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Going Vegan at Stop & Shop

After a move from North Jersey, this columnist views the sights, sounds, and tastes of Freehold through fresh eyes.

Some people stop eating meat because they don't want to be mean to animals. Or because they feel that it's cruel and unusual to raise a living creature just to kill and eat it. Other people think they'll lose weight if they cut out animal products. Recently, I went a few months without eating meat, and while I took into consideration all those factors, mostly I tried it out because I'm afraid of dying and some people claim that cutting out animal protein will drastically lower the risk of cancer and heart disease.

There are two immediate challenges with this. When you cut out all animal products and you're as uncreative an eater as I am, the only thing left to eat is almonds. And maybe some lettuce. You realize that there's milk and eggs and all things animal in foods you'd never imagine. For awhile I was happy that I could still eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch because from the label I couldn't find any animal products. After calling General Mills and receiving a callback I was informed that Cinnamon Toast Crunch got it's D vitamins from sheep's wool. Weird. Back to almonds.

The one good thing I learned was that there is a place in Freehold where you can browse along a large selection of food that doesn't have animal stuff in it. There's a whole room in Stop & Shop devoted to all things organic, natural, soy-based and a good selection of things that look like meat but aren't. There are spicy patties that you'd swear had some kind of animal hidden in it's delicious breading but sure enough there isn't. You can get waffles that don't have any eggs or milk in them but are loaded up with flax and vitamins. Chuck out that fatty mayonaise and get Nayonaise, a mayo substitute that doesn't rely on eggs for it's consistency.

In the beginning, don't expect to save money. Actually, you'll be spending more--a lot more--for two different reasons. First, this stuff is expensive. Second, you'll have to buy more food because you won't feel as filled up from these foods as you did from the other stuff. But after a few weeks, you get used to it. At least that's my experience.

One of my favorite treats while off chickens and cows were the fake flavored beef jerky. Man, these things were good. I don't even like regular beef jerky but when you're vegan and starving and it's only Tuesday and you've already eaten 17 bean burgers you start to get desperate. They come in all sorts of flavors and make a great source of protein for any kind of eater. I would eat them regardless of my diet. And you can find a great selection of them in the special Stop & Shop room.

In addition to almonds, almond milk can also be found in this little room. I'd pour a scoop of soy based protein powder into a glass of dark chocolate almond milk every morning and actualy feel like I was still eating food I could enjoy. The extra boost of protein was necessary for energy but boy did that chocolate almond milk taste good. Maybe being a vegan isn't all sacrifice after all.

While I was eating like this I often wondered if I'd wind up a penniless 200 year old vegan. Is it worth it to spend every last dime to live way long. And be poor. Besides, who would hire a 175 year old? I'm not sure what the answer to that is. But maybe, if you're in Stop & Shop, in the little room with all the vegan and organic foods, you can find someone who actually knows the answers to these questions.

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