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Easy Tips for Vegan Food Shopping

vegan food shopping ingredients food haul

vegan alternatives to milk

 Vegan Food Shopping

As you know, I follow quite a strict local/vegan/gluten-free diet in accordance with my own moral and ethical beliefs which govern every aspect of my life. (I’ve blogged about this before: here). I thought today I would share with you a standard food shop, and talk about a bit about vegan food shopping! In no way am I intending to convert you all to a vegan lifestyle or preach about myself from the mountaintops; I’m just sharing my food shopping (the closest I’ll get to a “haul” post) and a few tips.

So this is my food haul from Earth Foods in Kentish Town – my favourite shop! I bought rice pasta, vegan pesto, cacao, soya chunks, spelt chocolate cookies, plum bread, chocolate drops, coconut yoghurt, almond milk and three types of loose leaf tea (I have a serious love of tea). Quite a lot of the food I eat is not pictured; items such as lentils, nuts, potatoes and rice are all stocked in my cupboard already. The almond milk and coconut yoghurt I’d bought on this trip had already gone into the fridge.

Also not pictured is fruit and vegetables. I am part of VegBox, an amazing scheme based in Kentish Town where locally grown vegetables are sourced and delivered fresh to various pick-up points. Apart from the scheme hugely chiming with my beliefs, it is great fun having an ever-changing variety of vegetables to cook with!

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So here are some general guidelines if you are trying out a vegan food shop:

KNOW YOUR LABELS:

Firstly if you’re a meat-eater or vegetarian: “Humane”, “Organic”, “Free-range”: etc – none of these mean ANYTHING in terms of animal welfare and animal wellbeing; these are just words companies can slap on to make you think you’re making an ethically sound purchase. The standards for animal welfare are so low in government and farming legislation (when it actually applies) that a free-range, organic and humane egg has still been produced by a genetically-modified hen in a tiny cage whose beak and legs have been removed. Even more outrageously: a lot of animal welfare legislation doesn’t even apply to farming animals.

Dolphin-friendly:This means that whilst dolphins are spared from these kind of nets, anything smaller is still at risk (i.e. most fish, turtles, seals, snails, eels etc).

Lactose-free:still often contains milk protein sourced from animals, as does anything containing “whey”.

The Vegan Society:the logo means it has been checked and approved by the Vegan Society.

vegan foods sweet foods

TRICKY PRODUCTS – IS IT VEGAN?

Is It Vegan? is a game well-known to all vegans and allergy-sufferers. There is a LOT of grey area in many food groups, and a trusty ingredient check is what’s needed 9 times out of 10. I have singled out just a few groups which are often problematic when playing Is It Vegan?

Sauces: Pasta sauce, pesto and many canned soups are probably not. A lot of sauces and soups use cream or milk as a thickening agent and a lot of pasta sauces or salad dressings contain egg. Even the humble pesto contains cheese. You can see I’ve gone for zest vegan pesto in my above food shop; it’s quite a mild taste but I like it! Thai curry sauce and worcestershire sauce almost always contain fish.

Pasta: often made with eggs or milk. Wheat-dried pasta, spelt pasta and rice pasta are generally ok. Being wheat-free I always go for rice pasta (my favourites are the multi-coloured ones).

Biscuits: Quite a lot of them are! Most bourbon biscuits, pink wafers, table wafers, rich tea biscuits, Ritz crackers and Oreos are actually vegan but CHECK THE LABEL FIRST. I’ve gone for spelt cookies which have dark chocolate chips (dark chocolate is vegan most of the time!).

Quorn (vegetarian substitute): Noooooo! This stuff annoys me so much as it’s never vegan; it’s like aggressively non-vegan. Nearly every other vegetarian brand I can think of has vegan products. Just adapt the ingredients guys and we can all party together. (edit for 2017: Quorn now has some vegan products! Clearly marked with a happy green word.)

Hot Chocolate: why do they add dried milk?! I get Cacao, basically pure cocoa, and then add almond or soya milk.

Alcohol: Occasionally. Many types of alcohol are brewed using isinglass (fish bladder), albumen (from eggs) and chitosan (crustacean skin) as a distillation agent (grim, I know). In the UK there are no requirements for any of the ingredients used in the brewing process to be displayed on the packaging. Wine is also exempt from having to state if it includes milk or eggs. Handy, right?Basically: most cask ale, beer and lager is off the menu. Most supermarkets have their own vegan wines (or at least label them), but when in doubt check. Spirits are generally fine with the exception of Jack Daniels (distilled through animal bone), Campari (coloured with beetles – nice) and Baileys (milk fiasco).

CHECK THE LABEL: every time! Even if you think something is vegan or you’ve had it before companies are under no legal obligations to let you know when they amend their ingredients. Watch out for: casein, lactose, whey (milk-derived), bone char sugar (whitened using animal bones – gross), gelatine (animal tissue/bones – again, gross), carmine or E120 (beetles), shellac or E904 (insect secretions. Seriously, how rank is that?).

wheat and gluten free flour arrangement display

VEGAN ALTERNATIVES – FIND YOUR FAVOURITES

So there are a huge amount of alternatives available for all problem ingredients, above I’ve shown vegan alternatives to milk and gluten-free alternatives to flour. It takes time to learn which ones you like. I actually like different things for different purposes; I love almond milk in tea but soya milk is nicer in cakes and baking. There’s quite a few posts on dairy-free milk on this here blog so have a look around!
My advice is to try out foods when you can and don’t get discouraged. I remember trying a potato-based vegan cheese and hating it. Now I love coconut milk cheese; it’s so thick and creamy and great for sandwiches and soft spreads. Obviously it can be expensive trying food out but there are a number of websites with useful guides (or ask a vegan friend with similar tastes to you!).

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WHERE TO SHOP:

Most vegan food keeps for AGES and you can probably get away with shopping less frequently – I do one big shop (as pictured) a month and get my vegetables once a week from the pick-up. I pick up milk and cereal as and when I need it and that’s about it! I spend maybe about £45-50 per month on food shopping.
There aren’t many vegan food shops in the UK but I would have a look for an independent health foods shop near you or a specialist indian/mediterranean food shop, as vegans tend to do better with foods from other cultures (as discussed more in my previous post). Nationwide shops to check out include Holland and Barrett’s and Whole Foods Market.
I try very hard not to support any supermarkets or big chains aside from The Co-op. The Co-op are great for vegan produce and labelling everything clearly, even in the smaller branches (mine is just a tiny local one). You don’t have to live near a specialist vegan shop to be vegan though! If you check your ingredients there is no reason why you can’t be vegan in a small town just by avoiding the non-vegan products.
I hope you enjoyed this post! Would you guys be interested in more ethical-life posts? I’m thinking of covering vegan cooking, ethical fashion (on a budget!) and cruelty-free beauty and cosmetics in the future. Let me know any suggestions!

Here’s a couple of useful links:

Animals and alcohol information

Hidden ingredients (i.e. ingredients you might not know are from animals)< A very good blog post about VegBox

vegetables food display vegetable

vegan foods savoury options

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8 Comments

  • Reply Jaime Faulkner

    I’ve actually been thinking about veganism and vegetarianism lately, and how to consume everything more thoughtfully. This was super timely! I’d love to see more posts from you on the subject- maybe I’ll start taking some baby steps.

    January 18, 2014 at 6:42 pm
  • Reply Caitlin

    Awesome post! My brother is a strict vegan, and my mom lives a mostly-vegan lifestyle, so a lot of this stuff was familiar to me, but always nice to have a handy-dandy guide whipped up for reference. I’m a vegetarian and try to live as ethical a life as I can, I think it’s important for so many reasons. Thanks again for sharing!

    January 19, 2014 at 7:02 am
  • Reply christina

    crazy how little i know about what i actually eat! I thought quorn was vegan friendly .. oops. First thing I should try is vegan cheese – I was doing so well without dairy til xmas came along. There are a road of Indian food stores that i must pop in. At least i will have some idea what to look for. your diet just looks so healthy and yummy – and it’s admirable that it means so much to u x
    I do have a question, why do some vegetarians eat fish!?xx

    January 19, 2014 at 9:14 pm
    • Reply tapeparade

      I don’t know, it’s weird isn’t it! I think vegetarians motivated to not eat animals maybe see fish as “lesser” animals because they’re not mammals or birds, and therefore don’t feel as much guilt eating them. But fish farming is actually way more costly and far worse for the environment than factory farming, and also most fish we eat is endangered whereas cows, pigs etc are not threatened. Crazy world.

      January 20, 2014 at 12:24 am
  • Reply Michelle SatchelsandPearls

    Oooh I haven’t seen Oatly before, the chocolate one looks gorgeous. I drink a lot of Provamel though as I’m dairy intolerant. I recently found out my son (2 months old) is lactose intolerant so I’m looking into foods and milks for weening! Thank you for this post 😀 x

    January 31, 2014 at 10:34 pm
    • Reply tapeparade

      I’m a big fan of Provamel too. Have you tried chocolate coconut milk? That is one of my favourite treats. Good luck finding foods for your son! XX

      January 31, 2014 at 11:24 pm
  • Reply Veganuary – Five Favourites | Jessthetics

    […] I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! I’m definitely going to be vegan into February and beyond! If you’re still feeling nosy about what vegans eat my blogger buddy Laila wrote a brilliant post about food (here). […]

    February 3, 2014 at 5:35 pm
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