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By Milan Perera, Second Year, English Literature

As January comes to a close, let's take a moment to reflect on a month of veganism which many people (610,000) have attempted.

What was once looked down upon as a fad movement has become mainstream, a necessity in a bid to reverse the climate crisis. Veganism as both a philosophy and a lifestyle is winning over new followers with every passing year. According to the Independent, the number of people trying Veganuary (going vegan for the month of January) hit an all-time high in the UK with 610, 000 participants. So, to see what all the fuss was about I too gave Veganuary a try, albeit with varying degrees of success!

The moral and ethical ramifications of switching from meat based diets to plant based diets cannot be overemphasised. We as a society are becoming increasingly aware of the hidden misery animals are subjected to in order to source meat and other animal products for our consumption. Although its benefits are undoubtable, veganism also comes with some notable deterrents such as cost and lack of flavour.

Personally, I did not find it too hard to ditch meat as I have been gradually phasing it out over few months although I did experience the occasional hankering for a bacon sandwich! Vegan foods need not be bland or boring and can be a really cheap way of eating if you know how – here are some tips I picked up during Veganuary that won’t cost you the earth:

  1. Invest in some different spices which will enhance your newly discovered meals to another level. Think cumin, sumac, garam masala, nutmeg or a bbq spice mix.
  2. Don’t be afraid to use herbs! They can be a great way to freshen up and meal and add some extra flavours, they can also be bought in most supermarkets pre-chopped and frozen making it even easier to add them to curries and pasta sauces. Parsley, coriander, basil and dill will cover most bases.
  3. Be thrifty and get stock up on canned goods such as beans, lentils, coconut milk and chopped tomatoes so you can quickly throw together a delicious and filling meal.
  4. Batch cooking is your new best friend. Cook up more than you need, divide it into tupperware, keep some for your lunch tomorrow and put the rest in the freezer for a day when you can’t be bothered to cook.

Meat Substitutions:

These aren’t always necessary as legumes, tofu and seitan can go a long way, but when you’re craving something a bit more ‘meaty’ then there are plenty of fake meat substitutes to choose from and can be bought from most supermarkets now. ‘Chorizo’ sausages, burgers, ‘chicken’ kebab meat, mince, koftas and even breaded ‘fish’ fillets, the possibilities are endless and some are so convincing that you would never know it isn’t really meat!

One of my go-to meals was a butter bean stew, which was the perfect winter warmer and it could not be easier. Just add tinned tomatoes, tinned butter beans and fried ‘chorizo’ sausages to a pan of already sizzling onion, add a dash of red wine and leave to simmer on a medium heat until the stew thickens, serve with some crusty bread!

Source Cafe Salad Bowl The Croft / Milan Perera

Sometimes when I didn’t feel like cooking lunch, I would treat myself to a salad bowl from Source Café on university campus which tastes as good as it looks.

I thought my biggest challenge in Veganuary would be hot chocolate as it requires milk but there are great milk alternatives such as oat, soya and almond which added new tastes to my favourite drink which I really enjoyed and I even treated myself to a velvetiser which took my hot chocolates to another level of smoothness – the perfect accompaniment for bedtime reading!

Although my Veganuary experience wasn’t completely faultless, I was nevertheless amazed by the new possibilities of preparing delicious dishes outside of my comfort zone, and knowing I was helping both the planet and animal welfare might just be the incentive to continue eating this way in the future.

Featured image: Milan Perera

Why not try a vegan Feb if you missed the boat on Veganuary? Every little helps.