with various flavors. Soy aminos, coconut aminos, various spices, tamari, and apple cider vinegar can help give them a delicious flavor without much work at all.

You can also use them to make your own veggie burgers in no time at all.

4. Whole Grains

Whole grains are cheap, easy to prepare, and help fill you up on a low budget. They’re also packed with protein, iron, potassium, magnesium, and fiber. As a bonus, they’re also low in fat or fat-free. Whole grains such as oats, barley, rye, brown and and wild rice are all packed with a delicious flavor and health benefits. Pseudo-grains such as millet, quinoa, teff, and amaranth are all also ancient foods that are now commonly found in most supermarkets. Since they’re seeds by nature, they’re packed with additional protein, B vitamins, and are easier to digest for many people. Add whole grains to dinner such as in this yummy dish with sweet potatoes and wild rice. You can cook up whole grains and pseudo-grains into a delicious porridge to have for breakfast. Starting your day with whole grains versus scrambled eggs will likely lower your cholesterol within a week! Whole grains lower cholesterol while animal foods raise cholesterol. They’re also one of the best foods for women to eat on a plant-based diet. You can also save money by buying in bulk.

5. Non-dairy milks

Non-dairy milks are nothing new in the vegan food industry, but they’re luckily becoming more healthy and “clean” than they used to be. Many companies are improving calcium and Vitamin B12 levels in non-dairy milks, decreasing or removing the refined sugar content, and removing hard-to-digest ingredients such as carrageenan. Non-dairy milks are absolutely delicious and are one of the best things to buy when you go vegan. Try various kinds such as almond, cashew, hemp, coconut, flax, rice, and soy. I like unsweetened vanilla versions and add them to coffee, smoothies, oatmeal, or anywhere else I want a creamy flavor. Don’t want to buy any? Just make your own instead.

6. Raw Nut and Seed Butters

Raw cashew, sunflower, sesame, and almond butter (along with coconut butter) are great to add to your diet. While you don’t want to overdo nut butter since it’s high in calories, you can enjoy a little here and there to squash your appetite and take in healthy fats. I’m a fan of raw over roasted nut butters since these contain no salt, oil, or sugars like many roasted versions do. I find them lighter and less heavy to digest. They may also higher in nutrients like magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and protein since heat hasn’t been applied (which lowers their nutritional benefits.) Pick up a jar of raw almond or cashew butter if you can, but if you’re a fan of roasted versions, those are great too!

Want to make your own? Here’s a video to show you how.

Don’t like nuts? Check out these four raw seed butters instead.

7. Raw Nuts and Seeds

Even better than nut butters are whole nuts and seeds. These are packed with protein, vitamins, fiber, enzymes, and more to help you stay full and satisfy your cravings. They can also keep your skin healthy and improve your mood due to their healthy fats. Have a couple tablespoons a day of any kind you like. Adding chia and flax to porridge and smoothies is a simple way to enjoy them, or feel free to snack on some raw almonds or walnuts with a piece of fruit for a filling snack. Buy them in bulk or on the baking aisle to save money. They’re much cheaper to buy in small amounts and usually much fresher that way too.

You can even use nuts to make more creative recipes like fudge, pie crusts, and cookies or just keep things simple and use them as snacks and toppings.

8. Extras

Extras include things like condiments, sweeteners, spices, plant-based protein powders, and superfoods if you can afford them. For condiments, I enjoy: mustard, apple cider vinegar, tamari, coconut aminos, applesauce, jam, and salsa. For sweeteners, I use: stevia, dried fruits, and coconut sugar and I use just about any spice I can get my hands on.I buy a variety of plant-based protein powders and opt for new ones each week. I usually go for one that’s on sale, raw, completely vegan and free of added sugars. Superfoods like goji berries, acai berry puree, chia seeds, and a greens powder are also available in most markets today. If you can’t find them at your local store, you can order them online.

Condiments help round out meals and add flavor; healthy sweeteners are better than refined sugar, and spices are crucial for flavor (and even an extra dose of nutrition.) Superfoods and vegan protein powders also help boost nutrient uptake but don’t sweat it if you can’t afford them all at once.

Don’t worry about getting enough protein, whatever you do. There are plenty of awesome sources to help you do just that. Making your diet vegan is actually a lot of fun when you focus on what you can add to your diet and not what you’re subtracting. If you don’t like tofu, then don’t eat it! Try tempeh instead or opt for a bowl of rice or another grain with some greens and lentils instead. Give new foods a try and you’ll be surprised how much you enjoy them.

If you went vegan or are cooking more plant-based meals, how did you do it and what did you buy?

Image Source: Natalie Maynor/ Flickr