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Veganism: It’s not just about food – by Ben Martin

DSC06456Throughout the Great Vegan University Challenge, we’ve largely focussed on the vegan diet. That’s because, for one thing, farming animals is the single biggest cause of animal cruelty in the UK. Almost one billion land animals are killed for food in the UK every year – plus a huge but unknown number of sea creatures – and as our undercover investigations into farms and slaughterhouses have shown, suffering is rife in the industry. Also, for many people, changing their diet is the greatest hurdle to overcome. What we eat is bound up with our culture, our traditions, the way we socialise and so many other aspects of our lives that changing our diet can seem very daunting. But I hope that through the Great Vegan University Challenge, we’ve shown you that being vegan is not only easy, but can be a joy!

Sadly, animal exploitation is not just limited to food, of course. Being vegan also means questioning the clothes we wear, the hair and skin care products we use, and so much more. It’s about developing a thoughtful approach to the world around us and our place in it. And it invites everyone to share and to encourage the rejection of cruelty and exploitation in all its forms wherever possible. So, if you’re considering remaining vegan when the challenge ends – and we sincerely hope you will – here’s some advice on ways you can further eliminate animal products from your life.

Toiletries and make-up

faith 6One of the most obvious non-food items for which cruelty-free alternatives are easy to obtain is skincare products. In addition to specialist companies such as Faith in Nature and Honesty Cosmetics, several leading high street companies also sell vegan beauty products. Very helpfully, Superdrug and Co-op label which of their goods contain animal products, and almost all are not tested on animals. A special mention must also go to Lush, who not only oppose all animal testing and have a wonderful range of vegan products in their shops, but also lend their support to groups like Animal Aid who work to end all animal cruelty.

For make-up, Superdrug’s own ‘B’ range is vegan and non-animal tested. Beauty Without Cruelty is also completely vegan and many of their products are available from the Animal Aid online shop.

Cleaning products

astonish4Most household cleaning products are tested on animals, but the Co-op and Marks & Spencer lead the big retailers in marketing items that are not. Specialist cruelty-free companies include Faith in Nature, Bio D, and Suma, but for a low-cost option, you can often find the Astonish range in discount shops like Poundland and The 99p Store.

Clothes and shoes

As students, you’re unlikely to be in a position to throw out all your leather bags, suede shoes, woolly jumpers and silk shirts, and we don’t expect you to. But what if they wear out, or you simply need to buy new clothes and shoes? Fortunately, with clothing it’s pretty easy. There are plenty of fashionable items made from cotton, hemp, linen and other plant-based fibres, as well as synthetic materials, so avoiding leather, wool and silk shouldn’t be a problem.

Shoes can be more of a challenge, but there are still plenty of options out there. Discount retailers like Shoe Zone often sell shoes that are made from 100% man-made materials, making them suitable for vegans. There is also a range of specialist websites where you can order vegan shoes of all styles, including:

AAAADANZkXIAAAAAAVjidwAnimal Aid Shop
Ethical Wares
Freerangers
Veganline
Vegan Store
Vegetarian Shoes
Eco Vegan Shoes
Wills Vegan Shoes
Bourgeois Boheme
Beyond Skin

And finally…

Whether you’ve decided to remain vegan or not, thank you so much for taking part in the Great Vegan University Challenge; your participation has made a huge difference for countless farmed animals. For those of you who decide that they can’t commit themselves totally to veganism, we hope that you’ve found the experience interesting, enlightening, even fun, and will, perhaps, depend far less on meat and dairy in the future. For those who do want to stay vegan, thank you and please remember that we’ll still be available at all times to answer all your queries.

Pound-a-day veganism: Day five – by Ben Martin

Well, it’s the final day of feeding ourselves for a pound a day. Whilst the last few days have been better than expected, I have to say I’m looking forward to being able to have some goodies tomorrow at Brighton Vegfest. Yaaaay!

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Last night saw a return of the vegetable and bean stew that we made on the first day, in order to use up the last tin of tomatoes. Having finished off the swede in the soup earlier in the week, we replaced it with some of the red cabbage instead and added a stock cube to make it a little more interesting. After making porridge for breakfast with what remained of the oats, this is what we have left for this evening…

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So, the plan to use as much up as possible is this; we make a simple satay sauce with some of the peanut butter and a bit of vegetable stock and serve it up with the rest of the rice and vegetables. That still leaves us with some of the peanut butter, margarine and jam, plus a couple of stock cubes and the banana. So, for once, we’re going to have some dessert! We’ve popped the banana in the freezer and the plan is to whizz it up in a food processor with the remaining peanut butter and jam to make some basic ice cream. I’ll let you know how that goes… Once we’ve done that, all that will be left of our food is a little bit of unused margarine and a couple of stock cubes, which I’m sure we’ll use up at some point. So, nothing really wasted.

Some final thoughts…

A few people have contacted me and said that they wouldn’t have done this challenge the way we did, with suggestions that white rice and margarine aren’t exactly the healthiest options, and they may have a point. But it’s important to remember that there are many ways of doing this – I never intended this to be a guide as to how other people should live cheaply, but simply how we did it. Hopefully our attempt will inspire others to do it in other ways that might be better, or simply give people a few tips on how to live more economically as vegans – both would be fantastic outcomes.

But one thing I have learned is that it is stressful living this way and I have the greatest sympathy for people who have no choice but to do so. Having to make difficult choices over even the most simple things when shopping, or experiencing the anguish of finding out that basic staples that you rely on are unavailable, is not something I wish to repeat. And, whilst everything went smoothly for us, both me and my partner were contstantly worrying about dropping, burning or otherwise ruining food. One simple slip and we’d have gone to bed hungry.

Whilst we were able to meet almost all of our nutritional needs this week, this is not a way of living I would recommend. Nor should this be used as a template for cheap vegan living necessarily, but I hope it demonstrates some of the principles behind living more economically and dispels the myth that veganism is expensive, because it needn’t be. With just a few simple additions, such as buying seeds, nuts and a more varied array of vegetables, we could have acquired all the nutrients we needed and added some much welcome variety to our diet. We don’t need dairy-free cheese, or vegan burgers or any of the other expensive, processed, plant-based products that are available. Those things are nice occasionally, but with some creativity, we can create tasty and nutritious vegan meals without them, and save a whole lot of money in the process.

Wondering what this is all about? Check out our progress over days one, two, three and four.

Pound-a-day veganism: Day four – by Ben Martin

The end is in sight now and whilst using more or less the same ingredients every day has been a little bit boring, things have been easier and more varied than expected.

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Last night we whipped up a basic risotto with 300g of the rice, along with a couple of the carrots, an onion, some of the margarine, two stock cubes, yet more kidney beans, and a quarter of the cabbage, which ended up giving the whole thing a slightly odd purple tinge (as you can see). But appearance aside, it made for a wholesome and filing evening meal and should be pretty good for lunch today too. The addition of some nutritonal yeast flakes or some of my partner’s homemade vegan cheese would have made it that extra bit better, but sadly not this week. It was porridge and jam for breakfast again, along with the usual cup of tea. As with most of our meals this week, it’s basic, but does the job.

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A few days ago I posted a series of links to websites and blogs with cheap vegan recipes, but it’s not always about what food you buy; sometimes how and where you get it that can help to save money too. Here are a few simple tips for saving money on your food bills…

Go to the supermarket at the end of the day – after about 5pm most will usually have surplus fresh produce like fruit, vegetables and bread at reduced prices. This can be a bit hit-and-miss, as you never know what they’ll have or how much, but you can often find some real bargains.

0583c12e393740fc92da9dcb43eee85bGrow your own – Even if all you have is a small window sill, you can still grow fresh herbs or micro-salad leaves. You can even make your own pots out of juice cartons to save yet more money. If you’ve got a bit more space, you could grow tomatoes on a patio or balcony, and some universities have allotments or community food gardens, so look into that if you fancy lending a hand in exchange for some free veg.

Shop around – different shops have deals and offers on different products, so it might be worth your while to go to a few if you can. Aldi and Lidl, for example, often have very cheap fresh veg, but tend to be a bit rubbish on things like soya milk and margarine; you’ll have more luck in Asda for things like that. Independent green grocers and market stalls can also be a source of bargains, so give these a go if there’s one near you.

Bulk buy – why not club together with a few friends to take advantage of multi-buy deals and the discounts on larger packs? Just divide the cost and the goods between you.

Make soup – Instead of wasting vegetables by leaving them to go bad, chuck any surplus you have in a big pan with some vegetable stock and boil it up to make soup. If you can’t use it right away, put it in some tupperware and stick it in the freezer for an emergency.

Learn to forage – For the ultimate in free food, get out and about with a decent foraging guide and pick some wild fruit and greens. Even if you’re scared of eating something poisonous, there’s plenty of easy-to-identify plants that are edible, including nettles, dandelions and blackberries. For vegan wild food recipes, check out The Vegan Forager.

See how we fared on days one, two and three and check back for our final post tomorrow…

Pound-a-day veganism: Day three – by Ben Martin

Day three and, despite predictions from some quarters, we haven’t faded away and nor are we gnawing on the furniture, but I’ve certainly been hungrier today, possibly due to the cold weather.

In an effort to use up the last of the bread before it’s ‘best before’ date, last night we had soup made with one of the onions, two of the carrots, what remained of the swede, two stock cubes, a dollop of peanut butter and, yes you’ve guessed it, 100g of kidney beans! Putting the beans on to soak each night for the following day has become almost a ritual, with the consequences of not doing so being akin to the end of days.

I had expected the soup to be a little on the thin side, but the peanut butter seemed to thicken it quite a lot and it was surprisingly rich and creamy. As with the stew we made on the first day, we kept back half for lunch today, which we had with the last few slices of bread. With the potatoes also gone, our main sources of carbs will be oats and rice from here on in. In fact it was oats for breakfast this morning, with the return of porride and jam.

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When I bought the supplies for this challenge, I had a vague plan for getting a mixture of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, but I didn’t really check the figures or anything. I made sure we had grains, beans, nuts, margerine, veg, etc, but that was about as far as it went. So, out of curiosity, I sat down last night and tallied up how our purchases compared to the recommended daily intake for a number of key nutrients.

Calories – By adding up the calorie content of all of our food items and dividing it by ten, I worked out that if we ate everything we had bought, we would average about 1,600 calories each per day. According to the NHS, adults should be eating about 2,000 calories per day, so we are a little short of that, which is disappointing, but not so much as to cause concern.

Protein – I thought this was always going to be a bit of an issue, and with protein sources (beans, peanut butter, soya milk, etc) making up the biggest chunk of our spending, it’s easy to see why. But, according to my calculations, we should take in about 48g of protein each per day, which is almost exactly what the NHS recommends! Plus, with a mixture of grains, beans and nuts on our list, we should have all the key amino acids covered.

Fat – The margarine and peanut butter are obviously our key fat sources, but there’s some in almost everything else on our list. Our average daily fat intake is about 57g, which – like our calorie intake – is about 20% short of what we ought to be getting. Again, not ideal, but shouldn’t do us any harm in the short term. The only thing we’re really lacking is omega-3.

Vitamin B12 – This one came as a big surprise. I had expected our B12 intake, which can often be a bit short in vegan diets, to be virtually nil. But thanks to our soya milk and margarine being fortified, our average daily intake comes out at 4.5 mcg each per day – around twice the recommended minimum amount!

Other vitamins and minerals – This was always going to be a bit hit and miss, depending on what veg we could get, but from what I can tell, we have most bases covered, to some extent at least. Thanks to our carrots, we’re taking in more vitamin A than we need, and the red cabbage, potatoes and onions should mean we’re fine for vitamin C too. Our kidney beans are a good source or iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc, and the soya milk is fortified with calcium and vitamin D. The peanut butter should provide us with several key B vitamins, not to mention magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc; and even our cheap bread has some vitamins and minerals too.

Whilst this is rather a rough guide, it at least shows that we didn’t do too badly, all things considered.

Be sure to check out days one and two and come back for more tomorrow…

Pound-a-day veganism: Day one – by Ben Martin

When we started promoting the Great Vegan University Challenge, one of the things I said about it was that it was cheap. There was quite a lot of skepticism about this claim, and even during the challenge itself I have been contacted by participants who are frustrated about the higher price of soya milk and other vegan products. But, I stand by my claim and this week I am, ahem, putting my money where my mouth is.

In an effort to prove just how cheaply you can live as a vegan, my partner and I will be feeding ourselves for just one pound each per day for the next five days. The rules we’ve set ourselves are pretty simple – everything we eat and drink must be bought from a genuine retailer (shop, supermarket, market stall, etc), and the total spend for both of us for the next five days must not exceed £10. Items that are reduced or on special offer are fine, but we can’t accept freebies, use veg from our garden, forage or have people buy things on our behalf and sell them to us for less than the cost price. The only thing that we can accept as ‘free’ is water.

Now, this isn’t an original idea. It’s the same basic concept behind Live Below The Line, and a woman in America did a similar challenge over there a few years ago to highlight how cheaply you can live as a vegan. But I felt it was important to prove that veganism needn’t be expensive and that even people on a tight budget – like students – can do it and even save money.

So, on Friday evening we went to our regular supermarket to buy provisions for the week ahead, and this is what we bought for the grand sum of £9.10:

WP_20160219_19_54_50_ProTwo litres soya milk (£1.18)
500g porridge oats (65p)
1kg rice (40p)
500g dried kidney beans (£1.15)
1kg carrots (47p)
5 onions (56p)
1 red cabbage (60p)
2 tins chopped tomatoes (62p)
1 jar strawberry jam (29p)
1 jar peanut butter (62p)
2 jacket potatoes (69p)
1/2 small swede (37p)
1 box teabags (50p)
500g dairy-free margarine (£1.00)

I have to confess that this was a fairly stressful shopping trip – trying to decide between a pot of chilli powder and a cabbage was a fairly low point (I went for nutrition over flavour) – and I had hoped to get a bit more for our money, but sadly, some the cheapest veg had sold out before we got there. But I still think we did pretty well given our tight budget. However, there was no cheap bread or stock cubes left, so I decided to nip out before work this morning to grab these essentials and anything else that I could get with the remaining 90p we had left. As it happens, I was able to get:

800g wholemeal loaf (40p)
Pack of 10 vegetable stock cubes (30p)
1 banana (18p)

So the grand total for both of us for the week comes to… £9.98

We started today with porridge, which is something we have quite regularly anyway. My partner cooked up 125g of the oats with 250ml of soya milk and 500ml of water and we dished it up with a dollop of jam on top, as well as a cup of tea with a little soya milk (as we’re both caffeine addicts, this was pretty essential). From the ingredients we used, I’d estimate that the cost of our first meal came to less than 20p each, which put us off to a good start, and it actually made a pretty decent breakfast. Whilst the jam was a little lacking in flavour, it left me with some hope that the next few days aren’t going to be as miserable as I’d feared.

We’d prepared our lunch last night by dicing one of the onions, frying it in a little margarine, and adding in 2 diced carrots and about half the swede (also diced). We added in one of the tins of tomatoes, plus 100g of the kidney beans, which we’d soaked the previous night and boiled separately. What we ended up with was a basic, but reasonably filling vegetable and bean stew, which we served with rice, keeping half back for tomorrow. Again, this turned out to be pretty reasonable and much more tasty than I was expecting. You can see a photo of it below.

Please check back for daily updates throughout the week to see how we’re getting on and for tips on how to be vegan on a budget.

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Vegan Valentine’s – by Ben Martin

What with it’s traditions of eating out, chocolates and other gifts, Valentine’s Day can seem a bit daunting to the new vegan, so here’s our advice for the plant-based romantics out there.

The Date

mexIXlRcnsuop5XNkB-o297jMDZu-7-MLer6P8UG1RsAfUoQCuqYO9McTmsLDUwePMT2=w300Wining and dining your significant other at a local restaurant is a fairly safe option for Valentine’s Day, but how can you ensure there’ll be something you can both eat when one (or both) of you is vegan? One way is to check Happy Cow. This great website lets you know if there are any vegan-friendly eateries in your area and where they are, plus the Happy Cow phone app will even give you directions from your current location.

Another option might be to go for one of the growing number of High Street chains that now offer vegan options on their menu, such as Pizza Express, Wagamama, Las Iguanas and Carluccio’s. You could also call ahead to your favourite independent local restaurant and see if they could do something specially for you. Most chefs are keen to help and enjoy a challenge, if given enough notice. Alternatively, you could opt for cooking a romantic meal for two at home. You can find a selection of possibilities on our recipe pages, but my personal recommendation would be for either the stuffed aubergines with red wine sauce, or shallot, fennel and chestnut casserole, with a chocolate fondue to share for dessert.

Of course, there’s all sorts of ways to spend time with your loved one that don’t involve eating or otherwise exploiting animals. So, why not catch a movie and go for a drink; or wrap up against the February chill and go for a nice, long walk in the countryside? You could even share the love around and do some voluntary work together, perhaps at a local animal sanctuary. Other options include going bowling, doing karaoke, attending a gig, taking a dance class or even joining a vegan chocolate-making workshop. When you put your mind to it, the possibilities are endless…

Gifts

BoojaBoojaNewLGWhen it comes to Valentine’s gifts, it doesn’t get much more traditional than luxurious chocolates. But if you’re looking for something that’s not only vegan, but a little bit special too, you’ll be on safe ground with Booja Booja. These decadent truffles come in a range of flavours – including espresso, banoffee, champagne, rum & raisin, and stem ginger – and can be found in most health food shops, some supermarkets and on the Animal Aid Shop website. Hotel Chocolat also stocks a delicious range of vegan goodies made with both dark chocolate and almond milk chocolate (personally, I prefer the dark ones). Suitable products should be labelled as such in-store, but if you’re unsure you can always check with staff, or visit their website.

LUSH-Fashion-Valley-Mall-900x666But what if your loved one would prefer some pampering? Well, Lush Cosmetics produce a range of wonderful gift sets and individual products, including bath bombs, body butter, lip gloss, bubble bars and much more. Whilst not all vegan, those that are carry the Vegan Society trademark and staff will be able to advise you. Meanwhile, Dolma Perfumes produce cruelty-free fragrances for both men and women that would make a perfect present for that special someone in your life. Once again, these can be ordered from the Animal Aid online shop, along with a range of other toiletries for your special someone.

The Single Vegan

Being single on Valentine’s Day isn’t much fun – I know, I’ve been there – and it can be difficult to meet like-minded people when you’re a vegan. But, fortunately, there are a few events this coming weekend for vegans looking for love:

There are also a range of dating sites that aim to bring single vegans together, which might be worth checking out:

Pancake pandemonium – by Lucy Moore

I absolutely love a challenge. From trekking across the rural Malawian countryside, to flying a glider solo; from jailbreaking from Durham to Amsterdam (and back again!), to working aboard operational Royal Naval ships, I think it’s a fair observation to say I enjoy pushing myself! Taking part in the Great Vegan University Challenge is another experiment I am putting myself through. And even though it’s only been three days, I’m feeling the struggle.

She was not keen

She was not keen

I’m not going to lie, being vegan is hard. My friends have commented on my foolishness, with the standard eye rolling and predictions at how long I’m going to survive (like on the right).

Foods I wouldn’t usually eat on a daily basis I now find myself craving, purely because I can’t have them! For example, the other day I was desperate for pancakes. Needing a guilt food release but still uber keen to stay vegan, I started to search for dairy-free pancake recipes. And oh sweet pancake gods, did I find one. A recipe by The Coconut Diaries saved me from my pit of dairy-free peril.

The problem was, as always happens, on all of these website the photos look stunning. Gooey dripping chocolate melts down the side of a perfectly formed stack of the most luscious pancakes I have ever seen. Already I was on the back foot. How could anything vegan look so good? More importantly, how was cash-stripped, limited-talent-at-cooking me going to make it?

Initially, my fears were correct. As I predicted my mini pancakes were struggling to make it as pancakes, looking more like dog poo in a pan. See my Instagram post.

Mmmmm tasty…..

Mmmmm tasty…..

I was in serious trouble. The pancakes weren’t cooking properly, looking more like poor splatters of brown porridge than the bronzed masterpieces I had dreamt they could be. Losing all hope and about to go down with my poor metaphorical vegan pancake ship, I prayed to the dairy-free deities. I begged them to save the lives of my suffering pancakes, to make them analogous to the life story of the caterpillar and the butterfly.

My prayers were answered! I could not have been more wrong. They turned out FANTASTIC! Okay, they aren’t much to look at (don’t tell them that), but they tasted like the manna of pancake heaven. I had achieved the perfect vegan pancake. I don’t know what happened in between the disastrous brown goo stage and the freaking amazing doughy goodness that sat on my plate at the end of my arduous task. I can only assume that somewhere, some pancake wanted me to do well.

Victory!

Victory!

I am fairly certain one of my housemates thought I was having an aneurism when I was eating these babies. I could not contain myself, there was an explosion of banana and cinnamon flavours that words cannot describe. In all seriousness, these are one of the best variations on the banana pancake recipe I have ever tasted.

In summation, this was an experience I shall not forget. The emotional trauma of almost losing my pancakes was a steep learning curve. However, going vegan has also been incredibly rewarding. I have learned that I don’t need to be dependant on eggs, milk, and meat, no matter how much my body tells me I need them. Going vegan has opened up a whole new avenue of cooking for me. In conclusion, despite my apparent emotional rollercoaster, veganism is pretty cool.

Vegan booze: A quick guide – by Ben Martin

GuinnessA few months ago there was a big splash in the national papers that Guinness was changing. ‘Shock horror’ came the cries, ‘surely they can’t desecrate the sacred black stuff?’ But it wasn’t as bad as all that. Far from it, the folks behind Ireland’s favourite export were simply changing the way they clarify their famous stout.

You see, Guinness is currently cleared using isinglass, a product made from the swim bladders of fish. Whilst this might sound bizarre and rather unlikely, it’s very common in the brewing industry to use this stuff to remove any cloudiness from beers, especially cask ales (i.e. those that are hand-pumped at the bar). In fact all sorts of strange things are used in processing and filtering beers, wines and other drinks, including gelatine, egg whites and the shells of crustaceans. Of course this makes them unsuitable for vegans and, in some cases, vegetarians too. But don’t panic, its not all bad news.

Whilst it’s not there yet, Guinness is in the process of switching to a filtration system that doesn’t use isinglass, meaning it will soon be on the SFV (safe for vegans) list. But many others are already there. In terms of major brands, here’s a quick rundown of just some that are SFV:

Smaller breweries like Pitfield are leading the way with vegan beer-making

Smaller breweries like Pitfield are leading the way with vegan beer-making

Beer and Lager

  • Carlsberg
  • Kronenbourg 1664
  • San Miguel
  • Heineken
  • Stella Artois
  • Budweiser
  • Samuel Smith’s
  • Sierra Nevada

Wine

  • Oxford Landing
  • Sainsbury’s and Co-op own-brand (check labels)
  • Many more are available – see below

Cider

  • Westons
  • Stowford Press
  • Aspall
  • Thatchers

Spirits

Most are fine, but watch out for honey, as well as cream liqueurs.

barnivoreportfolioOf course this barely scrapes the surface and there’s much more vegan booze to be had out there, with micro-breweries and other small outfits leading the way. If you want to see what else is available, or check if your favourite tipple is vegan-friendly, visit Barnivore, which is pretty comprehensive. You can also download apps for most phone types, so that you can quickly check what’s okay and what isn’t when you’re at the bar or in the supermarket. And if you’d like to try a selection of fine beers safe in the knowledge that they are animal-free, you might want to get yourself along to one of the growing number of vegan beer festivals, like the one taking place in Brighton later this month.

Vegan challenge: how and why? – by Katrina Miles

image1I’m a 20 year old student at the University of Liverpool and I’m about to attempt the Great Vegan University Challenge. For any meat lovers or vegetarian haters, I understand your hesitance because I was one of you.

I used to be a big meat eater; juicy burgers, bacon, rare rump steak, fajitas, roast dinners… But, about a year ago, I opted to eliminate meat from my diet after my eyes were opened to the harm it causes to our planet, our bodies and the animals reared for food. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t pain free – it was tough and I still experience food envy in restaurants. Yet, I don’t regret my decision.

Until this month I still ate fish; slightly hypocritical given my stance on wanting to protect the environment and eat sustainably, but it was a step in the right direction. But now, with the help of The Great Vegan University Challenge, I am going to take a huge jump to fully fledged veganism.

My switch to a meat-free diet has raised eyebrows and I don’t blame people for their scepticism, but it’s become something I’m really passionate about. And for those willing to listen – and once I’ve had a glass of wine (or six), even those who aren’t – I love to explain my reasons for making such a big lifestyle change.

So, I feel as if this post would be slightly redundant if I didn’t at least summarise my reasons. This is my seven-point summary for why we should all eat less meat:

HEALTH
1. It’s bad for your health; a vegetarian diet appears to lower cancer risks and to reduce cholesterol, meaning less risk of heart disease.
2. According to the FDA, poultry is the number one source of food-borne illness.
3. Meat contains a cocktail of pesticides and other chemicals up to 14 times more concentrated than those in plant foods.

DSC06486ENVIRONMENT
4. The majority of grain production in the US is used to feed farm animals. The grains and soybeans fed to animals to produce the amount of meat consumed by the average American in 1 year could feed 7 people for the same period.
5. The water used to raise animals for food is more than half the water used in the US.

ANIMAL RIGHTS
6. Animals reared for food are subjected to cramped ammonia-filled conditions, constant cycles of drugs, artificial lighting, physical pain and much worse.

GREED
7. We don’t eat meat because we need it to survive, we eat it because we want to. We are subjecting animals to torture, damaging the environment and subjecting ourselves to greater risk of disease just to satisfy desire.

These facts and figures have been drawn from a number of different online resources, but a quick google will produce endless results showing the harms of eating meat; so if you think you can handle it, check it out!

Now, it’s one thing to understand that something is bad, but another to do something about it. Many people will continue to smoke despite the undeniable health risks, but just a small change here could make a fundamental difference. If everyone halved their meat consumption the changes would be monumental.

image2But why go vegan? Unfortunately, just because an animal isn’t reared for meat doesn’t mean it’s life will be pain free. In fact, cows reared for dairy are subjected to worse conditions than those reared only for meat. Dairy cows are constantly impregnated in order to produce the largest quantities of milk; they are milked until, and beyond, the point of bleeding and blistering until they’re tired exhausted and unable to stand. Then they are removed and killed for meat. A substantially shortened life filled with pain and suffering. That’s why veganism isn’t a crazy fad for hippies. It’s morally right.

I know the words ‘tofu’ and ‘soya’ bring fear to many. And yes, in its natural form it is a bland product, but it’s a blank canvas to create culinary masterpieces. My cooking skills have increased tenfold as a result of my diet change because I’ve constantly been experimenting with flavours. I can throw together a tasty stir fry in under 10 minutes with just a handful of ingredients.

So here begins my month, and maybe more of a vegan lifestyle!

Advice for vegan students part 2: Cooking and snacking – by Vita Sleigh

11910989_10205825592412105_1488084465_nThis post is about how I enjoy eating, which is usually from basic ingredients of vegetables and pulses. If you like alternative meats, or more ready-meal style food, there are sausages, fake meats, cheeses, pies, and pizzas – Holland & Barrett is a good place to start, as well as independant health food shops.

Cooking

Cooking good food doesn’t have to take a long time – I make most of my meals in under 20 minutes, and some in under 10 minutes. Most things like quinoa and lentils, etc, take around 15 minutes to cook – and in this time you can prepare a vegetable dish to go with it at the same time. My favourite thing about cooking is mixing up all the flavours. Herbs and spices like paprika, curry powder, basil, herbs de provence, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, garlic and lemon are my favourites, and you can keep your food interesting by making different flavour combinations.

11911655_10205825592812115_280328686_nPulses: Usually come in tins, already cooked – so just add to the saucepan at the end to warm through. You can buy dried pulses, which you soak in the morning for an evening meal. Brown lentils and split peas often come dried – it’s not harder to cook but just requires a bit of planning. Red lentils don’t need soaking – to cook these add about three times the amount of boiling water as lentils and leave to simmer. They absorb a lot of water so keep adding it if they are still hard and have run out of water. They should take about 15 minutes to cook.

Tofu: There are lots of different ways to eat tofu. Most people think they dislike it because it doesn’t have a lot of flavour on its own, but you can make great tasting meals from it – it’s all about the flavours you add. You can marinate it in soy sauce and spices, for example, or lemon and balsamic vinegar, before cooking – or add flavours while you cook. Tofu comes packaged in water and needs to be stored in water (a bowl with a small amount of water at the bottom in the fridge is fine) – so before cooking it, dab it with kitchen roll. You can press it quite hard to get all the moisture out.

  • recipe1Scrambled tofu: An alternative to scrambled egg. Crumble the tofu into a saucepan with fried onion, and add spices such as turmeric (makes it go yellow like egg), mixed herbs and black pepper with some soy sauce. This is very quick (once the onion is cooked it is ready). Great with baked sweet potato and greens, or simply served on toast.
  • Baked tofu: Coat in spices (eg. paprika or cumin) and a little oil and bake for around 15-20 minutes. It gives the tofu a nice texture.
  • Fried tofu: Fry in a little oil and spices and garlic and turn a few times to get it crispy. This is good in stir fries – you can also add seeds for extra crunch.

11923305_10205825594572159_576817815_nGrains: I know pasta’s great, but it’s good to get different sources of carbohydrate other than wheat. You cook all of these the same way as rice and pasta – and most take about the same amount of time. These can all be served on the side of a vegetable dish like ratatouille or a stew, or you can stir them in to the meal to give them more flavour.

  • Quinoa – cook in boiling water like rice (about twice the amount of water as quinoa) until soft – it’s ready when there is no little white circle in the middle of the grains. It takes about 15-20 minutes. This grain is really small, and I find it’s nice stirred into stir fries or sauces.
  • Rice – similar, if using brown rice it takes a little longer than white rice (but is more nutritious) – about 20 minutes.
  • Pearl Barley – cook in water as above, this takes about 10-15 minutes. Pearl Barley has a nice texture, and can be used instead of rice in risottos, or added to soup to make it more filling (it’s also really cheap).
  • Cous Cous – this is so quick to make. Just put it in a bowl and pour boiling water over it so that it covers the cous cous by about a centimetre, and cover with a plate. Stir it with a fork after 5 minutes and it’s ready! Great for if you’re in a rush.
  • They’re not grains, but sweet potatoes and potatoes are great for a quick meal also. You can put them in the microwave for a quick baked potato, or make wedges in the oven.

Depending on your budget, you can make being vegan very cheap. Vegetables, tins of beans, lentils, pasta, potatoes and other basics are all very cheap, and you can easily make nutritious meals for under a pound. Whilst products like nuts, tofu and tahini can seem expensive, they are affordable, especially if you buy in bulk. And because the basic diet is so cheap, slightly more expensive products balance out as part of a varied diet.

Of course, if you fancy a quick snack, rather than cooking something from scratch, here are few things to munch.

Accidentally Vegan Snacks

They change their recipes so it’s always worth checking, but these are snacks you wouldn’t expect to be vegan! Most crisps are vegan, and plain chocolate is often vegan. These are examples of ones you wouldn’t expect to be vegan:

  • SONY DSCBourbons
  • Oreos
  • Party rings
  • Fox’s dark chocolate cookies
  • Most bacon rasher flavour crisps
  • Jus-rol ready-made oven bake pain au chocolat, croissants, and cinnamon rolls
  • Lotus biscuits & biscuit spread
  • Some own-brand sweets from supermarkets (some have gelatine, some don’t)

My final piece of advice is… enjoy it! By trying this out you’re doing a great thing for yourself, for animals and for your carbon footprint. Be proud of that – and enjoy trying new foods!