Vegan Grocery List Essentials

#Vegan Food List for easy shopping in supermarkets on a budget. Vegan Pantry basics from Aldi, Tesco, Super Valu

Shopping for groceries can be a challenge, from wanting all the goodies on the shelves to not really knowing exactly what you want to eat for a week. Maybe you’re trying to swap some processed foods for healthier choices without sacrificing flavour but end up throwing too many junk foods into the trolley. Perhaps you find the thoughts of a plant based lifestyle daunting and it’s putting you off trying it for yourself? Fear not!

In my experience, having a rough idea of your meals for the week is most of the battle. I like to stick to healthier foods I know I love and treats like ice cream, crisps and biscuits from time to time because I’m human and can’t resist all the indulgent things. Once you have your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options sorted – finding vegan options isn’t all that difficult. Most supermarkets have an online PDF’s of vegan products. Here are Aldi, Tesco and Lidl’s  vegan lists taking the hassle out of checking ingredient when you’re in a rush or have better things to do than spend an hour googling ingredients in a supermarket! Make a list of items and brand names before you go in, once you have your list made you can use it every week.

Having healthy food on hand and stocking up on dry goods that have a long shelf life is key. Although my weekly shop is 90% fresh produce of fruits and vegetables, I always keep things like beans, quinoa, lentils, rice, nuts and seeds on hand for adding to any meal. I’m not one for eating salads, but adding grains and beans with salsa to leafy greens makes it somewhat enjoyable – from buddha bowl to burrito bowl.  If you’d like to see more food options check out my previous posts  Vegan at Aldi and Plant Based Grocery Haul.

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Below are my budget friendly pantry and fridge essentials. These are my favourites, alter the list according to your tastes. The majority of these items are  from Aldi and Tesco and a few products from Super Valu.

Dried / Prepackaged food

  • Chia Seeds
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Maca Powder
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Goji berries
  • Pitted Dates
  • Oat Milk
  • Vegetable Stock Cubes
  • Flavaghan’s Oat Bran
  • Ready to Wok / Dry Soba / Udon Noodles
  • Pukka Mint Tea
  • Peanut Butter
  • Tilda Brown Rice & Wild Rice
  • Kelkin Fruit Muesli / Granola
  • Pulsin or NUA Plant based Protein Powder
  • Hovis Seed Sensations Bread
  • Sriracha Hot Sauce
  • Spices – Garlic, Paprika, Cajun, Cayenne Pepper, Turmeric & Cinnamon.

Fresh Produce

  • Avocado
  • Carrot Battons
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Shredded Kale
  • Bananas
  • Pineapple
  • Berries (Frozen is cheaper)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Red Pepper Hummus

Vegan Treats

  • Alpro Chocolate Ice cream
  • Swedish Glaze Vanilla / Chocolate Ice Cream
  • Lotus Biscuits
  • Chilli Heatwave Doritos
  • Pom Bears Original
  • Original Pringles
  • Moo Free Milk Chocolate
  • Alpro Yogurts
  • Jelly Tots
  • Oreos – Original / Mint
*Please bare in mind the products listed are suitable for vegans in Ireland, ingredient lists may differ for products in your country.

Leave your favourite plant based foods in the comments 

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Coming off Hormonal Birth Control Pills (1 year later)

my experience balancing hormones after seven years on the hormonal birth control pill - the changes I made to my diet and lifestyle for hormone health

As I threw the half empty packet of birth control pill in the bin, I had no idea what would happen in the coming months.

Thinking about the chemicals I put in or on my body was scary. Health problems were appearing, there was no way I could continue neglecting my body anymore. From mental health, digestive health, hormone health, skin issues and dysfunctional limbs.  If there’s a time to prevent diseases, it’s now, well technically it was long before now, but in panic, damage control was most definitely my new priority. I wanted to eliminate as many chemical sources as possible from my lifestyle and put myself in the best position for success. I took a look at everything from medications and skincare, to what I was eating and the toxins I was exposing myself too and I’m not taking about exhaust fumes.

Deciding to come off the hormonal birth control pill, limiting my use of medications for emergencies only, along with reducing my use of plastics and chemical laden skincare products was a learning curve (and still is). Going cruelty free / vegan certainly helped lessen my use of these products in general. Understanding that the skin is your biggest organ drinking up all the chemicals you put on it, is not laughing matter. And my skin was unhappy. My acne got worse, and while the pill cleared mine for some time it was masking underlying imbalances.

Don’t get me wrong, the pill definitely has it’s place and for a lot of women the pros out weigh the cons. It can actually be a treatment option for many however I didn’t need the pill to help with my cycles, it was extra birth control with some skin clarifying affects as a bonus. Choosing to go without any form of hormonal birth control from pill, patch or IUD can be an inconvenience at times, let’s face it, female birth control is the most convenient for heterosexual couples. It’s a safety net. But having control over my own body became my main focus and I learned a lot more about my cycles in the process.

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Balancing Hormones is like walking on a tight-rope

What changes could I expect to see after seven years on this drug?

I expected my period to be absent or irregular for a few months, for my acne to flare up, my boobs to decrease in size (that and removing dairy from my diet and strength training definitely did mean saying goodbye to some boobage), other than that it was just a waiting game to see happened.

My first cycle appeared ‘normal’ and I thought I’d been lucky. Every month after that my cycle became more irregular. From suspiciously long cycles to strangely short ones. Tracking my cycles on an app every single day for over a year, all my moods, food intake, activity level and all the important TMI bits that I’ll spare you the details of! Over the course of a year, patterns slowly became apparent.

At first it was my consistent mood fluctuations at certain points in the month and after 6 months patterns in my cycles themselves. Every second cycle was at least a week longer. My body would feel like utter crap for two weeks beforehand, on the longer week. From the small amount of information I could find online, my guess is one ovary ovulates later or struggled to ovulate at all. By not ovulating effectively, hormones fluctuate and it is one of the many reasons hormones can become imbalanced.

Fun fact: Ovulating (which doesn’t happen on the pill) is important because once an egg is released from a follicle, the corpus luteum (the remainder of the follicle after the egg bursts out), hangs around and produces progesterone for up to two weeks. This corpus luteum is the main producer of progesterone in the body, without it our progesterone levels can become too low. Estrogen therefore becomes more dominant without the balance of progesterone. It’s still beneficial to ovulate even if you’re not trying to get pregnant for hormone balance.

Not to mention the adrenal glands try to produce pregnenolone (a precursor for female hormones) and I’m sure anxiety and the constant feeling of ‘fight or flight’ stressed those glands out, perhaps my adrenals were struggling too. These are things I couldn’t see until I had a true menstrual cycle. Coming off the pill has allowed me an opportunity to find the missing link and nourish the weaker ones. I was oblivious to the fact that for my hormones to be balanced, the rest of my body would have to be in check too. The secretions from all glands, the toxic build up in organs, the interaction of hormones within the entire body are all relevant. Hormones like Cortisol, Melatonin, Insulin and Thyroid (T3,T4 and TSH) not just Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone.  Think of it like a circuit board, if one area isn’t working well, you can bet the other organs and hormones are lagging. It’s not all just happening down there, in the ovaries and uterus, it’s all connected.

Just over a year later, my cycles have finally gotten into a routine. The longer second cycle is reduced in length, but still a few days longer. My cramps are back with a bang, something I did not miss! I’ve always had mild acne, however my jawline was rarely free from painful cystic acne after being pill free, something I didn’t have before going on the pill. Turmeric face-masks, vitamin C and dark leafy greens smoothies with Maca powder added seem to help. I’m not sure of the exact reasons it took my body a year to stabilize but I imagine from the build up of chemicals I had to detoxify and nourish to restore balance.

I researched other ways hormonal imbalance can occur from external sources. Consistent exposure to even small amounts of chemicals must have an effect on our bodies, right? From processed food or even the abundance of fresh foods that have been sprayed with pesticides. Creating better habits of thoroughly washing fresh fruit and vegetables, buying organic when possible. Plastics are another huge problem in our direct environment; prepackaged foods and Tupperware containers, microwavable plastics to plastic travel cups filled with hot drinks and the Teflon lining of non-stick pans we cook food in.

In the beginning I started opting for plastics that were BPA free. (All plastics have a code on the base of the product – try to stick with CODE 5, it’s the safest). I began microwaving food on a plate or a glass container instead of in the microwave friendly tubs (although I’m considering avoiding microwaves altogether – the price we pay for convenience, eh?) and of course we can make the switch to a glass water bottle and try to store food in glass containers when possible, maybe pick up the fresh baked bread in a paper bag instead of the prepackaged. Little by little, I’m changing the materials I store things in. Investing in the safer options. Think about it, how long does food, especially preserved food, sit in plastic? Plastics have so many chemicals in them and can leak into food over time.

Chemicals and fragrances are also endocrine disruptors and while it’s certainly more effort to find natural non-fragranced skincare and cleaning products, it’s worth it. We are constantly bombarded with the idea that fragrance is sexy, smelling of something other than your natural self is cleaner, to welcome people into a nice smelling home by using febreeze! Or using the harshest unstable chemicals to clean your house, the chemicals we inevitably inhale. Think about it. Perfume directly on skin, the clothes and bed linen washed in highly fragranced detergent that you wear or lie in for hours, artificial ingredients in your skincare products, the bleach used to whiten tampons, pads and liners that go on the most delicate skin you have. Being aware of these things is key. While I do aim for a safer, natural ingredient list in the products I use, by no means am I at the point of living completely chemical free but making better choices is so important for our health and the environment too.

If I had stayed on the pill, I wouldn’t be as aware of the true stress my body had gone through. By upping my intake of antioxidants, vitamins, trying to establish a better sleep routine and avoiding as many chemicals as possible, I believe hormone balance after the pill is possible. Am I there yet? No.

Are there permanent long term side effects that I haven’t encountered yet? Possibly.

Do I regret going on the pill? Yes and no. Yes, because it damaged my natural bodily functions and balance. No, because it gave me peace of mind in terms of birth control. I just wish I hadn’t gone the chemical route.

Would I like to see more in depth information provided for young people in schools, not just the easy bits? Yes. With more information we can make better choices based on our own circumstances.

 

I’d like to know your experience with hormonal birth control and if you have seen any health issues if you have stopped the pill, patches or internal hormonal birth control. Leave your experience in the comment section.

 

Links to informative content

Hormonal Imbalances explained by Barbara O Neill
 The Importance Hormones and Sexual Health explained 
 Which Plastics are best?

 

The Best Vegan Options in Dublin City Centre

The best Vegan Options in Dublin City Centre. Highly recommended healthy plant based options or more indulgent vegan pizza from Milano and donuts from The Rolling Donut. Although Yo Sushi is now closed, Yammori has a delicious selection of vegan sushi. Cornucopia has wholesome food that will leave you feeling satisfied and nourished.

Vegan eating has never been more accessible in Ireland.  Supermarkets are filling with vegan products due to demand and restaurants are adding vegan options to their menus. Sure, in rural towns, a plate of chips will have to do sometimes but who doesn’t love a good potato?!

An occasional trek to Dublin for us small town folk is essential to taste the delicious offerings of donuts, curries, pizza, sushi – just because you feel like a treat! From wholesome wholefoods to more indulgent edibles, Dublin’s got you covered.

Here are my top picks for eating out in Dublin. You can save the image on your phone for those times when searching google is just too much of a faff.

Vegan Options in Dublin CIty Centre. Vegan Sushi, Vegan donuts, vegan pizza, vegan pancakes, salads and wholefoods. The vegan options in Dublin are growing, let's hope the midlands catches on too!

 

Cornucopia (Wicklow Street):

A great place for wholesome healthy food, buffet style. They serve all day from breakfast to dinner. Most of the menu is vegan so there are plenty of options.

Chopped (Grafton St, Westmoreland St, Tallaght, Swords):

On the go salads, great variety of fresh food and tofu for vegan bowls. The in house salad dressing is the best. Great for lunches!

Sova Food Vegan Butcher (Pleasants St):

Gourmet vegan food serving vegan alternatives to meat, full of flavour and all plant based.

Wild Sage Bakery:

A new discovery, 100% vegan baked goods, the menu changes regularly. Order them s few days in advance via facebook or email wildsagebakery@gmail.com

Super Foods Takeway (Moore St Mall – Parnell St):

Healthy for to take out, they have plenty of vegan options, both cooked food like sweet potato, casseroles. Salads, soups and healthy carbs. Another great lunch option!

Yogism (George’s street arcade)

Small selection of vegan option, but if you’re craving pancakes it’s the one!

Yo sushi! (Clarendon St):
CLOSED

With a dedicated vegan menu, this place wins. I try not to order everything off this menu, just make sure to order the avocado maki without mayonnaise. A fun place to eat, those small bowls sure add up but a delicious treat. You can order takeout too!

Yamamori (George’s Street x2 / Ha’ penny bridge)

Yamamori make amazing vegan sushi, it’s pricey but a delicious treat! There are two on George’s street – a noodle bar and opposite it the restaurant (beside Down To Earth health shop). The restaurant is better in my opinion. The vegan options will be marked with a green V sign, just remember to tell the waiting staff you want the vegan version. You get a complimentary green tea and while two platters of norimaki will cost the best part of €20, it’s worth it! The Tofu steak with miso soup and white / black rice is another great option.

The Rolling Donut (Bachelors Walk) :

Recently added vegan donuts to their vast array of goodies. These sell out fast, make sure to get the vegan ones, you won’t be disappointed, the jam donuts are my favourite.

Milano (Dawson St, Temple Bar, Clarion Quay, Blanch):

Missing pizza? Milano have one vegan pizza on their menu. What is pizza without cheese? In this case, mouthwatering and delicious. Just confirm you want no cheese. Of course, cross contamination can happen.

Wagamama (South King Street / Blanch / Dundrum):

They have a vegan menu available and some chefs will modify non vegan dishes for you, but not guaranteed. A nice place for larger gatherings. Noodles, miso soup and mint tea are my favourites.

Umi Falafel (Dame Street):

A lot of great salads and falafels on offer here, another place to try for a different cuisine.

LINKS:
Super Foods Takeaway
Milano
Wagamama
Cornucopia
Chopped
The Rolling Donut
Umi Falafel

Life with a Rabbit

Paws - the fluffy distractions that make us smile. It's important to trim the tiny nails that hide underneath all that fur though. Read Life with a Rabbit for my tips on living with a house rabbit!

Being woken up at 6am to whiskers tickling my face is, without a doubt, the cutest alarm clock.

Living with a rabbit is certainly adorable, but can you deal with being awoken every time you turn in your sleep? “Wait, why are you not getting up?! It’s breakfast time!” *Must. Dig. Covers. Off. Human.*

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“Time for the trampoline approach. Jump and land on tummy, and repeat…. Finally! Breakfast!”

It’s 5am and I’m scattering pellets on the floor in the dark, hoping that it will buy me a few moments in the warm cocoon I’ve created (so that a certain bunny does not have access to extra padding (aka duvet) for a nice cosy pee)

Two minutes later, I’m being hopped on because bunny is absolutely starving after licking the last breakfast crumbs off his lips.

How can you ignore a sweet little bunny nose bumping your hand to cuddle when you are sleep deprived from the early hours of the morning? Sitting beside your sleepy head, waiting, nudging, staring. Licking the sheets if there is no uncovered hand. It’s like sandpaper on a chalkboard, right in your ear. Or if desperation sets in, a lick to the cheek will have to suffice, because if there’s anything that melts my heart, it’s an ever loved, ever seldom kiss to the face as the early morning light filters through the curtains.

Living with a rabbit is rewarding, challenging and you always have to be one step ahead. As delicate and curious fur companions, they can get themselves into tricky situations regularly. They frighten easily, they’ll need several places to run to and hide. Like under the bed and in between furniture. A safe haven for when they hear a noise they don’t like or they want to find a dark place to sleep while everyone else is scurrying about their day. Rabbits come alive at dawn and dusk, sleeping for most of the day!

Much like a puppy, rabbits with chew anything. Cables, plastic, furniture and bunny proofing is really important. It takes one time, forgetting to move your phone charger and replacing it, I’d say about 5 times until you learn your lesson. Not to mention the danger of electricity, they really can find themselves wedged in small places like behind appliances, wires need to be high up and covered.

Occasional, impromptu pee and poop parties are and always will be part of living with a rabbit. Of course, they can be litter trained very easily once neutered and this diminishes the times he/she will feel like hunkering down on your lovely soft blankets, that you just washed. They may even try to hoover up after themselves when they misjudge the timing! (On that note, bunnies eat their poop, this is normal and allows them to digest their nutrients again. Fear not, bunny poop is pretty much just balls of hay and does not make a sticky mess)

Veterinary Care

The life expectancy of a rabbit is 8-12+ years. The physical health of bunnies is often overlooked, yet it’s something every bunny owner should have in depth knowledge on. Bloating and gas build are common problems that can lead GI Stasis, a fast acting life threatening ailment. For this reason, checking on your rabbit multiple times a day is important to make sure they are eating hay, drinking and pooping as normal. It is worth having gas drops and Critical Care on hand for emergencies.

Rabbits care can be expensive. Vaccines for Myxomatosis are essential every year to prevent disease. If your rabbit is in a household with other furry animals, specialized rabbit flea treatment every month might be needed, diatomaceous earth is a flea repellent that can be sprinkled into the fur if you’d rather not opt for spot on flea treatment.

Litter should be changed every few days minimum to keep their toilet areas free from urine and fumes. Urine scald can lead to hair loss on their thumpers (their back feet) and in turn lead to sore hocks. Wood litter pellets are the best for absorbing moisture and create less dust compared to sawdust, and has no chemicals like regular cat litter. Litter can get heavy when wet and the great thing about wood litter is it can be composted.

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Diet

Hay, pellets and greens – the main food sources for a rabbit. Unlimited fresh hay should be given daily, 80% of their diet is hay. Unlike human teeth, theirs constantly grow, nibbling hay is so important to wear the teeth down. As for fresh vegetables and herbs, the greener the better. Parsley, Corriander (Cilantro), Mint and Kale are favourites  here. Dandelion leaves from the garden, if they have not been sprayed with weed killer are also great additions for dinner time. As with any greens, thoroughly rinse them before giving to bunny to remove pesticides.

Potatoes and peelings are not advised. Small pieces of carrot and banana make great treats but should not be fed everyday as they are high in sugar.

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Grooming

Rabbits need to be brushed regularly to prevent them ingesting hair when they groom themselves. Unlike cats who get fur balls and can cough them up, rabbits cannot cough up the hair and the build up can cause blockages. During shedding season they should be groomed at least once every other day. Long haired rabbits require even more grooming as their hair can get matted quickly.

A weekly check of nails, teeth, feet, eyes and nose are important. If you notice anything unusual, contact a rabbit savvy vet for advice! Eyes and nose should be clear, no discharge. Nails should be trimmed every few weeks, depending on how fast they grow.

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Rabbits, unlike dogs, do not need to be bathed at all. They are very clean animals, constantly grooming themselves. Bathing and soaking their hair is extremely stressful for them. As delicate animals, they can actually die from stress. If you think your rabbit needs to be cleaned you can dampen a wash cloth, with water only, and wipe them down only where they have not been able to clean themselves.

Socialising

Rabbits love company, in fact they need it. They should be kept with another rabbit for companionship (neutered, opposite sex is most favorable). If your rabbit is a lone wolf for now, spending quality time with them is really important. Getting down on their level, giving them cuddles on the floor instead of lifting them up. If you are to handle them,lift them by putting one hand under their butt and the other under their tummy and then hold to your chest, supporting their weight- never lift them by their ears, this causes pain!

A stimulating, enriching indoor environment is essential. Empty toilet rolls and cardboard boxes make great destruction games. Choose wooden toys over plastic, after the destruction and ingestion of part of a sturdy plastic rattle, I learned that lesson. Most rabbits love to get head rubs and cheek massages. Rabbits do not like loud environments, for this reason, it’s best to avoid giving them to younger children as pets. They can scrape and bite if they feel threatened.

 

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Excercise and Play

Rabbits need space to hop, a cage is not big enough to keep a rabbit it. They are fine as a bed, but not for living in. They should be able to run freely and binky (high leaps in the air) as is natural for a rabbit. They love exploring, finding dark areas to hide and places to dig.

 

Of course, rabbits are worth every little bit of mischief they get up to. It helps that they are too cute to ever be angry with too! Just like any new relationship, it involves listening , understanding and patience to get to know what they like and dislike, their habits and their routine.

If you’re interested in sharing life with a bunny, there are plenty of rabbits up for adoption in local shelters and charities, they would love to have a forever home to show them what love is.  By buying animals,  we repeat the cycle of breeding for money, while animals that were ditched are left unwanted. You can even foster a rabbit for a short time to see if it’s a good fit before deciding if a life with a bunny is right for you.