Quinoa Tabbouleh. Photo by Michelle Riley

Eating and cooking plant-based is as easy as vegan pie – if you’ve stocked up on all the necessary food essentials! At first shopping for your plant-based pantry might seem daunting and difficult, but you’ll quickly learn how to read labels, identify plant-based products and fill up your cupboards. There are more plant-based products on the market than you think, but there is no need to buy everything at once. Focus on the most important plant-based substitutes that you’ll need on a day-to-day basis and break down your shopping list into three categories: a basic monthly shopping list, a fresh weekly shopping list and a speciality shopping list. This way you can ease into the plant-based lifestyle and gradually start eating more green meals – like on a Green Monday!

Let’s take a look at the necessary substitutes to replace your meat, eggs and dairy products with:

Dairy products:

  • Milk is one of the easiest products to replace when transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle and there are plentiful options available. Soya milk is the most commonly known non-dairy milk replacement, but if you are not a fan of this bean-based version, you can also opt for rice milk, oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk or a combination of the lot. You can also make your own by simply placing nuts, oats or soya beans into a high-speed blender with water along with vanilla extract, blending it till smooth and straining it through cheesecloth. 
  • According to the masses, cheese is the hardest food item to “give up”. Luckily you don’t have to! You can replace your cheddar, mozzarella and even cream-cheese with a non-dairy version. These cheeses are coconut-oil based and taste just like the original (without the cruelty or saturated animal fats). Nut-based cheeses are also delicious and easy to make at home. 
  • Thick and creamy soy-based yoghurt is a great-tasting topping for muesli and fresh fruit. You can have it smooth, chunky or as a drinking-yoghurt. 
  • Even cream can be replaced by coconut cream or a non-dairy alternative. Use it in desserts or as a dressing on top of soups and in curry sauces.

Meat:

  • Gone are the days of bland cardboard patties. Today, we can feast on a variety of flavoursome and juicy meat alternatives – perfect for the braai, or in homecooked meals like stews, pasta, pizzas and wraps. Think patties, sausages, chickenless or beefless strips, nuggets, schnitzels, meatless balls, polony and even bacon. Stock up on a few products to keep in your freezer or have fun with friends or the kids by making your own
  • There are also many fresh and wholefood ingredients you can use to replace meat, like lentils in bobotie, shepherd’s pie and enchiladas or tofu and mushrooms in stir-fry’s and skewers.  

Eggs:

  • Think you can’t have scrambled eggs on a plant-based diet? Think again! Firm crumbled tofu, fried with Kala Namak (Indian black salt), turmeric and a dash of pepper and spices make for a terrific scramble breakfast
  • Another eggy-favourite that you can mimic at home is a chickpea omelette. When this versatile flour is mixed with a non-dairy milk, baking powder and spices, it creates a beautifully fluffy omelette on the inside with a crunchy layer on the outside. 
Baking without eggs is a breeze. There are many ingredients that you can use as egg-celent alternatives:  

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Now that you understand which products to substitute your meat, dairy and eggs with, you can compile your plant-based shopping lists. The lists and ingredients will depend on how often you are planning to eat green. You can use the suggestions below to compile shopping lists according to your own green regime:

BASIC MONTHLY SHOPPING LIST: This list consists of your go-to pantry and freezer essentials and includes: grains (pasta, rice, cereal), sugar, flours, oil, long-lasting vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes), non-dairy milk, dried or tinned goods (lentils, beans, vegetables), spices, sauces, nuts and seeds, sweets, biscuits, and frozen foods (meat alternatives, frozen vegetables, frozen berries).

FRESH WEEKLY SHOPPING LIST: You want to stock up on fresh produce on a weekly basis to ensure you eat healthy and balanced meals. Weekly goods will help build up your fridge essentials list and may include: leafy greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, lettuce), favourite fresh vegetables you are likely to eat weekly (tomatoes, cucumber, onion, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, aubergine, celery, beetroot, mushrooms), favourite fresh fruit you are likely to eat weekly (bananas, apples, berries, oranges), herbs (basil, parsley, coriander), wholegrain bread (brown, multi-seed, rye, gluten-free), other non-dairy alternatives (cheese, yogurt, cream), tofu.

SPECIALITY SHOPPING LIST: If you are cooking a special meal or hosting a dinner party for friends, you need to create a speciality shopping list according to the recipe(s) requirements. Always do your shopping a day before to avoid not getting hold of essential ingredients. These ingredients are dependent on the recipe and are usually out of the ordinary (like dragon fruit and fennel) but you might also have some stocked in your pantry or fridge already.

TOP TIP! Be aware of hidden ingredients. Some products, like Oreos, are accidentally plant-based. However, other products, like crisps, may seem plant-based but contain animal-derived ingredients. At the beginning of your transition, it is important to read food labels. Some ingredients to be aware of include Beef (flavouring), beeswax, butter, casein (milk protein), eggs (including egg powder), gelatine, glycerine, lactose, milk (including milk powder) and whey protein.

Need some inspiration for your green meal planning and shopping spree? Take a look at the variety of recipes listed on the Green Monday SA website: www.greenmonday.co.za. There you will find everything from breakfast wraps and bulging burgers to sweet treats and salivating sauces.