vegan grocery

Vegan Shopping List for Beginners
Your Grocery Basket for the Week

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 (See Japanese Food).

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
  • check Nut milk
  • check Tofu
  • check Tempeh
  • check Edamame
  • check 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 and also make a good vegan snack.

You can sprinkle them on top of your oatmeal, make smoothie bowls, or even put them in your vegan 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 (see also ‘Are Jelly Belly Jelly Beans Vegan?‘).

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
  • check Apple
  • check Dates
  • check Berries
  • check 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
  • check Spinach
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • check Watercress
  • check Turnip Greens

Vegetables:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • check Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • check Tomatoes
  • check 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
  • check Quinoa
  • check Oats
  • check Rice Cakes
  • check Whole grain bread, flour, and pasta

5 Grains

​Related Post: Is Pasta Vegan?

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
  • check Chickpeas
  • check Edamame
  • check Lentils
  • check White Beans

Bowl full of Legumes

Other Important Grocery Items 

1. Healthy Fats

Healthy fats can be gained from nuts, seeds, butter (see also ‘ Is Smart Balance Vegan & Dairy Free? ‘), and other vegan-friendly food products. Here’s a quick list of popular healthy fats for vegans:

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

2. Dairy Alternatives

In this day and age, dairy alternatives are easier to come by. There are vegan versions of most dairy products (see also ‘The Best Vegan Ice Cream Brands‘). 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:

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:

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 vegan junk food options. There are products like vegan 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 (here’s a list of the best vegan butter). You can also try the following:

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:

  • 2-3 tablespoons of mashed potatoes
  • check 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.

Check out this article for more about vegan eggs.

​Related Post: Best Vegan Documentaries

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 (see also ‘Best Vegetarian Grocery Stores To Know About!‘).

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

  • Whole Foods
  • check Trader Joe’s
  • check Costco
  • Target
  • check Health food stores
  • check 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 (see also ‘ Are Ritz Crackers Vegan? ‘). It has lower chances of added sugar, sodium, and fat.

For fiber, choose whole grains, fruits, (see jackfruits) 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, (see teens) 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
  • check Dairy ingredients like whey and casein (see also ‘What Is Casein and is it Bad For You?‘)
  • check 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. Check our article on is beer and wine vegan?)
  • check 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 (see also ‘Meat Alternatives For Vegans And Vegetarians With A Soy Alergy‘) 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 (see also our article on marshmallows) 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 (see also ‘The 14 Tastiest Asian Fruits for a Vegan Diet‘). Try new vegan recipes and you can easily get started with the best vegan cookbooks.

Once you get into a routine and know what to add to a vegan shopping list, it gets easier. But if you’re still struggling and want added convenience, you can always try a vegan food delivery service.

Still in doubts how to start? We discussed about it on our article too: How to Go Vegan?

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References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/255265942. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/292632223. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5310957/4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23398387

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