Okay, so the biggest question a newbie vegan usually is, “Where the heck do I start?” Maybe you made the decision to live the veg life last week and you have met your limit of veggie restaurants and frozen vegan microwave dinners. You realize that veganism for the long term is impossible and [insert favorite fast food restaurant here] is so convenient! DON’T DO IT!!! Step away from the fast food!
Right now, I am giving you my fool-proof simple grocery list for vegan diets! Though vegan shopping may sound tedious and a tad bit scary, it really is the easiest grocery shopping you will ever do! So why is my shopping list fool-proof and the exact shopping list you need to commit for the long term?
1. Affordable – Do you really still believe the myth that eating plant-based is expensive? I can prove that it’s not! This simple list consists of mostly whole foods. If you want to add in mock meats or other processed vegan items, feel free, but know they will cost more and may be harder to find.
2. No label reading – It is super intimidating and slightly embarrassing to be the one in the grocery store reading labels of everything you pick up (We have all been there.) All the things on this list are vegan-approved and you won’t have to spend extra time in the store reading labels!
3. Convenient – Now, did you think I was going to send you all over town looking for the “holy” vegan food?? No way! You can find the items on this list at ANY grocery store or farmer’s market! Also, the fact that many people live in areas without access to full size grocery stores- also known as food deserts- is often overlooked. Generally, food desert shopping options only include corner stores that rarely stock a variety of fresh produce and health foods. Though this is my must-have list, you don’t need every item on this list to create plant based meals.
4. Make meals for the week – Though this is a basic shopping list, from the items on this list alone you can make at least 12 easy meals!! And I’m not talking about 12 different kinds of salads. I’m talking about breakfast, lunch, and dinners! (Come on. The blog’s called WePigOut!) As I post new recipes in our RECIPE section, I will mark recipes that can be made from this list with “The Set-Up.”
Let’s get to the list!
Dry and Canned Goods
Not only are beans an awesome source of protein, they are high in fiber. Beans can, of course, be bought in bulk and are cheaper if you do so. However, dry beans usually require soaking for up to eight hours before cooking. If you are like me, canned beans will work just fine. I like to stock up on both black beans and garbanzo (chickpea) beans.
Rice is a great grain base for most of your dishes. If available, try new rice in the bulk section. If your selection is limited, brown or white rice is fine.
Just like rice, pasta is a great grain base for any dish. I often use rice and pasta interchangeably to get a new taste for an otherwise identical dish. I usually like to stick with a whole wheat pasta. which is generally vegan safe. This item might deserve a quick look at the ingredients to ensure there is no egg, whey powder, or butter.
The variety of canned tomatoes provides numerous ways for you to use these tomatoes in the kitchen. I pick up stewed, diced, and crushed tomatoes, and use them to make soups, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, topping on my homemade burrito bowl, and even homemade ketchup!
I think oatmeal is the perfect, everyday breakfast food. On weekdays, oatmeal is my go to. I usually pick up rolled oats, however, I have picked up minute oats a time or two. Only ingredient in oats is oats, so pick a brand and move on.
Not only do I use veggie stock as basis for my soups, I also use it as a replacement for oil in when cook. I try to limit my oil intake when I can and the veggie stock can add some extra flavor to your dish.
I usually buy Ezekiel bread (which is actually found in the freezer section.) If Ezekiel is not available, stick with regular whole wheat bread, which is generally made of vegan ingredients.
I find that pizza crust is usually marked vegetarian or vegan. If the pizza crusts you see are not marked, then check for simple vegan ingredients. The crust shouldn’t be much more than flour and water. Also, you may think this is unnecessary, but never underestimate the power of pizza crust, crushed tomatoes, and some veggies on a weeknight.
Any plant-based milk is fine. I usually go for almond or cashew. If available, look for milks that are fortified with B-12.
Vegan butter – Vegan butter is usually marked vegan/vegetarian. I usually buy Earth Balance since I am able to find it at any grocery store. If you are still looking to cut back on spending, or vegan butter is not an option, skip the butter. I skipped butter altogether for the first 5 months I was vegan.
Bulk – You can buy these packaged, but they are cheaper in bulk
All Purpose Flour
This is a base used for baking and batters. There are many different kinds of flours out there and they all have very different tastes. All Purpose usually works in all recipes calling for flour (Hint. Hint. All-Purpose) It is also easy to find.
I personally love coconut sugar more than other sweeteners. Surprisingly, there is not a coconut taste for you coconut haters. If coconut sugar is not available or you are not thrilled by the idea, raw cane sugar is the next best way to go. Now, I know a lot of you may think its only sugar, why would I have to be so picky about what kind to buy? Refined white sugar is processed with animal bone char, and therefore, is not vegan.
Oil of choice (Cooking Oil)
I prefer coconut oil, but feel free to use other oils. I usually stay away from olive oil due to its high fat content.
Buy in season for cheapest finds. You can interchange for your favorites and add more.
Make sure you pick a watermelon with a large yellow spot. That means that the watermelon sat on that spot long enough to ripen. These watermelon tend to be the sweetest.
Don’t switch out. These are basis for most recipes. Only get what you absolutely need fresh, otherwise get frozen. Cheaper organic and last longer
Great source of healthy fat. To find a good avocado, pop the “top” (where the stem is) and look for green. If it’s green, then the avocado is a good pick!
You should always pick one or two leafy greens to take home. I like to think of spinach as the “all-purpose” leafy green since it can be used in a variety of meals and doesn’t have a super distinct taste. Kale requires a little getting used to and a little work in some cases, like massaging the kale.
White, yellow, and red onions can add lots of flavors to any dish. You may also decide to get shallots, which are small onions that have more of a subtle, sweet onion taste.
I use this as a base in most of my cooking dishes.
Celery is a great soup base.
Potatoes – Sweet or White
If you pick the sweet, remember to buy the round ones. My grandmother always said those are the sweetest, and it’s true!
Found in vegan section or by the produce
I like to buy frozen fruit for two reasons. First, you can buy fruit that is not in season for a low price. Second, I like to use frozen fruit instead of ice in smoothies.
Just like the frozen fruit, frozen veggies allow you to buy vegetables not in season. I also use frozen veggies to make the quickest and easiest stir-fry.
Now condiment items are nice, but they are not absolutely necessary and they are optional. If you decide to purchase these items, you will need to read the label to ensure there are no animal-based ingredients. I have been able to find vegan versions of all these items at a regular supermarket.
Now, you may notice that my staples list did not include any spices or seasonings. You are probably thinking that this woman WILL NOT convince me to go vegan with some bland ol’ vegan food! Just WAIT! Check out my next post, The Spice Collection, where I will discuss all the spices and seasonings you need to make your food taste amazing and just the way you want! Yes, the spices are so serious they need their own post!
In the comments…
What are your vegan pantry must-haves?
What are some vegan items you have had trouble finding at the grocery store?