Food shopping for vegans - an introduction

First of all, shopping for vegan food doesn't involve buying large amounts of unfamiliar items, meat substitutes or exotic ingredients. Bread, rice, fruit and vegetables, pasta, potatoes, tins of beans or tomatoes, herbs and the like are all staple vegan foods which will be familiar to most people.

Most of the 'challenge' of vegan food shopping involves reading the labels and identifying which manufactured products are or aren't vegan. Although staple ingredients such as the ones above are easily identifiable as vegan, animal ingredients crop up all over the place in processed foods and products so you'll need to look out for them. If you're cooking vegan food on a regular basis, after the first couple of supermarket trips you can establish regular vegan-friendly purchases and the amount of time spent label-reading will diminish.

You may also find it useful to discover what 'alternative' products are out there. There are various vegan products that can be used in place of animal ingredients, such as non-dairy milk, yoghurt, sausages, mince, pesto or mayonnaise. Vegan food shopping and cooking does not revolve around these substitutes, they're just handy occasionally for adapting existing dishes or recipes.

You might also find yourself trying out other ingredients that you normally wouldn't notice on your regular supermarket trips, particularly if you're trying out a more creative recipe, although it's equally possible to steer clear of the unfamiliar and just stick with what you know if you choose to.

Good news for anyone on a budget - day-to-day vegan food shopping can easily cost less than a typical omnivore shop, particularly with the prices of meat and milk rising as they are. It is easy to live healthily on cheap, nutritious ingredients such as various types of pulses, pasta, rice, vegetables, fruit, potatoes and bread. Herbs and spices, common in vegan recipes, are only needed in small quantities so once you've bought them they can last you a long time.

Sometimes products in the cheapest supermarket own-brand ranges will be suitable for vegans when the mid-range and expensive versions aren't and supermarket own-brand soya milk is a similar price to cows' milk. Living on more expensive substitute products such as vegan burgers and non-dairy ice cream will soon increase your shopping bill though, so it's cheaper (and healthier) to have these as treats rather than staple foods.