Where to Shop
Knowing where to shop is half the battle on a plant-based diet. And don’t think you have to travel great distances — some foods may be in your local grocery store, although you might have to check around to see which local store carries what foods. And if your store does not carry something you use often, you can make a request, but be sure to show them what you want (bring in a package or or online photo) and write down the products’ UPC Code, if you can. And if you do have to travel some distance to a bulk or health food store, for example, plan ahead and budget so you can stock up on important items.
Your Local Grocery Store
For convenience, the first place you might want to check the health food section of your local grocery store, and if you store doesn’t have a health food section (which many don’t), check the area where they sell gluten-free products (sometimes they pile things in there), or just on the shelves among related products. At my local grocery, for example, I cannot find the Pacific brand vegetable broth, but I can find the Kitchen Basics brand, and after reading the ingredients to make sure it was “safe,” I settled on that and it worked quite well, although it was actually more expensive than the more specialized Pacific brand.
Heath Food Store
Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a Whole Foods Market, Sunflower Market, or some other health foods outlet. Some so-called health food stores focus on supplements, which is not what we are about. You want a health food store that more like a grocery store with a good selection of fresh, canned and packaged foods. And it pays to do a little comparative shopping, and stock up when the staples go on sale, as they often do.
A store like Costco (more so than Wal-Mart or other “big box” store) carries items in bulk and usually for a much better price. Although you might find some things at Wal-Mart you can’t find in your local store, but a lot depends on the area as to what they carry — most stores cater a standard American diet, heavy on animal-based foods.
Consider joining a co-op such a Bountiful Baskets. Some require contracts, meaning you pay a certain amount each month and pick up your produce weekly — this is often offered by local farmers. Bountiful Baskets is a strictly volunteer effort and there is no contract — you sign up weekly and you do pay ahead, then pick up your produce, typically on Saturday. Bountiful Baskets is available in most states.
Order straight from the farm, which is great for buying maple syrup, miso, tamari and other specialty items. Ordering from the farm may allow you to get a higher quality product for a more reasonable price than in single bottles at the grocery store. But do shop around and look for recommendations from others who order from the farm as you browse the Web and visit healthy eating websites.
You can also order from Amazon, and sometimes their products do come from farm retailers and sometimes for better prices. I guess you want to be sure of freshness, but Amazon strives to stand behind their products and retailers. Amazon does have a premium membership that, for an annual fee, you can get free 2-day shipping on most items; this could pay off in just shipping alone (not counting cost saving on products), if you plan to order a lot through the year. You might also go in with someone on a membership, dividing the cost.