Vegan Shopping List: A Guide For Beginners

Last Updated: 22/02/2023

For most people, grocery shopping is a weekly task – one that can often require a lot of time and effort! If you have just started your vegan journey, it can be difficult to know what to buy. However, it is important to know that shopping as a vegan doesn’t have to be complicated.

Find the store cupboard staples that suit you best and use these as a base until you are feeling more confident. Keep reading to learn more about building a healthy and satisfying vegan shopping list.

  1. What Do Vegans Not Eat?
  2. How To Build A Vegan Shopping List
  3. Vegan Carbs
  4. Vegan Proteins
  5. Vegan Healthy Fats
  6. Vitamins & Minerals
  7. Vegan Fibre
  8. Transition Foods
  9. Vegan Substitutes
  10. Vegan Desserts
  11. Vegan Pantry Staples
  12. FAQs

Vegan Shopping List: A Guide For Beginners

banana and berries in bowl

What Do Vegans Not Eat?

Vegans choose to avoid animal products and foods that are derived from animal ingredients. This means that vegans stay away from meat (including poultry), fish and eggs. As dairy products and honey come directly from an animal, these foods are also excluded from a vegan diet. 

How To Build A Vegan Shopping List

The aim for most meals is to try and have a balanced plate; if possible, include a protein source, a portion of healthy fat, and a serving of grains or starches as a source of carbohydrates. Alongside this, aim to include 1-3 portions of veg, which will help to boost the vitamin and mineral content of your meal.

The average male requires around 2500 calories per day, whilst females require around 2000 calories. These numbers will of course be different for everyone, depending on activity levels, body size, and various other factors. When building a shopping list, try and focus on foods you enjoy and will contribute towards your balanced plate.

Not sure if a vegan diet is the right choice for you? Check out this article for advice about going vegan.

Tip 1: Include foods that are quick and easy

Even though we all want to cook meals from scratch, sometimes life just gets in the way. Many of us are eating on the go, yet still want to eat a balanced diet; ready-made snacks and microwaveable meals can be used to help boost your protein content and support your health goals. Packets of microwave rice or quinoa can also often be recycled after use unlike larger, multi-use packets!

These days there is a huge range of on-the-go vegan snacks available.

Tip 2: Make sure to include a source of healthy fats

Whether you prefer peanut butter or avocadoes, coconut yoghurt or tahini, make sure to include a source of healthy fats in your shopping list. Many plant-based foods are low in fat content; however, we need some fat in our diets for the proper absorption of many vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, eating a lowfat diet can have detrimental effects, such as a dry skin, hair and nails.

Nutrition Basics: How To Build A Healthy Plate

Tip 3: Have fun with cooking

It can be easy to fall into a rut of cooking the same things on repeat, but why not aim for cooking at least one new meal per week? This can help a vegan diet to still feel fun, and you may discover a love for cuisines you have previously never even heard of! Cooking styles that are easily adaptable to vegan diets include Japanese, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, and South Indian.

Vegan Shopping List

When it comes to making a shopping list, planning is key! Check what you have at home already to avoid buying duplicates and see if you have lots of something that can serve as a base for several meals. Planning meals before heading to the shops can often be helpful but can be overwhelming. If in doubt, pick a few foods from each section below to make a complete shopping list.

Vegan Carbs

Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for the brain; carbohydrates are used not only for fuelling workouts, but also to help keep you energised throughout the day. Try to avoid highly processed carbohydrates (usually sugary foods) as these can lead to mid-morning or mid-afternoon slumps. Healthy carbohydrate sources include:

  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Couscous
  • Potatoes (including sweet potatoes)
  • Wholegrain or seeded breads
  • Bananas
  • Low sugar cereals
  • Popcorn
  • Noodles

Vegan Proteins

Protein is important during all stages of life; it is needed for building and maintenance of muscle mass, as well as cellular repair and functioning. Including protein in snacks can help to boost your daily protein intake and is also likely to help keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Vegan Healthy Fats

As mentioned already, it is important to include some sources of fat within the diet. This will allow for maximum vitamin and mineral absorption. Most vegan foods contain ‘healthy’ fats in the form of unsaturated fats; try to include no more than 20-30g of saturated fat per day, as these types of fats can have a negative impact on health.

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Vegetable oils (including rapeseed and sunflower oils)
  • Avocado
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Tahini
  • Hummus
  • Coconut yoghurt
  • Olives
  • Seeds eg. flaxseeds, chia seeds

Best Plant-Based Protein | Myvegan

Vitamins & Minerals

Eating your ‘5-a-day’ will greatly contribute towards vitamin and mineral intake. Most fruit and vegetables are high in either fat-soluble or water-soluble vitamins, as well as containing multiple minerals (e.g. iron, calcium, selenium). It’s important to note that vegan diets can be lacking in vitamin B12, as this vitamin can only be found in animal products. It is therefore recommended that all vegans and plant-based eaters supplement with daily vitamin B12. All people in the northern hemisphere, regardless of diet, may benefit from taking vitamin D during winter months; sunshine is our main source of vitamin D, but exposure is limited between September-March. 

  • Berries 
  • Citrus fruits 
  • Bananas 
  • Dark leafy greens (including kale, cabbage, spinach, spring greens)
  • Seeds
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tofu
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Broccoli
  • Soy milk and other fortified dairy-free milks
  • Dark chocolate
  • Tahini
  • Bell peppers
  • Beetroot
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Kiwis

Vegan Fibre

Fibre is really important for a healthy gut; an adequate fibre intake can help to reduce bloating and other gastrointestinal (GI) upset, and help to keep our gut bacteria healthy. Fibre is also important for reducing cholesterol levels, which is important for cardiovascular health. Fibre is usually found alongside other macronutrients such as protein and fibre, especially in a vegan diet. Fruit and vegetables are also high in fibre – keep the skin on (if edible) for maximum fibre content.

  • Brassica vegetables e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts
  • Oats
  • Wholegrains
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Beans and legumes
  • Seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Hummus
  • Potatoes (skin on)

Transition Foods

When transitioning to a vegan diet it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Choosing plant-based alternatives of your favourite foods can be an easier introduction to a vegan diet, rather than choosing 100% ‘whole foods (aka unprocessed foods). These foods are usually quick and easy to cook, and often high in protein.

vegan protein

Vegan Substitutes

 The most commonly found vegan substitutes include meat or dairy alternatives, as both these foods form a central part of a standard Western diet. Over the years, more and more options have become available, so take your time to try the different brands and find your favourites.  

Meat Substitutes

  • Vegan nuggets
  • Vegan sausages
  • Vegan burgers
  • Vegan bacon
  • Vegan deli meats

Dairy Substitutes

  • Vegan cheese (usually made from soy or coconut)
  • Almond milk
  • Oat milk
  • Coconut yoghurt
  • Vegan cream (usually made from soy or oats)

Vegan Desserts

Following a vegan diet definitely does not mean missing out on dessert! There are a variety of vegan ‘milk’ or white style chocolates available, as well as traditional dark chocolate (just check for butter oil or whey in the ingredients if not labelled as vegan on the front). Some shop-bought desserts can also be ‘accidentally’ vegan, so taking the time to read labels can pay off!

  • Dates
  • Chocolate
  • Vegan crumbles
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Fruit salad
  • Vegan ice cream or sorbets
  • Hot chocolate made with dairy-free milk
  • Pancakes
  • Dried fruits

Check out this selection of vegan recipes for dessert ideas.

Vegan Pantry Staples

Common foods that most vegans will have in their cupboards are the basics; often these can be bulk-bought and are versatile foods that work in multiple dishes .

  • Plant-based milks
  • Oats
  • Seeds eg. chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Tins of beans and legumes
  • Olive oil
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables

How to stay vegan on a budget | Myvegan

Take Home Message

In summary, eating a vegan diet doesn’t have to be difficult! Pick a few different foods from each of the categories above and have fun exploring new dishes and flavours. Don’t be afraid of using vegan meat and dairy alternatives, as these can be really beneficial when transitioning to a vegan diet.

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What do I need to buy as a beginner vegan?  

Many of the store cupboard staples listed here are versatile and budget friendly, so start here when planning your shop. Plant-based milks, starchy carbohydrates (oats, pasta, rice) and tins of beans or legumes are commonly used ingredients in most vegan recipes. 

How to create a vegan shopping list?

If you have time, try to make a loose meal plan for the week, as this will help to guide your choices of certain foods (e.g. fruit and vegetables). If you aren’t sure where to start with your shopping list, try choosing several items from each of the food groups – proteins, carbohydrates, fats, then add in some additional fruit and vegetables for a nutrient boost.

What are some substitutes for vegans?

Tofu, tempeh and seitan are commonly used substitutes for meat. Many supermarkets also stock a range of ready to cook meat substitutes such as sausages or burgers.  

What are plant-based food substitutes?

Many plant-based dairy substitutes are made from soy, almond or oats. Whether you have your tea with a splash of milk, or prefer a frothy barista style coffee, you’re sure to find a plant-based milk that meets your needs.

What vitamins and minerals do vegans commonly lack the most?

Most vegans should supplement with daily vitamin B12, as this nutrient can only be obtained through animal products. Vitamin D may also be a useful supplement if you live in colder climates.  


Last Updated: 22/02/2023




Rachel is a qualified Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) who holds an MSc in both Applied Human Nutrition and Physician Associate Studies. Over the last year, Rachel's been working as a freelance nutrition writer and coach, with her areas of interest including weight loss and specialist dietary requirements. As well as this, she's contributed towards published research on weight loss, and is currently studying the role of plant-based diets in health-conscious individuals.