Intro to Vegan Tips: Grocery Shopping

Intro to Vegan Tips: Grocery Shopping

Upon my husband’s great recent suggestion to write a blog post about vegan cooking and tips, I decide to create a whole section on my blog about tips, aiming to cover lots of topics- starting with grocery shopping.

I’m not going to get into the nutritional information for all of these products, for a few reasons.  First, when many people become vegan or start eating more plant based, some people around them suddenly become nutritional experts.  Many people are unfamiliar with what a healthy plant based diet is and reflexively criticize it as unnatural.  This motivates many vegans to do their research and results in them understanding nutritional needs better than they did before.  No matter how you eat, learning about nutrition is beneficial and it is very empowering to start that journey with your own research. You absolutely have to get used to doing your own research.  You might even begin to enjoy it!

This all goes hand in hand with the extensive label reading you might have to get accustomed too as well.  For me, the label reading was one of the biggest shifts when I first became vegan. I was already accustomed to doing it regularly as I value checking out what ingredients are in the products I buy, but becoming vegan took it to a whole new level. One of the most common thoughts you might have as you scan labels regularly is “Why is there milk in this?”  I’ve got to admit, it’s annoying and often seemingly pointless how often milk ends up in so many products.  Here’s a great post over at Vegans.uk about this very issue and a nice summation of going dairy-free over at Vegans.com.

The following photos were taken at a nearby Whole Foods that we shop at.  It just happened to be the store I chose to begin this grocery shopping segment at.  We shop there regularly as well as at a nearby Trader Joes, a nearby Stop and Shop (a local grocery store chain) and Farmer’s Markets.  We move around a lot and wherever we live we tend to shop at a few different stores and markets and rotate our trips around. It is very worthwhile to spend some time on different grocery shopping trips taking notes on price.  I rarely shop at Target and almost never at Wal-Mart, but have found that some of these products are sometimes over 50% cheaper at those stores than at our super local grocery stores.  So there are definitely times we will go to those stores to stock up on speciality products.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of things I shop for.  Also, many of these products are not things I consume all the time or get every time we do a grocery store run. Some are staples in our home, others are snacks I would indulge in occasionally or special products that I get from time to time.

I always welcome questions so please feel free to check out my Ask Annika section

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First, as a mother to a young child I want to share the product that was his first table food.  My son nursed regularly up until he was about 2 1/2 years old but of course started eating many months before stopping that.  He is almost three and still loves his oatmeal cereal and this is one of a couple brands we buy.

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The produce section is where my main focus often is. I love veggies and get very excited as I pick them out thinking about all the things I will make in the coming week. I do generally prefer to get my veggies from local organic farmers at a Farmer’s Market but also do regularly buy them at the grocery store.

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We almost always some onions and tomatoes in our kitchen and love cooking with both.

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Into the grains section…

I fell in love with Farro this year. It might be my favorite grain. I try to always have a couple bags in the pantry.

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We also usually always have a couple types of rice in our house.  Quick to make and so versatile for all sorts of dishes.

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When I became vegan I adjusted to reading pasta labels more carefully.  Many are made with egg.  I’ve gotten so used to the labels that I now know just what brands and specific boxes are egg and dairy free.

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We love cooking from scratch in our house but also sometimes have quick little box meals around.  Look at the lower right bottom of the “Vegetable Fried Rice” box by Lundberg Family Farms above and note both the “Vegan” Symbol and the “Non-GMO project” symbol.  I am always alert to those symbols and appreciate it greatly that companies are paying attention to consumer demand for vegan products and also make it easy to identify them.

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Into the Proteins….

I recently wrote an Ask Annika post in response to a question about non-soy forms of protein and in it I included quite a bit of discussion on soy and what I look for when I buy soy based products. Read it here. In the above photo of the Nasoya Organic Firm Tofu (I almost always buy firm or extra firm as a personal preference) note the USDA Organic symbol as well as the Non GMO project symbol. I always look for those (or similar) symbols.

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I like to support local brands when possible and just so happen to also really like this local provider’s tofu, which is also marked Non- GMO (top left of the packaging)

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Mmmm, seitan.  I just love seitan.  I often buy it in the cold section (usually where the tempeh and tofu and like products are).  But I also recently started consuming Pacific brand’s boxed Seitan.  I cube it up or slice it and sautée or fry.  Do a keyword search here on my blog for some ideas for cooking seitan.  I’ve also had many a crazy delicious meal of seitan at vegan and vegan friendly restaurants!

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I didn’t ever buy boxed tofu until earlier this year when I started making Benedicts and noticed that many vegan Hollandaise sauce recipes called for this type of tofu.  It is now a staple in our pantry.

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Garbanzo beans (both canned and dry beans) are staples in our home as we make hummus regularly.

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Lentils are also a staple in our pantry

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As I was photographing different proteins in the frozen section, I saw the above burgers and though I haven’t tried them yet include them here as I am a fan of that company

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Gardein frozen products were a staple in our freezer when I first went vegan.  Easy to make and also I loved that I could have meals like “fishless filets” and french fries (I make it just like the traditional fish n chips dish!), crispy tenders, crispy chik’n etc, without eating meat.

Some people wonder why vegans eat so much “fake meat” if they are against the real stuff.  If you’re curious about my viewpoint you’re in luck as I wrote a whole blog post about it here.

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This is hands down my favorite plant based “beefy crumble” to use for taco dishes or just with a bowl of veggies and rice.  This one is based on pea proteins and I am fascinated by how companies are using this ingredient to make truly delicious products.

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I think I like almost everything Field Roast Grain Meat Co. produces. Their hand formed burger patties (above) are possibly my favorite burger patty of them all and their Apple Maple sausages (below) are fantastic with a homemade breakfast of pancakes, waffles or french toast.

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Sweet Earth’s Benevolent Bacon (above) is simply scrumption

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Upton Natural’s Bacon Seitan is a favorite too

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I like to cook with all types of tempeh.  I use it in stir fries, for taco or burrito fillings, sautées and more

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A variety of nuts can almost always be found in our pantry.  They are a fundamental ingredient for a versatile vegan kitchen and also great for snacking.

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I absolutely love to cook but I also need to have quick little meals around.  When I first went vegan I also found myself eating several little meals and needed to always ensure that I had a snack nearby and Dr. McDougall’s soups are a great option.  They’re delicious, labelled vegan and available in so many types (I think I have tried and like them all).

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Pacific is another brand I favor.  Their Cashew Carrot Ginger soup is wonderful

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Into the condiments and toppings section….

Ilove having a couple different oils in the pantry. After going vegan I got used to just making my own sauces and salad dressings as well as adapting to often keeping things simple- a nice side salad with fresh lemon juice and a teaspoon of avocado or olive oil is great.

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Love playing with spices!

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Bragg’s Liquid Aminos is a staple in our house.  I use it much like soy sauce.  I lightly soak proteins like Seitan or Tofu in it before baking or frying or sprinkle on top of a grain.

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Nutritional yeast is also a staple in our home.  I cook with it and also love to sprinkle it on top of popcorn

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I came across Seitanbacher’s Vegetarian Vegetable Broth and Seasoning earlier this year and now we always have a canister of it in the pantry.  We use it in soups, in risottos as well as in sautées or when frying up savory ingredients.

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Oh mayo.  I never knew.

It’s just a condiment right?  Yes, but so much more.  I remember when I tried Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo (above) I thought it was pretty tasty and also great that I could easily make things like vegan aioli. I began reading up on Hampton Creek and was completely blown away and fascinated by their story (impressive backing as well as mission) as well as the drama that ensued when the American Egg Board (no doubt feeling threatened by this new, delicious eggless mayo), waged a nasty campaign  against them. You just want to spread some good mayo on your sandwich and call it a day right?  Well all that controversy really shows how much profit (not health of consumers or the animals with their lives on the line so companies can make products) is the overriding concern for some companies.

I’m a huge fan of Hampton Creek.

They also make an outstanding cookie dough which you can feel free to eat raw or bake up!

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More vegan mayos.  The trend is here to stay and while I haven’t tried all these brands I’m so jazzed that companies are seeing the light and learning to produce things without relying on animals.

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A bit from the baking aisle…

Vegan baking is a whole other post.  It is in fact a whole other blog and there are many great ones out there.  The above photo just to show that dairy free and vegan chocolate and carob chips do exist!

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As well as some boxed ready-to make desserts!

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As mentioned, vegan baking is really deserving of a whole series of posts, beginning with a discussion of popular vegan baking ingredients (i.e. alternatives to eggs for binders).  I quickly learned Cornstarch is one commonly found ingredient for vegan baking and we now always have some in the house.

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I have never tried the above product but had to take a look and a photo when I saw that it was a dairy free yogurt starter.  Pretty cool.

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Time for some snacks…

Tasty Brand makes some seriously scrumptious snacks. We recently tried (and enjoyed) the above cookies.

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Earth Balance has all sorts of products and if I’m in the mood for some chips or store bought popcorn it’s one of a few brands I’ll buy.

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In the chips aisle I learned to be especially vigilant as milk or some dairy product is often added. When I saw that Bearitos Veggie Puffs contain none of that I immediately tried them and like for a munchy snack as well.

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Love my crackers and crispbreads

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Into the cold/dairy section…

We mostly use Earth Balance Buttery Spread (above) and vegan buttery sticks (below).  I’d be curious to try out some alternatives just to experiment and also see that market (non dairy butters) grow.

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Chao Cheese.  I’m picky about my cheeses and this is hands down one of my favorites.  When I am in the mood for a grilled cheese or cheeseburger or other recipe calling for cheese this is one of our go-to’s.

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If you haven’t tried many (or any) vegan cheeses, I would suggest setting up a cozy “wine and cheese” date night with your partner or a friend (or just a delicious moment for yourself).  Splurge a little and buy a few different cheese spreads like Treeline (above) and enjoy the tasting. We have been consistently impressed when we tried the quality plant based cheese spreads on the market.

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Plant based milks!!!  I am thrilled to just watch this market grow and grow!

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Hemp Milk- one of my faves

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I often drink Almond milk too

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I recently started ordering Oat Milk when I get latte’s out (some places carry it).  It’s great for home use too- versatile for cooking and baking.

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Eden Soy is one of my favorite producers of Soy Milk.

If you consume soy regularly I would recommend checking out Cornucopia Institute’s Soy Card.

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Califia Farms…ahh.  Producers of my favorite coffee creamers.  Their bottles of Almond Milk and coffee products (usually found in cold dairy section) are absolutely delicious too.

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A few frozen foods…

I haven’t had daiya pizza more than a couple times but it’s worth pointing out that the frozen section usually has at least a couple vegan frozen pizza options

Depending on the grocery store, the frozen food section can have many vegan products and it just takes a few trips and patience reading labels to get used to what products you like.

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Not all Amy’s brand products are vegan but many are and they are delicious. I ate them a lot especially when my son was young and I didn’t have much time to be in the kitchen and just needed to heat something up.

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*I didn’t photograph any dairy free frozen desserts but there are so many to explore. More and more vegan brands of ice creams are emerging and major names like Ben & Jerry’s have added certified 100% vegan products to their creations and they’re absolutely delicious.

Hope you enjoyed and I look forward to posting more tips! As always, feel free to contact me if you’d like to see some tip explored or have a question!

 

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