Vegan at the Supermarket

Grocery shopping can seem very daunting to a new vegan so here are some tips to help you when you’re starting out!

While veganism goes beyond what we buy in our weekly shop, it is probably the one area where we have to make choices most frequently so it can feel like a big responsibility to have to make sure every item we buy is animal free. However, it’s not as difficult as it may seem at first and there are a number of things you can do to make it easier while you get into a routine.

Once you’re in your new routine, shopping becomes pretty much the same as it was before – you’ll have your main shopping list of regular items and then each time you shop, you’ll probably add or change the odd item for something new you’d like to try.

Supermarket Lists

Now this is one thing I wish I had known about when I first became vegan as these would have been very useful! Most of the main supermarkets now publish up-to-date lists of their own-brand products that are suitable for vegans.

Here’s where to get them:

Tesco – Scroll to the bottom of the page of this article for a link.
Sainsbury’s – Scroll to the bottom of the article and click vegan.
Waitrose – Look under the ‘suitable for’ list and select vegan in this article.
Marks and Spencer – M&S’s latest vegan list is at the bottom of this article.
Ocado – They don’t have a list but if you search the word ‘vegan’ on their website it brings up a list of suitable items

Other shops such as Asda and C-op don’t do a vegan list but they do offer an alternative. Asda have a vegan icon on their web shop that indicates whether items are suitable. It doesn’t cover all suitable items but is a good start. Co-op are pretty good at food and toiletry labelling in their stores.

Label checking

This can seem quite complicated before you get your vegan label checking superpower (trust me, give it a few months!). However, there’s a fairly simple approach that will get you most of the way until you get the hang of things.

First of all, check to see if the item is marked suitable for vegetarians – most manufacturers now will mark items as vegetarian if they are and so this is a quick way to ensure an item is free of ingredients like meat and gelatine.

Next, check the allergens listing – look for things like milk, dairy, eggs, casein, and lactose. Then quickly scan the ingredients list for the word honey. If none of these ingredients are mentioned, then the item is likely to be suitable.

Now, it’s not an absolute fail safe – there will be some items that are exceptions to this (for example, some E numbers can be from animal sources and items fortified with D3 are usually not vegan) but as a new vegan, this will probably help you get most things right while you’re getting to grips with everything else.

Another thing to note is not to worry, unless you’re an allergy sufferer, about ‘may contain’ warnings. These are simply disclaimers to warn people of possible cross-contamination where items are made in the same factory as products containing those ingredients. The ingredient isn’t used in the item you are buying so you aren’t paying for it.

Finally, there are some great pages and blogs out there from people who spend time checking out if products are suitable for vegans and sharing their findings online – Check out The Vegan Womble!

For further info please see our Label Reading Guide.

Toiletries and household items

This one can seem like a little bit more of a challenge as ingredients either aren’t listed or don’t make sense. You also have the issue of whether an item or its ingredients are tested on animals.

The best way to be sure is to look for brands that are known to be suitable for vegans.

For household products these include Astonish, Ecozone, Bio-D, and Faith in Nature. A number of the Co-op’s own brand items are labelled as suitable for vegans also.

For toiletries, a lot of vegans use Superdrug for everyday purchases like toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, skincare, and make-up as they have a wide range of products most of which are clearly labelled as suitable for vegans.

So there we have it. These tips will help to get you started and with time it’ll all seem like second nature!

Veganz Supermarket, Berlin by Josefine Stenudd

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