With ‘Veganuary’ in full swing, our reporter Jasmine Mcrae jumped on the bandwagon to find out what the fuss is all about.
I’m feeling apprehensive about this week. I went vegan for about a week during summer 2017, and gave up after finding it super difficult to find on-the-go snacks evening meals. Since then however I’ve definitely noticed more restaurants are offering vegan options. Pizza Express, Zizzi’s and Giraffe are just a few.On top of that, ‘Veganuary’ gaining popularity with big name supermarkets such as The Coop and Tesco and some fast food places are advertising more meat and dairy-free products. So, you’d think it would be easier this time?
Back story; I’ve always eaten meat.
My mum would cook chicken curries, spaghetti bolognese and beef chilli most weeks. We drank full fat milk and regularly indulged in a fry up on a Sunday morning. After school, i was handed a cheese and ham sandwich whilst the fridge was always stocked up with yogurts, eggs and double cream for dunking strawberries.
Growing up in Devon, we’d take burgers to barbeque on the beach and never shy of some good old seaside pub grub, classic fish and chips. I think this is why I grew up to absolutely adore food. My days, quite literally, revolve around mealtimes.
It wasn’t until I moved out, to go to university, that I started feeling quite emotional about eating animals. I started to watch documentaries on not only animal welfare, but also about the health implications of eating meat and other animal products. I thought about my dog at home, and how I couldn’t stand the thought of eating him, so why would I so willingly eat a cow or a chicken?
With all this being said; I flipping love to eat meat. Even with this internal conflict, I could always push it to the back of my mind and tuck into my Nando’s or my sausage roll from Gregg’s.
But the issue is still remains. Plus, I’d been feeling a bit sluggish and bloated and thought that the junk I’d eaten over Christmas had probably contributed a lot to this. So this year, when Veganuary rolled around, I decided I really wanted togive it a go, if only for a week. Not only so that I could get rid of the guilt of ordering some fried chicken, but also to see if it made me feel more energised and healthier.
And here’s how it went…
Monday 15th January 2018
The first thing I did this morning was nip to Asda, because last week’s food shop (which wasn’t AT ALL vegan) had dwindled to a couple of mini scotch eggs and some yoghurts left in the fridge. I picked up a small (but expensive) amount of stuff:
- Quorn 5 Grain Fillets £2.00
- Raspberries £1.65
- Humus Stacker £1.25
- VIOLIFE Vegan Cream Cheese £2.48
- Quorn Spicy Bean Burgers £2.50
- Mexican Style Microwave Rice £1.18
- Jackfruit In Barbecue Sauce £3.00
- Alpro Coconut Milk £1.00
Those were my specific vegan bits. I picked up some of the usual stuff too: pasta, rice, soup(s), oven chips, tortilla wraps, bags of frozen vegetables and cous cous. I had to jead to Sainsbury’s as well for some grated vegan ‘cheese’, which I prefer over blocks of vegan cheese simply because it’s easy and I’m lazy.
I also found some vegan chocolate… a teeny tiny 50g block of Cocoa Libre rice milk chocolate. Which cost me two quid. TWO QUID!
For breakfast, I had one banana and a mug of green tea.
Pretty boring, but it’s all I had in the flat that I could ‘have’.
I watched my boyfriend frying some bacon and eggs, and swigging a milky coffee. That sucked a bit. Plus, I was starving again within the hour.
So I snacked on Oreos (which are vegan!) and my tiny bar of chocolate that I tried to make last, but failed.
Monday night is date night.
Well, typically, date night and steak night are synonymous. So, you’ll probably be disappointed to know that I stumbled on the first day.
I had a fillet steak, medium rare with peppercorn sauce followed by a bloody great cheese board.
And it was amazing while I ate it.
Then I felt guilty for the rest of the evening.
Tuesday 16th January 2018
Determined to make more of an effort today, I had porridge made with rolled oats and my coconut milk. Having tried a few alternative milks, I can only summarise that oat milk is too thick, rice milk is too watery, almond milk makes your tea go weird and soy milk tastes like rice pudding. Coconut milk seems to be the best option, for me. It’s creamy and seems to have a similar texture to cow’s milk. But you can still taste a bit of earthiness.
For lunch, I had half a tub of my new favourite food; Glorious Super Soup Brazilian Super Grain Soup. It’s only £1 for a 600g tub, and it’s got beans and grains that really fill you up. It is made with coconut milk, lime juice and various superfood grains. I felt GOOD eating this; it was delicious, cheap, and almost too easy to stick in the microwave to prepare.
Dinner was my vegan cream ‘cheese’ stirred through pasta, with onions, garlic, black pepper, peas and broccoli pieces. I sprinkled some grated vegan ‘cheese’ on top, which I was horrified to realise was made almost entirely of oil when I read the ingredients.
My dinner was nice. Very easy to prepare and tastes good.
Then it was off to my work’s belated Christmas party. I was confronted with a huge spread of cocktail sausages, mini scotch eggs, cold cuts, cheeses and finger sandwiches. I’m ecstatic to report that rosé wine (of which I drank a gallon) is absolutely vegan, and I ended up eating my body weight in pickled onions from the spreadof party food. As it was all I could have. Thank goodness I ate before leaving the house.
Wednesday 17th January 2018
Waking up hungover, I wanted so desperately to order a takeaway. But I didn’t. Instead, at around 1pm, I whacked a tomato and basil pasta bake in the oven (it was intended to serve a family of four). I spent the day periodically hauling myself from the sofa and microwaving bowl after bowl.
I drank a fair few pints of water, but aside from that, my day was totally unhealthy. No fruit, no veg. I expected veganism would ensure I’d get my five a day. Alas, alack, I was wrong.
Today, all I got was a load of sugar, salt and processed stuff from a jar of pasta bake sauce. Maybe if I lived more towards central London, or nearer the hipster-hub of Shoreditch, I’d have been able to order a convenient takeaway that wasn’t so full of rubbish.
Popular vegan restaurants in Shoreditch
– Pickled Fred
Thursday 18th January 2018
I skipped breakfast today in a rush to get to university on time. I parted with £2.95 for a coconut milk vanilla latte from Costa. Well done, Costa, cos these are delicious! You can only get them in a small size, which is a pain considering it’s so expensive. But these lattes are so delicious and are made with my favourite alternative milk on the market s i shouldn’t be complaining.
Then, at about 11:30, I realised I was ravenous and headed down to the cafe at university. They have loads of sandwiches, wraps and ready meals available: mozzarella and pesto, piri piri chicken, BLT and the classic tuna sweetcorn. I’m sure that usually there is more than one vegan option, but today, all that stared back at me was a humous and vegetable sandwich. And it cost me £3.05. It was ok. I was reassured by my friend that I’d be full for ages after, and I was.
Dinner was vegan burritos which I made entirely from scratch. I love cooking, so I don’t mind being in the kitchen for ages. Tinned tomatoes and spices were stirred into onions, peppers, black beans and garlic. I was about to shove some Quorn mince in, but double checked the packet first and saw that it is made with egg white, and therefore illegal to chuck in the pan! So I just spooned the chilli mixture onto a tortilla, layered over some Mexican style rice and wrapped it up. I thought about adding some vegan cheese but I decided to leave it. It tasted okay the other day…well maybe it was a bit ‘foot-like’, but it’s just made with pure oil and I hate the thought of eating that. I adore Mexican food so tonight’s dinner was good, and very similar to what I might usually have on a Thursday evening.
Friday 19th January 2018
Another breakfastless morning and £2.95 on a coconut latte meant that I was again starving by midday. It was absolutely freezing on campus today, and I needed something warm. I headed over to the cafe to find something. I’ve eaten vegan meals from there in the past, but today there was only quorn chilli as the vegetarian option. I’d eaten chilli for dinner last night and didn’t really fancy it, but there were no other dishes I could have. The salad bar had olives (which I hate), and then there were bowls of potato salad with mayo or plain lettuce leaves. I know I’m supposed to commit to this cause, but I won’t be spending over £2 on lettuce leaves. So I had the quorn chilli. Which wasn’t strictly vegan. This time it was over rice, so it was slightly different. But it felt a bit repetitive.
Maybe ‘Veganuary’ wasn’t as widespread as i though?
I had work at the pub that evening so I went home quickly to eat something and get changed. I put two of the quorn vegan spicy bean burgers in the oven and spread caramelised onion chutney on a burger bun. Strange combination, I know, but it tasted so good. I was eating it and had a ‘how is this not meat’ moment, as the texture was absolutely spot on. I couldn’t believe it! At work, I nicked some chips off my friend’s plate on my break and then sulked when everyone went for a kebab after we’d closed. Then again, it’s probably better that I didn’t go.
Saturday 20th January 2018Having done a bit of research last night, I’ve realised that vegan breakfasts are an area in which I am lik
ely to struggle. I don’t really like
bananas. Not enough to eat them every day. I
don’t really like oats, and pancakes are ok but a huge faff. To be honest, upon reflection, I don’t really like any breakfast-foods (unless it’s a fry-up). I’ve never eaten cereal or toast so there’s not a massive change there.
Today I decided to have a beef and tomato pot noodle for breakfast. Yup. Beef and tomato pot noodles are vegan. And incredibly lazy and convenient. But I was getting so very aware today that I’ve still barely eaten any vegetables or fruit. And I’d expected to be up to my neck in better food.
So lunch was a plate of stir fried veg. A bit boring, a bit plain. I just wanted to lounge on the sofa before work. Later on, I had some quorn vegan nuggets, which are one of my favourite easy foods, even when I’m not eating a vegan diet. They taste as good, if not better than real chicken nuggets. Again, not the healthiest but non the less tasty and definitely vegan. Then I was off to work again, and I had a packet of salt and vinegar crisps on my break. It was either that, or plain salted.
Cheese and onion contains milk powder, which really broke my heart.
Sunday 21st January 2018
This morning I woke up and absentmindedly made a cup of tea with normal cows milk. I was still half asleep and only realised what I’d done as I was halfway through the cup. So I ended up finishing it. I realised how much I’d missed my usual morning teas, and how none of the milk replacements I had tried were as good, in my opinion. For breakfast, I had a punnet of raspberries. They cost £2, so it’s not a breakfast I could have every day because that’s a ridiculous price for what is essentially a handful of fruit. On top of that, I was flipping starving an hour later. I had some leek and potato soup at midday. Some leek and potato soups are made with cream, so I had to be careful in Sainsburys when I was choosing one to have.
Now, onto dinner. I am so horrified by what I ate so much so, I am glad that tomorrow I can have something I consider ‘normal’. I spent £3.95 on this tray of ‘BBQ Pulled Jackfruit’ from Sainsburys.
It’s meant to be a pulled pork replacement. The image on the box looked great, so I spent my money. At home after cooking, it shredded apart exactly like pulled pork. I was filled with hope. It smelled great, too. I steamed some rice and popped the jackfruit concoction on top. And it was bloody awful. Offensive, even. It tasted like warm pineapple in bbq sauce. The texture wasn’t much better.
I ate the whole bowl, though, because mamma didn’t raise no quitter, but it was genuinely awful. The worst thing I’d eaten all week.
This week has got me thinking that eating a vegan diet requires so much preparation and effort. You’ll likely need to prepare each meal in advance and make packed lunches to avoid slipping up. There’s not much you can eat when you’re out and about. Every label and every ingredient needs checking. You need to put much more thought in to your meals.
I’ve also learned that meat replacements may as well not exist. Don’t get me wrong, I love my vegan nuggets and the spicy bean burger but aside from that, meat replacements miss the mark so often. Not only meat replacements but the vegan diet in itself felt very expensive. I bought vegetables on the first day that had gone bad before I could eat them. I did some research on vegan ready meals because I thought that might be easier and keep me from slipping up. You can get them from Cook, but they cost between £3 and £7 pounds for a singe meal. When you’re out and about, you can expect to pay extra for a milk alternative in a coffee and for sandwiches or snacks.
I really enjoyed the week. It’s made me think more carefully about what I’m putting in my body. It’s made me feel a bit healthier and more aware of the food around me. Trying the vegan diet has taught me good habits when buying food, like actually checking the ingredients. I’ll definitely be keeping some of the changes to my diet I’ve made this week, but I am so excited for my cup of tea tomorrow morning.
And if we’ve learned only one thing this week? Long live the beef and tomato pot noodle!