How to Build the Perfect Vegan Grocery List

Look, we understand that grocery shopping might not be everyone’s favourite chore. Grocery shopping can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and expensive when you go in with no plan. When not armed with a grocery list and an idea of what you might want to eat over the next week, the grocery store might even start to feel like an endless maze to you. And if you’re vegan? This can make the task that much more complicated since certain ingredients may be hard to come by even though many vegan ingredients are more readily available than in the past.

The great thing about nailing vegan grocery shopping is that you get to ensure that you’re not just eating meatless burgers and fries every night, or relying on your favourite vegan-friendly fast food restaurant. You get a chance to think about what you want to eat, make sure you have all the vegetables you need on hand, and when done right, you can even save some money.

As well, and especially for those who are new on their journey towards veganism, a vegan grocery list can help you stay on track. When you provide yourself with as many advantages as possible — this includes planning ahead — you are less likely to succumb to some of the more common reasons as to why people fail at vegan diets.

Finally, creating a vegan grocery list may help you realize that, contrary to popular belief, a vegan diet isn’t just lettuce and broccoli. In fact, putting together a vegan grocery list will help you understand that veganism is not restrictive at all and instead, it can be very satisfying.

With a little preparation and a strong understanding of how to prepare a vegan grocery list effectively, grocery shopping — especially vegan grocery shopping — can be a cinch.

Here is our extensive guide to building a vegan grocery list, and some additional tips and tricks on how to make the most out of your vegan grocery list, meal plan, stretch that budget, and make grocery shopping fun.

Building a Vegan Grocery List

Just like building a grocery list if you were an omnivore, a vegan grocery list should include anything that you would eat — grains, nuts, vegetables, fruits — but within the guidelines of a vegan diet. This means that you would not include any food products that include or are made of animal products. That includes the obvious ones — like chicken breast, pork chops, and ground beef — but also food that was made by animals or are considered an animal byproduct, like honey.

One way to go about starting a vegan grocery list is by jotting down a list of ingredients you need every time you go grocery shopping. This is a great method if you meal-plan, as you can let the recipes you’ve chosen for the week guide your list. All you would need to do is write down what you need, which will help limit the amount of potential food waste your household generates. As well, it’ll prevent you from buying anything you don’t need, ultimately saving you money.

There are also a number of templates available that feature common vegan-friendly foods. We much prefer using this format of grocery lists. When every ingredient you need is listed, all you need to do is check off the items you need and reference that when you’re at the grocery store. Because creating such a list may be a bit time consuming, the pre-made templates are perfect for vegans to use. Try this template from The Thriving Vegan. ​

What Do Vegans Not Eat?

Though there are some vegetarians who still eat eggs and cheese and consume other forms of dairy, vegans do not eat those things. Vegans follow a strict regime and do not consume any animal products, whether the food item is made of animals, or if the food item is an animal byproduct. Some things that vegans do not eat include meat and its byproducts (lard, etc.), poultry, seafood, eggs/egg powder, gelatin, dairy milk, dairy cheeses, butter and ghee, lactose, shellac, and honey.

Aside from the obvious culprits, there are a number of delicious vegan meat alternatives that we love to eat every now and then. But as with everything else, moderation is key. While we love the fact that there are so many plant-based alternatives readily available and more and more new companies that are sharing vegan-friendly food with the world, fresh food like vegetables, fruits, and plant-based proteins should always be favoured over processed foods.

When shopping for vegan groceries, we recommend prioritizing nutrient-dense foods so that you can ensure that your body is getting all the vitamins and minerals it needs to function optimally. Trust us when we say that making sure you’re eating your vitamins is much easier with a vegan grocery list!

One final thing about creating a vegan grocery list: make sure you read labels. Unfortunately, some companies manage to sneak animal products and byproducts into food items that could otherwise be vegan-friendly.

Vegan food items often feature labels that showcase the fact that they’re appropriate for vegans. These labels may say “vegan-friendly,” “certified vegan,” or “contains no animal ingredients.” Some food items may also feature a PETA logo, which certifies it as being safe to eat for vegans. The inverse of that is labels that identify potential allergens, like seafood allergens, for example.

Other times, animal products or byproducts are a little less obvious. Some ingredients to look out for include carmine (used as a colorant), casein (derived from egg whites and used as a supplement), mono- and di-glycerides (derived from animal fats), gelatin (made from skin/tendons/ligaments/bones of animals), and lactose (sugar component of milk), which are all animal by-products. If a label has any of these ingredients, that food item is not vegan-friendly.

Whey powder is another item that’s common in a number of food items, but unfortunately, it’s not animal-free in its production as whey protein is a mix of proteins isolated from whey, which is the liquid part of milk.

Whey is frequently used as a meal replacement or a way to top off protein intake, and it’s popular amongst gym enthusiasts and those who are looking to lose weight. Fortunately, there are many fantastic vegan whey powders on the market these days.

For those who like to enjoy alcoholic beverages, one ingredient to look out for is isinglass. This animal product is a clarifying agent that’s used for brewing beer and making wine, but it’s derived from fish bladders. Though there is no flavour to isinglass and may be hard to detect, most breweries and wineries list their ingredients, and isinglass is rarely used nowadays.

Vegan Grocery List

Now that you know what types of food vegans don’t eat, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of types of food and specific examples of what vegans do eat.

To get started on your vegan grocery list, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind before putting together a list. Consider these your #vegandietgoals. These include:

  • Buy fresh veggies and fruits (including leafy greens)

With those goals in mind, here’s what you may want to include on your vegan grocery list.

Proteins

We’ve discussed this before, but vegans aren’t at greater risk for having too little protein just because they don’t eat meat products. As long as you’re eating a balanced diet, you’ll be sure to get enough in your body.

With that said, it may be less obvious as to what is a suitable protein that’s also vegan-friendly, especially if you’re new to this diet. Here are some of our favourite plant-based proteins.

Nuts and Seeds

Delicious, versatile, and packed with protein, nuts and seeds are a great way to sneak some protein into every meal, or to eat as a snack. Since there are so many varieties and nuts and seeds, the possibilities are endless.

  • Almonds

Quinoa

Quinoa is technically a grain, but it’s also a grain with high-protein content, as well as a complete protein. Rich in many other nutrients, quinoa can be eaten as an appetizer for dinner, as a main for lunch, or even during breakfast.

Seitan

Seitan, also known as wheat meat or wheat gluten, is a popular source of protein for those who are plant-based. Made from gluten, it resembles the look and texture of meat when it’s cooked. Seitan contains about 25 grams of protein per 100 grams, making it an incredibly rich source. It’s also full of selenium, as well as iron, calcium, and phosphorus. Needless to say, because it’s made with gluten, those with celiac disease or have a gluten sensitivity should avoid seitan.

Soy Products

Tofu and other soy products like edamame and tempeh are great sources of protein. Keep in mind that the protein content will vary depending on the preparation of the soy product. For example, tempeh contains roughly 15 grams of protein per ½ cup, whereas edamame beans contain 8.5 grams per ½ cup. ​

Beans/Legumes

Protein-packed beans are more than meets the eye. Beans are also great sources of complex carbs, iron, folate, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. Studies have shown that diets that are rich in beans may actually help to decrease cholesterol, blood pressure, and control blood sugar levels.

  • Black beans

Vegetables

Well, of course there would be vegetables. Did you think you could escape them? Trust us: as you continue on with your vegan journey, you’ll truly embrace the versatility of vegetables and fall in love with them like we have.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of vegetables; there are so many fun ones for you to try! But below are a few of our favourites.

  • Asparagus

Fruits

Nature’s candy! Fruits are jam-packed with nutrients and they’re delicious, guilt-free, and of course, completely vegan-friendly. As a staple in a vegan diet, be sure to familiarize yourself with which fruits are higher in fructose (e.g. mangoes), meaning you should eat them in moderation, and which ones are lower in fructose (e.g. berries).

  • Apple

Oils/Fats

Just because you can’t use butter anymore, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of your culinary adventures. There are so many plant-based, vegan-friendly oils and fats that make terrific alternatives to butter. One thing to note is that oils have different smoking points, and certain oils are better for specific cooking methods than others.

  • Almond oil

Grains

Though all grains are vegan-friendly, a healthy diet should include complex carbs. Complex carbs are better sources of energy and can help to improve gut health. When grocery shopping, reach for the whole-grain options, high-fibre options.

  • Amaranth

Spices

Herbs and spices are the key to vegan cooking. Not only do herbs and spices pump up your meals with extra nutrients, but they pack a punch in flavour. The herbs and spices below are great dried or fresh.

  • Basil

We’re also big fans of hot sauce, but be sure to read the label, as some include ingredients that aren’t vegan-friendly.

Non-Perishables

To keep you afloat on those odd days when you may be out of groceries but you don’t have the time to shop, it’s a great idea to keep canned goods on hand. Grocery items like chickpeas, for example, are much easier to prepare when canned.

Canned goods may have a bad rap, but the fact of the matter is that canned vegetables and fruits (and frozen ones, too) are canned at the peak of their ripeness.

Snacks

We said be healthy; we didn’t say torture yourself! As we said, everything in moderation is key, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself every now and then. Got a hankering for Oreos? That’s totally fine! There are also a number of plant-based chips and ice creams on the market that don’t compromise on flavour.

And don’t forget about dried fruit. You know, nature’s candy, but dried up. They’re a healthier alternative to candy, but do remember that fruit can be high in sugar, too.

So, enjoy yourself. Feel free to keep your snack pantry stocked; it’s all good as long as you enjoy your snacks in moderation!​

How Much Does a Plant-Based Diet Cost?

With any diet, your grocery bill will very much vary on a number of factors. For example, how many people are in your household? Is everyone in your household vegan, or will you have to shop for different diets? How big is your appetite? Do you like shopping at upscale grocery stores? You get the idea.

The cost of your plant-based diet can be as affordable or as luxurious as you want it to be. If you’re solely eating meat alternatives, you could be looking at a much heftier bill than a diet that mainly consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and vegan-friendly proteins.

Ultimately, the factors outlined above will play a role in how much your meals will cost.

Where Can I Buy Vegan Food?

Believe it or not, vegan grocery shopping isn’t that different from “regular” grocery shopping. These days, most big box grocery stores will carry plant-based options, including brands like Yves Veggie Cuisine, Daiya, Tofutti, Field Roast, and Gardein. Even brands that are known for their non vegan-friendly products, such as Ben and Jerry’s, now offer plant-based options.

Local grocery stores like Save-On-Foods, Safeway, and Whole Foods offer a large variety of plant-based alternatives like veggie patties and chick’n nuggets, in addition to enormous selections of produce.

For those looking to save some money, Superstore is a budget-friendly spot that has a wide variety of vegan-friendly food. In fact, the PC Brand has come out with a line of vegan food as well! We like to go to Superstore for things like specialty spices, smoked tofu, lentils, chickpeas, meat alternatives, nutritional yeast, vegan mayo, and vegan ice cream and mochi.

No Frills is another accessible and affordable spot in the Vancouver region. This store also carries Superstore’s PC Brand, in addition to vegan-friendly food staples.

Costco is the perfect place to stock up on the staples while being gentle on your wallet. It’s particularly great for dry goods if you have enough space to store large quantities of food. Some of our favourites to stock up on include soy milk, oas, bread, tofu, maple syrup, peanut butter, agave syrup, flaxseed, popcorn, and hemp hearts.

Sunrise Market is a fantastic local and third-generation family owned-and-operated spot that offers an incredible array of vegan-friendly food. Originally a spot that specializes in tofu only, Sunrise Market is now a huge production with a wide range of tofu products as well as a large grocery supply store. They offer discount prices for the Chinatown area, but also for unique products. Some of our favourite products include vegan butter, cheese, and milks, and frozen items and snacks.

There are also a few stores in Vancouver that are more vegan focused, offering only vegan goods, such as Vegan Supply, which is located in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Vegan Supply carries some of the more obscure, hard-to-find vegan brands, and everything from delicious cheeses to your favourite vegan cheezies. One awesome bonus? It’s located across one of our favourite vegan gelato spots, UmaLuma!

​Steps for Vegan Meal Planning

Vegan meal planning goes hand in hand with creating a vegan grocery list. In order to plan meals efficiently, it’s important to have a comprehensive grocery list so that you can cook the meals you’ve planned for the week.

So, just how does one go about vegan meal planning? Here are four simple steps to get you on your way.

Step 1: Figure out your “why”

Why do you want to start vegan meal planning?

Your reason for why you want to venture into the world of vegan meal planning may be different than that of someone else’s. Your reason will ultimately influence what varieties of recipes you choose, and what types of ingredients you’d like to try. Maybe you want to lose weight. Maybe you want to ensure you stay on track with being a vegan. Maybe you just want to save time. Figuring out why you want to meal plan will help you stay focused on your goals.

Find some tips on how to navigate the most common reasons as to why people fail at vegan here.

Step 2: Recipe time!

This is one of our favourite parts: looking through all of your favourite cooking sites and digging up some recipes that you’d like to include. Now that you know what you should and shouldn’t be including in your vegan meal plan, you can prioritize recipes that include those ingredients. Aim to look for some weekday meals that are quick to prepare, especially if you do not usually cook. These simpler meals that are faster to cook will help ease you into the habit of cooking every day.

Step 3: Get shopping.

This may be the most daunting one for some people. Start with compiling a shopping list by writing down all the ingredients featured in the recipes you’ve chosen. Then, head to your grocery store of choice… and that’s it for Step 3! The best thing about meal planning is that you won’t have to make multiple trips to the grocery store.

Here’s a pro-tip: try finding recipes that feature some of the same ingredients so you can make the most out of your trip.

Step 4: Start cooking.

Now comes the fun part: cooking your delicious meals without having to worry about missing an ingredient. If you end up getting takeout one or two nights, don’t sweat it. Consistency is key, but even if you veer away from your healthy vegan meal plan, recognize that you are trying your best.

As well, don’t feel pressured to plan a whole month in one sitting. You can start with a 7-day plan, then work your way towards a 30-day plan.

For more on vegan meal planning, take a look at our comprehensive guide on how to put together the perfect vegan meal plan.

Tips For Shopping on a Budget

The great thing about creating a vegan grocery list is that it can help keep you on track, preventing you from buying random food products that might end up going to waste. This is especially likely when you shop hungry. In combination with vegan meal planning, you’re a lot less likely to shop aimlessly, which will help save you money.

As previously noted, selecting recipes that feature the same ingredients will help stretch the food you buy. Not only will this save you a bit of money, but you can better ensure that you won’t produce as much food waste since you’ll be cooking all of it!

There are also some resources you can check out that can help make your money saving efforts more efficient. One of our favourite apps, Flipp, compiles all the grocery flyers in your area so you can seamlessly look through flyers (while also cutting down on unnecessary recycling) from a number of stores. The app allows you to circle items that are on sale, compiling a list for you. This way, you can shop smart and look out for and utilize ingredients that are budget-friendly.

One alternative to vegan grocery shopping and trying out a plant-based meal prep company, like Planted Meals. Convenience is king when it comes to meal prep companies, saving you lots of time and energy, and oftentimes, money. Explore the many meal options that Planted Meals has to offer here.

Now that you have a stronger understanding of what vegan grocery shopping entails and how to build a great vegan grocery list, you can confidently go into the aisles of your favourite grocery store. Go forth! Shop vegan and be happy.

Will you try putting together a vegan grocery list? Let us know in the comments section!

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