So both Sarah and myself are quite into food and we like trying new things, recently we’ve been trying the odd Vegan recipe, even going so far as to buy a vegan recipe book when we were on mini moon in Edinburgh. Sarah had read about Veganuary online and we talked about doing it together, going vegan for January and seeing how we felt afterwards. In the end we agreed to it, it seemed like a good, healthy way to kick of the year, and although I already knew there was very little chance I would keep it up after January I also knew I would pick up some good meal ideas I could keep making after the month ended. So that was it, decided, January 2017 the Smith-Reeds go vegan.
It would probably help if I gave you some context at this point; Sarah has been vegetarian for far longer than we have known each other, I want to say 15 years but there is every chance I could be very wrong about that, not for any moral reason but because she didn’t enjoy the texture of meat (and she’s never eaten fish in her life, she’s so disgusted by it that she won’t sit near me if I’m eating a tuna sandwich) she also has a slight intolerance to eggs, which means she doesn’t eat them on their own and we have to be very careful when we are buying/making cakes because if they have too many eggs in them they can make her ill. I on the other hand have never been a vegetarian (except for that misguided Lent in my teens when I decided giving up meat for a month was a thing, I lasted a week and returned to the carnivore life when I realised that being vegetarian made Sunday dinners at my Grandma’s a little less appealing!). Don’t get me wrong, I was brought up in a half vegetarian household, with a mother who, quite rightly in my opinion, didn’t want to cook two or three different meals a night, so I’ve eaten a lot of vegetarian food in my life and since living with Sarah I have realised that it’s often easier to just eat vegetarian, when I’m making a lasagne for instance, it’s easier to make one big one with veggie mince than it is to make two separate ones, but meat is always an option when I’m shopping or we are eating out and something I’m definitely cooking more now that we have friends over for dinner semi regularly. I also quite enjoy eggs every now and then, I go through periods where I live on chocolate and I believe that cheese is something that should be melted on most things.
It was safe to say it wasn’t going to be easy for either of us but it was worth a try and the look in people’s eyes that said ‘I give you a week, maximum, before you give up’ is what has kept me going to the bitter end.
We started on January 2nd (better late than never) because we were spending the 1st with my brother and his girlfriend staying and we’re spending the day visiting various family members, it was easier to put it off a day than to put everyone else out. I had to hide all of the Christmas chocolate and biscuits in the spare room (this became almost like a penance when I was really struggling, I’d go and stand in the spare room and stare at the food for a few moments before forcing myself to walk away), threw away the rhubarb and apple pie and the last of the cheese in the fridge and then realised I had absolutely no idea what we were going to eat for the next month. I turned to Pinterest and my recipe book collection (Sarah had bought me a second vegan one for Christmas and I was sure Nigella could be turned to for something) and made a shopping list which I promptly forgot to pick up when we went food shopping. Really, we were off to a great start.
The first week was hell, I went back to work on the 3rd and Sarah was still off and recovering from surgery. We were badly organised and I was buying day to day until I found the time to do an online food shop. I don’t know how Sarah was feeling that week but I was in hell, I felt like I was hungry ALL of the time, I was trying to cut down on fizzy drinks at the same time so I was getting caffeine and sugar withdrawal headaches, the kitchen at work was filled with birthday cake and the sweets we hadn’t been able to eat before Christmas, and anyone who knows me knows that a hungry Libby is an angry Libby. I honestly don’t know how everyone at work put up with me that week, I was snappy, whiny and I think I probably complained about every meal I had. It’s not that I want eating good food, I was and in that first week I made a couple of things that I will definitely make again, but it’s that age old thing of wanting something that you can’t have that I think made me a wreck in that first week.
It got better from there, I got more organised and while I still wasn’t effectively meal planning I was planning far enough ahead that I knew I either had something made for our lunches or that I could make something for tea that would produce enough leftovers to feed us both the next day. We discovered that vegan chocolate wasn’t too bad (even white vegan chocolate is ok) and that some Oreos were vegan and that helped, me especially.
People have asked if it has cost us more in food shopping, it hasn’t, all it has done is change the way we shop a Little. Usually I do a big online shop at the beginning of the month that contains the majority of our food for that month and all we buy week to week is fresh stuff like bread and veg, but because the majority of what we were eating was fresh I switched to doing more regular shopping. The cost factor was also helped by the fact Tesco clearly caught on to the fact Veganuary was a national initiative and put a lot of their dairy free cheese, deserts and milk on offer, we also saved money because I was making our lunches for the majority of the time.
This is a little snapshot of some of the highlights of the month almost half of which are examples of meals we’ve eaten out. We are both pizza lovers and I must say I much preferred the Papa Johns pizza with all of the cheese removed to the MOD Pizza with dairy free cheese, I also really recommend the carrot and courgette no knead bread from the Keep it Vegan recipe book, I’ve made it twice this month and it’s super easy and goes great with a good vegan chillie.
So having done it, how am I feeling? Well, I feel good (and not just because I’m smug) I do feel healthier and people keep telling me that I’ve lost weight which wasn’t the aim but is certainly a bonus. I can happily and comfortably say that being vegan isn’t for me, I enjoy eating meat occasionally and I don’t think that will change in a hurry (I’ve also discovered that I like cheese far more than I thought, again the can’t have so want mentality). I’ve found recipes I will continue to make and I know in my quest for new things I will find more but I also look forward to going back to some meals which we love and I’ve missed over the last month. The thing I most look forward to is having he boys round for dinner and trying the new gammon recipe my Aunty gave me on Boxing Day (which I’m sure Michael is looking forward too aswell since he hasn’t stopped talking about it!).
February becomes now the month to get back to the gym and back to walking, maybe start swimming again too and start preparing for the Macmillan Mighty Hike which I’ve crazily agreed to do again this year.
Till next time