It can be hard to know where to start with plant-based shopping so let me help you with my vegan shopping list for beginners.
So you’re doing Veganuary and now the excitement of the first few days is over you don’t know what you need in your kitchen? Or perhaps you’ve decided to commit long term to a vegan lifestyle? Either way it can be daunting when you start out as so many things that you’re used to buying are no longer suitable. On the other hand there are now so many vegan products and ingredients that are readily available that with a little bit of planning you will soon have a well stocked kitchen that allows you to create delicious meals, snacks and work lunches.
Where to shop for vegan food
Where possible it’s a good idea to support independent shops. Many areas have small whole foods shops that have been there for years and are invaluable for vegans. There are also increasing numbers of small vegan businesses who operate at markets and online. At the other end of the scale most supermarkets now stock a good selection of vegan products, including many own-brand ranges. From Waitrose and M&S to Lidl and Aldi you’ll find a plant-based range in most supermarkets.
If you prefer to shop online take a look at Ocado, a UK-based online only supermarket, which has a great vegan range. The Vegan Kind Supermarket is also well worth a look.
What to buy – my vegan shopping list
When you’re starting out you’ll need to do a lot of label checking. As well as meat, fish, dairy and eggs there are other things you need to look out for such as honey, rennet, gelatine, beeswax, shellac, lanolin and cochineal (E120). I’ll be doing a post about label reading soon but in the meantime check out this list by Vegan Easy. If label reading doesn’t sound like a fun prospect you may wish to consider downloading an app to help you such as Is It Vegan?
Dairy-free milk – it’s worth shopping around until you find the products that you like. I like Rude Health almond milk and Oatly oat milk but there are many alternatives including soya, hazelnut, cashew, hemp and coconut milk. Prices vary too. If you want to save money try making your own oat milk.
Vegan cheese – as with milk there are a lot of dairy free cheese alternatives. Some of them taste horrible and some are ok. I use Violife grated mozzarella on pizza and the cheddar slices for burgers and sandwiches. If you can I would recommend looking in a vegan market for artisan plant-based cheeses. I AM NUT OK also sells online. And of course you can make your own should you wish. You can make a delicious cheese sauce out of cashew nuts.
Yoghurt – I prefer coconut yoghurt but it isn’t the cheapest. Plain soya yoghurt is more reasonably priced and is good as an ingredient in baking etc.
Dairy free spread/butter alternative – large supermarkets have lots of options.
Hummus – an absolutely essential ingredient for me – there’s always at least one tub of hummus in my fridge.
Tofu – even if you think you don’t like it it’s worth trying again. There are countless delicious recipes online (try my marinated tofu with ginger and maple syrup or masala scrambled tofu) or you can buy pre-marinated packets that can be chucked in a stir fry. If you’re lucky enough to live near an Asian supermarket take a look at their fridge section – my local one sells bags of pre-fried puffy tofu that my kids love. Tempeh is also worth trying as well as an alternative to tofu.
Meat substitutes – even the biggest fans of cooking need a night off sometimes. It’s worth investing in some meat substitutes eg sausages and burgers for the fridge or freezer for these occasions. If you’re feeling more adventurous you can try seitan (wheat gluten), vegan chicken strips or jackfruit.
Ready meals – most supermarkets stock a good range or there are some lovely independent companies that will deliver to your door (try allplants). You could also try a recipe box scheme.
Vegetables – salads, soups, stews, stir fries – as a vegan you can’t eat too many vegetables. Include lots of leafy greens to ensure you get your iron intake and try to eat the rainbow – include fruits and vegetables of as many different colours as possible.
Fruit – fresh fruit is a good healthy snack but you can also buy bags of frozen fruit. I like to add this to smoothies for breakfast and frozen raspberries are lovely added to porridge.
Sweetener – maple syrup is usually my first choice.
Grains – rice and pasta are good staples but to make your meals more exciting consider trying quinoa, couscous or buckwheat instead.
Oats – for an energy-giving breakfast make overnight oats or porridge.
Bread – seems like it should naturally be vegan but it often isn’t so check the ingredients…
Pulses – tins of beans and lentils will save you time in the kitchen and provide a valuable source of protein. Or use dried beans if you prefer.
Vegetable stock – invaluable for adding to soups and stews.
Flax or chia seeds – a useful source of nutrients to add to smoothies and when ground down make an excellent egg substitute for use in pancakes or cakes.
Nut butters and tahini – try adding a drizzle to porridge in the morning. Tahini is also one of the main ingredients in hummus if you fancy making your own.
Herbs and spices – the list is almost endless and will depend to an extent on what type of food you like but at a minimum I would suggest buying chilli flakes, oregano, mixed herbs, ground cumin, turmeric and garam masala.
Nutritional yeast – packed full of vitamins and adds a cheesy or nutty taste to sauces.
Tamari or soy sauce – essential for Asian cooking.
Vinegar – I have rice vinegar, balsamic and apple cider.
Olive oil – the base of many recipes. Coconut oil and sunflower/vegetable oil are also useful.
Other – pine nuts, liquid smoke, chipotle, dukkah, sun dried tomatoes – none of these are essentials but they’ll add a real kick to your meals
Snacks and treats
Nuts and seeds – perfect for snacking on and a great protein source.
Dates – so delicious and very good for you. Great for making energy balls.
Snack bars – happily there are many vegan cereal and snack bars available nowadays.
Crackers and oat cakes – delicious spread with a vegan cream cheese or nut butters.
Chocolate – there are some brilliant vegan chocolates out there. My favourite is Ombar.
Biscuits – bourbon biscuits are usually vegan, as are ginger nuts, rich tea biscuits and Oreos.
Vegan ice cream – there are so many delicious vegan ice creams on the market that you’ll be spoilt for choice. My all-time favourite is Booja Booja raspberry ripple.
Snack bars – there are loads on the market but always check the ingredients. Nakd bars are good or if you prefer something oaty you could always buy the ingredients to make my vegan flapjacks.
If you drink alcohol you need to be aware that many beers and wine are filtered or clarified with animal products eg eggs or the swim bladders from fish (isinglass). There are lots of vegan options however and you can check Barnivore if you’re not sure.
Toiletries and cosmetics
Many toiletries and cosmetics contain animal derived ingredients or are tested on animals. Thankfully many supermarket own brands are ok for vegans but it’s best to always check the label.
What would you add to this vegan shopping list? Let me know in the comments below.