Vegetarian/vegan diets have become increasingly popular over the past few years, in line with a growing recognition of the ethical and environmental issues surrounding the meat and dairy industry. In fact, in the Oxford bubble I find myself surprised to meet someone who is not at least in the phase of transitioning to vegetarianism and within certain friendship groups, a meat eater would be the anomaly.
I won’t go into the arguments for boycotting animal products, as I would be here for days and not do it justice. However, if you have been contemplating making the change to a plant-based diet but are worried you’ll end up eating plain pasta and lettuce for the rest of your life, hopefully this guide will point you in the right direction.
I’ll start with a fairly basic shopping list because I think it can be difficult to know what staples to have in a weekly shop and where you’re going to get all the protein you need once meat and eggs are out of the picture. This obviously isn’t the only way to go, but it should help you to get your bearings.
Pulses, particularly: kidney beans, chickpeas (Kala Chana are dark chickpeas which I would recommend trying. They are smaller and nuttier and work well in curries), butter beans, black beans, and lentils (red/yellow are good for dahl, green/brown are good for stews and burgers).
Carbs, particularly: rice, pasta, bread (a lot of people have questioned me on this, but most bread is vegan. Wraps and pitta are particularly useful), bulgar wheat, couscous, and oats.
Fruit, particularly: apples (Braeburn are often grown in the UK, and are objectively the crunchiest, sweetest and best apple. Pink ladies are overrated. Fight me.), bananas (a nutritional powerhouse of a fruit, can be used in and on everything from oatmeal to toast to cakes), satsumas/oranges, and frozen berries (keep longer than normal berries, pop them into the microwave and eat them with oatmeal/yoghurt)
Vegetables, particularly: frozen spinach (fantastic source of iron), tomatoes, carrots and lettuce for salads, broccoli, aubergine, peppers, sweet potatoes and courgettes for cooking with.
Tinned tomatoes/tomato puree (fundamental base for stews and curries)
Onion and garlic (try buying the pre-chopped jars or garlic paste, they keep for longer and it avoids the hassle of chopping)
Lemon (bottles of lemon juice last longer than real lemons, but use more plastic)
Coconut milk (tins)
Nutritional Yeast (what a wonderful thing. It is essentially yeast flakes, but that is quite an off-putting idea, so consider it to be flakes of cheesy, nutty, wildly nutritious loveliness, to be sprinkled on or stirred into anything. If you can find it fortified with B12, buy that.
Oreos and bourbons – in fact, most cheap biscuits surprisingly are vegan.
Herbs and spices – cumin, chilli powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, mixed herbs, cinnamon, basil, curry powder, turmeric, rosemary, harissa paste, coriander.
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