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Vegan Shopping List for Beginners
Your Grocery Basket for the Week

Vegan Grocery List featured image

So you think you can become a vegan.

It sounds simple at first, but when you sit down to plan meal prepping and make a grocery list, you get stuck. Suddenly you realize that a lot of the foods you made before weren’t going to make it into your diet anymore. You start to panic about what to make and if you are going to get enough nutrients. 

It’s a common fear amongst people that they will no longer be able to eat the foods they love when they switch to a vegan lifestyle.

It’s not true, and I’m here to show you what to consider when making your vegan grocery list.

What Does a Typical Grocery Basket Look Like?

A grocery basket from someone on a plant-based diet is probably greener and fresher than most.

My last vegan grocery list had my grocery basket looking like this:

  • Fruit; fresh and frozen
  • Vegetables (Think leafy greens and all of the colors of the rainbow)
  • Whole grain bread
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    Nut milk
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    Tofu
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    Tempeh
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    Edamame
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    Nuts

You get the idea. I have lots of healthy plants in my grocery basket.

Let’s take a dive into the vegan food list. 

vegan grocery list

1. Fruit 

Fruits have a lot of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. They are the most nutritious when ripe because they are alkalizing. Fruits are an easy addition to any meal or snack.

You can sprinkle them on top of your oatmeal, make smoothie bowls, or even put them in your protein shakes.

Should I have fresh, frozen, or dried fruits?

There’s not much difference in nutritional value when fruits are fresh, frozen, or dried. However, I will note that dried fruit tends to have more sugar and calories due to the dehydration process. I would only use dried fruit as a small snack.

Other than that, frozen and fresh fruit are basically the same in nutrition. Frozen fruit is a great option for smoothies. I like to make sure I always have some frozen bananas available for protein shakes.

You may also want to stock up on fresh fruit and freeze them for later if you happen to notice a great sale.

Here is a list of my favorites to give you some inspiration:

  • Banana
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    Apple
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    Dates
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    Berries
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    Cherries
fruits

2. Vegetables

Vegetables are an essential food group due to all of the nutrients they provide to the body. They’re rich in fiber, enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Vegetables help support the body’s functions and prevent nutrient deficiencies.

Fresh vs Frozen

Fresh vegetables are always nice, but there’s nothing wrong with frozen vegetables either. They are usually picked and packaged when they are ripe and have similar nutrient profiles compared to the fresh version of themselves. 

If you notice that your vegetables might go rotten before you use them, I would recommend taking the time to freeze them. You can use it for smoothies, and it helps lower food waste. In fact, some studies have confirmed that you can retain more nutrients when you freeze them (1). 

Why consume leafy vegetables?

Leafy greens have more nutrients compared to other vegetables and fruit. It has chlorophyll which supports the body, and it also has other minerals.

In fact, consumption of approximately 1 serving per day of green leafy vegetables and foods rich in phylloquinone, lutein, nitrate, folate, α-tocopherol, and kaempferol, as cited in some studies, may help to slow cognitive decline with aging (2).

mixed vegetables on table
Leafy Greens:
  • Arugula
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    Spinach
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
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    Watercress
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    Turnip Greens

Vegetables:

  • Sweet potatoes
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    Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatoes
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    Tomatoes
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    Avocado

3. Whole Grains

Whole grains are better than refined grains (like white bread) because they keep more of their nutrients. They have more protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals like copper, magnesium, and iron.

There are even some evidence for dietary whole grain intake to be beneficial in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal, pancreatic, and gastric cancers (3). 

Take a look at what whole grains to consider:

  • Brown Rice
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    Quinoa
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    Oats
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    Rice Cakes
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    Whole grain bread, flour, and pasta
5 Grains

4. Legumes

Legume is a fancy word that covers beans, lentils, soy, and peanuts. It’s a big category because they are a great source of protein for plant-based diets. They even contribute in cardiometabolic risk prevention (4).

They also provide other important nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 

Here is a quick overview of popular legumes:

  • Black Beans
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    Chickpeas
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    Edamame
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    Lentils
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    White Beans
Bowl full of Legumes

Other Important Grocery Items 

1. Healthy Fats

Healthy fats can be gained from nuts, seeds, butter, and other vegan-friendly food products. Here’s a quick list of popular healthy fats for vegans: 

Nuts
  • Almonds
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    Cashews
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    Macadamia Nuts
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    Pecans
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    Pistachios
Seeds
  • Chia Seeds
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    Hemp Seeds
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    Pumpkin Seeds
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    Sesame Seeds
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    Sunflower Seeds
Butters
  • Almond Butter
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    Cashew Butter
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    Peanut Butter
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    Sunflower Seed Butter
Other
  • Tempeh
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    Tofu

2. Dairy Alternatives

In this day and age, dairy alternatives are easier to come by. There are vegan versions of most dairy products. I know that cheese seems especially hard to give up when transitioning to a plant-based diet, but I assure you that vegan cheese tastes just as good.

Here are some other dairy alternatives to consider for your grocery shopping list:

  • Coconut, almond, or cashew yogurt
  • check
    Vegan versions of butter, sour cream, cream cheese, and creamer
  • check
    Almond milk
  • check
    Coconut milk
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    Other nut milk like oat, soy, rice, hemp, or cashew
Bottles filled With Milk

3. Herbs, Spices, and Condiments

Fresh herbs and spices are an easy way to add a little more flavor to what you are making. They are all basically vegan-friendly. However, I like to make sure I have a few of the basics stocked up. 

If you are new to cooking, then don’t fret. Start by buying one or two bottles of herbs and spices every week, and you’ll slowly grow a nice horde of cooking spices.

Here’s a quick list of what I always have in my pantry:

  • Apple Cider Vinegar
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    Baking Powder
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    Nutritional Yeast
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    Pepper
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    Salt
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    Vanilla
putting salt in food

What Vegan Foods Should I Buy to Help Me Transition?

cookies and chips

Not all vegans are on a whole-food diet. Even if you do want to move towards that, you can make the transition slowly. 

Regardless, vegans still have their junk food options. There are vegan products for chocolate, ice cream, and pizza. 

You may even be happy to learn that potato chips and Oreo cookies are considered vegan.

Now is it healthy for you? No. 

Do people still need to treat themselves occasionally? Yes.

It’s up to you on what you want to eat at the end of the day. Just know that there are vegan options of your favorite junk food, and you can have some in moderation.

Can I Replace Animal-Based Products with Vegan Foods?

There are several ways to replace animal products with vegan foods. The most simple way is to find the vegan alternative of that item.

Milk is pretty simple as there are a variety of nut milks.

Butter is more complicated if you don’t want the vegan alternative. You can also try the following:

  • Avocado
  • Applesauce
  • Coconut oil

Eggs are probably the most difficult thing to replace. Eggs are used for binding (like meatballs) or raising agents (like cakes). 

The purpose of the egg serves in the original recipe, as well as the quantity of egg required in the recipe, determines whether you need a substitute, and if so, which alternative ingredient will work best - Bronwen King, Nutritionist and Chef

As a general rule, if you are baking something that calls for more than 3 eggs, then you probably won’t find an adequate substitute.

If you are looking for an egg replacement for binding, then try:

  • Vegan egg replacer
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    ¼ cup of tofu
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    Mashed banana
  • 2-3 tablespoons of mashed potatoes
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    2-3 tablespoons of rolled oats

If the purpose of your egg is to use it as a raising agent, then try any of the above ingredients. You will want to add ½ teaspoon of baking powder. Not all of the ingredients will work, so you will have to embrace experimenting with your recipes.

Where Can I Buy Vegan Food?

Due to the rising popularity of vegetarian and plant-based diets, it’s easier than ever to find alternatives in your local grocery store.

I would recommend taking the time to check out these stores to look for vegan food:

  • Whole Foods
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    Trader Joe’s
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    Costco
  • Target
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    Health food stores
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    Farmer’s markets

What Other Foods Should I Add on My Vegan Grocery List?

If you still want processed foods in your diet, try to stick to lightly processed foods like cereal or crackers. It has lower chances of added sugar, sodium, and fat.

For fiber, choose whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. You want to look for whole-grain products because they have more nutrients. Think of oats, rice, and quinoa. They also count as unrefined carbs and starches.

The more colorful your fruits and vegetables are, then the more nutrients you are likely to get in your system.

You still need healthy fats in your diet, so look for avocado, nuts, and seeds.

Protein is also easy to come by with nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, tempeh, tofu, and edamame being great sources. You can also supplement with protein powder if you need it.

Check out Youtuber Yovana Mendoza's vegan grocery list by watching the video below.

What Foods Should I Avoid on My Vegan Grocery List?

When you’re new to the vegan diet, you may not be totally aware of ingredients that are actually animal-based. You need to know more than avoiding cheese, eggs, dairy, and meat.

Here is a guide of a few ingredients commonly found in food products that are not vegan-friendly.

  • Honey
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    Dairy ingredients like whey and casein 
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    Gelatin (A thickening agent made from skin, bones, and tissues of cows and pigs)
  • check
    Isinglass (Derived from fish bladders and found in beer and wine)
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    L-cysteine (An amino acid from poultry feathers and found in bread products)
milk

Our Final Thoughts...

There is still a lot available to a person when they make a vegan grocery list. There are a lot of alternatives to dairy and meat which tastes just as good, if not better. There are also options like junk foods and other processed snacks for those on a vegan diet. You may not have to give up some favorite treats after all. 

Even if you are on a whole foods diet, then it’s still easy to create a vegan grocery list. There are a lot of different recipes you can still try and taste. Experiment with new veggies and fruits. Try new vegan recipes. 

Once you get into a routine and know what to add to a vegan shopping list, it gets easier. 

You can check out a few recipes and tips on my blog below:

  1. Vegan Protein Shake Recipe
  2. Vegan Protein Cookie Recipe
  3. Vegan Protein Bar Recipe

References:

1. Retrieved Sep 27, 2019: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25526594
2. Retrieved Sep 27, 2019: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29263222
3. Retrieved Sep 27, 2019: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5310957/
4. Retrieved Sep 27, 2019: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23398387

Last Updated on

Heather Turner

Heather is a personal trainer and vegan lifestyle coach with a passion for making gains and expanding brains. With years of experience as a semi-professional athlete and a fully professional vegan, Heather writes about her passions with authority and heart.

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