These are a few things that were my go to’s when I went vegan (plus some new additions).
There are LOADS more options now, but these are some bits I found were quite widely available and not too much more expensive than their non vegan counterparts. Holland and Barrett and Linda McCartney were my absolute go to's a few years ago but we’re absolutely spoilt for choice now, with loads of supermarkets doing their own brand frozen and fresh meat and dairy alternatives and stocking lots of different vegan brands.
I’ve put together this blog post for anyone participating in Veganuary looking for ideas or anyone who just wants to cut down their meat intake a little 💚
Don't be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake: It can take time to find your own go to's and can be a lot of standing in supermarket aisles reading packets to begin with while you get to know what's vegan and what's not. It does get much easier but I still sometimes get home and realise something I've bought has got a sneaky bit of milk powder in. I'll usually gift the item to a non vegan member or family or use it and avoid buying it again in future as I personally think it would be worse to waste food than use something I can't return with a small amount of something in it.
What to look out for when shopping: a lot of supermarkets have started to label things as vegan, however there are still a lot of things that will be labelled as vegetarian or not labelled at all that are still vegan. As milk and seafoods are allergens, they usually be listed in bold in ingredients so are easier to spot, unlike meat, eggs or honey. Usually if something says "may contain" it means it isn't in the main ingredients but there could have been some cross contamination during production, personally, as I don't have any allergies and the product will only contain trace amounts unintentionally. I will generally still buy things that say this but it's totally up to you depending on your stance on this!
Don't feel like you need to go cold Tofurkey: it can be harder to cut out everything at once as it's potentially quite daunting stepping into a supermarket with no idea what you can and can't eat or what you're going to like. I bought a lot of things that ranged from a little disappointing to full blown offences on my taste buds, and getting home to make dinner and playing roulette with new vegan options (especially if they were kind of expensive or you don't have a lot of income) can be disheartening and off putting. I found it easier to replace things I'd usually buy as I found vegan replacements that I got on with. I also chose to use up what I had in the cupboards so that I didn't have to completely restock everything all at once (although I was surprised at how much I had already that was vegan).
Some people choose not to use meat and dairy substitutes for various reasons, however I am not one of those people and could do a whole blog just on fake meats and cheeses! But for now I thought I'd just summarise ones I've found to be the best all rounders for taste, value and availability.
You can buy Alpro in most supermarkets and convenience stores, it's not the best value and is usually between £1 - £3 but has a wide range and is the one you're most likely to be able to get hold of at 11pm when you're desperate for a cuppa!
Aldi has a couple of different plant milks and their sweetened and unsweetened soy milks are 59p each. ASDA also do a long life unsweetened plant milk for 59p which I found more like a fuller fat milk and is good if you do your shopping online!
There are lots of vegan cheese alternatives, some good, some great and some terrible. I made the mistake of trying VBites Cheesely from Holland & Barrett when I started trying to switch to a vegan diet and I nearly gave up. But there are some pretty good cheese alternatives out there! Whatever you do, don't try Cheesely first (or maybe at all, sorry VBites, but please stop making cheese). These are the ones I'd recommend starting out with...
I found Violife was a pretty good intro to vegan cheese. It's quite easy to get hold of, it's usually stocked in Holland & Barrett and in lots of supermarkets now, melts quite well and is fairly mild in taste. The consistency is more solid than real cheese but isn't really noticeable once grated!
One of my favourites that's easy to find is Sheese/supermarket own brand vegan cheeses. They come in lots of different types, melt really well and from supermarkets are about £2. I think the texture is closer to a real cheese, slightly crumbly and softer than violife. And they have a much stronger flavour. I'm pretty sure the supermarket own brand cheeses (Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco) are actually just Sheese. But you can buy branded Sheese from some supermarkets and also Holland and Barrett.
Mince, burgers & meatballs
Most supermarkets will do their own brand of frozen veggie mince, burgers and meatballs. My personal favs are Asda and Sainsbury's as they're usually quite cheap and cheerful and good to have in the freezer for things like pastas, chillis and cottage pies! There are loads of other brands that do these products that are maybe better but these are the ones I've found fit in the cross section between quality and value.
When it comes to chicken substitutes the undeniable winner for me is the Iceland frozen chicken strips. They're not the cheapest option but they've really got the taste and texture of roasted chicken down and work so well as a substitute in tons of dishes like curries, paella's, fajitas and stir fry's. A close second is the chicken pieces by This. The chicken flavour is pretty spot on and they've managed to get the texture quite close but the uniform shapes make them feel a bit processed and they're a fair bit more expensive than the Iceland option (you can pick them up in Holland & Barrett and Waitrose).
Of all the bacon substitutes, the Vivera bacon lardons are king 🙌🏻 They're only small pieces but they are truly the vegan bacon I've been waiting for. They're not the cheapest option but a can be frozen and are great for putting on mac & cheese, cheese on toast, in burgers or on anything that would benefit from some beautiful salty bacon like goodness. For value, I'd go for the VBites Cheatin bacon slices from Holland & Barrett. They taste more like Frazzles and have the texture of a slice of dry ham but still make a good addition to a breakfast sandwich. They can also be frozen but make sure you separate the slices before freezing!
In terms of best value, Linda McCartney frozen sausages are quite often reduced to £1 in supermarkets. They don't have the texture of a regular meat sausage but are good in their own way. For a more realistic sausage I'd recommend the Sainsbury's Love Your Veg shroomdogs that come both fresh and frozen. They've really nailed the sausage skin and flavour and there's not a hint of mushroom.
You might not be looking to change over all your household cleaning products but it's something to maybe consider, especially if you're thinking about going vegan for environmental reasons!
Brands like Ecover and Method make cruelty free and environmentally friendly cleaning products and can sometimes be found on promotion in supermarkets like Sainsbury's. Ecover are particularly good as their bottles can be refilled at package free shops if you are able to access any.
However these brands unfortunately are usually quite expensive in comparison to regular cleaning products and aren't a viable option for everyone. Wilkos have recently launched an eco range of cleaning products, whilst they still aren't as cheap as the cheapest options they sell, they are much more affordable and many are also in recycled or recyclable packaging, so worth a little extra if you can afford it! Another option is Astonish which can be found in Poundland. Whilst these aren't eco friendly, they are cruelty free, vegan and tend to have a bit more cleaning power than the other options I've tried so far.
Beauty & toiletries
I've found Superdrug to be amazing for cheap cruelty free and vegan things like shampoo and toothpaste. They're not so good for eco and plastic free products but in terms of price and availability, they are a really good option if you're on a budget and lots of their packaging is recyclable (just be sure to wash it out!).
My favourite cruelty free makeup brand for their range, quality and affordability is NYX which can now be found in Boots and Superdrug. Again it's not the best eco option if that's also something you are aiming for but they have made shopping for cruelty free makeup so so easy.
Lush are obviously a fantastic cruelty free, (mostly) vegan and eco friendly place to get toiletries and make up. They aren't the most budget friendly option, but they are worth it if you can afford or worth treating yourself occasionally if and when you can - they have a really amazing sale on right now!
Veganism is rising in popularity and there are lots of great resources out there to help you make changes to your lifestyle, big or small! (I'll add to these as I find them! Please let me know if you have any suggestions 💚)
Barnivore (great for checking if alcohol is vegan or not!)