Anna Hughes

An omnivore’s Veganuary Diary

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An omnivore’s Veganuary Diary

On January 31, 2018, Posted by , In Vegan, With No Comments

None of my three sisters are vegan, yet they all took part in Veganuary as their birthday present to me. It was interesting hearing their experiences of essentially doing something because someone asks you to do it, rather than because you believe in it yourself.

Sarah kept a diary which is pasted below. At the end of the month I asked them all for their responses, which are at the bottom.

1st January

I woke up at around 4:30am feeling really rough.  Too much champagne.  Then I suddenly remembered that I wouldn’t be able to ease this hangover in the morning with cereal and milk.  That was a tough realisation.  I’m already considering breaking veganuary, just for the first morning.

Breakfast: 3 slices of fruit bread, toasted, with vitalite dairy-free spread.

Once I had got up, I realised that I wasn’t actually in danger of having cow’s milk on my cereal – we are doing veganuary so that’s not an option.  It really helps that James [my husband] is doing it too, and he’s definitely not going to break it, so this has spurred me on somewhat.  I did have another tough realisation though, while preparing breakfast.  My fruit toast wouldn’t be dripping with salty butter.  Nor would I have a milky cup of tea to accompany it.  The vitalite wasn’t that bad though.  It even melted a bit!

We have soya milk and almond milk in the fridge, but I’m not going to substitute milk for those things unless I’m cooking – I’d rather not have milk at all rather than have something that tastes and feels completely different.  I don’t need cereal that much.  Plus, earl grey tea with lemon is brilliant.

Lunch: Beans on toast.

We have already reverted to Anna’s very useful ‘can’t be bothered to cook – how do I eat vegan?’ list.  It’s new years day for goodness’ sake!!  The vegan cheese isn’t great – it doesn’t melt, and it sticks to itself when I try to pick up a handful of grated stuff.  It makes it look nice though.

Dinner: Pasta with peppers, tomatoes, onions, sweetcorn and pesto.

This is a meal I would normally eat.  With cheese though.  We avoid the vegan cheese this evening, giving our pasta an extra dollop of delicious olive oil.  It’s completely yummy, but not as filling as what I’m used to.

This is already a tough challenge.  It’s harder starting on 1st January than I gave it credit for.  Eating vegan requires forethought and planning, and I’m just not particularly in the zone yet.  At least I can drink wine.

2nd January

Breakfast: 3 slices of fruit bread, toasted, with vitalite dairy-free spread. I’m already running out of fruit toast.

Lunch: Tomato soup.

I went to a friend’s for lunch today, and didn’t want to impress my temporary vegan diet on her, so was prepared to eat whatever she fed me.  However, it just so happened that she had been planning soup and one of the soups in the fridge was indeed vegan.  Bread and soup!  Yummy.

Dinner: Vegetable lasagne.

I made a vegan Bolognese: brown lentils, mushrooms, tomatoes, kidney beans, onions and red wine.  That in itself looked pretty delicious but I persisted with my more-time-consuming idea of vegetable lasagne.  I made a white sauce with the almond milk and vegan cheese (why does it stick to my fingers when I pick it up?!?!) which took longer than a usual milk béchamel, mainly because I was unfamiliar with how it was meant to feel.  I added a mashed potato layer as I wanted to have an extra dimension of creamy comfort.  It worked!  I’m utterly full as I write this.  Completely yummy, although I did spend the whole meal wondering why it tasted nutty.  That would be the almond milk then.

3rd January

Breakfast: The last of the fruit toast.

Lunch: Pea, tarragon, leek (and 3 other green things that I can’t remember!) soup from Lulu.

Dinner: Left-over vegetable lasagne with veg on the side.  Very satisfying!

4th January

Breakfast: Toast with marmalade.  I wish the vegan butter would melt a bit better.

Lunch: Potato salad, sweet potato salad (from the shop), tomato and avocado salad, and salad.

I would ordinarily smother this kind of meal with mayonnaise, but that’s not an option today, so I try with a bit of babaganoush.  It’s good.

The main thing I’m noticing is that I’m thinking about food lots – and not in a particularly good way.  I’m having to plan what we’re eating a lot rather than just going with the flow, and I’m taking all the food responsibility on myself rather than James doing it (he normally entirely sorts out all meals, but I feel that I should be pulling my weight more here as it’s my sister who has requested we do this).  It is really tricky with a baby.  I find myself starting to cook dinner at breakfast time, otherwise I cannot guarantee that I’ll have time later in the day.

Dinner: Bean stew

I followed a recipe that was recommended on Facebook by James’s sister, from an article about Italian food that was ‘incidentally vegan.’  It was a really basic recipe: beans, potatoes, tomatoes, onion and garlic, but the way that simple food like this is made delicious is by cooking it for hours!  Luckily it is a case of preparing it, then leaving it, so I was able to get on with baby-related things while it was on the hob.  It’ll make loads of left-overs too!

5th January

Breakfast: Toast and jam.

Lunch: Left-over bean stew.  This’ll last for ages!

Dinner: Thai curry.

We are very excited about this.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any vegan prawn crackers at the supermarket (I know that sounds like an obvious fact, but we often get vegan crackers when we go out for a Thai).  Ordinarily, a Thai curry has one variety of veg (at the most!) and one of meat, so we bought lots of crudité types of veg and put them in.  Very tasty, and such an easy dish to do.

6th January

Breakfast: Toast and jam.

Lunch: Party food.

Today presented its first hurdle, which unfortunately I fell at.  We went to a children’s party (popular at this time of year, as I have a January baby and all his friends are turning 1) so you can imagine the types of food available.  This is a really difficult situation, but one that I feel I can’t impress my current diet on.  If we had been out at a restaurant or café, I certainly would have ordered vegan, but when a friend caters, it’s not easy to request that my current temporary diet is provided for.

Dinner: Left-over Thai curry.  Curry is always better as left-overs.  Happy days.

7th January

Breakfast: Toast and jam.  I tried my tea with almond milk this morning, but it tastes like a strange sort of hot chocolate which is not what I wanted.  I want a comforting cup of tea!

Lunch: We had another baby party today.  Luckily it was Indian catering so I could have amazing chana masala and all the sundries.  They had also put original pringles out, which are one of the flavours that work for me!

Dinner: Indian take-away

It’s hard having an entire month of an eating challenge.  We are only one week in, and I feel already like it’s been long.  Going back to work, childcare for the baby, January blues… it’s all a lot to deal with!  So James and I have decided that we need a pick-me-up!  Vegetable biryani, gobi bhaji, aloo sag and popadums do the trick.

8th January

Breakfast: Toast and jam

Lunch: Sweet potato hotpot.

I am now at the mercy of school dinners.  Today I started a new school so I don’t know the chef in order to request anything vegan – and in any case I would feel awkward, as I won’t be vegan in a few weeks’ time anyway. I’ve decided to go for the vegetarian option, then see how it goes.  So far so good – the kitchen’s vegetarian option is incidentally vegan.

Dinner: Spaghetti Napoli

Anna and I are going out to celebrate our birthday.  There are loads of great eateries in Ware, but I leave the choice up to her as she is the more experienced when eating out.  We choose a local Italian, which comes up trumps with Spaghetti Napoli.  I don’t even have to ask to amend my order.  Olives and bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar accompany.

9th January

Breakfast: Beans on toast

Lunch: Vegetable tagine

I’ve hit the jackpot again at school.  Only problem is, they seem to be giving me a child’s portion.  I have to go back for seconds.

Dinner: Curry

You can never have too much curry.  Anna has made an amazing dahl and sweet potato curry.  Something great about sweet potato is that it means that I don’t have to have mango chutney, because I already have something gooey and sweet on my plate.

10th January

Breakfast: Beans on toast

Lunch: School dinner again: Bean stew with stir-fry vegetables.

Dinner: Pasta

James was out so I have to do something quick and comforting as my moral-support is absent!  Pasta (no cheese!) is the thing.  We have given up on buying the substitutes, and I’m choosing not to have milk at all rather than have something to replace it.  The thing I like about milk and cheese (how it tastes!) cannot be satisfied by the subs.  If the thing I’m replacing it with doesn’t taste the same, then I’d rather have nothing at all.

11th January

Breakfast: Fruit toast

Lunch: Penne Napoli.

Rowan and I went out to Sfizio for lunch today – this is something I did lots during our maternity leave together, so I wanted to recapture the magic!  Rowan eats half a pizza (luckily I don’t like pizza, otherwise I would have bean mightily jealous!) and I had the only vegan option, but it was delicious.  Amazingly simple – tomatoes, basil and garlic.  I could probably make this at home, but it would either take me hours, or it would only taste a fraction as good (or both!)  This is a recurring problem with Veganuary: there are plenty of vegan dishes out there that I could make at home, but that are much tastier and easier to buy, so I’m spending much more money than I previously would!

Dinner: Sandwiches (vegetarian)

I teach a choir on a Thursday evening and didn’t manage to plan ahead to take my own vegan packed tea.  Therefore I had to make do with the provided sandwiches.  I’ll endeavour to be more prepared next week!

12th January 

Breakfast: Fruit toast

Lunch: Tomato soup

Rowan and I went out for lunch at Costa with a friend.  I looked longingly at the tiffins and other cakes that I used to love!  Thankfully their soup is vegan, and given that I don’t generally like Costa’s tea I didn’t have to miss that.

Dinner: Sweet potato salad/ vegetable paella

January seems to be the season for birthdays, and tonight we went out for a friend’s.  We had a set menu so my options were limited, but I’m finding my options generally limited anyway if we are out.  Unfortunately, the sweet potato salad was awful, and I had to eat it while watching my companions tuck hungrily into their whitebait.  The paella was good though: creamy and filling.

13th January

Breakfast: Fruit toast

Lunch: Bean hotpot

For some reason, I’m not very good at cooking beans!  Other people thankfully can make excellent bean dishes, so I’m glad that Aunty Vanda brought her vegan speciality to a family do today.

Dinner: Pasta with pesto

We got in late, so this appears to be my go-to.

14th January

Breakfast: Veggie sausage sandwiches

It’s James’s birthday today, so we are attempting a breakfast feast.  We bought sourdough bread and Linda McCartney sausages (the advice is that these are tasty but dry, so I’ve prepared caramelised onions and condiments: French mustard and ketchup are vegan thank goodness!)

We are nearly half-way through but we are struggling.  Neither James nor I are particularly looking forward to meals at the moment, especially a birthday treat, which currently is hard work to create, rather than a ‘treat.’  I’m trying hard, particularly as we have been asked to do this by my dear sister who I admire and respect greatly, and whose veganism thoroughly impresses me.  However, it’s tough doing a challenge that has been set by someone else – doing your own challenge begins with your own motivation, and this drives you to succeed.  Doing someone else’s challenge is very different psychologically.  We are trying hard, but it’s tough.  There are other factors involved: I’ve just gone back to work from maternity leave so this brings its own emotions and stresses, and we are both experiencing the January blues.  This is a hard month to give up comfort food!

Lunch: Cheese-free pizza and Penne Napoli

We went out to celebrate James’s birthday for lunch.  Getting someone else to make your vegan food for you is so much more enjoyable and tasty!

Dinner: Beans on toast

15th January

Breakfast: Toast and jam

Lunch: Ratatouille

The school kitchen came up trumps yet again.  All I had to decline was the parmesan-melted pastry top, and I could fill the rest of the plate with pasta and olives.  I even managed to have a vegan flapjack today!

Often I am finding that the school kitchen has to cater for vegans without specifically catering for vegans, simply because they have to provide a meal choice that is allergen-free, mainly egg-free.  Works for me!

Dinner: Risotto

Dad and Valmai came round this evening so we wanted to make something that we would normally make, but without adding animal products.  Risotto packed full of veg ticked all the boxes.

16th January

Breakfast: Toast and jam

Lunch: Sweetcorn and courgette fritters

These were amazing, but I suspect there was some egg or butter in there to bind.  And it was sprinkled with feta so I had to try to avoid that.  Difficult when someone insists on serving you!

Dinner: Shepherds pie and chips

As well as planning vegan, we also have to plan to use our veg box.  This week we had a surplus of potatoes hence the Shepherds pie with chips.

17th January

Breakfast: Fruit toast

Lunch: School Stir-fry

Dinner: Courgette and carrot fritters

As the fritters at school were so amazing yesterday, we decided to try and make some at home.  Here I have the realisation that in fact the fritters at school cannot possibly have been vegan, because the vegan recipes are all very different to what I was provided with.  The binding agents are absent, so basically you are left with a load of grated veg on a plate.  It was ok, but it needed that fritter-like texture to really work.  Maybe a potato cake is the way forward next time.

18th January

Breakfast: Fruit toast

Lunch: Hummus and crumpets

Dinner: Left-overs – risotto

19th January

Breakfast: Fruit toast

Lunch: Burrito

We were out in London today and I picked up a burrito from the station (although couldn’t actually eat it until we got home as I had a sleeping baby strapped to my front.  That would have been a messy baby). Absolutely delicious – I stand by my theory of everything tasting better when it’s made for you by someone else who knows what they’re doing!

Dinner: Leftovers: pasta/ shepherds pie

(She then ran out of steam for keeping a diary!)

Sarah’s end-of-month responses:

  • What did you find easy?

School dinners. Most of the veggie options were vegan as they have to provide a dairy free option for allergens.

  • What did you find difficult?

Not licking the spoon when feeding Rowan yoghurt or porridge!

  • What was the reaction of your family?

James did it too, but we both struggled.  His family thought it was an interesting challenge but thought they could never do it.

  • What kind of things did you eat?

Beans. I’m kind of sick of beans! Curry.

  • What was your favourite/go-to dish?

The Bolognese was great.

  • Will Veganuary change your eating habits throughout the rest of the year?

I’m now thinking of ways that veganuary can have a positive impact on my day-to-day eating habits. I’m trying to use less milk. I’m certainly eating less cheese. I’ll be using vegan spread instead of flora (although I still have butter too). I’ll buy the vegan pesto now. I’ll try to choose a vegan cake if I’m out.

I also want to have a regular vegan night (not sure how regular!) but one meal that is completely vegan every fortnight or so.  And not just something I can make into a vegan dish, ie I loved the mac and cheese you made, but I prefer ordinary mac and cheese so that wouldn’t be on my menu. I enjoyed the sweet and sticky stir fry from Bosh so would have that again for sure.

  • Would you do it again?

No, it wasn’t for me. I’m very keen to make a more positive environmental impact with my dietary choices, but this is something I will now do alongside my current diet. I really struggled with the whole month. We didn’t particularly enjoy it as a challenge, and actually I think that overall was a negative thing – whenever people asked me about veganuary I would sort of groan or put a negative spin on it, which almost defeats the object! I want to talk positively about veganism, and in fact I have done in the past: if I were having a conversation with someone I would always defend veganism because I know it works so amazingly well for you. But during January I was very negative about it, so I cannot imagine that is good for people’s perceptions of the diet! I want to champion positive environmental choices and I think I have a better chance of that if I make a lasting change throughout the whole of the year.

I also bought loads more packaging than I normally do!

Becca’s end-of-month responses:

  • What did you find easy?

Overall being vegan has been fairly easy: we swapped cow’s milk for oat milk and replaced butter with marg in our bread-maker made bread and just omitted the milk powder so that our regular eating patterns have continued as normal.  For the first few weeks I didn’t cook anything that I wouldn’t normally make anyway, I just didn’t snack on cheese while I was making it!

I have a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer and is eating a vegan diet to help support her treatment.  I have been really pleased that I can take her delicious bakes that are just part of my own normal diet.  

  • What did you find difficult?

For the first couple of weeks I thought about cheese ALL OF THE TIME.  That has lessened now, but as time has gone on I have I have wanted to reintroduce cheese to get a bit of variety in the dishes that we eat as a family.  Yesterday I finally got a vegan ‘mozarella replacement’ but it was not successful and none of us liked it.  

I actually think that I am eating less well as I’m eating more ‘junk food’ like salted nuts and crackers.  I am snacking a lot more than I normally do as I get to the end of the day and don’t feel psychologically full even if I don’t actually feel hungry.  

Some foods that we have been able to continue eating, such as hot cross buns, just don’t taste as good without salted butter and the month hasn’t changed my perception of that.

It wasn’t possible to buy quite a few of the ingredients and foods that we needed locally and so I had to shop at Tesco more than usual and also we got stuck several times without the food we wanted because we couldn’t get it at the local co-op, and we have become used to being able to pop out at any time and pick up food at the last minute.

I provide cups of tea for my singing group members and friends and some of them have been happy with the milk that I provide but others haven’t.   I’ve struggled with this and have resorted to taking mini milk portions from John Lewis when I’ve bought a cup of tea and not used them for myself.  

I have several baking recipes that I find are really successful and I make them when vegan friends come over.  However, I wanted to try new baking recipes and have found most of them disappointing.  When I bake I like to use simple and accessible ingredients, and lots of vegan recipes have ingredients that I don’t have and seem fiddly.  I plumped for the simple recipes and though the family thought they were fine I was not happy to serve them to guests and would not make them again.      

  • What was the reaction of your family?

Oliver (a week after starting): ‘you know that I cried when you told me that we were going to be vegan?  There’s not really much difference’

Lara (three weeks in): ‘Being vegan isn’t too bad’ 

The plan was that our house would be a vegan one but outside it Lenny, Lara and Oliver could eat what they liked. Lenny decided to fully take up the challenge and go vegan for the month.  He has sometimes wondered if he is intolerant to milk and cheese and so was interested to see how his body would react.  The findings are that he farts just as much without milk products, possibly more!  He is looking forward to going back to eating cheese and dairy but wants to make more vegetarian choices when he eats out (he already eats as a vegetarian at home but previously would normally choose meat when eating out).  

Lara and Oliver have continued to choose fish and meat when eating out and at school dinners. 

  • What kind of things did you eat?

Breakfast: cereal as usual but with oat milk

Lunch: 

humous sandwiches with salad and: cranberry sauce, mixed with grated carrot, sliced mushrooms, sundried tomatoes.

Toast and avocado

Toast and peanut butter

Dinner:

Vegan sausages and potato, pasta and tomato sauce with sausages, coconut milk and lentil curries, jacket potatoes with humous and roasted veg, pasta and pesto, puff pastry pie with veg and olives, bean hot pots, lentil shepherds pie, pasta and pesto, stir fried veg, veg risotto.  

Snacks: Hot cross buns, salted nuts, crackers and vegan pate, crackers and humous, pistachio nuts, dark chocolate with orange.

Baking: cranberry biscuits, coconut chocolate brownies, carrot cake, almond biscuits, jam tarts.

  • What was your favourite/go-to dish?

For Lenny and me: lentil and vegetable curry.  For the whole family: something with vegan sausages.

  • Will Veganuary change your eating habits throughout the rest of the year?

If someone told me that I was never allowed to eat dairy again I could agree without too much problem.  However, I don’t actually want to.  There were tastes that I missed and didn’t get used to in the space of a month that inhibited my enjoyment of some foods e.g. jacket potatoes without salted butter.  I also felt that my repertoire of food that the whole family would enjoy was much smaller.  I don’t want to cook with highly packaged meat/dairy replacements as I like to cook with fresh, healthy ingredients but this does limit options of meals as the children don’t really like curry and chilli dishes.  

I wanted to do veganuary to break out of my cheese dependence, especially in my habit of having a cheese, chutney and salad sandwich every day for lunch.  I have found several lunches that I enjoy and will make an effort to have several times a week from now on.  I struggle to make sandwiches that Lara likes but we have actually established several options that she likes more than her old backup of cheese.  

As my concerns are environmental I’d like to take advantage of my new habits and have several days a week when we eat vegan.  As I also don’t like waste, I don’t think that we’ll continue to buy replacement milk, so we might have a couple of days having toast for breakfast in order to cut our milk consumption.  

I am keen to be able to use eggs so I want to research the sourcing of my eggs.  I wonder about paying more and getting eggs from Riverford (after researching where they come from) and restricting my use to just six a week.  I also would like to research the organic producers locally and possibly spend more on buying organic cheese and using less of it

In the course of looking closely at ingredients I have realised that some things I eat aren’t even vegetarian e.g. red thai curry paste.  I’ll be more careful in reading ingredients now!  

  • Would you do it again?

Yes

Lara: ‘I wouldn’t mind if we did it again as long as we don’t have to eat that horrible cheese again’

Oliver: ‘ummmm, I wouldn’t mind if we did it but, um, I don’t really like all of the vegan meals’

Lenny: ‘If I had to.  If you challenge me I’ll do it’.

Clare’s end-of-month responses:

  • What did you find easy?

Taking my lunch to work – packet Bachelor’s soup with Salt&Vinegar crisps.

Drinking tea and making porridge – rice milk and Koko milk were both fine in tea, and oat milk was good for porridge.

I initially missed hocolate but Becca gave me some vegan chocolate, which I thought was really nice.

I changed my staple treat of iced gems to party rings.

  • What did you find difficult?

Eating out.

I couldn’t eat the cake and chocolates at work that patients were bringing in. I had to snack on cream crackers while at work!

I found the first couple of weeks quite easy because I was very motivated and keen to take up the challenge. But the last 10 days I found much more tedious and my motivation had gone (although my resolve remained).

  • What was the reaction of your family?

Cameron thought that it was ridiculous of me to do it and couldn’t understand why I would want to do it for you! He also frequently told me to break it at first – saying that he wouldn’t tell you. Eventually I managed to convince him that although he may not choose to do this challenge, he frequently takes up challenges of other types and isn’t the sort of person to give up – and nor am I.

Cameron has willingly eaten all the vegan meals that I have cooked though!

My colleagues at work all thought it was a bit funny (particularly when there were sweets and cakes on the ward) but were supportive.

  • What kind of things did you eat?

Vegi Chilli
Chickpea curry
Vegetable pasta dishes
Moroccan cous cous
Soya chilli
Soya yoghurt
Koko milk
Rice milk
Oat milk
Vegan spread from Flora
Lemon drizzle cake

  • What was your favourite/go-to dish?

Vegi chilli (Jamie Oliver recipe)

  • Will Veganuary change your eating habits throughout the rest of the year?

I don’t think it will.

In principle I like the thought of the environmental benefits. But while the rest of the family were carrying on as normal I found that I was buying all the same amount of dairy and meat for them, and additionally buying dairy-free things for me. So I don’t actually think that it made any difference to my family’s dairy/meat footprint.

If the whole family had done it and embraced it then definitely it would change our eating habits.

  • Would you do it again?

I’d like to think that I would.

Overall, once the initial motivation of doing something new/for you, I found that it was becoming more tedious because I’d lost my motivation to cook interesting food (luckily I’d made frozen portions), and also because I don’t have the background passion for it that you do. But I’m glad that I did it for you!

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