There’s only a few days to go now until the end of 2019 and the beginning of the annual Veganuary challenge for lots of people. As a vegan now for almost eight years (more about why I made the change here) I thought that this year I’d try to help a small group of people giving veganism a go – so this is for all of you and anyone else who is looking for some words of wisdom to get you started and see you through the 31 days of January and possibly even beyond…
I asked for tips from my vegan friends and here’s what they said:
1. Veganise your favourite core meals
Jessica Green says “Make a list of your favourite meals and start by veganising them. Pinterest is great for recipes and searching “vegan what I eat in a day” on YouTube.” Victoria Ah adds “Learn to cook a few staple meals – curry, chilli, Shepherd’s pie – which you can put together easily without meat and dairy. And follow Bosh social media for loads of great, easy inspiration.” Clau Tret advises to get some basics upfront like a litre of plant milk, a block of vegan butter/spread and some cheese to grate on pasta. She also suggests “don’t get over-excited by trying to cook fancy stuff every day – it will burn you out and disappoint, giving you the feeling like being vegan is hard work. Start low-key with some easy dishes that you don’t need to “learn” how to make them: pasta with tomato sauce and veg, rice and curry, couscous and stew. When you feel creative, add a fancy dish to your routine. But if you don’t feel like it, just revert back to the basic dishes and don’t beat yourself up!”
2. Keeping it natural and healthy
Maresa Bossano has some great practical advice “Base your meals on local veg, pulses, whole grains, nuts – rather than expensive processed alternatives. Look at traditional vegan recipes from different cultures – Indian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, etc.” Zoe Foster agrees adding “Make fruit and veg your primary food group, and learn to fall in love with the massively varied ways you can prepare them. Experiment and keep on experimenting. Try things from Pinterest and Instagram and if you eat something vegan and love it, figure out how you can recreate it. It’s so easy being vegan these days – just don’t fall into the trap of eating ALLLLLL the processed foods!”
KT Varga says “Don’t forget actual fruit and vegetables! All the stuff (ready meals, meat substitutes, etc) prepared for supermarkets is processed and often full of salt and fat, etc. and therefore has, relatively, a higher carbon footprint than just cooking a vegetable curry or similar at home. Nice for treats, but long term not that great for your’s or the planet’s health.”
3. Meal planning helps
I talk about meal planning quite a bit on here like this cheap vegan meal plan for the month and although I do slip up on this like everyone else, I find when I do meal plan it makes life so much easier. It’s a great way to keep our family of five organised and saves a lot of money plus no-one ever has to go hangry! Batch cooking is another handy way to plan the meals by making up a couple of big pots of good stuff on a Sunday afternoon then freezing it in portions for the week. Jo Lines says “I like to batch cook – stew, tagine, Spag Bol, curry etc and then it’s quick just to re heat – less dishes and prep.”
4. What about the cheese issue!
So the best advice I was given by my buddy Sharon Howe before I went vegan was to stop eating dairy cheese completely and not to try vegan cheese for at least a few weeks. As I was a complete dairy cheese fiend, please believe me on this one along with yet another Sharon (Gurney). “Don’t bother with any vegan cheese for a few months!” My lovely friend Naomi Ziewe Palmer who writes for Veganuary explains why “Accept vegan cheese as a new food group and don’t compare it. It takes a few months to get dairy cheese out of the palette memory before it is reduced to fat and salt.”
On the positive side, I’m pretty sure this is how I lost a stone in the first couple of months of going vegan – dairy cheese is fattening stuff you know! I’d also like to reassure you that when you start your vegan cheese journey some time down the line – there are so many different options out there and you will once again fall in love with cheese (promise!). Same goes for chocolate 🙂
5. And last but not least… take your time!
Making this change to your life is a big thing so thank you oh wise one Mary Culhane for reminding us “Take it day by day and don’t beat yourself if you occasionally slip up…” Zoe Foster adds “If you try something once and think it’s disgusting (like tofu, vegan cheese, whatever), remember that you probably didn’t know how to get the best out of non-vegan food the first few times either. Be kind to yourself, ask others how they use/cook it, and keep trying new things.”
KT Varga advises “It takes time for tastebuds to adjust – a cup of tea with oat, soya or almond will taste different, so try to accept that, or drink coffee, fruit teas or similar for a while. Use the Vegan Society website for concerns, questions and recipes. Many answers to simple questions can be found there.”
I completely agree with what KT says – remember you’re changing quite a few things in your diet at once. And don’t be put off if you don’t like soya milk for example – there are hundreds of brands of soya milk or chocolate – there are so many types to try now.
Think of this as a journey of exploration and with new vegan products arriving on the market every single week, it’s a pretty exciting adventure. One final thing I’d like to add is my experience of becoming vegan has just felt like coming home. Being part of the vegan ‘community’ is a very special place to be. I’m afraid the cliche is true – you do think “why on earth didn’t I do this sooner?”
Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to help with putting this post together, that was so very kind of you. If you think of anything else – simply add a comment on this post. Thanks everyone and good luck if you’re doing Veganuary this year – but you won’t need it 🙂
If you’re hungry for more money saving and cash creating ideas, vegan tips and advice – come and join the friendly Super Savvy Vegan Facebook group. I’m also on twitter and Instagram. See you over there.