my favorite products
At this point in my vegetarian journey, I've tested a bunch of different brands of for a myriad of products.
I provide links to each company website below, but don't think you can't find them for cheaper in local stores.
arrowhead mills flours
There are a lot of options for flour and meal, but arrowhead mills has some quality options. God knows why, but I prefer their buckwheat flour, specifically.
benecol buttery spreads
Once you go vegetarian, it's easy to blindly buy vegan options without ever looking at the nutritional facts. The fact is, a lot of vegan dairy replacements are higher in saturated fat, and contain soy. Benecol is not vegan, but the nutritional facts speak for themselves. If you're morally against dairy products, I am sorry, and I'm not thrilled that this option has buttermilk. What I do is generally avoid using butter or butter replacements, and use this delicious product sparingly. There are excellent avocado based butters on the market with optimal nutritional facts, but so far the only ones I have come across contain soy, which I cannot have. In the meantime, this is my go to.
bob's red mill
Arrowhead Mills has fantastic buckwheat flour, but I rely on Bob's Red Mill for pretty much every other flour in my pantry. I also prefer their nutritional yeast among various brands, and their egg replacer is the best of the three brands I've tried so far.
Being a vegetarian who likes variety, there's no way I could survive without a ton of Asian cuisine. The big problem: I can't have soy! Thankfully, I have a friend who only uses gluten free products, and she turned me onto coconut aminos. I have tried at least four different brands of coconut aminos. The biggest problem with every one of those brands - other than BRAGG- is that they are more sweet than salty. It makes a HUGE difference. Make the extra effort to find or pay the extra money to order this brand.
When I have time on my hand, I always make my own pizza crust (usually sweet potato crust by Blissful Basil). Work and family doesn't always allow for much free time, though, so it's good to have a frozen crust option that sneaks more veggies in. There are a ton of frozen cauliflower pizza crusts out there. There are probably five different brands in my local grocery store alone. Monteli's tastes the best AND it's vegan AND it's soy-free (though some milk and soy might get in there because it's packed in the same place as products with those ingredients). STILL! Best option for my money.
Variety is the spice of life, but spices are what allows me to make a huge variety of recipes. Most spices I use are available at the local grocery store, but Penzey's has the more unique ones and the quality of the basic ones are out of this world. Bonus: they are a company with a conscience.
The same friend that introduced me to BRAGG, introduced me to Sir Kensington's. It's definitely not an exclusively vegan brand, but they have some healthier mayos and dressings than other brands.
thai kitchen (a McCormick brand)
Something my pantry absolutely always has: Thai Kitchen curries and Thai Kitchen brown rice noodles. Before switching to a vegetarian diet, I didn't cook much else than chicken and vegetables, and I had no idea how easy it is to make a number of Asian meals that I had exclusively had at restaurants. A quick and easy meal on a lazy day is noodles with leftover vegetables with some curry paste. It will feel like take out, but it will save you money, and you won't kill yourself with too much sodium.
true made foods
I was on the hunt for some king oyster mushrooms one day (to no avail), but there was a lovely sales rep handing out samples of True Made Foods ketchup and sriracha (definitely cheaper in store than online). Both products are packed with extra produce, like butternut squash, carrots, and spinach. By using natural ingredients in the ketchup, you end up relying on more natural sugars and about 50% less sugar than your big name brands. Another plus is that tomatoes are a big no-no for many people with kidney disorders, so bringing in other produce instead of tomato can only hope (at least I'm guessing that).
This is the definitely most specific recommendation I have. If you're not in the Philadelphia area, you have to rely on the online store. My husband and I stumbled upon the Tubby Olive shop at Reading Station during a weekend visit with friends in the city of brotherly love, and we fell in love with their infused olive oils. We love garlic, so the garlic infused EVO was a no brainer. The less obvious choice is the Persian lime infused oil, which we use on most Thai or Thai-inspired dishes. It makes a HUGE difference.
Seriously, there's no need to be a snob on most of your pantry items, especially when it comes to canned goods. Our local Harris Teeter offers several no salt added canned beans that don't register any sodium on the nutritional facts. Other lower in sodium and budget friendly options we rely on: coconut milk and diced tomatoes (though I really prefer to dice fresh tomatoes).
I'm a shop local evangelist. Too often, people think this means spending extra cash, but when it comes to vegetarian ingredients, be adventurous and seek out small speciality grocery stores. They usually have CHEAP food you'd spend a fortune on using an online shop.
Our local Indian restaurant also has a small shop hidden around back with fresh curry leaves and spices that you can't get at Penzeys. Our local halal store carries the best Ras el Hanout and dates. We're also definitely lucky to live near a pretty big Asian market that offers healthier ramen meals, canned young jackfruit in water, seaweed salad, black rice, kimchi, black garlic, and so much more.
I didn't know the Indian and halal stores were there until I Googled local stores. I walk to both of them. Find your hidden gems.