A Well-Stocked Kitchen

When it comes to saving time and money there’s nothing like having on hand your favorite staples which can serve as a base for a variety of meals. But it’s a fine balance between stocking-up on the things you use most often and letting your cupboards become forbiddingly packed with aging foodstuffs, so be sure to store things properly and do regular surveys before buying new food (see the section on “planning your grocery shopping and reducing waste”). If you’re lucky enough to have a cool, well ventilated space (known as a larder or root cellar in the old days) where some hardy fruits and vegetables can be conveniently stored for weeks or even months in winter, then you can get away with buying larger quantities of these, but otherwise it’s best to get just the quantity of perishables that you can realistically eat over 5-10 days.

Fresh vs. preserved and a few other tips
·       Garlic, ginger, lemongrass: If you’re looking for time-saving options, or if you only use these in small quantities occasionally, you can buy ginger paste and minced garlic in jars or tubes, although fresh garlic is much more aromatic. Powdered forms are much less tasty.
·       Tomatoes:  I love canned tomatoes for most recipes not just because they take less prep and cook time and cost 70-85% less than fresh tomatoes (get the store brand or in bulk). Canning is usually done in-season using ripe tomatoes because that’s more economical, and as a result canned tomatoes often taste better than out of season “Styrofoam-fresh” ones from the supermarket. On the sustainability front, not only do out of season tomatoes have to travel long distances, but it’s a crop infamous for labor abuses in the US. So unless it’s August/September when delicious and inexpensive local heirloom tomatoes are in season, I prefer canned tomatoes in cooking. When buying canned tomatoes, I go for the unflavored varieties and add my own spices (those with sugar or herbs/spices are likely to be reminiscent of commercial cafeteria food). Unflavored petite diced or crushed are the most versatile forms; there are also delicious “fire roasted” options. Or if you happen to grow your own, a lazy alternative to canning is to just freeze your tomatoes in summertime.
·       Lemon juice & zest: I’ve found that store-bought lemon concentrate just doesn’t have the same flavor and aroma as fresh juice. But that doesn’t mean you have to cut up a fresh lemon every time. If you get a large bag of lemons, fresh lemon slices or juice can be frozen in a thin layer in a Ziploc bag, and then a piece of the right size is easy to break off when needed. If you’ve gone to the trouble of getting organic oranges or lemons, use the rind! You can make zesty strips with a vegetable peeler (avoid the white pith), or zest by gently grating the fruit surface. The thin peels or zest freeze really well in a Ziploc bag for later use in baking, drinks, soups or as a flavoring for vegetable steaming water.

Here are some ingredients that I make frequent use of in my kitchen and in the Ungourmet Vegetarian cookbook. Items marked with an * will keep for only a week or less; other produce on this list will usually keep a few weeks or more

Fresh produce
Dry beans
brassicas: broccoli, green cabbage, kale, etc.*
lentils: red, brown
ginger (freezes well)
herbs*: fresh cilantro, scallion
white beans: navy/cannellini
Grains & grain products
potatoes or yams
Cornmeal (polenta)
seasonal fruits & vegetables*
couscous or bulgur
seasonal salad greens*
hot cereal (finely ground whole grains)
oats - rolled
tomatoes (seasonal) *
Fridge friends
rice: basmati/jasmine
rice: short or medium grain (sushi)
eggs (if you eat them)
wheat flour: unbleached white or whole wheat
Indian relish
miso paste
Dry spices & flavorings
mustard - Dijon
allspice or nutmeg
pickles (e.g. kimchee)
black pepper – whole
cardamom pods
home-made sauces: salad dressings, marinades
cinnamon – whole & ground
yogurt - plain
cloves - ground
coriander - ground
Freezer friends
cumin - whole & ground
curry powder
edamame or baby lima beans
red pepper (cayenne chili; smoked paprika or chipotle)
green peas (petit pois are good)
salt (kosher or iodized sea salt)
turmeric powder
vanilla extract
French (slender) green beans
meat substitute (Quorn or veggie patties)
Dry herbs & aromatics
Shelf-stable staples
garlic powder
baking powder
coconut flakes - unsweetened
coconut milk
sage - rubbed
dry fruit: raisins/dates/etc.
dry shitake mushrooms
Japanese dashi (powdered soup stock without MSG)
nutritional yeast
nuts: peanut, walnut/pecan, almond
nut butters (peanut, tahini sesame butter - unsalted is best)
oils: virgin olive, toasted sesame, cooking oil/spray
rice cooking wine (saké)
seaweeds: kelp, nori, dulse, hijiki
seeds, hulled: sesame, raw sunflower
soy sauce, tamari
sugar: brown or raw
sweeteners: honey/maple/brown rice syrup/molasses
teas: green, herbal, etc.
tomatoes: canned diced or crushed; paste in a tube
TVP (dry soy protein)
vinegar: apple cider or brown rice


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The goal of this blog is to celebrate delicious food that's also practical. Contrary to certain foodie trends, we believe there is no reason for amazing food to be expensive or complicated or time consuming.

Our hope is to bridge the ethos of the slow and simplicity movements (cooking delectable traditional foods from scratch, connecting with others, minimizing waste and clutter) with the everyday needs and constraints of “the 99%”.

Check out the recipe section for easy, healthy, authentic recipes from the world’s vegetarian traditions that ANYONE can make.