When the lure of lentils doesn’t stop you being seduced by steak, how can you make a difference?
by Sarah ▪ 02 Feb, 2021

Life after Veganuary

Veganuary is officially over for 2021 – and congratulations to everyone who gave it a go! For many people, the choice to try a plant-based diet is based on long-term goals and long-held principles. Health, morals and activism are all great motivators but, even so, some of us find following a vegan lifestyle harder than others. Yes, by some of us, I mean me. I want to eat more sustainably for the good of the planet and future generations, I don’t want to be culpable in the suffering of animals, and I am keen to optimise my physical health. But the truth is, I don’t find it easy or practical to cut out meat entirely – and, honestly, I’m not sure I want to. I really, really like cheese, for one thing!

It’s easy to feel a bit of a hypocrite if your lifestyle doesn’t live up to your lofty ideas. I know I often do. But there are easy ways to make changes to your diet that make a difference, even if becoming vegan or vegetarian isn’t practicable for whatever reason. This post is for you if you tried Veganuary and kept slipping up, or simply realised it wasn’t your forever lifestyle, but you still want more plant-based eating in your everyday life. I’ll be sharing some tips that have helped me incorporate vegetarian and plant-based meals into my previously pretty carnivorous diet – hopefully you’ll find some habits that will be easy for you to adopt, too.

Meat-free Mondays

Many of us grew up with the understanding that a meal was composed of meat and two veg – and the meat was very much the star of the show. So it’s natural that after a busy day of work or wrangling kids, our frazzled minds revert back to our meaty staples – which, for most of us, is fewer than ten go-to recipes. Meat-free Mondays is an organisation which promotes the idea of having one meat-free day a week (it doesn’t have to be a Monday!).
If you aspire to a meat-free lifestyle, a small but concrete goal like this, which can be planned for, is a great way to start. Their site offers some fantastic recipes to get you started, along with plenty of their own tips. Their black bean, carrot and sweetcorn burgers are simple and delicious, while this recipe for creamy spinach ravioli would be great for a special occasion.
What’s great about setting aside one day a week is being able to calculate the difference you’re making to animals and the planet. If you’re a family of four who go meat-free one day a week for two years, for instance, you’ll create nearly 5000m² of marine reserve, save nearly 12 tennis courts’ worth of forest and feed 15 hungry people, among other impressive stats. It’s heartening to know that even baby steps count. There’s your motivation, right there!

Meal planning

Part of my Sunday evening is set aside for planning my next week’s meals. This way, I can plan to use leftovers and don’t end up wasting food. It also means I can consciously think about how to ensure I get two or three meat-free days – and sometimes a wholly plant-based one – each weel.

Spend more

One way to reduce both your meat intake and your impact on the environment is to think carefully about where you’re buying from. Farm shops often stock organic meat sourced from local farms with verifiable welfare standards, and there will be fewer associated transport emissions and the like. For these reasons, the meat is dearer, which means you’re more likely to save it for special meals.

Just leave it out

Even if you don’t have the energy to keep trying new recipes, there are plenty of ways to remove meat from existing favourites. Take the chicken or bacon out of your pasta dish, and replace it with more veggies, a meat alternative or halloumi. Italian and Asian cuisines, in particular, have hundreds of fabulous – and simple – veggie sauces to try. Veggie pizzas can be just as delicious as their meaty cousins – my favourite is goat’s cheese and caramelised onion chutney.

If you buy pre-made lunches, nothing could be simpler than switching your BLT for a ploughman’s baguette or egg and cress sandwich, or picking carrot and coriander instead of chicken soup.

Batch it up

Batch cooking is a fantastic time saver, and means that you only need to defrost a portion of delicious homemade grub for a quick veggie dinner. Check out our tips here. Our vegan chilli could easily be doubled up and frozen for use in this way.

Look for inspo

In our earlier Veganuary post we shared just a few popular plant-based bloggers – and they’re the tip of the iceberg. Whether you prefer Insta, YouTube videos or a recipe book, there is a plethora of inspiration out there. Our sister company, EAT.PLNT, publishes regular interviews detailing how different individuals have made the transition to plant-based eating, and they almost always have great recommendations.

On the book front, you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes, budget and timescales – from classic works such as the Cranks Recipe Book published in 1985 to more modern works such as Meera Sodha’s East: 120 Easy and Delicious Asian-inspired Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes and books by Joe Wicks and Jamie Oliver.

One-pot cooking and pre-prepped meals

One thing that has really helped me, as a single working mother, is using a recipe box service. There are lots of these available – some specifically vegan or vegetarian, some not. But the ingredients arrive prepped in the correct amounts, removing wastage and faff time in the kitchen. Not only that, but you get to try things you wouldn’t perhaps think of otherwise. Because I’m trying to cut down on my meat consumption, I always try to include at least one veggie or plant-based meal.

Recipe box services aren’t for everyone – and I don’t use one all the time. But they have helped me to keep cooking when I’m busy, tired or uninspired. And they’ve also got me into one-pot cooking, which is a life-hack I wish I’d discovered earlier in life. Chopping up veggies and chucking them in a dish with sauce ingredients and rice, pasta, potatoes or couscous for the oven or slow-cooker to transform into a delicious meal is immensely satisfying, and I find I’m more likely to cook a new meal if it isn’t labour intensive. Try these recipes to get you started.

Cheat nights

Of course, even with all the batch cooking and one-pot recipes in the world, sometimes there’s just not the time, energy or will to cook. That’s where Gourmade – and our sister company, EAT.PLNT – come into their own. Having a few delicious meals ready in the freezer for an lazy evening in can keep you on track even when life throws one more curveball than you can cope with. Stock up on some of Gourmade’s fantastic veggie meals (I recommend the Butternut Squash Lasagne) or one of our vegan range EAT.PLNT – I love the Thai Green Vegetable Curry. You could even have veggie sausages or burgers with an indulgent side or two – Potato Dauphinoise has to be the top choice here.

I’m still not ready to renounce meat entirely (especially with meals like Lamb Tagine around) but these techniques have helped me cut down considerably, so that I feel I’m eating more sustainably. It also makes me more confident that I will be able to reduce my consumption further over time. Hopefully these ideas will have you feeling excited about your next veggie adventures, too.