What to stock in a vegetarian pantry
Find a 'mom/pop/ locally owned health food store that sells spices in bulk. Often you have to weigh them, bag and label them yourself. You can replace/replenish your spice rack very cheap doing that. Sometimes only 50 cents for a spice that would cost 4 dollars at a supermarket. Save your jars and label them.
Bulk grains are good to keep on hand. Check the Asian stores for cheap bags of rice and other dry spices especially seaweeds..which are much cheaper at Asian stores, along with miso, tofu, soy sauces.
Get some canning jars to store seaweeds, bulk peppers, lentils, etc. The glass jars keep thing much longer and more bug proof than plastic bags. (especially for dried fruits and grains that might attract pantry moths).
I stock canned organic beans which are so easy to add to salads, soups, stews & chili. I love chick peas, black beans, Red kidney beans and soft Cannellini beans. Beans and rice are a classic protein replacement. So cost effective as well. PS: Canned beans are easier to digest. Lol!
Canned and dried beans (black and chick are at the top of my favorites list)
Lentils (I prefer dried, the canned ones look weird to me)
Kashi's Seven Grain Pilaf (that stuff is awesome)
Canned pumpkin/canned sweet potatoes (I use these to bulk up soups, stews, chili and the like)
Dried fruit. Walnuts, almonds, pecans, peanuts, cashews. Farro. Quinoa--I like red quinoa, think it's nuttier than the white. Dried pasta in multiple shapes. Canned (I actually like Pomi boxed) and sun-dried tomatoes. Split peas.
In terms of just seasoning, these are my essentials:
Olive oil, sesame oil, sea salt, ground pepper, rice wine vinegar, dried chili, dried shiitake mushroom, fermented black beans (Chinatown), nutritional yeast, Seitenbacher's vegetable seasoning, spices, dried thyme, dried oregano, bay leaf, lime leaf, soy sauce or tamari, a sweetener like pure maple syrup or agave, fresh lemon, coconut milk powder, sesame seeds.
Playing around with these makes everything taste good!
I agree with all who suggested dried beans; I like the tiny French or Black Beluga lentils (if available) as they are less mushy. Brown rice: saute garlic & cracked fresh bay leaf in olive oil, sniff appreciatively, add rice & saute, add boiling water to about 2 fingers above level of rice plus salt, and let it boil down over high heat till you see bubble holes in the rice, turn heat to low & simmer another 30 or so minutes. No measuring! It doesn't take all that long. And rice won't be "gloppy" as brown rice often is. Brown rice with bean chili or lentils are both classics. Sesame oil (toasted), soy sauce, black and white sesame seeds for toasting. Shallots & more shallots, onions, fresh garlic (granulated too). Kombu kelp speeds cooking of dry beans (tho' I haven't been buying since the earthquake in Japan :( Irish oatmeal for nutritious bkfast. Can be par-cooked the night before as per package. Sun-dried tomatoes (Trader Joe's in the bags are really flavorful). Smoked salt, smoked pepper blend, smoked Spanish paprika all add interesting flavor when you can't have smoked meat products. Whole-grain pastas.
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Luv dried beans and canned beans, would add ful medames to the list above. Also like giant Greek beans in tomato sauce that can be found in small cans. Every kind of rice since and beans pair so nicely. All kinds of pasta and canned tomatoes for sauce. All kinds of spices. Buckwheat noodles and rice noodles for soups, stirfries. Rice paper wrappers for summer rolls. Spicy pickles, like kim chee and Indian pickles. Oils andvinegars, right now I keep grapeseed oil, olive oil, rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sherry and balsamic. Ghee from the Indian grocery. Grains like quinoa and farro. Oh, making these lists is such a soothing thing...
Creamtea, why did you stop buying Japanese kombu after the quake? their economy needs a boost now more than ever.