Vegan Grocery Essentials

I get asked a ton about what I eat, because for some reason, there is an assumption that vegetarians/dairy-free people don't eat real food. To clarify, I'm not completely vegan, and don't limit myself from eating store-bought items that have dairy (eggs, milk) cooked into them. However, I completely avoid eating outright dairy (cheese, cheesecake, cream-filled anything, milk, ice cream, etc) and meat (all kinds + seafood). Eating out is a treat, because most options at non vegan-friendly restaurants are things I already make at home for myself, so when I do go out, I make a point to eat somewhere with things that are fun for me to eat.

For now, this lifestyle (not a diet, this is a lifestyle) works for me. Yes, it may change one day; yes, I have lost weight; and yes, I am genuinely happy eating these things. This isn't all due to what I eat, it's about so much more than that. I practice yoga, take spin classes, run, or do other cardio at least 3-4 days per week, drink plenty of water, limit my caffeine and alcohol intake, and most importantly, take care of myself.

Here are some of the staples I always have on hand in my refrigerator and pantry that I build my meals around each week. I do 90% of my shopping at Trader Joe's and about 10% at Whole Foods. You can't beat the prices at Trader Joe's especially for produce, ($0.19 per banana, $0.99 per avocado), and while Whole Foods is much more expensive, they do have a great selection of vegan friendly treats (dairy-alternatives, desserts, etc).


Pesto: Most store-bought pesto’s contain pecorino cheese, so I love that if I’m feeling too lazy to make my own, I can get this Sauces ‘n Love vegan pesto! I love how fresh pesto is on zucchini noodles or a bowl of pasta with simple veggies.

Hummus: I love hummus with a little kick of something extra, whether it is Siracha, spices, or garlic. It’s an easy on the go snack with carrots and seeded crisps!

Sorbet: Dairy-free ice cream is great, but is usually a treat since it tends to be more expensive, so sorbet is always a must, especially in the summer!

Butter: I love this Earth Balance whipped variety because it spreads or melts faster than their original. You really can't tell this isn't butter (no pun intended).

Cold Brew Coffee with Almond Milk: Califa Farms makes the best cold brew coffee with almond milk! While I'm partial to their XX Espresso and Mocha flavors, all are equally amazing.

Almond Milk: I definitely prefer almond over soy milk and this vanilla one from Trader Joe's is the best! I mostly use it in my smoothies, but also with cereal or coffee.

Yogurt: My dad is the biggest yogurt fan I've ever met, and I've always been a huge yogurt hater, until I tried this. It's a great dessert option, or to be used in overnight oats and topped with fresh fruit!

Berries: I have never been a huge fruit eater, but clearly, I have changed my ways. Starting my day with something fresh like strawberries & banana on toast slathered with almond butter is so refreshing and delicious. I also freeze my own strawberries (cheaper & tastes way fresher!) for smoothies.

Avocados: Wow. I don't know how I haven't been eating avocados my whole life because they are by far the biggest staple in my diet and something I eat almost every day. If I could eat one thing forever, 99% sure it would be avocado toast. Here's my go-to: 1/2 avocado smashed onto 2 slices of toasted ezekiel bread, top with a dash of salt & pepper, a sprinkle of chia seeds, and chopped baby tomatoes. So good.

Bananas: As mentioned above, I have never been a huge fruit eater, and while I don't eat a ton of fruit alone, I love using them to jazz up my food. I freeze my own bananas for smoothies, top oatmeal with bananas & agave nectar, add them to chocolate chip pancakes, or use them on a breakfast toast.

Zucchini: Fried or roasted, I love zucchini and squash of all shapes, sizes, and colors. A little olive oil and garlic powder thrown on top and popped in the oven for 15 minutes does the trick.

Salad Mix: Salad can be so boring, so I love throwing in a variety of veggies and grains to make it hearty, filling, colorful, and delicious.

Cereal: If I don't have enough time (or to be honest, the energy) to make a "real" breakfast, this is my go-to cereal.

Quinoa: I love cous cous, quinoa, and brown rice, and I use them in a couple of different ways throughout the week. In salads, as a base for a veggie bowl, or for stir-fry (rice is best). 

Ezekiel BreadMy roommate from last summer Danielle introduced me to this bread, way before I decided to go dairy free or vegetarian, and I haven’t looked back since! Ezekiel bread is flourless and made from sprouted grains, so it’s heartier and healthier than your average whole grain. It toasts to the perfect crisp, so it’s fantastic to pile things on for breakfast toasts.

Chia Seeds: Super high in fiber are the tiniest seeds that I love in anything. Overnight oats, smoothies, in homemade chia pudding, or on avocado toast are a few ways I use this nutrient-packed superfoods.

Veggie Burgers: I'm not super partial to any type of veggie burger because I almost only use them mashed up in a pasta or zucchini noodle bowl with veggies. If I'm out to eat and they offer a veggie burger, I gravitate towards that because they tend to taste more like the real deal, although I think that's a mental thing.

Almond Butter: I was never a fan of your average peanut butter, but I can get down with almond butter (do we see a trend of almond products here?). There are tons of brands that make amazing almond butters, and usually I go with what's at Trader Joes, but I could do any kind. 

Granola Bars: I always have tons of granola bars in my pantry at any given time from a variety of brands in a variety of flavors! A few of my favorites are Lara Bars (pretty much all the flavors), RXBars (Coconut Chocolate & Blueberry), and GoMacro Bars (Prolonged Power & Protein Pleasure). Lara Bars are fantastic for a quick snack, and I like the RXBars and GoMacro bars as an after workout snack because they're high in protein. 

Almonds: Like granola bars, I almost always have almonds on me, because I never know when I'll get hungry!

Any alternatives to meat or dairy that are your tried and true favorites? I'd love to try them out!

Jacqueline Weiss