Saturday, January 28, 2012

How to Start

For a while I was under the impression that living a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle was more expensive than a “normal” meat-eating one.  I guess I just assumed that hard to find substitutes and organic produce would break the bank.  Not so.  When you initially re-stock your cabinets with vegan alternatives, you will spend a chunk of money.  After that, though, I would argue that it’s not terribly expensive to be vegan, especially if you know where to shop and what to buy.  Making the transition to a vegan way of life doesn’t have to be difficult.

If you’re going vegan, I would recommend eating all of the food you already have or giving it away as you make the transition, rather than just throwing it in the trash.  After all, a big part of this lifestyle is lessening one’s impact on the environment.  Also, slowly making changes is easier than going cold turkey- at least I thought so.  I found that by the time I got to my last few non-vegan items, it felt kind of gross even eating the stuff.  Frozen cheese pizza instead of a fresh vegetable stir-fry?  No bueno. 

The next issue will be to sort through the variety of options you now have to replace the former food staples in your kitchen.  Here are the products I would initially buy to re-stock my refrigerator and cabinets:

-          Soy Milk or Almond Milk – plain or vanilla-flavored
-          If you are a fan of sandwiches, vegan bread (no milk or eggs) or whole wheat wraps
-          Olive oil
-          Earth Balance vegan alternative to butter
-          Several cans of your favorite varieties of beans
-          If you’re like me and you like to snack, yummy vegan snack foods: tortilla chips, vegetable chips, hummus, granola bars, trail mix, etc.
-          3 or 4 items you can use to throw together a salad: spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, red bell peppers, avocados, and a vegan salad dressing, like olive oil and vinegar
-          Vegan cereal or breakfast food (most cereals are vegan, so this really isn’t too tricky)
-          Vitamin B12 and Omega-3 Supplements – Vitamin B12 is not found in plant-based diet, and Omega-3 fatty acids exist, but not in large enough quantities
-          Pasta
-          Rice

If you like to bake, you will have to pick up different items here and there, depending on the recipe and the cook books/websites you use.  Some recipes call for xanthan gum, arrowroot powder, or different kinds of flour.  Since these items can be rather pricey, I would advise waiting to purchase them until you are sure they will be of use to you.  It is a good idea to have the following items available, though: 

-          Agave sweetener
-          Applesauce
-          Vegan chocolate chips


With these items in your pantry, you will be at a good starting place to start whipping up some vegan dishes.  Remember to use seasonal produce, which is cheaper, more flavorful, and contributes less to globalization and global warming.  Try shopping at farmers markets.  For busy nights, try out soups and frozen dishes from Amy’s Kitchen, sold at lots of mainstream grocery stores these days.   You don’t have to buy and try every vegan product all at once.  Becoming vegan is a process and a daily adventure.  You can do as little or as much as you want to start out.  Sure, there are lots of expensive products out on the market, but if you are a smart consumer, I think you will find that your grocery bill will be reasonable.  Just try not become a smug vegan as you walk out of the store with your healthy vegan groceries in your canvas tote bags.  

2 comments:

  1. It's amazing how easy it was to become mostly-vegetarian. I think, maybe, I eat chicken or fish once a month. I should start to slowly convert my pantry over to vegan products.

    I think the hardest thing for me to give up would be greek yogurt. That's my standby lunch item (and the only diary I can eat). What do you suggest, dear blogger?

    Oh. Or butter. You know I love butter when I bake. I suppose butter substitute would be an easy swap, though...

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    Replies
    1. My Phoenix roommate has found the same thing. She isn't trying to be a vegetarian, but ends up eating like one a lot of the time anyway, and often cooks vegan meals, too!

      I'm assuming that you're eating the Greek yogurt for the protein. I think soy yogurt is pretty good, and one container of Stonyfield Organic Soy Yogurt contains 8 grams of protein. Compared to the 14 grams of protein found in Chobani Greek Yogurt, that's kind of disappointing, but still my recommendation.

      You have to start trying out some vegan baking recipes! I swear that the cakes, cookies, and pies I bake are so much better than their non-vegan counterparts, and healthier! You could check out some recipes on vegweb.com, or look at some of the recipes in Veganomicon, Supermarket Vegan, or Babycakes cook books.

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