Guide to Vegan Grocery Shopping (At Your Favorite Supermarkets!)

Guide to Vegan Grocery Shopping (At Your Favorite Supermarkets!)

So, we know what you’re thinking:

I would be vegan, but there’s no Whole Foods near me.

I can’t afford to be vegan.

My local supermarket just doesn’t carry enough vegan-friendly products for me to be a full-time vegan.

Friends, that’s a bunch of nonsense.

It’s almost 2019, and the scope of vegan-friendly options that you can find at major regional and national supermarkets is astronomical. 

If you’re considering going vegan, or you simply need some grocery shopping inspiration, look no further (by which we mean, down below) than World of Vegan’s Ultimate Guide to Vegan Grocery Shopping.

Vegan Grocery Shopping Tips | WorldofVegan.com | #vegan #vegetarian #plantbased

Vegan Grocery Shopping Tips

Vegan grocery shopping isn’t all that different from shopping as a vegetarian or an omnivore, although it does require a bit of time and conscientiousness in the beginning. To make things easier for yourself, we recommend that you:

1.  Bring a shopping list.

We have all done it: We’ve gone into the supermarket to get our weekly groceries, or just to pick up a few staples, and we leave with a cart filled with impulse purchases that are worth twice as much as we were planning to pay.

Considering that human beings worldwide waste or lose around 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year, we all could be a little more mindful about how much food we need and use. Bringing along a shopping list will not only help you to stay on budget, but it can also help you and your family minimize food waste and the guilt that comes with tossing old food. It’s a win-win situation!

2. Use a meal plan.

Regardless of whether you’re shopping for yourself or for a family, or on a budget or with a hefty food allowance, we recommend that you shop with a meal plan. Whereas a shopping list just tells you the food items you need to buy, a meal plan helps you map out exactly what you’ll be eating for the week so you can be sure to get all the ingredients you need in one grocery shopping trip.

There are tons of meal plans out there that have been expertly crafted for you, like our Plant-Based on a Budget Meal Plans, which come with printable shopping lists that you can print off and bring with you to the store. Not only is this a good way to reduce food waste, but it helps you to ensure that you have enough food to provide yourself meals for the week.

We don’t know about you, but it’s easy to fall into a mid-week slump where there’s “nothing” in the house you want to eat. And then what happens? You order pricey takeout or make a mid-week grocery run for more food that you don’t need, while your earlier purchases perish. This can all be avoided with a great vegan meal plan.

Plus, meal plans are great if you’re someone who’s budget-conscious or pressed for time. They allow you to plot out exactly what ingredients you’ll need so you can shop around for the most reasonable price and be efficient at the grocery store and in the kitchen. 

3. Shop mostly along the perimeter of the store.

The perimeter of the grocery store is where supermarkets tend to keep most of their fresh foods, bulk items, and other whole foods. It’s the healthiest (and also the prettiest!) section of the grocery store since it’s full of vibrant produce. Challenge yourself to do as much of your shopping from the perimeter as possible. 

4. Shop local and in-season (when you can).

You’ve probably noticed by now that the price of produce skyrockets when you try to buy it out of season, while the flavor profile tends to go down as well. For the sake of nutritional variety and your wallet, consider buying in-season produce that was picked at the peak of its ripeness, and purchasing locally-harvested fruits and veggies to help support your local farmers.

When produce has to be transported a long way before it lands in the grocery store, it will likely be picked far before it’s actually ripe. Picture: oranges when they’re not yet orange, and peaches that are totally hard. This, as you can imagine, can cause loss of flavor and nutrients. 

If you have a craving for something that’s out of season in your region, considering buying frozen fruits and veggies. They’re typically cheaper than their non-frozen counterparts but are still nutritionally-rich since they were flash frozen after being picked. 

5. Check the meat and dairy aisles.

Here’s the deal: There’s not always a rhyme-or-reason to how supermarkets lay out their vegan-friendly and health-conscious items. Sometimes they’ll put all of the vegan-friendly items in one little weird corner that only vegans seem to know about. Other times they’ll intersperse them amongst non-vegan products in otherwise vegan-unfriendly areas (like vegan cheese in the dairy aisle).

Because of this, for your first few trips, we recommend that you take a leisurely stroll through the entire supermarket to find where all of the vegan-y goodness is hiding.

While you’re at it, don’t be embarrassed to ask where to find certain items if you can’t find them. Asking about vegan products at your local supermarket is a great way to gradually encourage supermarkets and food producers to carry more vegan-friendly products, which can ultimately makes them more moolah and make their clients (a.k.a. you) happier and healthier. 

6. Buy in bulk.

Anyone who’s ever shopped in a Costco or Sam’s Club knows that it’s often exponentially cheaper to buy in bulk than it is to buy food items in smaller quantities. But thanks to supermarket bulk bins which are quickly rising in popularity, you don’t need to buy massive quantities to buy bulk.

Even if you don’t have the need (or space!) to buy the mega quantities of certain foods at a wholesaler, we recommend checking out the bulk section of your local grocery store.

Not only is it almost always cheaper to buy items from bulk bins as opposed to the same quantity prepackaged, but it’s also more environmentally friendly since your purchase uses less packaging (just check out our discussion on buying in bulk for more evidence!).

For example, when I went budget shopping at Whole Foods (and got a week’s worth of food for under $40, woot-woot!), I noticed that many of the items I purchased in bulk cost about half as much as the prepackaged versions.

7. Bring measuring cups & produce bags.

Raise your hand if you have a random amount of some obscure ingredient that you bought for a recipe leftover in your cupboard. If you’re anything like us, you don’t want to waste perfectly good food, but you also don’t have a use for it now.

To prevent this in the future, consider bringing measuring cups and produce bags with you to the supermarket so that you buy only as much of an ingredient as you need from the bulk bins. Since you’ll be shopping in bulk, you get to save money and the environment at the same time. 

Pro Tip: When filling your bag with a bulk item, place the bag inside the measuring cup so your bag lines the cup and the cup never touches the food. That way you won’t have to go dipping questionably clean measuring supplies in the public bulk bins. Trust me—this will save you from getting some wicked glares!

8. Learn how to read food labels.

Whenever we see a product labeled “vegan,” we want to do a little dance because it saves us time having to scan through the ingredients list to make sure that a product is vegan-friendly.

There have been oh-so-many times when we found a product labeled “plant-based” or “dairy-free,” only to find out that there was a sneaky non-vegan ingredient hiding out in there. For example, some soy cheeses contain the milk protein casein, rendering them non-vegan.

At the same time, many food products won’t explicitly label themselves “vegan” since some consumers have misconceptions about what vegan food is and what a vegan lifestyle means. Some vegan products (like Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups) will even say “may contain dairy” on the package for legal reasons, even though there is no dairy in the ingredients. 

In other words, your first few trips to the grocery store as a vegan will take some time since you’ll be pouring over ingredient lists, but you’ll soon become such a pro at identifying vegan products that you can zip through the grocery store as quickly as during your pre-vegan days! To make things a little easier on yourself, why not check out our guide to animal ingredients that may be lurking in your foods

9. Explore all of your local supermarkets.

Of course the higher-end health food store in your community is going to have vegan-friendly options. But the last time we checked, health food stores don’t have a monopoly on stocking vegan-friendly products. In fact, more and more budget or middle-tier supermarkets are beginning to offer vegan-friendly options to cater to more health-conscious and cruelty-conscious folks like yourself.

So, as you begin exploring your vegan lifestyle, we recommend checking out several supermarkets in your area (or heck, even online!) to see which vendor has the most vegan-friendly options at a reasonable price.

I personally do most of my weekly shopping at Trader Joe’s and Sprouts, but I pop into Whole Foods for specialty items. I also like to go to my local Natural Foods store or visit Vitacost online for harder-to-find food items. When I’m shopping on a super-tight budget, you might find me at WinCo or Grocery Outlet. 

10. Stock up on pantry essentials.

We’re totally in favor of shopping locally and in-season whenever possible. But there are some things that you need to have in your kitchen year-round! We recommend checking out our previous post about 15 vegan pantry essentials that every vegan needs.

Minimally, we recommend that you have the following stocked in your kitchen:

  • Plant-based milk for smoothies, cereal, baking, and to go with cookies
  • A versatile vegan cheese that pairs well with pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and crackers
  • Nutritional yeast, because it makes everything taste so wonderfully cheesy
  • Nuts so that you can create your own nut milk and cheeses (cashews are my favorite to have on hand)
  • Beans that you can use in veggie burgers, soups, hummus, spreads, baked goods (!) and more
  • Tofu, which is pretty much the G.O.A.T. of versatile vegan ingredients (seriously, you can turn tofu into pretty much anything imaginable!)
  • A pre-made vegan-friendly meal that you can prepare in a snap 

So, now that you know how to shop like a pro, you’re probably wondering just where you should start shopping.

We recommend that you first check out your favorite local markets to see what vegan fare they offer. Even smaller grocery chains are beginning to offer more vegan-friendly products, so you may be surprised at how easy it is to be vegan at your favorite grocer!

But, if you don’t have the time to visit smaller specialty markets, you can always check out some of the major regional and national supermarkets below.

Trader Joes | Vegan Shopping Guide | WorldofVegan.com | #vegan #meals #recipes #grocery

Vegan Shopping at Trader Joe’s

Why we love it: Folks, Trader Joe’s is pretty much the holy grail of vegan shopping. Not only are their team members some of the most genuinely delightful people we’ve ever met, but Trader Joe’s consistently introduces new vegan-friendly treats at such reasonable prices that we can’t help but be in love with them!

I do most of my shopping at Trader Joe’s because their products are so affordable (even in my home state of California!), they’re constantly coming out with new vegan products, and I just love the vibe.

Who it’s best for:

  • Vegans who are budget-conscious but still want a huge selection of flavors and products to choose from
  • Vegans who are looking to experiment with new foods (hello, Trader Joe’s Blueberry Lavender Flavored Almond Beverage!)
  • Lazy vegans (me, me, me!) who want quick-fix meals and lots of delish vegan frozen entrees

Our favorite products:

  • Trader Giotto’s Arrabiatta Sauce
  • Trader Giotto’s Bruschetta Sauce
  • Trader Joe’s Dolmas
  • Trader Joe’s Garlic and Herb Pizza Dough
  • Trader Joe’s Japanese-style Fried Rice
  • Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo
  • Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
  • Trader Joe’s Vegetable Bird’s Nests

More Trader Joe’s awesomeness:

Whole Foods Market | Vegan Shopping Guide | WorldofVegan.com | #vegan #grocery #recipes #meals

Vegan Shopping at Whole Foods

Why we love it: Walking through Whole Foods is like walking straight into some of the most gorgeous food photographs you could imagine. The produce is always vibrant, the displays are gorgeous, and they’re always debuting new vegan products for our plant-based folk. Whole Foods can be a little on the pricey side, though, so we mostly go there when we’re looking for a specialty item or want to treat ourselves.

Who it’s best for:

  • Vegans who have more flexible food budgets
  • Budget-conscious shoppers who are great at finding higher-end vegan products without breaking the bank (we got one week’s worth of organic groceries for under $40 at Whole Foods!)
  • Those who want a one-stop shop that will have all the ingredients you need for almost any recipe
  • Those looking for harder-to-find vegan specialty ingredients like the Beyond Burger or Miyoko’s artisan vegan cheeses.
  • Anyone looking for more natural and cruelty-free bath and body products
  • Anyone in need of a vegan birthday cake (their bakery department can make one for you!)
  • Amazon Prime members who want to reap the benefits of their Prime savings

Our favorite products:

  • Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger
  • Forager Project Vanilla Cashewgurt Yogurt
  • Kite Hill Vegan Chive Cream Cheese Spread
  • Koyo Garlic Pepper Ramen
  • Miyoko’s Double Cream Chive Vegan Cheese
  • Abe’s Muffins
  • Amy’s Lentil Vegetable Soup
  • Better Than Bouillon’s No Chicken Base
  • Whole Food’s Bakery Goodies
  • Whole Foods Deli Sandwiches (on a sourdough roll with grilled tofu, olive tapenade, melted Daiya cheese, and tons of veggies—their tempeh bacon TTLA is also amazing!)

More Whole Foods awesomeness:

Sprouts Farmers Market | Vegan Shopping Guide | Vegan Grocery | WorldofVegan.com

Vegan Shopping at Sprouts

Why we love it: Quite simply, we love Sprouts because they care about their customers. Sprouts tends to carry mostly organic or minimally-processed products, with around 90% of their products being considered organic or “natural,” according to a Sprouts Spokesperson.

Who it’s best for:

  • Vegans who are particularly interested in purchasing organic and minimally-processed foods
  • Vegans who want a wide selection of health-conscious plant-based products at reasonable prices
  • Shoppers who love coupons! Sprouts always has great coupons and sales going on (you can check out their “ways to save” guide for more tips)

Our favorite products:

  • Sprouts Cherry Turnovers (they’re accidentally vegan!)
  • Amy’s Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Rice Mac and Cheeze (I’m not gluten-free, but this mac is da’ bomb!)
  • Yves Veggie Pepperoni
  • Boca Original Chik’n Veggie Patties
  • Gardein BBQ Pulled Porkless Pocket Meal
  • Mamma Chia Blackberry Hibiscus Chia Beverage
  • Ozery Bakery’s Snacking Rounds  
  • Rising Moon Organic Butternut Squash Ravioli
  • Sprouts Non-dairy Mango and Coconut Mochi Bites

More Sprouts awesomeness:

Costco Vegan Grocery Shopping Guide | WorldofVegan.com

Vegan Shopping at Costco

Why we love it: Whenever we want to stock up on frozen fruit and pantry essentials, you’ll probably find us at Costco. When it comes to finding vegan-friendly items in bulk and on a budget, it’s hard to  beat Costco’s offerings.

Who it’s best for:

  • Shoppers who are looking to save money by purchasing in bulk
  • Shoppers who have the space to store bulk purchases
  • Shoppers who like to walk into a store with a short shopping list and shuffle out an hour later with an overflowing cart 😉

Our favorite products:

  • Kirkland Almond & Soy Milk
  • Ajinomoto Vegetable Yaki Soba (frozen microwavable noodle meals that are so, so  good!)
  • Dave’s Killer Bread
  • Bisquick Baking and Pancake Mix
  • House Foods Organic Tofu
  • Lotus Foods Millet and Brown Rice Ramen
  • Ling Ling Vegetable Mini Spring Rolls
  • Prana Organic Kilimanjaro Deluxe Chocolate Trail Mix
  • Kitchen Appliances (that can often be found at the lowest price at Costco)

More Costco awesomeness:

Target Vegan Grocery Shopping Guide

Vegan Shopping at Target

Why we love it: Do we need another reason to wander around Target? Seriously though, we’re amazed at how many vegan and health-conscious options Target has been pushing out in the past few years! Since Target is pretty much everywhere nowadays,  there’s a good chance that Target will have a decent vegan selection for you even if your other local supermarkets don’t.

Who it’s best for:

  • Vegans who are shopping on a budget
  • Shoppers who want a reliable source of vegan-friendly items in their area
  • Shoppers who want to pick up a few staple food items while doing other shopping

Our favorite products:

  • Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks
  • Ben and Jerry’s Dairy-Free Ice Cream
  • Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef Crumbles
  • Gardein’s Crispy Chik’n Sliders
  • Gardein’s Seven Grain Crispy Tenders
  • Amy’s Bean and Rice Burrito, Non-Dairy
  • Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
  • LaCroix Sparkling Water (try the Key Lime flavor!)
  • Organic Ocho Coconut Minis
  • Ripple Coffee Creamer

More Target awesomeness:

Vegan at Aldi's | Grocery Shopping Guide | WorldofVegan.com | #vegan #aldis #haul #guide #grocery

Vegan Shopping at Aldi’s

Why we love it: Aldi’s is pretty much the place to be if live in the eastern half of the United States (or southern California!) and are shopping on a tight budget. True, what makes Aldi’s so special is that it’s a no-frills kind of grocery store: You bring your own shopping bags, you pay  a quarter to use a shopping cart, and you have will have only a handful of options for any given products as opposed to the tens that you would see at a major grocery store.

But that no-nonsense approach to shopping means that you’ll be hard-pressed to find prices as low as what Aldi’s offers at almost any other major grocery chain. And did we mention how many plant-based finds Aldi’s has, despite their more limited offerings? In the past few years, Aldi’s has been debuting more and more vegan-friendly products that are just as good as what you could purchase at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, but at a lower price. 

Who it’s best for:

  • Vegans who are shopping on a tight budget
  • Vegans who are willing to explore new products from lesser-known brands

Our favorite products:

  • Earth Grown Classic Meatless Meatballs
  • Earth Grown Extra Firm Organic Tofu 
  • Earth Grown Quinoa Crunch Veggie Burgers
  • Earth Grown Kale Veggie Burgers
  • Earth Grown Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds
  • Earth Grown Vegan Chocolate Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert
  • Elevation by Millville Peanut Butter Cookie Bar
  • Good Foods Plant Based Queso Style Dip
  • Friendly Farms Original Sweetened Almond Milk 
  • Simply Nature Root Veggie Hash Browns 

This is only a glimpse of all the vegan options you can now find at mainstream grocery stores, and the selection is growing all the time. Have fun getting to know your local grocery stores and trying out new products. Enjoy the adventure, you’re sure to learn a lot and be healthier for it! 

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