Music: swing genre on shuffle on my iPod
Many people have asked me how they can transition to being vegan or, at the very least, eating more vegan meals. I think it's important to start in a few ways. First, when you plan your meals, take some of your favorite recipes and tweak them a little. If it calls for chicken, replace it with some firm or extra firm tofu. If it calls for white rice, replace it with brown. If your recipe says butter or cheese, replace with a vegan "butter" or "cheese." If your soup recipe calls for beef bouillon or broth, use a vegan one.
Second, when you plan your meals, make half your plate vegetables, a quarter of it some sort of grain (whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, etc.), and a quarter of it a bean dish or salad OR a vegan protein such as tofu, tempeh, or seitan.
Third, on a weekend day (or other time you have off regularly during the week), make it a point to make one big salad (with a bean, grain or tofu for "weight"), a big soup (preferably enough for several days or even to freeze half of it), and a sandwich filler (such as hummus--and, by the way, there are TONS of different homemade hummus recipes out there so don't just limit yourself to the standard chickpea/tahini ones--or tofu slices). That way, you'll have enough ready-made food for the week and you can then add a green vegetable or raw salad to enjoy with any of these dishes.
One of the first things I did when I decided to go vegan was to change what was in my refrigerator and pantry. This was the initial "expense" (if you want to call it that) to change the products I was using and replace them with vegan choices. I took out all the white flour, rice, sugar, butter, milk, etc. If it was unopened, I offered it to friends or family or even a food pantry. If you don't want to throw away opened packages, make it a point to use them up and then buy vegan alternatives.
What follows is a pretty lengthy list of some of my favorite vegan-friendly food and non-food products. I no doubt have missed a few but, if I think of them, I will repost later. I hope you find it helpful. Here in Pittsburgh, I shop at Trader Joe's, the East End Food Co-op, and Right by Nature.
The very best vegan mayo out there. I've tried Nayonaise & it's just not to my liking. You will not be able to even tell that this is vegan it tastes that good. Many of my non-vegan friends use this, too. Purchase at Whole Foods or any local health food store in the refrigerated "dairy" section.
Trader Joe's Organic Tofu (firm or extra firm)
Not only is this tofu (found in the produce refrigerated section) inexpensive, it's also organic and holds together exceptionally well when fried or baked. I've tried others and this is the best.
Trader Joe's brand organic canned beans & chickpeas
Trader Joe's beats all prices for canned goods and these are organic, too. I buy all kinds of beans to have on hand for hummus, soups, & salads. Alternatively, if you have a pressure cooker, you can buy dry beans and chickpeas; that's even less expensive.
Boca Chik'n Patties
These are a great once-in-awhile product to have on hand, especially if you're transitioning to more vegan meals. I have them when I'm in a hurry, either on toasted buns with Vegenaise & all the fixings or cut up in salads or pita pockets. Available at most grocery stores, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.
Boca Vegan Burgers
Like the Chik'n Patties, these are the "beef burger" alternative. Enjoy with ketchup/mustard, etc. as usual burgers. Again, available at most grocery stores in the frozen food section.
Food for Life Sprouted English Muffins
These are absolutely delicious toasted & "buttered" for breakfast or even as sandwich bread. Available frozen at Whole Foods and local health food stores.
Trader Joe's Pure Maple Syrup, grade B
Sorry, folks, but Aunt Jemima & Mrs. Butterworth are NOT pure maple syrup. This is the real stuff sold in a huge wine-size bottle. Keep refrigerated after opening. I also use this as a sweetener in some of my baking recipes that call for a liquid sweetener and Jim sometimes uses it when he runs out of agave nectar as a coffee sweetener.
Trader Joe's Original Soymilk (refrigerated or aseptic)
This soymilk foams up exceptionally well for my morning latte but I also use it for cereal as well as baking. Trader Joe's sells it for the least expensive price, either refrigerated or on the shelf in those boxes.
Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo
Again, this is a once-in-awhile product that I love. I'm Mexican and grew up with "real" chorizo but, let's face it. It's really only the spices and texture and this product has it. I cannot tell the difference. It's that good. Sold in the refrigerated section with the produce.
This is Jim's choice for his coffee. We buy it at the East End Food Co-op here in Pittsburgh for the best price but it is also available at Whole Foods and most local health food stores. If not, ask & they may special order it for you.
You will not be able to tell that this is not real butter. It's sooo good. In most grocery stores and health food stores, including Trader Joe's (best price) & Whole Foods in the refrigerated section.
Shedd's Willow Run Soybean Margarine
This is great for baking, just use when the recipe calls for margarine. In the refrigerated section of most grocery stores; again, Trader Joe's has the best price. I could not locate a manufacturer's web site for this brand.
Food For Life Sprouted Sesame Seed Buns
My bun of choice for the Boca Chik'n Patties & vegan burgers. Either toasted or fresh, these are a generous size (regular inedible white buns are loaded with high fructose corn syrups & are usually smaller than your burger!) and the sesame seeds are numerous! Found in the frozen food section at Whole Foods or local health food stores.
Annie's Naturals Ketchup
Again, most regular ketchup is just high fructose corn syrup, this is the real deal, tastes great, and is organic. Sold in most grocery stores right next to the nasty ketchup.
Looza Fruit Nectars
I love these pure fruit nectars in all flavors (but especially apricot & peach). I love to make carbonated drinks with half Looza & half sparkling water (aka seltzer or club soda) in the summertime over ice. Buy at any grocery store near the juices.
Vegan casual footwear that is affordable (about $14.99/pair) and recyclable. They make all their shoes from recycled materials and, when you're done with them, you can send them back to Okabashi for recycling to make more shoes!
Food for Thought Tart Cherry Preserves
These are made in Michigan and are sooo delicious, fresh, and whole. They have really neat flavors like Blackberry Shiraz and Autumn Berry. You can buy by mail or at Michigan Whole Foods' stores--I buy about a dozen whenever I go back home.
Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves
I buy these when I run out of Food for Thought. Sold at most grocery stores.
Made out of yogurt cups, you can recycle these by mailing them back to the company or place them in the available recycling bin at most Whole Foods. I buy these at Trader Joe's for the best price but they are also sold at local health food stores and Whole Foods.
Eco Dent Tooth Powder and Gentle Floss
I love this stuff, even my dental hygienist has taken to buying some for me to use when she cleans my teeth (thank you, Jayne!). I buy it at Right by Nature or the East End Food Co-op here in Pittsburgh but it's also available at Whole Foods and local health food stores.
Trader Joe's Recycled Bathroom Tissue
The name says it all, plus it's very soft.
Bob's Red Mill Ground Flaxseed Meal and Wheat Germ
I use these in baking but also in smoothies and my homemade muesli and granola. I even give my cat a small spoon of the wheat germ with her food in the mornings. Normally, I try to buy in bulk but, since these items have a short shelf life, I prefer to buy them packaged. Keep refrigerated after opening. Available in most grocery stores.
I have very sensitive skin and this is the only soap I find I can use. I buy it 24 bars at a time online from Gaiam. For $24.99 (including postage), it's the only soap that doesn't dry out or irritate my skin.