A friend asked me to write something about eating less meat/being vegan a few of years ago and as it’s Veganuary I thought I’d share it here.
It’s that time of year again– “New Year, New You” time, where everywhere you look someone seems to be trying to convince you that you need to make a change to your life. Some of these changes are short term, like Dry January, and some are aimed at longer term goals, such as getting you to sign up to a 12-month contract at your local gym – a relationship that will almost certainly be over by Valentine’s Day. One campaign that falls somewhere in the middle, however, is Veganuary , which aims to get people to go vegan for a month but hopes that they will stick with a plant-based diet long-term. The problem with all New Year’s resolutions, though, is that they almost inevitably end in failure and one of the main reasons is that they can just seem so bloomin’ overwhelming! It’s easy to avoid this though, by making small, manageable changes instead of overhauling your entire life in one fell swoop – which is where Meat Free Monday comes in.
As the name suggests, Meat Free Monday is about reducing your meat consumption by having at least one meat free day a week. Why on earth would I want to go meat free, I hear you cry? Well, there are lots of reasons. The obvious answer is animal welfare, but when I say it’s the obvious answer, I mean it’s really obvious so I’m not going to go into that here. So, what are the other reasons?
Well, firstly, it’s better for the planet – in fact, studies have shown that reducing your consumption of animal products is the most effective way to reduce your impact on the environment – far better than ditching your car!
Secondly, it’s better for your health – vegetarian and vegan diets have been proven to lower cholesterol which can, in turn, lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes. A well-planned plant-based diet can also significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Finally – it can save you money! You may have heard that eating vegan is more expensive but, while it is certainly true that some meat substitutes can cost more than the cheapest meat version, they often fall somewhere in the middle of the price range. Though you don’t need to eat meat substitutes or any special ingredients at all! For example, you can make a great vegan curry by subbing the meat for a can of green lentils, which costs about 50p, or just use extra beans instead of minced beef for a chilli “non-carne”.
So now you might be wondering if there sre there any convincing reasons not to try going meat-free for one day a week? By far the most common reason I hear is that it’s too hard. That might have been the case in the past, but in the last few years it has become so much easier to eat vegan that it’s not difficult at all! To prove it, here are some ideas for some cheap and easy meals to help you plan a meat free day :
- Peanut butter on toast (if you follow a gluten free diet, check your bread ingredients for egg).
- Your favourite cereal with plant milk or fruit juice.
- Overnight oats – there are lots of recipes available online, but this is my favourite – it’s like having chocolate pudding for breakfast!
- 3 tbsp porridge oats (about 30g)
- 80ml unsweetened soya milk
- Half a ripe banana (about 70g)
- 1tsp cocoa powder
- 1tsp peanut butter
Place the oats in a bowl, along with the soya milk, cover, and pop the bowl into the fridge overnight
In the morning, add the cocoa powder, peanut butter and banana to the bowl and mash with a fork.
This should be sweet enough but if your banana isn’t ripe you can add a little agave or maple syrup to sweeten. Enjoy!
- Houmous sandwich with grated carrot, peppers and salad leaves
- Jacket potato with vegetable chilli
- Chickpea Casserole – this is VERY easy to make! You need
- 1 can of chickpeas
- 1 can of ratatouille
Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
Put the chickpeas and ratatouille in a pan and heat through.
That’s it – you’re done!
- Vegetable fajitas with vegan yoghurt, salsa and guacamole.
- Pasta with tomato sauce and vegan meatballs. (Avoid fresh pasta as it usually contains egg).
- Cottage pie. You can buy a ready made one but it’s easy to make. You’ll need –
- 1 pack of frozen vegan mince (454g)
- 1 onion, diced
- ½ cup frozen peas
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 750g peeled chopped potatoes
- Instant vegetarian gravy – check the labels in your cupboard before you buy some. Some well known instant gravy brands are already vegan.
- 1tsp vegetable oil.
- 100ml soya milk
- 1 tsp vegan spread
- Nutritional yeast (optional)
- Salt and pepper.
This will serve 4 and I make mine in an 8” by 6” Pyrex dish.
Pre heat your oven to gas mark 7 / 220° C (200° C for fan ovens)
First, bring the potatoes to boil then reduce heat and leave to simmer.
Whilst they are cooking, heat 1tsp of oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add the mince and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the peas and sweetcorn and cook for another 2/3 minutes
Make up about 300ml of gravy, following manufacturer’s instructions.
Take mince off the heat and put to one side.
After checking the potatoes are cooked, drain the water and transfer back to the saucepan. Add the soya milk and vegan spread and mash the potatoes until smooth. You can also add the nutritional yeast at this point. It adds a slightly cheesy flavour and is a good vegan source of vitamin B12 but if you don’t want to buy any special vegan ingredients it’s fine to leave it out. Season to taste.
Transfer the mince to the oven dish.
Pour the gravy evenly over the mince and mix with a fork if necessary.
Spread the mash evenly over the top of the mince, ensuring that it reaches the edges of the dish.
Heat the cottage pie in the middle of the oven until the mash browns slightly (if you use a glass dish look for the gravy bubbling).
Hopefully, these suggestions show that it really is a piece of cake to eat vegan for a day, and there are plenty of other ways too. You could add a couple of Quorn or Linda McCartney products to your trolley and not notice a difference in flavour or the price of your weekly shop, and if you want to eat out there is more choice than ever. Starbucks and Costa both have a choice of plant milks for you experiment with, as well as a growing selection of vegan food options. All the major high street restaurant chains have vegan options and many even have entire vegan menus. Veganuary is a great time to try them out too, as there are a lot of special offers around to tempt you through the doors. Even Greggs are getting in on it, by releasing their vegan sausage roll this week in a flurry of publicity*. So, I guess the only question left when it comes to eating less meat is – what’s stopping you?
*Obviously, this is out of date now but Greggs are still releasing new vegan products, and there is more choice in shops and restaurants than ever. I even saw this week that Wagamama are bringing out their version of vegan fish and chips!