Participation in Veganuary has grown massively in the last year, increasing by 183% in 2018. I have often considered going vegan and yet could never quite bring myself to make the commitment, Veganuary was therefore the perfect opportunity to test out this increasingly popular diet without having to commit in the long-term. I’m not going to pretend that I found the transition easy at first, so I thought I’d share some of the things I learned about being vegan and some recipes which will hopefully make the transition a less daunting prospect.
During my first week as a vegan, I found that I was spending far more time preparing meals and spending much more money on food than I had done before. However, as I went along, I discovered that this does not have to be the case. Although endless pasta with sauce or beans on toast can get a bit boring, on those days when you’re pushed for time or just can’t be bothered to cook, they’re very cheap and quick vegan meals to fall back on. My first tip therefore is to remember that being vegan does not have to mean hours in the kitchen or expensive vegan substitutes – some of the best, classic student meals happen to be vegan anyway.
In fact, there are a surprising number of ‘accidentally vegan’ foods. Many times throughout my first few weeks of veganism, I found myself craving junk food. My favourite vegan solutions to these cravings have been Oreos, Chilli Heatwave Doritos and jam and custard doughnuts from the Co-op. However, you only have to look up a list of accidentally vegan foods to discover that there are many, many more options.
This brings me to another thing I have learned about veganism so far – moving to a plant-based diet does not entail giving up as many foods as you think. Even those foods which definitely aren’t vegan often have a delicious plant-based substitute. Most supermarkets now sell vegan versions of yoghurt and cheese, a variety of vegan meat substitutes and of course soya milk is very widely available. One of my favourite plant-based substitutes is vegan ice-cream. The only real down-side is that these vegan versions tend to cost more than dairy ice-cream, but I would say they are worth every penny!
However, if you are on a budget I have come across a very cheap and easy vegan recipe for ice-cream. All it involves is freezing bananas and then blending them until they reach the consistency of ice-cream (adding in any flavours you want along the way – I tend to add cocoa powder, but vanilla extract also works well). In spite of my initial reservations about this recipe, after tasting it all I can say is don’t knock it ‘til you try it! It turns out that when you freeze bananas, they lose most of their distinctive banana taste and serve as the perfect, sweet base for any ice-cream flavour you fancy.
There are also many substitute vegan meats which allow you to have just as great of a variety of meals as a meat-eater. One that I would recommend is Linda McCartney’s vegan hoisin duck. I tend to put it in a stir-fry, with hoisin sauce and rice and it is delicious (even if I say so myself).
If you aren’t that keen on substitute meats or want a cheaper option (although vegan meat tends to be cheaper than the real deal anyway), pulses offer a vast range of choices. My favourite is lentil and coconut dahl which is both tasty and really easy to make. All you have to do is fry onions, garlic and ginger, add curry powder, red lentils and coconut milk and then simmer for about 25 minutes. Serve it with rice and you have yourself a cheap, easy, delicious and, of course, vegan meal.
Sophie’s Vegan Stir-Fry
The main thing I have learned about veganism then, is that it does not have to be as difficult as it seems. These days there are plenty of options available for vegans, all that is required is a bit of research and you will discover that plant-based food can be just as delicious, varied and inexpensive as its animal-based counterparts.