All over the world, we are in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic. Here in the UK, we are only allowed out for essential trips and sensible daily exercise (as of writing mid-April 2020). Regardless of where you live, the virus is likely to have affected your lifestyle in some way. For many of us, it feels like goals and aspirations have been put on hold. We can’t run that marathon, go travelling, tick items off our bucket list… or really do much that involves leaving the house! So going vegan through coronavirus… that’s impossible, right?
If you were toying with the idea of going vegan before Covid-19 took hold, it may have slipped to the back of your mind. It might even seem more impossible to achieve with restrictions on shopping trips and food shortages. But actually, moving towards veganism is absolutely achievable right now!
One benefit of doing it right now? The noise of daily life isn’t there to surround and distract us. We can’t claim we’re too busy. We can give laser focus to anything we want to achieve – like going vegan through coronavirus. There’s more time than ever to sit and research the animal agriculture industry, nutrition, and to chat to like-minded people online. Take advantage of this time – it’s unlikely to happen again! There’s also more time to experiment with vegan meals and have fun with ingredients. Cooking is one of the few hobbies we can still enjoy in isolation. Even if you are not looking to go completely vegan, you can still incorporate new cruelty-free meals, learn about nutrition from home, and understand the lifestyle. There’s nothing to lose!
It may be tricky to do a regular supermarket shop right now. Don’t worry, there are many ways around it. Our household has been in isolation for over a month now, with no end in sight just yet! I have an asthmatic husband and 5-month-old, so would rather not take any unnecessary risk by going out to stores. I’m in the perfect position to guide you through getting hold of delicious vegan food, making new meals from pantry staples, and learning about veganism – all from the comfort of your home.
This is a long article – you can jump to sections using these links:
Can I Get Vegan Food Through Coronavirus?
If you’re able to get out and visit the supermarket, there is really no need to go more than once per fortnight. Check out my pantry staples list below for what to buy, and then make some simple meals from the following section to keep you going!
If you’re in isolation like me, and can’t get a supermarket delivery slot, there are still many options for you. We have managed for over a month now without a single supermarket visit! Here are some of the sources I recommend for food purchases:
- Approved Foods and Clearance XL – both of these sites are perfect for people on a budget. They sell common food items for as little as 1p. This is usually because they’ve been discontinued, are surplus to requirements, or are close to their best before date. As well as food and drink, you can also buy cleaning products, pet food and toiletries. Please note: these stores do not sell fridge or freezer foods and are NOT 100% vegan, but you can either filter for vegan items, or use the search bar. There are also many accidentally vegan items on the site, such as whole foods and baked beans. I often put a big order into stock up on pantry items so that I don’t need to order for a while.
- Buy Wholefoods Online – this website has a vegan section under the category ‘Diet and Lifestyle’. You can get niche vegan foods such as nutritional yeast, chocolate buttons and dried jackfruit pieces, as well as staples like pasta, flour, protein powder and oats. They also offer free delivery if you spend over £30.
- Alternative Stores – this is one of my favourite stores – I’ve had two orders in the last month! I’ve found that despite the coronavirus pandemic, their stock levels are good and updated regularly. Both of my shipments have arrived within 4 days too. This store is 100% vegan, they sell fridge and freezer goods, and have special offers!
- Vegan Kind Supermarket – I’ve also ordered from this store since being isolation and have been very impressed. They replenish stock on a daily basis and have vegan essentials such as plant-based milk, egg replacements, and ‘meats’. You can currently get Mozzarella Cheezly for £2.38 – highly recommended!
- Holland and Barrett – apart from fridge and freezer goods, you can order online what you would get in-store. They sell vegan chocolate, tinned mock duck, nut butter, vitamins, plant milk, nut roasts and more. I recommend their dried soya or mince pieces. You simply add them to a curry, stew, stir fry or bolognese – they swell in size and absorb whatever sauce or stock you’re using. Be mindful that they are currently very busy and taking around 10 days to deliver orders, but delivery is free over £25. Plan in advance!
- Amazon Pantry – if you’re a Prime member, take advantage of the pantry service. You can buy plant-based milk, protein powder, biscuits, almond butter and more. Spend £15 and get free delivery.
- Real Foods – they are a small business with an Edinburgh store and online shop. Real Foods specialise in healthy and ethical foods but do note a small portion of foods are not vegan friendly (such as honey). As a small business, they are experiencing high demand, so try to order early on in the day to ensure stock levels are good. I am putting this recommendation further down the list as stock levels can fluctuate quite quickly, and I’ve found that some essential items can become unavailable quickly.
- Local Deliveries – many local companies have adapted to provide a delivery service so that they can stay in business. You can find these via Facebook – there are many groups with lists of places delivering. Simply search for coronavirus + town/city name. If there isn’t a dedicated pandemic group, often community groups for your town/city will be able to help with recommendations, and many local businesses use them for advertising too. Groups can also sometimes include a pinned post at the top of the group, where you can find a list of this information in one place. These can include local zero waste shops, fruit and veg shops, market stalls (that have adapted to offer delivery) and bakeries. If you’re local to me (Staffordshire, UK), check out the group Stafford Coronavirus Support Network. I’d also highly recommend vegan-friendly organisations such as Roots Larder, Actually Good, Staffordshire Fruits and Slaters Ales. There are many people in these groups offering to drop off shopping to vulnerable households and those in full isolation. Take advantage of this if you need it! And remember, local businesses really need our support at this time, as a lot of them don’t have a lot of money in reserves for situations like this, and are not getting any footfall in their shop. Shopping locally is not only good for the economy, but it is also convenient and quick for you too.
- Food Banks and Community Schemes – if you’re in desperate need, don’t be afraid to turn to your community for help. Many food banks or community shops are offering a box of staple foods for a set price. Here in Stafford, we have a non-profit shop called County Stores Supermarket. Search Google and Facebook to find one near you.
- Plan in advance! Ensure you’re placing a food order before you completely run out, as deliveries can take a little longer to arrive at the moment. When you do place an order, place a big one where possible – with lots of freezer foods and pantry staples that last a long time. That way you often get free delivery too.
- If you are in a tricky situation (a vulnerable person, shopping for several family members), please don’t feel any pressure to transition to 100% vegan during these times. Do what you can and be kind to yourself – progress, not perfection. It is absolutely do-able if you utilise the advice in this post, but it is important to keep yourself sane and satiated too!
Vegan Nutrition Through Coronavirus
A normal concern for people going vegan at any time is getting the right nutrition. This anxiety may be exacerbated by the desire to have a good immune system and stay healthy during the pandemic. Believe me, a vegan diet is completely adequate! Did you know that vegans statistically have less chance of getting certain cancers and heart-related illnesses? You can read more in detail here. However, just like any diet, it should be well planned and we should all have some basic knowledge of nutrition so that we can choose foods that support our health. Those without any knowledge of nutrition can be deficient in a variety of vitamins and essential nutrients, whether they consume meat and dairy or not.
However, myths have circulated for years about vegans not getting enough protein and calcium. These claims are completely unsubstantiated. I always advise clients to have a basic knowledge of nutrition – what they should be consuming every day, and some keys foods that contain those nutrients. Visit my nutrition guide for a full (but simple!) breakdown on nutrition as a vegan. I cover each nutrient, common foods that contain it, and some easy meal ideas to get it into your diet.
Immune system boosters:
Eating a well-balanced diet is key in staying generally healthy, but if you want to go one step further, check out my tips for having a tip-top immune system that is more likely to fight off any illnesses! Covid-19 has a worse effect on those with compromised immune systems, so this is important!
- Vitamin C helps us to make white blood cells, and fight off infection. Some doctors are even championing the use of high-dose Vitamin C as an antidote to Covid-19, although this is not widely researched yet. Some great foods for Vitamin C are citrus fruits, orange juice, broccoli, and pineapple.
- Get your garlic on! This food is well known as an immune booster, as it lowers blood pressure and fights infections. If you hate crushing cloves, buy a jar of puree to add to meals.
- Drink green tea. It is full of antioxidants!
- Try to avoid fried foods and processed oils. They are very high in trans fatty acids and generally unhealthy. I often saute food in stock or a little water. When I do use oil, I stick to a little extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. You should also limit the consumption of alcohol and refined sugar.
- If in doubt, supplement. With a well-balanced diet, supplements are not necessary. But if you’re still unsure about nutrition, it can be helpful to take a good-quality multivitamin to avoid any accidental deficiencies.
- Stress has an impact on our immune system. Try to limit how much news (especially negativity around coronavirus) you are consuming each day, and make time for self-care. This could be yoga, meditation, exercise, sitting in the sun, journalling, or enjoying nature in your garden. Other things I like to do are growing plants and food, as well as reading. It all counts!
Finding Support And Community
When I started to explore veganism, I visited vegan festivals, small local fairs, and checked out local stores that had vegan-friendly options. With these unavailable at the moment, it can be easy to feel isolated when making the transition. But it doesn’t have to be that way! We’re very fortunate to be going vegan through the coronavirus pandemic with internet access. There are so many ways we can connect and get support online.
It’s really important that we have people we can relate to – I like to connect with people at the same stage of their vegan journey as me (so for you this may be those completely new to veganism) and also people with experience in a specific subject that I can ask the advice of (such as pregnancy or gluten-free options). It all gives a great sense of community and learning – plus you can also share your own finds, and help others as you become more knowledgeable!
Here are some places you can find support and community:
- Online forums where you can remain anonymous. Try out Happy Cow or Vegan Forum, which has a dedicated board for transitioning.
- Facebook groups where people share their supermarket buys. I particularly like Accidentally Vegan UK and Vegan Supermarket Finds UK.
- Support groups for those going vegan – we actually have our very own Learner Vegan Tribe! This group is run by me and you are welcome even if you are just vegan-curious and starting out on your journey! The aim is to provide answers to questions, and support in a positive and easy way. It’s also a lovely little community where we share meal ideas and chat.
- Pages dedicated to recipe ideas. Recipe creators are often happy to chat! There are some great ideas for cooking on a budget, creating simple meals, and planning food out for the whole family.
- Blogs – there are thousands of vegan blogs out there, but I love the personal touches of Made By Luci and The Nomadic Vegan. Don’t forget the Learner Vegan blog too – I tackle a variety of topics for new vegans and often go LIVE on Facebook or Instagram so we can chat.
- Podcasts – I really enjoy listening while doing housework or relaxing. Just a few on my list are The Disclosure Podcast, and Plant Powered People Podcast. Simply search iTunes for them.
- Twitter. Join in with hashtag #veganhour every Tuesday at 7pm BST, or #veganrecipehour every Thursday at 8pm. Simply tweet using the hashtag, or search for others’ tweets with the same hashtag.
- If writing and emailing is more your thing, find a vegan penpal over on InterPals.
- Don’t forget local groups too! You can chat with others in your area, make friends, and find out about future events even while you’re isolating at home. I’m part of my local groups – Stafford Vegans and Black Country Vegans. Can you find one near you? Just use the Facebook search bar to explore.
Useful Pantry Items
When you order shopping, it’s useful to know what to buy! Here are some of my essentials while in isolation – they’re versatile and don’t go bad quickly.
- Tins – passata, chopped tomatoes, various tinned beans (kidney, black), baked beans for lazy days, chickpeas, lentils, vegetables such as sweetcorn and peas, new potatoes, jackfruit.
- Dried goods – rice, pasta, couscous, quinoa, noodles (all wholegrain or wholewheat if possible), fruits for porridge such as cranberries, dried soy pieces and mince, your favourite herbs and spices, boxes of nut roast mix, flax/hemp/chia seeds for that much-needed omega-3, pizza base mix, stock cubes.
- Frozen – tofu (buy fresh but freeze if unused), choice of meat substitutes, bread frozen into portions, berries for smoothies, mixed vegetables.
- Other cupboard items – long-life plant milk, snack bars such as Nakd and Belvita, cereal such as Shreddies and a big bag of porridge oats, jars of olives and sundried tomatoes, crisps and nuts for snacks, nut butter, crackers, olive or coconut oil, tempeh in a jar, taco shells, garlic powder or puree, soy sauce, other favourite sauces such as ketchup.
Making the most of foods:
- Use crackers and crispbreads instead of sliced bread – they are long-life, and you’ll make the bread last longer. You can also get creative and use pizza bases and taco shells instead of having a sandwich. Freeze bread in portions and defrost as needed.
- Bulk buy butter such as Flora or Vitalite. When unopened, they can last for a long time in the fridge.
- Part-boil any potatoes, sweet potatoes or vegetables that are going bad. You could mash them, dice them, or turn into chips. Freeze them and then pull out to cook as needed.
- To avoid regular trips to the supermarket for salad items, consider using jars of other items such as olives, sundried tomatoes, sauerkraut, pickled onions and gherkins. This will allow you to get much-needed nutrients without having to continually dip into your limited salad stash.
- Buy big portions of items that are long-lasting. This includes nut butter, oil, rice and pasta.
- Cook large portions and freeze.
I’ve found it tough to keep stocked up with fresh fruit/veg and fridge items during this time. For instance, with a 4-year-old, me as a hungry breastfeeding mum, and husband to feed, our food disappears fast! It has allowed me to think outside the box and be creative with meals though. At the moment, a lot more of my meals involve frozen fruit or veg, and pantry staples. This way, the fresh foods last longer. Anything fresh that starts to go off can be frozen or made into a meal and then frozen, so it’s not wasted. I’m also taking more short cuts, such as using garlic powder instead of fresh. My meals also contain minimal amounts of things that are hard to get hold of, or go off quickly, such as bread or flour. However, if you do have a good supply of them, feel free to substitute them in and mix it up!
NB: I have googled vegan pantry meals, but found many of them have a lot of ingredients! Below I’ve provided a lost of the simplest meals as possible, that are achievable while in isolation. Of course, if you have extra ingredients to add to any of them, go ahead! If an item is missing, you could also try substituting a similar food.
- Smoothies – try banana + other frozen fruit + long-life milk. Optional extras: protein powder, dates to sweeten, seeds for omega 3, frozen spinach/kale. Remember, overripe bananas can be frozen for later use.
- Porridge – simply oats + milk. This can be changed every day by adding different frozen fruit, dried fruit such as cranberries and raisins, chocolate/cacao chips, seeds, cinnamon, nut butter, jam or sugar. By mixing it up, it’s less likely to become boring.
- Overnight oats – as above, except leave in the fridge overnight and eat cold.
- Other cereal – cornflakes, granola, Shreddies, muesli (watch out for honey in some granolas).
- Flourless breakfast muffins – add any dried fruit you have to hand.
- Simple Vegan Hash – you can eat as it is or pop it in a wrap if you have one.
- Soups – a great way to use up leftovers, or vegetables that are going bad. Add your veg, plus beans or lentils to make it more filling, and then boil it up with some stock until soft, and blend! To get started, try my butternut squash recipe. Some other good combinations are black beans and kale, carrot and lentil, or root vegetables with potato.
- Chickpea tuna – this can be added to a sandwich, crackers or jacket potato. Drain and mash a tin of chickpeas, and add a sprinkle of garlic, salt and vinegar, a dollop of vegan mayo. Optional – nori/seaweed flakes to make it fishy and tinned sweetcorn for texture.
- Chilli/bolognese – the base for this is tomato. You can either use a can of passata, blend fresh tomatoes, or use a tin of chopped tomatoes. Then, add your choice of tinned beans or lentils for protein. You can then fry up and add whatever you have of the following – onions, mushrooms, peppers, chilli powder, paprika, sweetcorn, or frozen spinach. My husband loves to add a tin of baked beans to his to bulk it out! Sounds strange but it works. A good tomato-based bolognese or chilli is so versatile. You can have it the traditional way with pasta/rice, or pair with quinoa for something different. It also works for Mexican dishes such as tacos and enchiladas. The leftovers last for a good few days before you need to freeze them, and are enjoyed over a jacket potato or in a wrap.
- Baked potato or sweet potato – another versatile meal. Add chickpea tuna as above. You can also opt for baked beans, bean chilli, houmous, tinned jackfruit, leftover curry, or scrambled tofu.
- Cheese based dishes – it’s always good to know how to make a basic cheese sauce. You can then have macaroni cheese, carbonara, cheesy potato bake, or cauliflower cheese – and add any vegetables you have to hand. Or why not enjoy the cheese sauce over tinned new potatoes? Here is my basic cheese sauce recipe.
- Stir fry – stir fry is so easy to whip up if you have noodles! Have a good stock of dried noodles such as wholewheat or rice. Choose a protein source such as tofu, peanuts or chkn pieces. Cook your vegetables of choice in a wok with a little stock and soy sauce. Pop your noodles in a jug of boiling water for a few minutes and then add them to your wok, along with the protein source. Add a little more soy sauce, salt, and olive oil, heat for another few minutes, and then serve!
- Bean burgers – I like this spicy recipe and also this one more suitable for children. No flour required!
- Stew – I love making a big pot of stew to last us over a few days. You can cook it on the stove or slow cooker. To make it filling, I always add potato/sweet potato, and a protein source such as soy pieces, lentils or tinned beans. The sauce is simply watered down gravy with a squirt of tomato sauce. You can, of course, add any spices or herbs you have. Just put your potato, protein source, and vegetables of choice in the pot with the sauce and simmer until soft. Leftover stew is lovely with bread or crackers dipped in!
- DIY Bruschetta – good for a light lunch! Bruschetta traditionally uses lightly toasted baguette circles, but you can use crackers or toasted bread. Finely chop a mixture of any of the following – tomato, avocado, onion, fresh herbs. Mix a little oil and add to your toasted baguette.
- Vegan egg fried rice.
- Chana Masala – a great way to use up tins of chickpeas! You can leave out any spices you don’t have.
- Basic curry sauce – heat 1 tin of chopped tomatoes with 1 tsp oil, 100ml veg stock, half tsp ginger, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 tsp curry powder. Of course, if you have them you can add paprika, coriander, or garlic paste. You can then use this as a base for a curry – add your choice of vegetables, lentils/chickpeas, or fake meats.
- 6 ingredient lentil curry – if you prefer to follow a full recipe, check this one out. It’s super simple and uses up any spare tins of coconut milk.
- Lentil and quinoa steak – pair with couscous, cooked frozen veggies, or oven chips for a really easy meal.
- Cold pasta salad – I’m really bad at measuring out pasta, and often have a bowl leftover! This recipe is a great way to use up surplus pasta the next day. Pasta salad makes an excellent lunch, and you can throw in other leftover veggies or salad items too. If you’re unable to make up the sauce, simply use a little mayonnaise and drizzle of oil.
Sweet snacks and desserts:
- Granola bars – 1 cup dates, 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1 cup porridge oats, 1 cup choice of nuts .ie. almonds, cashews. Toast your nuts and oats for 10 minutes, then blend your dates into a paste, and add all ingredients together and mix over low heat until softened. Shape into bars and set in the freezer for 20 minutes. These are perfect for a quick breakfast or snack throughout the day.
- Ants on a log – this one usually impresses kids! Take a stick of celery, fill the insert with nut butter, and add raisins (ants) along with the nut butter. A healthy and interesting snack.
- Stuffed dates – if you have big Medjool dates, you can halve them and add nut butter, chocolate spread, jam, or marzipan.
- Banana nice cream – this is by far the tastiest way to use up overripe bananas! Simply chop up your bananas and freeze them. When solid, blend them – you can add a little water/plant milk if they’re too hard for your blender. Ta-da! It’s ready to eat. You can try different combinations by adding frozen berries, a sprinkle of cinnamon, or chocolate chips.
- Easy sweet scones.
- Chocolate banana cake – another great recipe for using up overripe bananas.
Other things to make at home:
- Jam – is simply blueberries, lemon and sugar heated over the stove.
- Banana bread – note, you do need flour for this one.
- Boston baked beans – a good way to use tinned beans.
- Coconut biscuits – 2 cups self-raising flour, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 3/4 cup milk. Mix together, cut into shapes and bake for 10 minutes.
- Chia seed pudding – 1 can coconut milk, 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1 tbsp maple syrup. Put ingredients in a jar, mix, and leave overnight. You can also add fruit or syrup if desired.
- Roasted chickpeas – a great snack to keep in the fridge. Drain a tin of chickpeas, then toss in soy sauce, pepper and a little oil. Bake for around 25 minutes.
- Banana peel bacon – you need really ripe bananas for this! Sounds strange but it works.
- Houmous – really simple to make. If you don’t have tahini, try this out instead.
- Sweet potato crisps – slice your potato as thin as possible (use a mandolin or knife), toss in a little olive oil, and bake with a sprinkle of salt. A delicious homemade snack.
- Vegan cream cheese – only 5 ingredients.
- Peanut sauce for noodle dishes – whisk together 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp maple syrup, 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp chilli powder. You may need a splash of water to thin out. It’s also a good addition to spring rolls and fun salads.
I hope this guide to going vegan through coronavirus helped! Does it feel achievable now?
Don’t forget, if you need any more clarification or guidance with the meals above, you can comment below or contact me through social media. I’m always happy to help!
Do you have a list of ingredients but are unsure what to make? Feel free to leave me a comment and I can give you some suggestions.
PS. Before you go, have you joined our community? We have a private Facebook group designed to help the vegan-curious, transitioning and new vegan on their journey. It’s a positive, non-judgmental safe space where all questions are welcome. We have plenty of meal ideas and brainstorming, too!
You can also check out my FREE ‘Easy Being Vegan’ pack. It includes a shopping list and an easy meal plan, giving you even more fantastic meal ideas. There’s also a personal action points for staying vegan, and my BONUS favourite egg and dairy substitutes.