Vegan for a week

I recently challenged my sister to undertake a one week vegan pledge – a committed carnivore and cheese fiend, I in part wanted to see if she could be persuaded to convert and (knowing how unlikely this was) simply wanted to see how she found being vegan for a week. Here is her story.

Hands up if you love meat? I do.

 I have always been a resolute carnivore; I eat meat a couple of times a week, make a mean steak, and for years during my childhood ignored my sister’s attempts to convert me to vegetarianism.

Don’t get me wrong though, that’s not all I eat; I also love vegetables and while spaghetti Bolognese is one of my signature dishes, I like it almost as much when it’s made with vege-mince, and I do a delicious lentil and spinach ‘bolognese’ too.

This week, however, I have been challenged to a one week vegan pledge. Not only shall I be giving up meat for 7 whole days, but dairy, eggs and animal products in general. Oh dear.

As of Sunday morning I will be saying goodbye to a lot of things I like most – such as cheese and chocolate  – and trying their ‘free-from’ counterparts, made with no animal products. I will be trying soya milk for the first time, and as I love to bake, I’ll also be trying some vegan baking.

I love cooking and don’t buy much convenience foods, mainly things like pizza or fish fingers for those days that I’m feeling too lazy to cook much. I could stock up on vegan sausages, burgers etc and eat them all week, but that’s not how I’m used to cooking and eating, so I feel that would be cheating. I want to cook meals from fresh ingredients as much as possible.

So, in preparation I have been making a shopping list and meal plan for the week. I shall do my shopping on Saturday, have one last meaty-meal and probably some Cadbury’s chocolate and then start the challenge. Wish me luck…

Saturday

The shopping is done and I’ve emptied the house of dairy products, chocolate and anything else that could tempt me. It struck me that shopping for a vegan diet is tricky and there’s very little choice in all the dairy-free products; given the choice I would nearly always choose the low-fat option, but there wasn’t one. The milk and chocolate are more expensive than the normal kind which is discouraging, and the free-from section of the shop was minuscule. Surely more choice and availability would encourage more people  to try the alternative products?

After spending ages trawling the supermarket shelves, reading ingredients lists, and discovering dairy in all manner of unlikely products, I’m fed up of shopping by the time I reach the alcohol section. I pick up a bottle and it’s labelled suitable for vegetarians. Close enough for today.

As for my last meal – it’s actually vegetarian! I have a homemade pizza with lots of cheese and fresh veg; I was tempted to get some chorizo but knew I wouldn’t be able to use the whole packet.

Sunday

I’m completely unadventurous with my breakfast and have toast with peanut butter; I do, however, try the soya milk in my coffee. I was advised to let the water sit for a while after boiling so after waiting 10 minutes, I should be safe enough, shouldn’t I? No: in goes the hot water and the soya milk forms lumps, the way that cow’s milk does when it’s beginning to go off. It actually tastes ok, but it looks so disgusting that I can’t finish it and resign myself to a week of black coffee.

For lunch I really fancy some chips ‘n’ dip. I bought some salsa but the it seems shop-bought guacamole usually contains cream, so I have an avocado to make my own. And guess what – it’s much tastier than any supermarket guacamole; I’ll probably never buy it again!

Rather than search the shop for vegan-friendly biscuits, I decided to make a cake to satisfy my sugar cravings. But as my lemon cake comes out of the tin, it falls apart! I have no idea what I did wrong but pour the icing over my ridiculous collapsed cake and eat it like a pudding. It may look awful but it tastes fantastic.

Dinner is a tofu stir-fry, which is also good, but it’s a recipe I’ve used before so I don’t think it really counts as a food experiment. The vegetarian wine tastes nice and hopefully will be my only slip up this week.

Monday

Toast for breakfast again as I’m not brave enough to try the soya milk in cereal yet. After, I try my first soya yoghurt. It’s lovely and just tastes like a normal dairy yoghurt – phew!

For dinner I have a Linda McCartney pie – not technically cheating as vegans need convenience food now and then too! The cooking instructions tell me to brush the top of the pastry with some milk, so I pour a little soya milk into a glass and taste it once my pie is anointed. I have to say, I’m not keen on the taste and it’s far too creamy for me as I’m used to skimmed milk. It’s no big deal though since I rarely drink a glass of milk.

I also try some dairy-free chocolate. While it’s not as good as Cadbury’s it’ll do nicely this week.

Tuesday

I try the soya milk in my ready brek this morning but after two bites, the rest goes in the bin. I just really don’t like the stuff. I tried to give the rest of the carton away but no takers, so maybe I’ll try making some pancakes with the rest; I don’t want to use it, but I don’t want to waste it either. After binning my breakfast, I hurriedly make some toast. After 3 days of toast I’m bored of it and looking for something different tomorrow.

Every week I get a box of healthy snacks from Graze.com and when this week’s box arrives, I realise that I forgot to veganise it. To my dismay, there’s a cheesy focaccia in there, one of my favourites and I have to give it away to a colleague as it won’t keep and I don’t want it sitting there tempting me! There’s also a snack with chocolate in it, but that’ll do nicely for next week so is currently hidden in my desk drawer. I’m grateful that the dried fruit mix and flapjack are both safe to eat.

Lunch is falafel with tomato salad. I figure salad is a safe option, after all it’s just veg and dressing. But just before I pour on some dressing, I notice that it’s got honey in it, so I can’t have it. Thankfully I find another bottle that’s ok.

Dinner is a chickpea and spinach curry. It’s creamy from having coconut milk in it and I was generous with the chilli – yum! I’m glad I made a big pot of this curry as it’s definitely something I want to have again.

Wednesday

I make a fruit smoothie for breakfast, which tastes great but doesn’t keep me full for long. Way before I usually have a mid-morning snack I’m hungry and searching for something to nibble. When lunchtime comes, I’m out of the door quickly to get home for some food (homemade soup, followed by some more lemon cake).

There are some muffins in the kitchen at work but I resist investigating as I figure there’s no way they will be vegan-friendly (turns out I was right).

For dinner I make some fantastic pasta with roasted tomatoes and sauteed spinach, and it was so tasty that I didn’t mind not putting some parmesan on top.

In the evening I have a cook-in and make some banana bread (and enjoyed a slice while it was still warm!) and some butternut squash pate – a made-up recipe that turns out quite well.

Thursday

Today’s breakfast was a banana ‘burrito’ – a tortilla filled with sliced banana and a drizzle of maple syrup. Again, it’s not as filling as cereal so I’m ravenous by lunchtime.

I fill a pitta bread with the butternut squash pate, which has been in the fridge overnight to set, although it didn’t quite manage the consistency of pate; it’s somewhere between a pate and a dip, but the taste is what matters and definitely it’s a recipe I’ve got to write down before I forget it!

Mid-afternoon there’s more cake at work to celebrate a colleague’s birthday and I’m prepared. I bring a couple of slices of my banana bread with me: 1 to eat and 1 to pass around. There are several curious people who try my cake and all the feedback was good, I even had to pass on the recipe.

For dinner I have another Linda Mc pie as after all the cooking last night, I want something minimal effort. At times like these I would normally just nip to the shops for a pizza but that’s not an option.

So far the only thing I’m really missing is having milk in my coffee – but I suspect it’s because I know that come Sunday I’m free to have meat and dairy again if I want to. I do, however, really want some chocolate. The dairy-free stuff ran out days ago (I didn’t buy much as it’s more expensive than normal chocolate) and I’m regretting not buying more. I did go to get some, but the only choice was Bournville which has milk fat in the ingredients list. It seems a safe bet that it means it’s not vegan friendly.

Friday

Breakfast is an indulgent ‘sausage’ butty, made with Linda Mc sausages. It’s more filling than the fruit has been and was quick and easy to make – always a good thing for a weekday.

The rest of the day is mainly filled with leftovers: pate for lunch and for dinner, tofu stir fry from Sunday that had been in the freezer (it tastes equally good baked in the oven as it did fresh from the wok) .

It’s evening now and for the first time all week I’m really feeling the pressure: a slight mishap with a glass meant that while the living room carpet enjoyed a glass of wine, I got just one sip. There’s nowhere nearby that I could get another bottle of vegetarian wine, let alone vegan wine, so I go without. Not my usual Friday night dinner. I’m also still badly wanting some chocolate, but even with a trip to a different shop today I still haven’t got any that’s dairy-free. Roll on tomorrow.

Saturday

It’s my last day as a vegan and I start the day with brunch – potato waffles and vegan sausages – and I don’t feel the lack of meat or eggs.

For dinner I make bean enchiladas, a dish that I would normally sprinkle some cheese over before baking it, but it’s fine without. I also managed to get some plain chocolate; although there’s no dairy in the ingredients, there is a disclaimer that it’s made in facilities that also use milk so it may contain traces, but at this point I want chocolate so much that’s not a good enough reason for me not to buy it.

I also buy some more vegetarian wine. After checking just about all the wines within my budget, vegetarian was the best I could do. I also realise that I made a bad choice of supermarket last Saturday; there’s more choice in today’s shop, including lower fat options for the alternative products. Maybe I would have fared better with light soya milk, but even though I’ve managed to give away the carton that I bought last week, if I buy all the different kinds to eventually find one that’s ok, it’ll be a pretty expensive experiment.

So I think I’ve done ok this week; thanks to the wine I couldn’t avoid animal products entirely but I did try. Mostly, I’ve not actually missed having meat or dairy but at the end of the week, it’s nice to know that I have the option again. Although I’m not going to go vegan permanently, I am prepared to reduce my consumption of animal products.

So, alas, not a convert, but if I could persuade every significant person in my life, and a few strangers as well, to reduce their meat and dairy consumption, then that’s got to be a good place to start!

Is there anyone in your life you could persuade to go vegan for a week? Challenge them and see what happens!

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