10 Tips: How to Go Vegan for Lent
Lent this year spans over 44 days from Wednesday 1st March to Thursday 13th of April. Traditionally, Lent is a period of religion observance which includes fasting, abstinence and penitence. It is the time that spans up to Easter Sunday, from Ash Wednesday (the day following Pancake Day) to Holy Saturday (which covers 40 weekdays). Generally, people in Britain whether religious or not sometimes choose to go without certain luxuries during this time. A lot of people choose to resist chocolate, or crisps, or maybe even to quit smoking. I think it would be a good time to give the vegan lifestyle a go! And who knows, by Easter you might be a fully-fledged, forever-vegan. Here’s some tips on how to keep it up.
1. Ask questions, seek answers
If you don’t know whether something counts as “vegan”, or where to find something, or how to make something then ASK! Whether you find Vegan networks on Facebook and Twitter, or just use google like in the good old days, there will be an answer to your question somewhere. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. You can’t expect, or be expected, to know absolutely everything on day 1. Most people never stop learning. Generally, vegans are a friendly bunch and are very happy to help someone taking veganism seriously!
2. Stock up
Don’t get sucked into the myth that veganism is too expensive. You shouldn’t be relying on fake meat and fake cheese products: these are luxuries, like in any diet on the average budget. Vegetables should be one of your main priorities. Stock up by buying tinned veg, or bags of veg to keep in the freezer. Veg like this won’t go off so you won’t find yourself wasting food, it’s cheap and it’s easy to fall back on when you need a quick meal.
3. Home cooking
If you live in a city, there’s probably heaps of vegan food on offer in restaurants and take-aways. Leeds has an amazing range of places with vegan options and you should definitely check out what’s on offer around you. Take advantage of this, but don’t rely on it. Home cooking is the best way to eat vegan on a budget. Cook in bulk at home – chillis, pasta dishes, curries, stir fries – and freeze the leftovers ready to heat up and serve whenever.
4. Don’t go without
There’s always a possibility that there won’t not be a vegan option. Sometimes, places just don’t stock vegan options and the ones that do don’t tend to get in large orders – so they go quickly! This isn’t always the case; I very rarely have had this happen to me. In fact I can only think of one time. Just in case, always keep a couple pieces of fruit and some nuts, or something, in your bag just in case. And if worse comes to worst, just eat something. Never starve yourself.
5. Accidents will happen
In a world obsessed with animal products, it is highly likely that at some point you will mess up. You might accidentally buy or eat something that turns out not to be vegan. Don’t panic! Don’t beat yourself up! We all make mistakes and being vegan in this society isn’t always easy or convenient. Just consider why the slip up happened, try to avoid making the same mistake again and move on. It’s not about perfection, it’s about intention.
6. Always read the label
Most things that are vegetarian friendly will be explicitly labelled as such but this is very rarely the case with vegan friendly foods, whatever the reason. A short-cut way to read an ingredient lists is to look for the vegetarian friendly label – so far, so good. Then briefly scan the ingredients, milk and eggs should be bolded as they are allergens. Finally, double check for sneaky ingredients like honey. Some non-vegan ingredients can be concealed as vitamins or E-numbers, so that might require googling. You will come to know intuitively what is vegan and what is not eventually, but it’s always good to check just in case.
7. Use recipes
Don’t just dive into cooking head first without so much as glancing at a vegan recipe. Generally, throwing a bunch of ingredients in a pan won’t just magically turn into a masterpiece. You don’t have to seek out fancy meal ideas but having some general guidance is good for anyone, but especially for someone trying out a new diet. I like the “Thug Kitchen” range of recipe books, but there are all sorts of vegan recipe books out there. You can find recipes in vegan magazines like Vegan Life, or check out recipes on google, or Pinterest, for free.
8. Be proud
Please don’t be embarrassed to use the V word. Being vegan is not something to be embarrassed about. Lots of people choose to be vegan, particularly over the past few years, and it’s your right to choose. You might get some critical comments or jokes directed your way but a light hearted response and then a subject-change is usually your best bet, unless you like the debate. If that’s the case, get reading! Know your stuff.
9. Stay strong
If you have been eating meat and/or animal products all of your life, you are probably going to struggle without them at times. Whether it is mentally or physically, you are used to consuming products of that nature and so the change might seem weird. You might find yourself missing certain things. But stay strong and keep going. You may find that your appetite changes after a few days, and the more you educate yourself, the less appealing animal products will be.
10. Keep an open mind
Having a positive attitude is the key to achieving your goals. You can’t expect to succeed if you enter a challenge with a bad attitude and maintain it throughout. Being vegan is often thought of as a sacrifice, or “going without”, but it is actually a highly rewarding and interesting lifestyle. As the days pass by, more and more people become vegan and more and more businesses get on board with the lifestyle, releasing new products every day. Make the experience a good one.
Images – authors own.