Dec. 11, 2011
Vegan Anywhere: Small Town Herbies Survival Guide
When someone tells me they can't be plant-based (vegan) it's rarely "oh I can't give up [animal product]" and usually more like "because I live in [place]."
I've been plant-based (vegan) everywhere -- on a small Caribbean island for a year, in Africa, while traveling to some 35 cities, towns and villages across Europe and now in a Colorado ski town of 12,000 (Denver is 3.5 hrs away). I've managed for well over a year without a Whole Foods, Trader Joes and even Amazon... and I'm not alone.
I posted the question on Facebook -- any Herbies in remote areas or small towns? and tons (tons!) of people replied, offering to share their insights, experiences and tips for making it work, no matter where you live.
"Easiest thing is not to think about the foods you can't eat, but what you can eat. I eat a much wider variety of foods now than I ever did when I was eating animal products even though there is no place to eat out here and the grocery store sells very few "special products" (i.e. Daiya cheese, soy yogurt, etc.)"
- Janet from Eastern Tennessee (population: 14,000).
"The toughest thing about being vegan here is that the grocery selection is quite small. The variety of produce is very limited and things like tofu products are not available at all. I would tell any small town dwellers that it is very possible to be a healthy vegan in a small town. Most people think going vegan is restrictive, but even in this small town, I have a greater dietary variety than my omnivorous friends. There are so many fantastic fruits, vegetables, grains, spices and flavor combinations that you might never think to try. My advice boils down to "just for for it!"
- Nicole from Littlefield, TX (population: 6,000)
"The toughest part is finding fresh and nutritious food. My one and only local store had a poor selection of produce and a very small "health food" section. The prices are outrageous. I did find a co-op and signed up for fruit and veggie deliveries, though. If you are in a small town, try to find a couple of people in your area and band together. I go on HH's Facebook page a lot. It is helpful to see that I am not alone."
- Christine from Big Pine Key, Florida (population: 5,000)
"Our local grocery store sometimes carries items like tofu, tempeh and Smart Dogs, but it's inconsistent. There's an adjustment period and it may seem difficult at first, but it's actually fun learning about new foods and challenging yourself to be creative. The one dish I can eat in town (couscous with roasted asparagus) normally comes with salmon. The restaurant was happy to fix it without fish and they lowered the price for me. Don't be afraid to ask!"
- Jennifer from Oriental, NC (population: 800)
"Being in a farming community, [eating vegan] goes against what most people do for a living, lots of pig, turkey and duck farming. I find it easy to be here because I'm reminded daily when I see animals being transported. I don't know any fellow vegans where I am, that would be a bonus and maybe then I'd be invited to dinner." - Tia from a village in Norfolk, UK
"Most of the time produce is moldly and/or almost outdated at the supermarket. Or it's so expensive I can't afford it. My advice is to commit to your health and make it happen. It's difficult, but not impossible, and a support system is absolutely necessary, even if it's only online. If HH ever has a "Best Supportive Herbie" Award, I'd like to nominate fellow herbie Meridith Larson. She helped me and continues to help me be a herbivore."
- Crystal from North Dakota (population: 7,141)
"We used to have to drive 70+ miles to shop for groceries but last April I opened the first and only food coop in town (a 5 year-long effort). It's not too difficult being vegan, even in a small town. The key is making your own food as much as possible, so that you don't have to rely on pre-made food, which is going to be impossible and hard to find in rural areas. I also recommend getting involved with the local health food store or coop, if there is one, as there might be fellow vegans and you could support each other. Most of all, don't get discouraged by what other people think or say about you. Be the vegan beacon in your little town!"
- Monica from Sierra Vista, Arizona (population: 40,000)
"Plan your meals and shop locally when possible. Drive to a larger city or town (with a bigger selection) once or twice a month to buy what you can't find locally. Larger grocery stores are starting to carry more and more items."
- Rich, located in central NC (population: 50,000)
HH's intern, Nicole, was our correspondent on this - so big thanks to her and all the Herbies that wrote in!