Veganuary is a campaign that challenges people to go vegan for the month of January. It started in 2014 and more than a million people all over the world have participated since. I participated in Veganuary for the second time this year, and as January is coming to an end I would like to share my experiences with it.
My Veganuary journey actually started three years ago. I heard about the challenge for the first time just before the year ended in 2018. At that time I had already been a vegetarian for about four years and was getting interested in veganism. However, I did not yet feel like I was ready to take on the challenge since I didn’t know enough about veganism. I only later found out that in order to participate, you do not have to go fully vegan; all that is expected of you is an interest in veganism and that you reduce your consumption of animal products as much as you want to.
So, when January of 2020 arrived I was ready to take on the challenge. I did not go fully vegan but I would say that about 80% of the things I ate were fully plant-based. I signed up for the Veganuary newsletter where they send you recipes and information on, for example, nutrition and veganism in general. I find the newsletter extremely helpful because of the recipes in particular. If you are having a hard time with deciding what you want to eat, each newsletter has at least two recipes for each day from which you can pick the one that is healthy, delicious and usually fairly easy to make.
After January, I continued to reduce my consumption of eggs and dairy products. I stopped buying regular milk and switched it to oat or soy milk, for example. By the end of the year, almost everything I made at home was vegan. Where I live, it is very easy to cook vegan food because almost all grocery stores sell several different kinds of meat and dairy substitutes. If you go to a larger store, the selections are great, though vegan alternatives can sometimes be a bit more expensive than non-vegan ones. Luckily foods like dried beans, lentils or soy protein are extremely cheap so I usually use those for cooking. Especially Asian grocery stores also sell tofu and some meat substitutes at a much lower price than other grocery stores.
I had concluded, then, that being vegan at home really wasn’t too hard. My university also offers vegan alternatives in all its restaurants so it was not going to be a problem with my diet. Eating out, however, was going to have its problems as well as eating at my relatives’ or friends’ houses who know nothing about veganism. Despite all this, I decided that for this year’s January I was going to go entirely vegan and not eat anything animal based for the entire month. Now that the month is coming to an end, I can say that I accomplished my goal.
As expected, cooking at home really wasn’t much of a challenge because almost everything I cook is vegan anyways. As for eating out, this year is of course special because of Covid. Normally I would have eaten out and at my friends’ and relatives’ more frequently than now, but there were a few times when I had to explain to my parents, for instance, why I didn’t eat something they had cooked. As for restaurants, nowadays most restaurant employees in my area know what veganism is and what vegans do and do not eat. However, for some the concept still seems to be foreign and there is no guarantee a restaurant has vegan options. That can sometimes be a bit of a bummer.
Altogether I would say that my Veganuary went really well. I really did not find it too difficult to leave out all dairy products, eggs etc. from my already meat-free diet. Something that I did struggle with a little were people’s presumptions about veganism. For example, my parents are quite suspicious of veganism and did not understand why I wanted to limit my diet even more. It can also be hard to refuse a meal that someone has prepared for you with the best intentions because they were unaware, for instance, that honey is not vegan.
Generally, though, I learned a great deal about veganism, nutrition, the production of animal products and a lot more. I also learned tons of different recipes, most of which were absolutely delicious. I don’t think that I will continue to lead a strict vegan diet after January, but I will definitely be consuming less animal products than I did before because I now know that I get along without them just fine. I will be probably continuing on a vegan diet at home, but I think that when I go out to eat, I will settle for a vegetarian option if a vegan one is not available.
For anyone who contemplates whether they should join the next Veganuary, I would definitely recommend you take on the challenge. You can decide your level of commitment yourself and you absolutely do not have to go entirely vegan if you don’t want to. I would recommend, though, that you do research on veganism before starting the challenge because it’s good to know where to get your protein, vitamins and so on. Other than that, the newsletter has got you covered and you’re good to go!
If you’re interested, here’s the official website for Veganuary.