I have used several brands of oats and, for the most part, find them interchangeable (although some brands have done me wrong). A surprisingly cheap option is the rolled oats from the bulk bins at Whole Foods–who knew? I use Country Choice Organic and BetterOats for my Quick-Cook Steel Cut Oats (which is my favorite cut of oat).
I most frequently buy the Trader Joe’s store brand, and I generally stick to almond or soy. I’m not picky, as long as it’s unflavored. I prefer the refrigerated varieties better than the shelf-stable because I believe it tastes better, and it also costs less per ounce. Sometimes I buy unsweetened so I can easily use it in savory recipes in my everyday cooking.
Any natural brand will work, but I love Trader Joe’s crunchy and unsalted. You only have to stir it once, and it stays soft and spreadable in the fridge. Whole Foods’ 365 brand is another great option (I’m almost positive they are produced by the same company).
I also buy PB2 in bulk from Amazon. If you go through PB2 as quickly as I do, it makes sense to save money by buying in bulk. Most days I mix PB2 with regular peanut butter so I can have a mass volume of peanut butter without getting a huge stomach afterwards. I’m greedy like that.
When it comes to flavored peanut butter, I use Amazon to buy variety packs of Peanut Butter & Co. flavors. If you are in love with a particular flavor, you can also buy 4 packs or 6 packs of one specific flavor. This is much cheaper than buying one jar at a time in stores!
Any brand of unsweetened cocoa powder will do just fine. I used to use Hershey’s, but I’ve started using Trader Joe’s because it’s where I do most of my grocery shopping. When I can find it, I love Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder. I buy this from Amazon occasionally as well.
I strongly recommend buying your honey from a local farmer! Please, please, please! I love buying honey as a “souvenir” when I visit other cities. You can find a honey vendor at almost any medium-sized farmers’ market! Most of them will even let you sample the different varieties. If you are using honey for a sweetener, ask the vendor which one has the most mild flavor. If you are using it for flavor, ask which one has the strongest flavor. 🙂
At the moment, I’m using Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chips because they are vegan AND within my price range, which is a rare find. In the past, I’ve used the Enjoy Life brand, which is vegan and allergy friendly. I really liked it, but gosh, it’s expensive!
For white chocolate chips, I buy the King David brand, which I have never seen in stores and only been able to buy off Amazon.
I love Trader Joe’s maple & agave blend. The agave makes the product WAY more affordable (compared to straight maple syrup) but still tastes like maple syrup.
Flax & Chia Seed
Once again, I get these nutrition boosters from Trader Joe’s. Incredibly cost-saving! Because I utilize both milled and whole flax seeds, I buy the bag of whole seeds and then grind half the bag at home (instead of buying a bag of each). Psst. . . store these in the fridge!
Avoid artificial extracts as much as you can. Three brands I use and trust are Simply Organic, McCormick’s, and Tone’s. All are reliable, but the last two are very affordable. If you go through extract quickly (especially vanilla or almond), I recommend Tone’s, which is available in bulk volumes at Sam’s Club or on Amazon! My mom buys these because she’s a cake decorator! Simply Organic is available at many health food stores, like Whole Foods. This is the brand I use for my peppermint and lemon extracts.
People frequently ask me what kind of coconut milk I use: from the carton or the can? The reason I don’t specify is that you can technically use either. However, I find the stuff from the carton has a much more pleasant taste (the canned stuff tastes “tinny”). I like the So Delicious and Silk brands; both have an immensely tasty “original” variety that makes super pleasant oatmeal. If you want to taste the coconut, make sure you buy the “original” kind and not the “unsweetened” kind.
That being said, I do use canned coconut milk sometimes because it’s a pain to have a carton of soy milk and coconut milk in my tiny New York fridge at the same time. Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk is great . . . but Trader Joe’s is cheaper! 🙂 For oatmeal, it does not matter whether you use the light of “full-fat” version. The taste is very similar, in my experience. (Full-fat is recommended if you’re making coconut whipped cream or coconut ice cream, when fat is needed to improve the final product.)
During the autumn months, I buy my pumpkin at Trader Joe’s. It’s super cheap! Unfortunately, they have a limited “in-season,” so the rest of the year, I buy Libby’s. I often stock up on TJ’s canned pumpkin in the winter so I can use that for the remainder of the year.
I buy my unsweetened shredded coconut from the bulk section of Whole Foods. I don’t think they’re in the actual bulk bins, but they are packaged in small tubs next to those bins. They are so affordable that I refuse to buy them from anywhere else!
My favorite nondairy yogurt to use is SoDelicious Unsweetened Coconut Yogurt. It comes in a larger container, technically four servings but I can stretch it further. Such a pleasant taste! When I can’t find that, I buy the single-serving Greek-Style packages. The texture is thick, the taste is agreeable, and the consistency is just right. I sometimes buy almond yogurt. It’s okay, but the coconut variety is better. Ultimately, my motto is “anything other than soy.” Gross.
Vanilla Bean Paste
I use the Nielsen Massey brand. My sister bought me this gem from Amazon.
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