Vegan grocery shopping: be brave

March 3, 2010

grocery aisle

Amazingly, there's more than cereal for vegans beyond the produce section

This week we’re going to look at vegan grocery shopping with some practical tips and fun things you can do to make the most of your shopping experience – the majority of you don’t have access to an all-vegan grocery store, which means you’re stuck in a shop with the usual dairy, egg, fish and butcher sections.  Here’s the first installment of your survival guide:

Be brave; assume nothing

I don’t know about you, but have a hard time going near the rows of refrigerated and frozen animal parts in the butcher section.  Most of the time the animal’s been cut up well beyond recognition, which is usually a little better than looking at a severed head, for instance, but sometimes it can get disturbing.

The interesting thing is that sometimes grocery stockers get… creative.  There are often hidden gems (or just basic supplies) in the store that you’d never see if you stick entirely to the produce, bread, and canned foods sections.

The 3 “secret spots” most vegans don’t look

Here are some sections of the store that you might be avoiding, but there can be some gems in there, either through misunderstandings from the stockers or simple happenstance:

The meat department. I’ve found Tofurkey sausages in the bacon section, and sometimes there’s a weird ethnic section with interesting vegan-friendly options. (It could be any type of food, and I don’t mean the ethnicity is weird, just that the assortment of foods that are associated together paint a strange picture of a style of cuisine, is all.)

The fish counter. Often this is next to the deli, and some strange shelf capacity overrun issues can push Actually Tasty Food into this area.  In my regular store, the sushi section tends to be here, which is mostly takeout, and while it does include some veg options there are also the supplies to make rolls at home.

Frozen meats. In a lot of stores vegetarian frozen products will have their own section (isn’t it amazing that there are enough of them now?) but even then, things can slip.  I’ve recently found veggie chicken strips sitting right next to frozen (real) chicken breasts, and sometimes we’ll discover a brand new “just happens to be vegan but not marketed that way” product from a new company that only has one SKU in the store, so it gets put in the “we have room for this here” spot, far from anything else you as a vegan would associate it with.

Do a quarterly audit

Despite the promise of vegan riches, the sad fact is that you have to wade (not literally, thank goodness) through a lot of dead animals to find things, and this can be disturbing and depressing if done on a regular basis.  I recommend you conduct an “audit” of your store every three months or so (do it when the seasons change, for example.)  Pay attention to the three “secret spots” I mentioned earlier, but really, check out every foot of shelving – you might be pleasantly surprised at what you’ll find!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sfri March 4, 2010 at 12:06 am

Good points.. many stores don't have, it seems, a dedicated place for such things.. maybe it was a customer requested item that they are carrying on a trial basis. I tend to scope out the entire grocery store at least the first time I go in and see things like this.

Karmalily March 4, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I agree that looking in unusual parts of a grocery store is important. I've found Tofutti cheese in the luncheon meat section instead of with the regular sliced cheese.

jasondoucette March 4, 2010 at 7:38 pm

We ought to hold a contest to see who can find the weirdest location for a vegan item!

Meg March 5, 2010 at 8:13 pm

The only reason I go through the meat department these days is for Sriracha hot sauce. I really wish they'd put it somewhere else 🙁

jasondoucette March 5, 2010 at 11:09 pm

I think grocery stores have a spinny wheel like they use in Twister to decide where to put hot sauce…

Chanterelle March 6, 2010 at 5:29 pm

The grocery stores I shop in put the Siracha under “condiments” or “ethnic”… but plant milks somehow find their way to the dairy case!

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