Vegan in a Smalltown – How do You do it?

A comment I often get is that it’s easy to be vegan in a city, but in a small town it’s a lot harder. Over ten years ago I was also a vegan in a small town. This small town has grown considerably over the last 10 years and more stores have opened with the result that many more products are imported now. When I first became vegan, though, there was hardly anything available. So, how do you do it? How can you be vegan in a place that has few to no vegan products and where the majority of people are not vegan?

Vegan in a Smalltown - How do You do it?

It can be done. I always say, where there’s a will, there’s a way, but sometimes that path can have a few obstacles. So, how can you do the following in a small town?

  • Replace certain foods you sometimes crave (for example chocolate or cheese)
  • Get certain ingredients that are not always available at ordinary stores
  • Not finding yourself limited
  • Eat at local restaurants

Replace Foods that You Crave

Cheese, Anyone?

Field Roast cheeses
image credit – Field Roast – vegan food brand

When I first became vegan, cheese was never a problem for me. As a non-vegan I hated cheese, which is due to an unpleasant incident in my childhood. As a result of that childhood event the smell and texture always made me want to gag. The only cheeses I learned to like were mozzarella, goat cheese, and Parmesan. Cheese on pizza had to be melted, if it became cold and hard I would stop eating the pizza … my disgust with cold cheese was that bad …

So, when I chose to be vegan, I had absolutely no problem with cheese. There was nothing to miss for me. I would get the occasional vegan mozzarella which I used for pastas, tacos, and quesadillas, but it wasn’t something I absolutely had to have.

My Name is Christine, and I’m a Chocoholic

dark chocolate

What I really craved and missed was chocolate. I am a chocoholic, 100%! I absolutely love chocolate! I remember those first weeks as a vegan when I walked through those isles at the local supermarket and I was wistfully staring at the chocolates which I could not have, because every single one of them had milk. For some reason, there wasn’t any dairy-free chocolate … and it drove me mad, but I had my principles. I could not and would not eat it.

I had chosen veganism for ethical reasons, and I would not go back on it. I knew about the horrors of the dairy industry and I wasn’t going to give in to my cravings. I didn’t want to sponsor those horrors anymore.

I would find a way to get chocolate. Remember, where there’s a will there’s a way, 😉 and so I started doing research. I was not going to give up on chocolate, so I decided to learn how to make them myself.


Soon after, I learned to make raw, vegan chocolates which tasted absolutely divine – and believe me, when it comes to chocolate, I am very critical – I am from Belgium where the world’s best chocolate bars and pralines are sold, and consequently, concerning chocolate I am incredibly spoiled.

Although Switzerland may perhaps be more famous for its chocolates, Belgium still holds place number 1. You can’t go to Belgium without tasting chocolate.

So, those were a lot of sentences with the word “chocolate”, but as you can see, I solved the problem quickly and soon I also bought a few dark, bitter, and dairy-free chocolate bars that were available locally. Luckily, online shopping is always a nice option too. If you’d like to know the recipe to make your own vegan chocolate, please click on the link below.

==> Make Your Own Chocolate Pralines <==

So, that was one huge craving taken care off.

As for most food items that were not available, I learned how to make them. My motto concerning food is: “If I can’t buy it, I’ll make it.”

Being a huge fan of sausages, I also learned how to make vegan sausages. ==> Click here <== if you would like to know the recipe.

Ordering Online or with Local Chefs?

But what if you don’t like to cook or you just don’t have time for it? Then, I suggest that you order food items online, such as vegan sausages, ham, jerky, or whatever else you would like to eat. Amazon offers a lot of great vegan foods. I will add a few recommendations here.

Amazon Disclaimer: as an Amazon associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you. This is how I maintain my website.

Another great option is ordering prepared meals with a local vegan chef (if there is one in your area). In my hometown, vegan chef Maria Amore (who also published an amazing cookbook) sells ready-made meals at affordable prices. Only last week I ordered a lentil loaf (which tasted divine!), homemade sauerkraut, and chocolate truffles. I guess you’re not surprised that chocolate had to be included in my order 🙂

Find Special Ingredients

Some ingredients are hard to find in small towns. I know, I’ve been there. It took a few years before nutritional yeast made an entrance here, and when it finally did, the health stores sold it at a high price.

Since nutritional yeast lasted me a long time, I did buy it sometimes, since I figured it was worth the investment, but for me it is cheaper to get it online. In bigger cities where there are more health and vegan stores, food items like nutritional yeast will probably be more reasonably priced.

Is Vegan Food Expensive?

The previous paragraph leads me to the next complaint I often hear: “vegan food is expensive.” I’m sorry, but I have to disagree. As a teacher in Mexico, my salary is not great, and despite that I have managed to be vegan for more than 10 years now.

I never had the feeling that I spent exorbitant amounts of money during my grocery shopping. Carrots and potatoes are cheap, and whether you’re vegan or non vegan we all spend more money sometimes on occasional splurges. Honestly, I often observe non vegans spend a lot more money than I do when I am waiting at the grocery store checkout.


What Foods are Vegan at the Grocery Store?

The following foods are vegan and none of them will cost you an arm and a leg: vegetables, fruits, nuts, cereals, plant-based milk, soy chorizo, tofu, lentils, beans, rice, dairy-free chocolate, salt chips (and there are many vegan chips brands as well), fresh popcorn kernels (not the microwaveable one, that one contains lard …).

Flax seed bread or other breads that have no eggs and dairy, plant-based bread spreads, peanut butter, canned artichokes (or in a jar, which I prefer), vegan ham, vegan bacon, vegan cheese, vegan wine and beer, egg-free pasta, Hellman’s veganaise, mustard, and so on, and so on.


For a more detailed list, you can check the following article about vegan grocery shopping on a budget as well.

Easy on the Wallet?

Yes, some brands are expensive, but the same can be said for some non vegan brands. You got cheap and expensive items everywhere, but living on a vegan diet is not expensive.

Even when I went through financial tough times – and I’ve had a few in the past – it never occurred to me to drop my vegan diet to “save money”. That wouldn’t have made sense to me. Regardless of what diet you follow, when the wallet is temporarily squeezed tight, you end up buying cheaper items to make your meals or you maybe eat less than you usually eat.

best vegan diet books

Besides, following a plant-based diet is a great boost for your health, and you will feel the positive changes in your body. A healthier body will result in fewer doctor’s visits and less money spent on medications. So, if you think about it, you’ll end up saving money.

A Vegan Diet is not Limiting

On the contrary, it is finger licking good! So often, people approach me, thinking that as a vegan I am making a sacrifice when in fact I am not. The vegan cuisine is delicious and it is one of the best foods I have ever had. I was raised by a father who loved to cook and who in fact was the best chef I have ever known. He would spend hours in the kitchen and he could make anything taste incredible.

Great Flavor

My father was also a wine connoisseur, so I learned to appreciate good food and wine. Nonetheless, I still find vegan food among the best I have eaten in my life. So no, there is no sacrifice; on the contrary, I always enjoy my meals.

vegan meal

It is true that some vegan food brands may have a bland taste, but they do not define the vegan cuisine. We should also bear in mind that every one of us has different tastes and expectations. If you think about it, have you never come across a non vegan food brand that simply tasted disgusting or just really bad?

Moby’s vegan Little Pine Restaurant is one of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants. Several celebrities have hired vegan chefs such as Roberto Marin and others.

Every day more and more people are changing to a vegan lifestyle or diet.

Rappers like, Snoop Dogg (who has invested in plant-based companies Beyond Meat and Outstanding Foods), Russel Simmons, Erykah Badu, and others are embracing a plant-based diet. Hollywood stars such as Joaquin Phoenix, Leonardo di Caprio, Woody Harrelson, Natalie Portman, Brad Pitt, and many more have been vegans for years; Paul McCartney, Moby, Morissey, Sinead O`Connor, and a whole list of singers as well.

Eating at Local Restaurants

at a restaurantIt might be difficult to find vegan food options at some restaurants in small towns. Many years ago, that was the same case here where I live. Now there are some vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Los Cabos, but ten years ago, I don’t remember there being one.

Obviously, you still want to accompany your friends when they invite you to a restaurant, and you don’t want to make it awkward, but you can ask the waiter or waitress nicely to veganize some dishes by simply removing certain ingredients such as cheese or butter for example.

Plan Ahead

You could also check the menu online before your restaurant visit. If there are no options at all, call the restaurant and ask if they can accommodate you.

Ethnic cuisines such as Indian, Thai, and Mexican also offer vegetarian or vegan options. Especially Indian food has a lot of vegetarian/vegan meals.


Accidentally Vegan Items on the Menu

The menu often also offers accidentally vegan meals such as guacamole and chips, brusschetta, olives, bean salads, pizza with no cheese (you could bring nutritional yeast and sprinkle it on it if you want to have a cheesy flavor), grilled artichokes, grilled onions (not onion rings, the batter may contain milk and eggs, but it’s best to ask the chef to make sure), a vegetarian burger without cheese and/or mayonnaise, fried potatoes or French fries, salad, …


Don’t Worry

Don’t expect too much either. Many restaurants will be happy to accommodate you, but I have been in several situations where the chef simply didn’t know what vegan food entailed. At a restaurant in a 5 star hotel I was given simple pasta with pesto as my vegan option.

I had called ahead to ask if it was possible to get a vegan meal, and I was disappointed when I got it. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but my homemade pasta tasted much better, and pesto isn’t vegan because it has Parmesan …


To avoid a situation like that, it is best to explain beforehand what you would like. You could give them an idea for a specific dish such as pasta, lasagna, pizza, or any other easy meal and ask if it’s possible to make it vegan. If it’s not – which I doubt, but just in case it is not – then there is one more solution, which is my next point.

One last option I sometimes resort to when I am invited to a restaurant or a dinner/barbecue at someone’s home where only or mostly meat is served, I eat in advance, so I won’t go hungry; and at the dinner party I just nibble on some plant-based side dishes.

Final Thoughts

Nothing is impossible. It always surprises me how some really strict or crazy diets are often rigorously followed, but a healthy vegan lifestyle/diet is frowned upon. It is probably due to the fact that the change to a plant-based diet and eliminating animals from your food may seem frightening, a “sacrifice”. And then, there are the movies who somehow always portray vegan food as “ew” and “tasteless” and vegan people as hippies … yes, thank you very much, Hollywood,  …


Last night, I started watching a new series on Netflix, called “The Good Witch”, and I really enjoyed it. Then, in episode 2 or 3, the characters talked about an event where food was served, and of course all the pies and other foods were delicious, but some woman’s “special” vegan muffins were described as absolutely “horrible” and the main character only bought them to spare the poor vegan woman’s feelings. She’d throw them away later.

It nettled me, because it was the umpteenth time I saw this in a movie or series, and – in my opinion – those false portrayals grossly contribute to people’s misconception about vegan food.

We’re not really missing out on anything. If you haven’t tried vegan food yet, please do so and stop missing out. 🙂

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16 thoughts on “Vegan in a Smalltown – How do You do it?”

  1. Ah, Christine, what a great post! Your title grabbed me, as I am living in one of such smalltowns and at times it’s very difficult to buy what I want or need. So you gave me some great ideas.

    As you know my strict principles differ slightly from yours. Trying to buy organic produce that is not wrapped in plastic will probably pose the same problems you experienced 10 years ago.

    Oof, and don’t remind me of our first holiday after our decision of becoming vegetarians 40 years ago. For some reason we had booked a cheap full-board resort, and our request to get vegetarian meals resulted in 14 days of omelette. Yikes.

    Your description of the Netflix series made me realize I never noticed anyone making a bad remark about vegan food (I guess because I am not focused on it, not because the remarks never were there). What I do see in every series and all the movies: lots of alcohol, in unbelievable amounts. Apparently that’s my obsession. 😉

    • Haha, that is so true, every series and movie has lots and lots of alcohol, I noticed that too!
      Forty years ago, it must have been difficult to be vegetarian in a mostly omniverous society with hardly any vegetarian options available. A week of omelettes … oops …
      I know you also have your own strict principles. Combined, the both of us probably make some great principles 🙂 It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it, plastic wrapped organic produce? I also try to avoid buying too much plastic, but it is challenging, since most items are wrapped in plastic … Although supermarkets have banned plastic shopping bags, they still sell nearly everything in plastic … how to solve this …?

  2. Hi Christine,

    I actually work with a person who lives in a town called Tamworth in the midlands of England. She is a vegan and she does complain sometimes that she cannot get the vegan foods she wants. Unless she goes online, or travels an hour or so into the nearest city of Derby.

    This article will definitely help her, and hopefully she will follow your advice. So I will share this with her and encourage her to comment, or get in touch if she has any questions.

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work as always.

    All the best,


    • Hi Tom,

      Yes, it can be challenging to be vegan in a smalltown, I understand. Very few items were available when I first became vegan too. Luckily, that has changed now.
      Thank you for sharing my article with your friend!

  3. I love your ideas how to replace things you crave with healthy vegan alternatives. I looked at the recipe for home-made vegan pralines and they look delicious, I have to try them! It’s a tradition in my country that we make many sorts of Christmas cookies just before Christmas but they are full of sugar and flour, nothing healthy. I always make one sort for myself using just some dark chocolate, nuts etc. but this time I’ll try your pralines, I bet they’ll be awesome.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Lenka,

      I’m happy you’re going to try the vegan praline recipe. You’ll love it! They are so good. Even though I can buy vegan chocolates in more places now, I still like to make my own from time to time. They will be a nice Christmas treat 🙂

  4. Hi lovely,

    I liked your article, it was very easy to read. I’d like to know your opinion about vegan substitutes. You mention that everything can be made vegan and I wholeheartedly agree. But, have you ever checked the ingredients of some of these products? They quite often contain a lot of artificial stuff to actually make it look like a certain product. I have been playing with going vegan for a while now, but looking at, for example, vegan deli options, they no better than their non-vegan counterparts – full of sodium, sugar and chemicals to make them hold together.

    It shocks me to see such a long list of ingredients in these products and doesn’t convince me of any benefits. I think it’s great going vegan, but I think we have to give up these things completely and just stick to the plants. Until they start making vegan food truly healthy, without glueing soya bit together with chemicals.

    I’d love to know your opinion and experience on this.

    • Hi Silvie,

      Yes, I have checked the ingredients of these products and I also wrote an article about it. I also remember you asking me this same question a while ago and I replied to it, but I’m not sure if you saw my answer, so I will copy paste it here below:

      “While junk food in general is not good for our health, plant-based junk food is still a lot better than animal based junk food. No data have ever linked vegan junk food to any diseases like animal based junk food. One notable difference between animal based and plant based junk food is that plant based junk food for example has no cholesterol, no or few saturated fats (depending on the brand), and no cancer-causing compounds.

      The ingredients of the Lightlife pepperoni are the following: water, vital wheat gluten, soy protein isolate, evaporated cane syrup, potato starch, less than 2% of baker’s yeast extract, soy protein concentrate, textured wheat gluten, soy sauce, sea salt, spice, garlic powder, natural flavor from plant sources, carrageenan (this one being the only negative ingredient, but there are many plant-based substitutes that do not include carrageenan).

      The vegan cheese I have at home at the moment includes: potato starch, tapioca, pea protein (which is a complete protein) amaranth protein, vegetable oil, sodium alginate, xantham gum, oat fiber, sea salt, retynil palmitate (vitamin A) and calcium. The only negative I see is perhaps calories (which I never pay attention to anyway, but it can be an issue in both vegan and non-vegan diets) and sodium. For more info check this article on Healthline.
      Vegan cheese can be made of potatoes, soy, nuts and seeds, coconut, flour, root vegetables, and aguafaba. Unless you have a tree nut allergy, there aren’t many health issues with that.
      As for gluten, there are also gluten free vegan products.

      As with any diet, you have to balance it. Too much of anything cannot be good, regardless of the diet anyone is following. If you are following a plant-based diet for health reasons, then junk food should be avoided. This is why the bundle I recommend in this article will be extremely helpful for anyone who is considering following a vegan diet.

      If you – like I do – follow a vegan lifestyle for the animals, then you are likely to eat vegan junk food as well, because your main motivation is not health but animal welfare. The improved health is, however, a wonderful bonus for which I am grateful.”

      I would like to add that the substitutes are not eaten on a daily basis. Even on a non vegan diet no one eats (or at least they shouldn’t) burgers, bacon, jerky, and more of that stuff on a daily basis. I buy these substitutes once in a while, and judging from the ingredients I listed above, I hardly see any harm done at all. As a vegan I often read ingredients on packages, especially on vegetarian labeled packages as they sometimes contain eggs or egg whites which I avoid, so I also end up reading the rest of the ingredients.

  5. Thanks for sharing this post. It’s indeed difficult for a vegan to maintain the diet in a small town compared to a big city where you have all sorts of vegan foods available in supermarkets and all kinds of restaurants open where you can get done vegan meals.

    But as you said, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and it is most certainly possible to be a vegan in a small town. All you have to do is use your imagination 🙂 Thanks for sharing and best of luck!

  6. Glad u said it – “A vegan diet is not limiting”. Because that’s what we all feel, and then we gobble chickens and feel bad later. Oh, dear!
    I am definitely turning vegan one of these days; not too far in the future. Thanks for this great list.

  7. Thank you so much for this fantastic article, Christine! I am happy to say that as of 11:30pm Tuesday night, I have fully committed to becoming a vegan (please pray for me. Haha). I have always been OBSESSED with cheese, chocolate and meat, and as such, I am eager to find vegan alternatives that taste good, fill me up, and leave me wanting more (I am definitely taking your grocery list to heart!). Though I live in Chicago, I regularly visit the smaller suburbs, and most people in these suburbs are non-vegan. Even still, I am always able to find vegan products in Whole Foods, Food 4 Less, as well as Audi’s. I’m excited to take this vegan journey with you! God bless you!

    • Yay, that’s wonderful that you are vegan now! If you need any help or tips, ask me any time and feel free to check out the recipes on my website. Whole Foods has some nice vegan options sometimes. We don’t have Whole Foods here in my area, but from what I read and hear you can find vegan foods there.
      If you like meat flavor, try out Beyond Meat products, they have won several awards and have fooled many meat eaters into believing that they were eating meat 😉 Beyond Meat patties and sausages taste incredible!

  8. Thanks for sharing your experiences! I loved your article.

    A friend of mine started following a strict vegan diet for the past 6 months and is always curious to add more vegan options to her repertoire. I can see how this post can be of good use to her.

    Even though I’m not a vegan the post is useful for me too. I do relish some vegan dishes quite regularly especially for the tasty experience (for example I now use oat milk with my porridge instead of cow milk and I must say I enjoy it thoroughly).

    So I’m curious to try your vegan chocolate Pralines recipe at some point.

    Where possible and practical, I agree that if we can swap animal products for plants, and still enjoy the food, we should be making those choices especially when it stops animal cruelty, reduce cholesterol, and so on.

    Thanks again

    • Hi Femi,

      I’m happy that this post is useful for you too. Oat milk has a nice flavor and I’m sure it goes well with porridge. I have not had it with porridge yet but I will try it 🙂
      Thank you for your comment!


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