Becoming vegan in one step needn’t be difficult, for example, you can switch straight to plant-based milk from cow’s and the same with yoghurts, cream, custard and cheese. These are all now readily available from all health shops and big supermarkets.
The majority of your food supplies will still be obtainable from your local supermarket or market. Read the ingredients of your usual purchases – some of these may already be vegan. If you are in any doubt contact the manufacturer and ask them (most supermarkets these days label their own brand vegetarian and vegan where applicable). In cases where items are suitable for vegetarians only but the ingredients look vegan, this may be due to them being produced or handled in the same factory where eggs or milk are also used. It is then up to you to decide if possible cross-contamination is an issue for you. If you are just starting out and still require the comfort of familiar foods like cheese and meat, substitutes can be bought from any independent health food shop or larger ones such as Holland & Barretts, Planet Organic and Whole Foods Market (although you may find over time that you no longer appreciate the meaty texture of meat substitutes). It’s a good idea to experiment with different brands and try everything (and there are plenty of them)!
Things to be aware of when shopping for food:
- Pasta and noodles do sometimes contain egg but this will more often than not have ‘egg’ written within plain sight on the face of the packet – check the ingredients if in doubt.
- Certain e-numbers are animal derived this website tells you which ones are.
- Lactose is a sugar derived from milk and is a common ingredient in crisps.
- Whey and casein are also milk derivatives. With most products containing these, there will normally be allergy labeling which is sometimes a quicker way to check whether something is vegan or not, although egg is not normally listed as a potential allergen so watch out! Lactic acid can generally be assumed to be from a non-dairy source.
- Egg whites are also called albumin
- Gelatin is made from animal bones and used in sweets.
- Some white sugars may have been refined using animal bones
- Watch out for alcohol some beer, wine and spirits may have animal derivatives used either in the processing or filtration. There is more information on this in the Food & Drink section.
If you really want to support the vegan economy, there are some vegan independent businesses in London where you can do your shopping:
If you live in a more remote area there are online stores that will deliver. This area of vegan retail has come along in leaps and bounds since THV first turned vegan. The internet is literally your vegan oyster, not only can you have your basics delivered from online specialist retailers, you can get pretty much the whole vegan shebang (if you have the budget). We are talking vegan subscription boxes (food and beauty items), nut milks and even readymade vegan meals straight to your door!
But hey if you are like us and you do actually like to get down and dirty in that kitchen, you may want to consider an organic delivery service. The basic premise is to supply local seasonal fruit and vegetables, which is better for the environment and also supports local farmers. You could also go to the local farmers direct, check Local Food Advisor or Farmers’ Markets to see if there are any farmers’ markets in your area. Even better still grow your own! Check out the Growing Veg page for more information. A vegan diet is nowhere as limiting as people may think initially. It encourages you to be more adventurous with your cooking, exploring the flavours of the world – many Indian and Oriental dishes are already vegan-friendly or very easily converted. Take a trip down the ethnic aisles of your supermarket (we LOVE doing this, our husbands who wait patiently for us to read all the labels not so much 🙂), you may come across some items that just happen to be vegan.
There is an endless supply of vegan cookbooks with new books continuously being published (seriously it can be overwhelming, mainly because we just want them ALL). Some of our favourite cookbook authors are Isa Chandra, Jackie Kearney, Steen & Newman, Chloe Coscarelli, and Brian Patton. Be sure to check out the book section where we add what is in our collections at home.
Something we did a lot when we started out was veganise recipes. This is simply substituting all the non-vegan items with vegan equivalents and crossing your fingers. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. However we can pretty much guarantee that most things have already been veganised by someone else and will be floating around on the internet. so all the hard work has been done for you. Probably the most life-changing veganisation (we’re making up words here like nobody’s business) was dude (credit) discovering that CHICKPEA WATER (yes you heard right) was an egg white substitute which could be used to make meringues, macarons and marshmallows. All three of these items had long been the holy grail of vegan cooking. There are some amazing vegan recipe blogs out there and our hats go off and love goes out to these amazing people with their stunning photos effortlessly demonstrating how amazing vegan food can be.
If cooking is something new for you there are many vegan cookery courses and even courses for the more experienced: