For many people January is a time to start afresh. For others (myself included) January = Veganuary. A whole month of eating vegan. No meat, fish, eggs, dairy or other animal products.
I first took part in Veganuary last year (see my blog posts here and here) but failed on the 3rd week when I went on holiday to Iceland and struggled to find affordable vegan-friendly places to eat. This year I’m determined to finish the month, and hopefully keep it up beyond that!
For those who are also taking part in Veganuary this year, I thought I’d share my Top 5 Tips for Going Vegan, based on my experiences this year and last year.
1. Do your research
I’ve been a vegetarian for over 7 years and rarely drink cows milk, so making the switch to veganism was relatively easy. However I know that for others it’s much harder, especially if you’re used to eating meat!
If you’re not sure where to start, the Veganuary website has loads of amazing advice on nutrition, meal plans and tips for eating out. I’m also a big fan of the Veganuary Facebook group (Vegan Food UK is another good one). I’m more of a lurker than a sharer, but I love seeing other people’s recipe ideas, and it’s nice to know you’re not alone!
2. Stock up on the essentials
When I did Veganuary last year I noticed I was a lot hungrier than usual. When you first get started, make sure you have plenty of snacks handy. There are loads of “Accidentally Vegan” snacks you can buy in the supermarkets that aren’t actually labelled as vegan (certain brands of crisps and Oreo biscuits for one!) Just check the ingredients before you buy.
Add the following to your shopping list; plant milk, dairy free butter, tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, mixed beans, quinoa, pasta, rice, spices. That way you can easily whip up a bean stew or chilli if you’re in need of a quick meal.
One of the biggest misconceptions of going vegan is that it’s really expensive. If you avoid all the processed junk food and “meat alternatives” it’s actually not as bad as you might think. I do the bulk of my shopping at Aldi, then I’ll pop to Asda, Tesco or Sainsbury’s if there’s any “specialist” items I need.
3. Preparation is key
It may sound boring, but make a rough meal plan at the start of every week. It’ll save you so much time and effort. Most evenings I don’t get home from work until 6pm, (even later if I’ve been to the gym) so I find it so much easier if I already know what I’m going to cook.
It’s also worth planning a few “go-to” meals for those days you can’t be bothered to think. Mine are:
- Breakfast: Overnight oats with nuts, seeds and fruit OR avocado on toast
- Lunch: Falafel wrap with humus and salad OR vegetable soup
- Dinner: Tofu stir fry OR chickpea stew
If you’re cooking a big batch of chilli or curry, ALWAYS make more than you need. You can then have the leftovers for lunch the next day, or freeze a couple of portions to defrost at a later date.
4. Have your reasons ready
“But… why?” is one of the most common questions you’re likely to be asked when you mention you’re giving up meat/fish/dairy/eggs. Whether you’re doing it for your health, the animals, the environment, or all of the above, you may find it helps to have an answer prepared. I know it helps me feel less awkward when that question inevitably crops up!
Hopefully your friends and family will be supportive (most of mine have been amazing!) Unfortunately there are a few people out there who are just never going to understand. I’ve found it’s easiest to ignore those people. Keep reminding yourself that what you’re doing is a really positive thing, and if you’re happy to get into a debate, check out Vegan Sidekick on Facebook for answers to almost every anti-vegan comment you’re likely to hear.
5. Eating out? Don’t panic!
So many restaurants nowadays offer vegan options. Some of my favourites include Turtle Bay, Wagamama (who now have a separate vegan & vegetarian menu) and Handmade Burger Co.
If I’m ordering a takeaway I’ll usually go for an Indian, as most vegetable curries are suitable for vegans (just make sure they don’t add any milk or butter). It’s also good to know that Papa John’s do a veggie pizza which can be made vegan by ordering it without the cheese. I actually like it cheese-less, but you could always add vegan cheese at home.
If you don’t have control over where you’re going to eat, it’s worth calling the restaurant ahead of time to see what they can do. Often they can make a vegetarian option vegan by removing any butter, cheese or mayo.
Is anyone else taking part in Veganuary this year? How are you finding it so far?