First off, why did I undertake it?
People who know me will be surprised at my choosing to try Veganuary. I love my Cadbury’s Caramel Dairy Milk, I love cheese, I enjoy cooking with chorizo. However for the past couple of years I’ve seen a change in my mindset. It started with wanting to be tidier, which led to an interest in minimalism, which led onto wanting to reduce the amount of waste I produced, alongside watching lots of David Attenborough documentaries.
I can’t help but see all the meats swathed in plastic in the meat aisles in supermarkets and wonder why. So what if I cut it out of my diet? Most of the recipes I cook regularly are vegan anyway so would I really miss meat if I thought I was contributing to animal welfare and environmental concerns? I decided to give Veganuary a go. What could possibly go wrong?!
- For the most part I think I’ve done well. I feel I have managed to eat enough during the day, even if it hasn’t been all healthy or vegan. Aside from the one day when I realised I hadn’t had any protein and had to heat up a bowl of baked beans to eat by themselves, I’ve managed to have filling meals.
- Most of the swaps have been less painless than I thought. My butter swap was initially to Vitalite and, having been brought up on Mam’s generous lashings of Lurpak, it wasn’t great. Thankfully Tesco lowered the Flora Freedom to £1 and that was much more like it! It’s no Lurpak, but nothing is and it’s the best I’ve tried so far. I’m happy to use the Flora on my bread and crackers and keep the Vitalite for baking.
- The switch to soy milk has been fine. I went with Alpro Light on recommendation from a friend. I found that I had to use more of it to make my coffee the way I like it, so I cut back on a teaspoon of granules to half a teaspoon. That saves on both the coffee and the milk! The almond milk makes for lovely overnight oats!
- I have cooked more. I’ve made meals from scratch, mainly Jack Monroe’s. The majority of them were old favourites like the Peach and Chickpea Curry, the meat-free chilli and Carrot and Kidney Bean Burgers. However I tried a couple of new recipes like the Mixed Bean Goulash (oh my, that teaspoon of Marmite certainly made all the difference!) and Carrot, Cumin and Kidney Bean Soup (who would think that so few ingredients could be so tasty?! I looked forward to my second helping through my whole part-time shift one morning!)
- I think the skin on my face is starting to look better.
- I’ve saved a fortune on Cadbury’s Caramel Dairy Milk.
- I’ve discovered why peanut butter and jam is so popular in the States! Now I have some spread on my tiger bread or mixed into my porridge. I found a 700g tub of SunPat (no palm oil!) in Iceland for £3 so that should keep me going for a while.
- I’m eating more fruit and veg. Fruit is easy, it goes into smoothies and scattered over my porridge; sometimes I’d have a pear or a handful of grapes instead of chocolate or Bourbon biscuits. I have carrots in my homemade burgers and put some leftover curry on top of a baked potato. There is a butternut squash sitting patiently in the cupboard waiting for me to turn it into soup, risotto or curry, I haven’t decided which.
- MySupermarket.com has become my best friend for finding out which supermarkets have which vegan foods and which of them is on offer.
- It was hard to go vegan in the aftermath of Christmas. If we’re honest, things like turkey, chocolate and egg-and-milk laden desserts hang around at least another week after the New Year sets in, so there is still a lot of temptation around. Frankly, you have to help your family out with the leftovers so nothing goes to waste!
- I did get fed up of buying lots of little bits of food here and there. Some milk and yoghurt here, tins of beans and jars of jam and peanut butter there. In the end I just stopped buying food and decided to use what I had first. And yet I still haven’t bought any hummus! In the end I bought a tin of chickpeas and made my own.
- My attempts at vegan Yorkshire Puddings were a disaster. Maybe I need to have a trial day of baking them with different batters and see which one comes out best.
- I had hoped that cutting out dairy would help with my throat, which sometimes gets a bit clogged with saliva. Perhaps it has reduced it a bit but I had hoped for even less.
- Sometimes I’d end up with too many meals ready-cooked and frozen in the freezer drawers. I’m not organised enough to label them so often I wouldn’t know what was in which box and it would be a surprise as to what I was having for dinner that day.
- My soap and shampoo aren’t vegan as they contain honey. On the other hand, they’re from Lush so they don’t come in plastic bottles and the soap was half price in the January sales!!!! Lush never have my favourite products half price! Plus, at the same moment I saw the soap on sale, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell started playing on the shop’s speaker system so I had to buy it!
- I’ve still had the odd bit meat but only in small amounts. I’d made a batch of chickpea and chorizo burgers in December before I signed up to Veganuary so I’ve been having one a week to get them used up. I’ve since discovered Linda McCartney’s veggie chorizo sausages and Waitrose had them at 1/3rd off so I’ll be trying them this month!
- The cheese is alright but not great. I’ve tried the cheddar, smoked and blue cheeses but they’re not quite the same! I still get envious when I walk past the Cathedral and Pilgrim’s cheddar; also the Smoked Applewood, can we get a vegan Smoked Applewood, please?! :)
- I’m probably not eating enough green vegetables. I say “not enough”, what I really mean is “any”. I have some asparagus frozen to put in a risotto but other than that I just don’t eat green veg. Maybe I should get some kale to put into smoothies and buy some avocados.
I know it seems like I’ve found more negatives than positives during Veganuary but it hasn’t been that bad! I haven’t really missed meat, chicken or semi-skimmed milk. Most of my Not-So-Goods can be crossed off for February. We’ve finished our Christmas leftovers, I need to be organised in having all the groceries in stock so I’m not buying pieces here and there, I’ll have my last chorizo burger this weekend and frankly having too much food in the freezer is nothing to gripe about.
I have tried new recipes and adjusted old favourites to accommodate my move away from dairy and meat. Even on days I didn’t feel like cooking but then the day seemed to be dragging so I’d get the pans out and the hob heated up. After feeling that way about cutting up a butternut squash to make a soup but then it turned out to be only 4pm I decided to give it a go. It was thoroughly enjoyable!
Throughout January I can say I have enjoyed my food. I haven’t felt like I was missing out or lacking in anything. Conversely even when I have had meat or dairy chocolate I haven’t let myself get too down over it, it’s still a process.
Oh, and I haven’t even tried tofu, yet!