Look: I’m a vegetarian and I like to cook, so I know full well that cutting out eggs and dairy doesn’t mean cutting out quality or flavour in your food. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious about going vegan for a month because of the cost. I’m both cash- and time-poor, so I was anticipating really feeling the hole my usual quick and dirty meals would leave in my life.
So what can’t I eat that I ate before?
I can no longer lean on Quorn meat replacements as a quick bulker-upper for pasta sauces and curries, as most of them contain egg. This means I actually have to put some thought into what to stick in the dish—what vegetables are in the fridge and freezer? What flavour combination will go best?—and there’s necessarily that little bit more prep time.
Although the gods of meatlessness were kind enough to give us Linda McCartney and her vegan fake meat products, they are that noticeably bit more expensive, and buying them regularly while on a budget would be unsustainable in the long term.
However! Tesco’s own cheapo soy protein mince is also vegan, and much more possible to stretch to occasionally.
As a result of going to work every weekday with a packed lunch, when I’m at home I’m disinclined to make sandwiches for lunch. Normally on the weekend I’d treat myself to scrambled eggs or cheese on toast. (Transatlantic translation note: cheese on toast is something akin to your grilled cheese. Toast some slices of bread; slice some cheese; put cheese on toast; sprinkle with soy or worcester sauce; stick under grill until cheese all melty and delicious.)
So what have I been eating instead?
Well, uh. Frequently, packet noodles with the sachet substituted for Maggi liquid seasoning and curry powder, if you want the ugly truth.
Occasionally I get creative with some of the junk I have in the back of the fridge: pickled gherkins, jalapenos, sriracha sauce etc. But it’s not exactly satisfying.
The trick here, once again, is preparation. The past couple of weekends I’ve broken out my enormous slow cooker to make a job lot of some lovely vegetable soup concoction, and while it’s easy and also delicious, you do need to possess an iota of foresight to have done it before you need to eat it.
I haven’t eaten chocolate in almost a month. This is remarkable for me. While I can’t truthfully say I haven’t missed it, I also haven’t gone wanting on the sweet and savoury snacks front.
When it comes to snacking, I was surprised to learn the sheer amount of cheap stuff that’s incidentally vegan. Bonus effect: I got to feel like I was back on the playground in primary school, eating bacon-flavour Wheat Crunchies and Party Rings!
I was also glad to discover that the hands-down, no arguments, best biscuit of all time—ginger nuts—is pretty much always vegan. You can buy a packet of Tesco Everyday Value ginger nuts for 25p, and that’s damn good value for biscuits nowadays. (I’m not plugging Tesco, honest. But they are cheap.)
Ultimately, I haven’t found becoming vegan on my shoestring budget a massive upheaval, but only a minor inconvenience due to my underpreparedness. But that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to scrambled eggs on December 1st.