This January I officially signed up for Veganuary (going vegan for January)- you were sent an email each day with tips and recipes, and could join a facebook group (which was far more supportive than another vegan group that I had joined previously). I thought I’d put my thoughts on the month into one post.
Context- I’ve been vegetarian since I was about 13, and pretty much didn’t eat meat for a few years before then- I was super fussy and just used to leave it. (My mum finally let me be vegetarian after I did a project for school about it to prove that you could get your nutrients still). I knew a few people who were quite militant veggies (one school friend had a mum who threw red paint in McDonalds to symbolise the bloodshed…) and I never wanted to be like that- this is for me but I am not trying to persuade anyone else. Andy does eat meat occasionally, and that’s his choice and it’s fine. This is just my thoughts and what is right for me.
So I am coming at Veganuary from my perspective. As a child I didn’t want to eat meat once I found out that it was dead- the idea just freaked me out. I also never liked the taste or smell, so people asking about missing bacon and things like that just didn’t apply because I didn’t like it. When I was really little I’d have to “hide” the meat taste with sauces. I was quite strict (compared to other veggies I knew)- I would only eat vegetarian cheese because I didn’t want the rennet, I wouldn’t eat gelatin and so on. The hardest thing was being given things that people thought were vegetarian- eg veggie afternoon teas containing salmon (and no, if you eat fish, you are not a vegetarian, you are a pescatarian and don’t say otherwise because it confuses everyone), or tomato soup with beef stock.
For years I’ve not had dairy milk, I’ve had a mixture of almond, oat and soya, because to me when I thought about milk, and what it’s for (eg to fatten up calves- even adult cows don’t drink it, so why do adult humans?)it just seemed stranger the most I thought of it, and at the end of 2019 I started having vegan cheese. I don’t eat a lot of cheese anyway- I might sprinkle some on top of pasta or have cheese and piccalilli on crackers at Christmas, so again that was an easy swap.
I’ve still had milk if it’s present in things, and if my mum gave me eggs from her hens I would bake with them, but I’ve been very close to vegan for a long time.
I’m adding all this in to show my perspective, because for me it wasn’t a huge change.
I was glad I did a bit of prep- for example the Christmas cake that I made this year were vegan (and everyone loved them as normal- I honestly think that compared to the amount of dried fruit in a cake, the eggs and butter would make up such a small percentage that it’s an easy swap).
I did get a lot of chocolates from my class for Christmas, and most of them were not vegan. Andy did tell me to eat them in December before Veganuary started, but when I thought about it, I didn’t like the idea of it, so ended up sorting them into two bowls- one for me and one for Andy (still working through them now!).
We’d had a vegan Christmas dinner from Cook (butternut squash stacks with roasted potatoes and gravy, and then we added veg and stuffing), and ordered a few other bits too. I’ve also found a few new (to me) websites- my favourite being A Virtual Vegan– so many delicious recipes on there and all we have tried so far have been excellent.
I was given Happy Vegan by Fearne Cotton for my birthday last year, and so lots of recipes have come from that book too.
A veggie burger has often been a Saturday meal of choice, and taken to the next level with Leon Love burger sauce which happens to be vegan.
In the week this is easy- I have porridge / overnight oats usually and I make it with soya or almond milk anyway, so no changes there. At the weekend we sometimes have a brunch-style breakfast, and in fact these were easy to swap. No Gail’s croissants (not that I had been near a bakery for months) but Sainsbury’s and Ocado stock vegan croissants which are really tasty. I’ve made a vegan version of baked French Toast from A Virtual Vegan (AVV), as well as pancakes from the Happy Vegan book. I’ve not made it for a while but the babka I’d made a few times is vegan anyway, so lots of options for us.
Lunches and snacks:
Well, Crosstown Doughnuts do a vegan box, so we treated ourselves as an end of January treat! Nush cream cheese (made from almonds) is my absolute fave, so that on a bagel is so good. But usually it’s standard hummus and carrot sticks and oat cakes, so again, no changes there and all very easy.
I signed up to a subscription box which had some really good snacks- that NOMO caramel chocolate was gorgeous (made with rice milk in the chocolate), and I love anything salt and vinegar flavoured.
We do sometimes buy biscuits, but happily lotus biscuits, bourbons and Bournville fingers are all vegan (and Oreo’s I think?) so when I get them I’ll just need to check.
Most of my dinners were vegan anyway, but we have tried lots of new recipes which I’ve really enjoyed. This is the braised red cabbage from AVV, and was super tasty with some veggie sausages. Some of the ready-made products we had to be careful with- eg sometimes if we have wraps we might add in some quorn pieces, but some are veggie and some are vegan.
Green pasta, nut roast, beans on toast, lentil bolognaise
Of course good old beans on toast (plus marmite and a little grated violife cheese) is vegan. Andy makes an excellent lentil bolognaise (from Happy Vegan), and this green pasta is from that book too (lots of spinach, basil, miso, tahini and other things blended up).
There is a delicious tofu recipe in the Happy Vegan book (a peanut and ginger sauce) which we often have, and we’ve had things like veggie chilli or bean stews. Cook did a vegan lasagne which we ordered alongside the Christmas bits, and it was super tasty so I think we would treat ourselves to it again. I think it was about £7 for one that served 2, but compared to going out to eat, or even the time to make all the layers etc, it was good for a treat.
After enjoying the Cook Christmas lunch, we bought a few nut roasts and have been enjoying our version of a roast on a Sunday- the cranberry and pecan one has been our favourite so far.
My mum made us vegan caramel shortbread which was really good
We used to buy a katsu sauce but Ocado stopped stocking it. We bought Leon Katsu ready meals to have one day, and they were nice but we thought we’d have a go. Andy bought some katsu paste and then luckily checked the label- he is so good at checking for milk and eggs, but it ended up having chicken in it! Luckily he noticed before he started cooking so he had it on his own one evening!
What has been hard?
Being at home has made it much easier, versus being at work and having to avoid the staffroom biscuits (not that we can have “shared” food at the moment anyway). Of course there isn’t any being away for the weekend, so no worries about finding a vegan option in a café or restaurant. We also used to keep a few tins of tomato soup in the cupboard, for a nice lunch or easy dinner, but it has milk in it. We’ve now found replacement tins (so many of them were fresh soups but we wanted something for the cupboard that would last longer).
I’ve missed honey, especially if I’ve had a sore throat. I did get some “honea” as a replacement which is pretty good on crumpets still. It’s also in a few cereal bars, and in the delicious sticky chai from Bird&Blend, so I think I might use the things I have that contain honey, but not buy any more.
Toiletries have been the main thing that I’ve had to consider more closely- since the autumn I’ve had vegan toothpaste (isn’t it a bit gross that not all toothpaste is vegan?), and signed up to Smol for washing and dishwasher tabs (again, isn’t it weird that some fabric softener contains animal fat? I was veggie for years and had no idea). As I use Tropic for skincare, that’s all vegan so that was OK, and Lush/ Maui for haircare which is vegan (the ones I use are), Eden perfume is vegan so that’s fine too, but I need to check shower gels because they aren’t all.
As someone who is quite fussy, I actually feel I have been more confident to try new foods. I think I have always been a bit worried about being accidently given something that contained animal products, whereas now I might not like something if I try it, but the idea of it is fine, if that makes sense. Also, so many veggie things are eggy or cheesy, and I don’t like either of those things, whereas now they are off the table it’s so much easier to choose a recipe or food.
Overall I am really pleased that I signed up, and I am going to aim to continue with it going forwards. I really liked the emails because they were not pushy or shocking (I’ve read some veggie/vegan info that likes to show you pictures of chickens being slaughtered and so on- I don’t want to look at that and would imagine it would make people who eat meat more defensive about it?). They had links to lots of good recipes, and information about health (vitamins and so on), as well as positive things like the amount of CO2 saved by avoiding dairy. As I mentioned at the start, the facebook group was super supportive, with people asking to help with recipes, replacements for certain dishes and info on things beyond vegan food (Brooks running shoes are vegan, but not all brands are due to the glue etc.).
Would you consider signing up for something like that? Are you adventurous with food or do you stick to the same few meals?