Vegan-Friendly Places to Shop
- Chain Grocery Stores are beginning to offer more natural, organic, and vegan products. Speciality grocery stores like Fairway Market,Whole Foods, Wild by Nature, and Trader Joe’s are popping up everywhere. These stores offer a wider selection of vegan products, but with the exception of Trader Joe's, prices can be steep.
- Speciality Health Food Stores carry mainly organic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and kosher items. They are usually very small shops, so these places aren’t good for one-stop shopping. I find that the prices at these places tend to be outrageous, but the bulk bins make a trip to a health food store worth it. The bulk bins offer mostly organic grains, dried legumes, nuts, seeds, and spices at a great value.
- Ethnic Grocers carry many exotic vegan items that you might not find at your chain grocery store. Try Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Italian markets.
- Warehouse Stores, like Costco, are beginning to carry more and more natural and organic products. You can save on buying bulk items like cereals and grains, nuts, dried fruit, veggie burgers, crackers, and hummus.
- Farmer’s Markets offer fresh, local, and often organic produce. These just-picked fruits and vegetables are more nutritious and will last longer once purchased. Plus less shipping distance means that these foods are easier on the environment!
- Community Shared Agricultural (CSA) are small, usually family-owned, farms that allow people to buy a membership for several months worth of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. Some farms require a few hours of volunteer work, but it is a great opportunity to support local agricultural and be a part of your farm community! I interned on an organic CSA this past summer and it really is a wonderful way to eat local, fresh produce. Some CSA’s require that you visit the farm once a week to pick up your share, but some will drop off your weekly share near your home. Visit www.localharvest.org for more information on CSA’s in your area.
Saving $$$ and Navigating the Grocery Store
- Before you even set foot in a grocery store, make a shopping list! I check the weekly flyer and plan to buy what’s on sale that week. This saves money and allows me to vary my diet by eating different foods each week. I even go around the kitchen and take a quick inventory of what I have. Then I add what I need to my shopping list. If you have time, you can use your current pantry inventory to look up recipes with those items and add the needed ingredients to your list. That way you will have everything you need for the week!
- Eat a meal or small snack before you go shopping! When you shop on an empty stomach, your cravings persuade you to buy things that aren’t on your shopping list. And avoid snacks placed near the checkout counter: they are trying to trick you into buying last-minute items.
- Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. That is where the most natural, whole foods are placed. The fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and frozen items can all usually be found around the store’s perimeter. The processed foods are usually found in the middle aisles and on the end-cap displays (These aisles are only worth going down for canned fruits and vegetables, cereals, and baking supplies).
- Read the nutrition labels and ingredient lists. Some helpful tips:
- Avoid foods with harmful additives such as high fructose corn syrup (sometimes listed as just “corn syrup”), trans fats (listed as “partially hydrogenated oils”), mono- and di-glycerides, monosodium glutamate, sulphur dioxide, food colorings
- Basically stick to foods with ingredients that you can understand and pronounce! Foods with 5 or less ingredients listed are ideal choices.
- Make sure that foods do not contain any animal products like milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, whey, lactose, casein, or gelatin (the allergy statement under the ingredient list and a cholesterol listing over 0 mg is a quick tip-off that the item is NOT vegan)
- Pick foods that offer whole-grains, unsaturated fats, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
- Select whole-grain foods like breads, crackers, or granola bars that have MORE grams of protein and fiber than sugar (example: 1 slice of bread with 4g of fiber, 1g of sugar, and 4g of protein is perfect).
- Stock up on canned and frozen items when they are on sale. These items usually last months if unopened, and they are good to have on hand.
- Bring reusable shopping bags to help the environment!