So you have decided to give Veganuary a go? Well done! Now let’s create your vegan shopping list. Some new vegans feel a bit overwhelmed when they enter the supermarket so in this post you are going to find information about the essential vegan products you can buy from the UK supermarkets, some obvious, some not so much. Not all vegan foods are necessarily healthy though, so I am going to try to focus on those that will help you stay healthy, while maintaining a vegan diet. In addition, I am going to reveal a clever way to save money when you do your vegan shopping at Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose! Last, but not least, make sure to enter my veganuary giveaway below!
If you haven’t heard of the Veganuary movement yet, it starts in January and it’s a month when many people decide to give up animal products and become vegan for a month! Hopefully inspiring a more plant-based diet throughout the rest of the year too. This initiative is not only great for our health, but also for environmental and compassionate reasons. Did you know that global livestock contributes to 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions? If you want to impact climate change, your diet is the easiest way to start! Veganism is not just a diet though, but a way of life. From clothes and cosmetics to the food shopping, all everyday choices are with the animal welfare in mind. In this post I am going to focus on the food aspect as this is where many people start their journey and show you the amazing foods you can enjoy as a vegan!
Vegetarian vs Vegan label
Let’s start by talking about the label on the food packaging. Lots of foods have a vegetarian label, indicating that there is no meat or animal fat in the product you are buying, but are some of those vegetarian products vegan as well? While the vegan label is present on some products, supermarkets often forget to label their food as vegan so you need to look beyond the label and read the ingredients list. In some cases the supermarkets can’t label the food as vegan, due to the manufacturing conditions of the product. This means that in the same factory non-vegan products are produced so there is a small chance of traces of milk for example, but you would normally see a warning about this. It’s always highlighted in bold, where possible allergens are mentioned on the packaging. So don’t restrict yourself just to products with a vegan label, expand your vegan shopping list by checking the ingredients.
I can’t list them all here, but these are some of the most popular non-vegan ingredients to look out for when you do your shopping:
- Meat, fish, seafood and their derivatives like gelatin and animal rennet.
- Milk, cheese, whey, cream, butter…basically any form of milk.
Essentials for your vegan shopping list
Now let’s talk about what you CAN buy. These vegan essentials are the type of foods you need to have in your fridge and pantry to be able to cook quick and nutritious vegan meals.
Vegetables & Fruits
Obviously. Plants are at the heart of the vegan diet, no other food is more vegan than vegetables, fruits and fresh herbs. You can prepare so much more than just salads though. Vegetables can be turned into comfortfood meals and many other culinary creations. Make sure they make up the majority of your vegan shopping list, they will provide all the nutrition you need and fresh herbs will add a rainbow of flavours.
Beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas and their many variations like dal for example, are essential to your vegan diet. Loaded with protein, calcium, iron and many other nutrients. The supermarkets sell them in their more natural dry versions or conveniently soaked in cans and ready to cook. Peas are best frozen as this way they preserve more of their nutrients.
Rice, buckwheat, couscous, quinoa and whole oats are some of the most popular grains you can have in your vegan pantry. They are ideal as a base for a rich, filling salad, with a warming curry or as part of a vegan burger patty. Oats on the other hand are the easiest breakfast. Dry pasta (fresh is non-vegan due to eggs) is also of course a super easy weeknight meal, but it’s best to rely more on the first group of whole grains for more nutritious meals.
Nuts and nut butters play a key role in a vegan diet. Raw nuts and seeds, like walnuts, flax and chia seeds, are a source of essential fats and Omega 3. When removing fish from your diet (rich in Omega 3), it’s important to add a plant replacement. Nut butters are also extremely delicious of course. Just make sure you buy the pure nut butters, with no added salt or palm oil like Meridian nut butters.
Other sources of essential, good fats are avocados and olives. You can place a few slices of avocado on the side of almost every meal, in a sandwich and even desserts. Getting some extra virgin olive oil to cook with and to use in salads is also a great way to add some extra nutrition to your meals, an absolute must in your vegan shopping list. Olives are rich in Vitamin K, E and lots of healthy polyunsaturated fats.
While tofu is probably one of the most popular and versatile vegan specials, I know a lot of people struggle with the taste and texture. Because of this, some feel like they can’t be vegan, but I want to emphasise that you can be vegan even if you don’t like tofu. I am not a big fan of plain tofu myself, but things change when it’s flavoured. For example Cauldron Marinated Tofu Pieces (non-GMO soy) are full of flavour, but you can also make your own homemade marinated tofu with some fresh herbs and spices.
The variety of plant milks grows every year and there are so many choices. Soy milk is not the only option anymore. Coconut milk and almond milk are my favourite, but there is also rice milk and oat milk (Oatly have a great, nutritious oat milk). If you need help transitioning to vegan milk read my tips in this post here about how to give up cow’s milk. If you have your coffee or tea with milk normally, these plant milks are ideal alternatives.
A lot of the plant milks are enriched with B12 vitamin. This is the only vitamin that a vegan diet can’t provide in sufficient quantities naturally as it’s normally sourced from animal ingredients. If you plan on transitioning to a vegan diet permanently after Veganuary, you might want to consider buying some B12 supplements as your plant milk might not be a sufficient source as well.
These are the most basic, healthy ingredients that are an absolute must in your vegan shopping list. Here is an amazing recipe collection of 31 healthy vegan mains you can prepare with these ingredients.
Snack time is so much fun when you are vegan, thanks to the holy houmous. It’s a must item in your vegan shopping list! Cut some carrot and cucumber sticks on the side and you have a great healthy and vegan nibble.
If you are looking to spread something delicious on a slice of bread or a cracker, you can make a simple avocado mash or some vegan pesto. I love olive paste as well, but you might struggle to find this in the supermarkets. Another option is fresh guacamole, it’s always next to the houmous in the supermarkets. You can also try vegan pesto, Sacla have a grest “free-from” pesto range. The Aubergine & Basil Paste by Olive Branch from Waitrose is another delicious option. Avoid regular butter (non-vegan), margarine and other butter-like spreadables. Yes, they are vegan, but not in any way good for you.
If you are after something crunchy, then you can make some simple vegan nachos with tomato sauce, beans and avocado!
If you are missing cheese and you are having cravings, you might want to try vegan cheese. Sainsbury’s have an amazing vegan cheese range, aka “Gary” or you can find VioLife “cheese” in all three supermarket chains. I was sceptical at first, but it’s amazing how well it melts and how close the flavour is to real cheese. Use it occasionally though as vegan cheese is not the most natural product and it contains a lot of heavily refined oils.
I also often have a banana or an apple with some peanut butter as an afternoon pick-me-up snack. :)
Precooked Vegan Meals
Cooking your own food is always the healthiest way to go, but I also want to show you some products below for the occasional busy moments when you can’t be bothered to cook and you just want an easy meal. The problem I find with lots of vegan & vegetarian products is that they try to imitate meat, which in theory sounds ideal for those used to eating meat, but in reality many “vegan meat” products are way too processed, very starchy and very little nutritional value. However I know they are helpful for transitioning vegans so give them a try if you are curious. Here are some a bit more natural tasty suggestions that are based on veggies and other more natural ingredients.
Veggie balls & burger patties
The good products to add to your vegan shopping list are those mainly made of veggies and legumes. The downside is that the majority of these are fried, but otherwise they are full of good vegan ingredients and lots of flavour. Cauldron’s falafels are an affordable and delicious option available in all supermarkets, but Sainsbury’s own brand falafels are a very good rival as well. Gosh have an amazing selection of “naturally free-from” veggie balls and veggie burgers that contain very little flour and mainly vegetables. Their Sweetcorn & Quinoa Bites are delicious! You can find them in Tesco and Sainsbury’s. A good option from Waitrose are their own-brand frozen red pepper burger patties.
Precooked lentils and grains
This selection of precooked meals is often overlooked in the supermarkets, but there are some super nutritious and simple meal options here. Merchant Gourmet have a great selection of flavoured precooked lentils and quinoa, one of my favourite is their Tomatoey French Puy & Green Lentils. Jamie Oliver’s Ready to eat meals are quite good as well, like the Sweet Chilli Spelt. All supermarkets have their own-brand meals as well. If you don’t want to eat these meals on their own, just add some some salad, some crispy greens or top with tofu.
Ready curry sauces
I love a vegan curry! I simply steam some sweet potatoes and chickpeas and add the curry sauce, with some rice on the side. This is not an entirely precooked meal, but if your sauce is ready, the curry is quite easy to put together. It’s an easy meal to add to your vegan shopping list. Did you know that Waitrose’s Tika Masala paste is vegan? Most curry sauces contain cream, but you will find some that are vegan. Pataks Jalfrezi Cooking Sauce is full of coconut, but no dairy for example. Blue Dragon’s Thai Green Curry Paste is also vegan. On the other hand if you prefer to cook your sauce from scratch there are quite a few curry sauce recipes online, creamed with coconut.
Soups and fresh salads
When you get to the fresh soup fridge in the supermarket, I am sure you are going to find quite a few veggie soups that are also vegan, ideal for the cold veganuary. Just look out for the non-vegan ingredients above. Don’t forget the fresh salads as well if you are out and about or in the office. Although the supermarket salads are not always the most delicious ones and many of them are not vegan, there are some that might surprise you. Like the Waitrose Beetroot, Broad Bean & Hazelnut Salad or Sainsbury’s Tabbouleh Salad.
Well there aren’t really any healthy sweets you can buy from the supermarkets, besides fresh fruits of course. However you can still get some good quality dark chocolate, which is often vegan (check the ingredients). Another treat, I absolutely love buying is medjool dates, they are so sweet and they just melt in your mouth. For a general vegan sweetener at home, maple syrup is probably the best option. Use it in homemade desserts or add to your coffee or tea.
Cookie monster cravings? Lazy Day cookies/chocolates, available at Sainsbury’s are vegan! And if by any chance you get some winter ice cream cravings, Alpro have a great range of vegan ice creams, but bear in mind that they are quite high in sugar. Sorbet is a naturally dairy-free dessert as well and Tesco have a great own-brand range.
It’s worth mentioning that alcohol surprisingly is also not always vegan, but you can use sites like this one to check this.
To celebrate veganuary, I have teamed up with GreenJinn to show you how you can save over £6.65 from your vegan shopping list with the innovative cash-back app. That’s another great reason to go vegan this month! The selected coupons below are available for all three supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose (more supermarkets coming soon). GreenJinn are committed to inspiring a healthier and more plant-based lifestyle by saving you money and for veganuary they have made even more vegan coupons available.
- Veggies & Fruits: sweet potatoes, aubergines, apples, grapes, bananas, pears
- Black beans
- Tilda Basmati rice
- Meridian Peanut Butter
- Oatly organic milk
- Prepared meals: Cauldron falafels, Cauldron marinated tofu, Blue Dragon thai green curry paste, Merchant Gourmet Lentils, Patak’s Jalfrezi Sauce.
- Alpro Ice cream
- Nakd Crunch Mix Bars
In addition to getting your free coupons, you can also participate in our giveaway (UK only) for a chance to win a £30 cashback voucher! The winner will receive a £30 coupon in their GreenJinn app, which they can claim back after shopping at Sainsbury’s, Waitrose or Tesco. For a chance to win, just enter your details, visit GreenJinn’s facebook page and you are in! For bonus entries and a better chance of being selected as a winner, tweet about the competition, follow GreenJinn and download their app for free (5 bonus entries!). The winner will be announced on the 16th of February 2018!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I hope this post gave you a good insight what a vegan shopping list normally includes. I also hope it inspires you to try a vegan diet for a month or maybe even longer? Veganism is a lifestyle, but it’s a major change for many people so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. We have been raised to rely on animal products for everything from food to shoes, so it will take time to adopt this major change in lifestyle. Even if you decide to go back to the occasional meat or dairy meals, just aim to rely more on plants! Imagine how positively we would impact the environment if everyone reduces their meat consumption? :)
Feel free to share your personal veganuary experience and suggestions in the comments below.
Reference: Greenhouse Emissions Facts