Vata Season Pantry-Stocking Tips
Fall is here! This is my favorite of the four seasons for so many reasons, and I could go on forever about how much I love the thick, warm, nourishing meals so inherently enjoyed during fall and the beginning of the holiday season. Even without Halloween parties and Thanksgiving get-togethers, I’d still look forward to this time of year with more excitement than any other season. And we’re also coming into the Ayurvedic Vata season, which runs from late fall to early winter. With so many things to look forward to and prepare for, I always make sure I give myself the time to clean, rearrange, and re-stock my pantry according to the Ayurvedic principles I try to incorporate into my everyday living (it’s called “spring cleaning,” but I do it every few months with the changing seasons). Below, you’ll find the steps I take and the tips I follow to make this transition into fall and Vata season within my kitchen as easy as possible, especially when I’ve got so many holiday parties and group dinners to start planning.
Not only does keeping a pantry fully stocked and organized for each season feel amazingly satisfying (I find myself sighing peacefully every time I open mine), but it makes cooking meals so much easier, faster, and less of a hassle when I know exactly what I have and how much. This Vata season, I can see everything in my pantry quite clearly, can easily glance at the expiration dates, and have already filled it with the foods best suited for both the change in weather and the Vata-pacifying qualities I need to nourish my own body.
Cleaning the Pantry
Like I do with every shift into a new season, I clean my pantry from top to bottom before I restock it with the best Ayurvedic foods for any given time of year. I take everything out and get rid of what is no longer usable (and I make sure to use everything I can quickly before it goes bad so nothing goes to waste). Then I take out the shelf liners and wash both them and the shelves with an all-natural cleaner of white vinegar, distilled water, and Thieves Oil® essential oil—clove, lemon, rosemary, cinnamon, and eucalyptus. I also like to change out the shelf liners as well, both for freshness and because it’s another way to incorporate color therapy in my everyday life. My pantry now boasts burnt-orange liners—a refreshing burst of Vata-pacifying color below all my seasonal foods.
Sort the Good from the Bad
I rarely have processed foods or refined sugars in my house anymore, as I’ve been cooking to Ayurvedic standards for a while. But if you’re just starting your journey now, a little bit of change can go a long way. Of course, whenever I revamp my pantry, I make sure to remove anything that may have gone past its expiration date or is no longer usable. This is a great first step. And when preparing your own pantry for the first time, look for the things that don’t belong in an Ayurvedic kitchen—processed foods, refined sugar, anything laden with pesticides, and white wheat products. Some of these are hard to let go of, I know, but they really won’t do you any favors in the long run when it comes to nourishing your body and sustaining a healthy, balanced diet during the Vata season.
Start with the Essentials
There are a few things I keep stocked in my kitchen year-round, both for their versatility in cooking and because they’re great staples for any meal and almost every season. Coconut oil, ghee and extra-virgin olive oil are must-haves, as well as cumin, ginger, turmeric, fennel, cardamom, Himalayan pink salt and black pepper. I also keep my jars of mung beans, adzuki beans, black beans and chickpeas full beside those of quinoa and basmati rice. So many delicious Ayurvedic recipes call for a huge number of these ingredients, and I’ve been experimenting with different amounts of each for particular flavors I like best during the various seasons. Not only are the beans, quinoa, and rice packed with protein and healthy, fueling carbs, but they tend to take on the flavor of almost anything I put in the pot with them.
Add the Vata-Season Foods
It’s no surprise at all that the fruits and vegetables most regularly in season are the ones our bodies need most during that same time. Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. Because Vata is inherently cold, dry, rough, and light, the foods best suited for eating this Vata season are warm, smooth, oily, moist, and nourishing. Plus, incorporating foods with natural sweetness—like pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, milk, fresh yogurt, and eggs—will also add to the Vata-pacifying qualities of your meals. You can find a more detailed list of Vata-pacifying foods here. I label my containers with the purchase or use-by dates and organize them according to use and frequency on my shelves, which takes a little more time but is so worth the trouble of rifling through a stuffed pantry.
So now that Vata season is here and the holidays are coming up, my kitchen is ready to handle any kind of cooking party my friends and family can throw at it. Yesterday, I cleaned out the pantry with my favorite Vata-specific essential oil in an all-natural cleaner, made sure I had plenty of my beans, quinoa, and basmati rice staples, then went to the green market afterward to load up on sweet potatoes, yams, and plain yogurt. If you have any favorite Ayurvedic recipes perfect for Vata season and the approach of the holidays, I’d love to see them! And you might even find you have some extra space in your prepped pantry for a sweet indulgence to celebrate the season with friends and family, like our Chai Me Up or Cinnamon Shan-tea candies.