The Vegan Society: the logo means it has been checked and approved by the Vegan Society.
TRICKY PRODUCTS – IS IT VEGAN?
Is It Vegan? is a game well-known to all vegans and allergy-sufferers. There is a LOT of grey area in many food groups, and a trusty ingredient check is what’s needed 9 times out of 10. I have singled out just a few groups which are often problematic when playing Is It Vegan?
Sauces: Pasta sauce, pesto and many canned soups are probably not. A lot of sauces and soups use cream or milk as a thickening agent and a lot of pasta sauces or salad dressings contain egg. Even the humble pesto contains cheese. You can see I’ve gone for zest vegan pesto in my above food shop; it’s quite a mild taste but I like it! Thai curry sauce and worcestershire sauce almost always contain fish.
Pasta: often made with eggs or milk. Dried pasta, spelt pasta and rice pasta are generally ok. Being wheat-free I always go for rice pasta (my favourites are the multi-coloured ones).
Biscuits: Quite a lot of them are! Most bourbon biscuits, pink wafers, table wafers, rich tea biscuits, Ritz crackers and Oreos are actually vegan but CHECK THE LABEL FIRST. I’ve gone for spelt cookies which have dark chocolate chips (dark chocolate is vegan most of the time!).
Quorn (vegetarian substitute): Noooooo! This stuff annoys me so much as it’s never vegan; it’s like aggressively non-vegan. Nearly every other vegetarian brand I can think of has vegan products. Just adapt the ingredients guys and we can all party together.
Hot Chocolate: why do they add dried milk?! I get Cacao, basically pure cocoa, and then add almond or soya milk.
Alcohol: occasionally. Many types of alcohol are brewed using isinglass (fish bladder), albumen (from eggs) and chitosan (crustacean skin) as a distillation agent (grim, I know). In the UK there are no requirements for any of the ingredients used in the brewing process to be displayed on the packaging. Wine is also exempt from having to state if it includes milk or eggs. Handy, right?
Basically: most cask ale, beer and lager is off the menu. Most supermarkets have their own vegan wines (or at least label them), but when in doubt check. Spirits are generally fine with the exception of Jack Daniels (distilled through animal bone), Campari (coloured with beetles – nice) and Baileys (milk fiasco).
CHECK THE LABEL: every time! Even if you think something is vegan or you’ve had it before companies are under no legal obligations to let you know when they amend their ingredients. Watch out for: casein, lactose, whey (milk-derived), bone char sugar (whitened using animal bones – gross), gelatine (animal tissue/bones – again, gross), carmine or E120 (beetles), shellac or E904 (insect secretions. Seriously, how rank is that?).
VEGAN ALTERNATIVES – FIND YOUR FAVOURITES
So there are a huge amount of alternatives available for all problem ingredients, above I’ve shown vegan alternatives to milk and gluten-free alternatives to flour. It takes time to learn which ones you like. I actually like different things for different purposes; I love almond milk in tea but soya milk is nicer in cakes and baking.
My advice is to try out foods when you can and don’t get discouraged. I remember trying Cheezly (a potato-based vegan cheese) and hating it. I was pretty sad, but now I love coconut milk cheese; it’s so thick and creamy and great for sandwiches and soft spreads. Obviously it can be expensive trying food out but there are a number of websites with useful guides (or ask a vegan friend with similar tastes to you!).
<h5>WHERE TO SHOP:
Most vegan food keeps for AGES and you can probably get away with shopping less frequently – I do one big shop (as pictured) a month and get my vegetables once a week from the pick-up. I pick up milk and cereal as and when I need it and that’s about it! I spend maybe about £45-50 per month on food shopping.
There aren’t many vegan food shops in the UK but I would have a look for an independent health foods shop near you or a specialist indian/mediterranean food shop, as vegans tend to do better with foods from other cultures (as discussed more in my previous post). Nationwide shops to check out include Holland and Barrett’s and Whole Foods Market.
I try very hard not to support any supermarkets or big chains aside from The Co-op. The Co-op are great for vegan produce and labelling everything clearly, even in the smaller branches (mine is just a tiny local one). You don’t have to live near a specialist vegan shop to be vegan though! If you check your ingredients there is no reason why you can’t be vegan in a small town just by avoiding the non-vegan products.
I hope you enjoyed this post! Would you guys be interested in more ethical-life posts? I’m thinking of covering vegan cooking, ethical fashion (on a budget!) and cruelty-free beauty and cosmetics in the future. Let me know any suggestions!
Here’s a couple of useful links:
And lastly Netflix “Vegucated” – I recently watched this and it’s accessible, interesting and informative rather than preachy. It’s also very funny in places!