Think of it like a trial shift. I tried a vegan diet for a week, to see if I was fit for the job. What I found out was that what I had thought would be so difficult was actually incredibly fine. One thing did help me though - my kitchen.
The first time I tried a plant-based diet, I had very limited access to cooking facilities. I couldn’t cook dinner and I couldn’t prepare meals for the next day. I know now that one of the things that makes eating a vegan diet so much easier is being able to cook for yourself. Before, ready-made food and takeaways were a challenge, expensive and hard to be sure what actually goes into your food. This time around, I had full access to cooking equipment, which helped massively, and allowed me to experiment with all kinds of new, interesting AND healthy meals.
At the beginning of the week, I headed to Aldi to stock up on cheap vegetables, salad leaves and sweet potatoes. I just chose whichever my favourites were, without really having any idea where I would use them. Having these in the fridge definitely steered me in a healthier direction with my dinners (oh the temptation to live off entirely bread...). If I was stuck for what to have for dinner I could just search 'asparagus recipes', for example, into google to work with what I got.
During my vegan week, my housemates even got on board and went veggie with me! We cooked together, making every dinner cheaper and easier.
Here are some meals we made as a group, and ones I made on my own, for some inspiration on exactly how easy it can be to eat great food for cheap as a vegan...
Thai green curry
We added sweet peppers, tofu, mange tout, tenderstem broccoli as the bulk of the dish, and ate it with basmati rice. This was great as a meal for lots of people, and you can pick and choose your favourite veg to throw into the mix.
Something I have made many times before which is easy, cheap, and inherently vegan. It's also a major comfort food, so a definite recommendation.
Spaghetti aglio e olio
Sounds complex? Nope, aglio e olio just means 'garlic and oil'. This is such an easy dish that a vegan pasta lover can whip up for lunch, dinner... a 3 am snack, you name it. Simply made with olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes and parsley, and your favourite veg can be added to make things a bit more interesting.
Quinoa with cherry tomatoes & asparagus
Plus balsamic vinegar and garlic. This was a super healthy meal which I made just for myself. I also had the leftovers for lunch the next day but added guac with paprika and lemon juice to make it nicer when cold.
Linda McCartney pulled pork burger
With sweet potato fries, iceberg lettuce and sweet pepper is almost orgasmic, would have loved to make some vegan slaw with some vegan mayo but just stuck with a simple cheap salad.
Vegan pesto pasta
Make your own pesto! We used a pestle and mortar, using toasted pine nuts, basil, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt.
Vegan spaghetti and meatballs
After a decent amount of research online trying to find an appealing vegan meatball recipe, instead of trying to force black beans into balls the way a blender could, we decided to go with a 'hack'. We used defrosted Linda McCartney vegan sausages and rolling them into balls with parsley, then fried them. It was a great no-nonsense solution, and one of my favourite meatball meals I've ever had!
Mushroom and pak choi stir fry
Add rice noodles, loads of veg (whatever your favourites are or whatever is in the fridge from the veg shop) fried with your basic stir fry ingredients - garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil. I stirred in a little cashew butter too and sprinkled some chilli flakes on top.
Pesto tofu, kale and cherry tomatoes salad bowl
This simple recipe really surprised me, the pesto is combined with a little vegetable stock to make a dressing, pour this over your salad and wa la! A hot and filling lunch or dinner, also another potential to keep in the fridge for another day.
Mushroom and aubergine burgers
This was such a great meal. We used a griddle pan to heat the mushrooms, aubergine and burger buns so everything had that cool aesthetic charred look to it, and they tasted amazing. My vegetarian friends added halloumi to theirs, and I have to admit some jealousy. Next time I would consider trying to hunt out a vegan version of halloumi - I've heard the Violife Mediterranean Style Block is pretty decent.
I didn't have a plan, I didn't have a blender and I didn't have any cool special vegan ingredients like nutritional yeast or dairy-free cheese. I am a student and I just had the basics. Though all the things I lacked would have made my vegan life a lot easier, it wasn't difficult to cook cheap, easy, and healthy vegan meals every day.
The restriction that comes with veganism meant we were much more experimental with food too, and it was sick to cook with my friends, making dinners that were just as tasty, filling and varied as our normal diets, probably even more so!