So you’ve decided to try your hand at #VEGANUARY, huh? And it’s been a week and the appeal has begun to wear off?
Well HERE’S YA GURL to try and help you breeze through the next three weeks! As a full disclaimer, I fall more into the “reducetarian” camp, meaning YES, I still eat (and use) animal products, but those instances are becoming fewer and farther between. (Like I’d guess I eat 90% vegan each month, if that gives you a better idea.) And this month isn’t necessarily about going cold turkey (MEAT PUN AND I DON’T REGRET IT) forever, anyway – it’s mainly about seeing that we eat WAY too many animal products, and we don’t really NEED them, for the most part. Which brings me to the first and (I think) most important tip:
YOU MIGHT SLIP UP, AND THAT’S OKAY
Yes, there are certainly militant vegans who would disagree with me on this tip, but listen – the fact that you’re doing Veganuary at all shows that some part of you probably has the desire to consume less animal products for some reason or another, and that in itself is great! Building up your consciousness about the ways in which veganism is good for your health, for animal welfare, for the environment, etc. is, in my opinion, one of the main things that will make going vegan (or at least reducing your animal product consumption) seem like second-nature in the long term. (And that’s what we care about.) That being said, it’s taken me YEARS to shift my mindset to the point where I almost always opt for a vegan option over even a vegetarian one. (And in case you were wondering, the benefits I’ve personally experienced have been better skin, better sleep, more even-keeled emotional situation, more energy, etc.) That’s not to say some people can’t make the shift overnight, but you should be prepared to make mistakes on your journey. And when those things happen, it’s not the end of the world, I swear! Forgiving yourself is essential to avoid burnout or even resentment, so in those situations where you do mess up (accidentally or not), just take a deep breath, keep calm, and try to do the best you can next time.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT JUST LEAVES
Let me rephrase that – you don’t have to eat just leaves if just leaves are not your favorite food. (If they are, though, then good for you! Go for it!) I think veganism has come enough into the spotlight by now that this tip should be fairly common knowledge, but I do want to reiterate that going vegan doesn’t imply you have to stick to salads or green smoothies. Should you be eating leafy greens in some capacity? Yeah, definitely! But there are plenty of other insanely delicious things you can eat this month that should help you realize that being vegan actually isn’t very restrictive at all, it’s just that a lot of processed foods and restaurant items frustratingly have decided to cram dairy products into every single thing. (ARGH!)
If you’re lacking inspiration in the kitchen, here are a few of my favorite YouTube channels that have great, aesthetically-pleasing recipe ideas:
Hot for Food
Canada’s Lauren Toyota is pretty much the QUEEN of relatable vegan comfort food (she has an entire cookbook on it), so if you’re starting to feel like you’re missing out on all the niceties of an omnivore diet, don’t panic, just head here! She’s got recipes for cauliflower wings, mushroom cheese steak sandwiches, cashew cheese and SO MUCH MORE that I guarantee you’ll find something you’re into.
Avant Garde Vegan
Gaz Oakley is a soft-spoken little Welsh cutie, and he has some really amazing recipes for everything from pizza to “fish” ‘n chips on his YouTube channel! (Homeboy also has a few cookbooks out, which could be a good investment if you decide to take this challenge longterm!) And if you’re looking for meal prep tips, he’s also your guy for all that.
The Mustards are a Swedish couple living in Berlin who make a variety of lifestyle-related content, but a lot of it revolves around veganism, minimalism, productivity and style. I’m a big big BIG fan!
Kicki Yang Zhang
Kicki (who also lives in Berlin and is cool AF) posts a little infrequently these days, but if you go back in her catalog, there are plenty of solid What I Eat In A Day videos that should hook you up with easy-to-execute meal inspiration!
I like Josef because he’s pretty much just a regular ol’ chill dude, and his vlogs are more about the standard types of things he eats in a day, which include purchases from the dollar store. He hasn’t been posting too frequently lately, either, and he definitely got rid of a bunch of his back catalog of videos, but still worth checking out!
Jenna Marbles + Julien Solomita
Yes, THE JENNA MARBLES, you guys! She and Julien are YouTubers with huge followings (Jenna has just under 19M subscribers), and they’ve been incorporating their vegan lifestyle into a few videos – they’re non-pushy about it, and do a great job of normalizing veganism.
Liv B lives in Canada, and she goes hard with the weekly recipes on her channel, which revolves mainly around quick ‘n easy (and budget-friendly) meals. If you’re feeling bored, just give her videos a quick gander and you’re sure to find something you vibe with!
Madeleine Olivia is basically the most charming British human of all time, you guys! Her channel does focus on simple, budget-friendly recipes, but she also talks a lot about leading a minimalist lifestyle. If minimalism isn’t your jam (it is my jam) that’s totally okay! Just skip those bits and go straight for the recipe round-ups.
Wild We Roam
Dana and Lou haven’t been posting as regularly recently, probably because they finally packed up their whole lives and hit the road in their newly-renovated Euro van! If you’re into travel, then they’re a must-follow. But even if you’re not, you should scope some of their earlier vegan recipe videos, because they prove it’s not so expensive to be vegan! (Granted, they were in Berlin during all their food shops, but you can find similar deals here in the US, I promise.)
YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO BROKE
I felt like Wild We Roam was a good segue, no? If you find yourself penniless after this month strictly due to your food bills, then you might’ve made some missteps. As someone who has been broke her whole life, there was no way I was about to dabble in a lifestyle that was going to bankrupt me, so trust me when I say that you don’t have to break the bank when going vegan. Does that mean you’ll need to prepare your own meals a lot? Well, yeah, but you probably would’ve needed to start doing that more anyway considering your dine-out options can be limited as a vegan. Here are some sub-tips for keeping your wallet (and stomach) full:
- It’s super helpful to have some idea about the kinds of things you want to eat before you go into the supermarket. Are you always going to stick to your meal plan? No. Are you always going to stick to your grocery list? Also no. But having a rough blueprint going into shopping is generally a pretty good idea.
- Steer clear of all the fancy fluff that is packaged/processed as much as possible, especially when it caters specifically to vegans! If you have to do packaged/processed, there are plenty of things that are accidentally vegan, so you don’t necessarily need to opt for some pricey bullshit to get your snack fix, unless you’re being ultra-health conscious. (But then, what even is the point of snacking anyway?) You can easily expand your horizons without emptying your wallet, just be sure to do a quick scan of the ingredients listed to be fully sure. (Or just do what I do, and make your own goddamn fries, popcorn, tortilla chips and crispy chickpeas! It’s quicker and easier than you might think!)
- Also avoid pre-chopped vegetables // even though they SEEM super convenient, it takes less than five minutes to chop your own stuff, and it’s going to save you a lot of money!
- Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great option if you’re like me, and you’re not always sure when you’ll be home to cook at night // I always have things like peas and greens in the freezer to bulk up meals and avoid wilted waste in the fridge. (Plus, frozen fruits and vegetables and usually super cheap, and they’re generally able to provide the same or similar nutritional profiles to fresh!)
- I’ve found that you’re generally not going to go broke buying things like beans and lentils (I buy them dry, which often requires extra time for soaking but stretches the buck), rice, pasta, oats, tofu and fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables at your local supermarket. But I do like to compare prices for the things I know I’ll regularly be eating, plus I usually take a quick look at weekly circulars for bigger chains, which are almost always available online, in order to determine the weekly shop spot(s). (It also helps to be flexible! Get those manager’s specials, boi!)
- For other items, price comparison becomes a little more important. I’m a pretty big fan of Trader Joe’s for things like their Chili Lime and Everything But The Bagel seasonings (both $1.99 each), plus their meat alternatives department and frozen vegetables section are both pretty bangin’ price and selection-wise, not to mention they make a pretty incredible vegan cream cheese. I usually stock up on all that stuff once a month. Whole Foods’ 365 brand is similarly affordable, and I usually get things like non-dairy milk, sushi rice, etc.
- Embrace bowls! I eat oats in the morning and usually some sort of grain/noodle/salad bowl for lunch and/or dinner, and these are super cheap, filling, aesthetically-pleasing and easy ways to game the fast-casual scam – you can customize them to feel different every time with a variety of sauces and toppings, they’re simple make-ahead meals, and you’re going to shell out more in the neighborhood of just $1-$2 per serving (sometimes less) as opposed to $8+ like you would at a fast-casual restaurant.
- “BUT WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS EVEN MEAN, MEGAN?! WE WANT FACTS AND FIGURES!” Basically my weekly shop (for one person who eats A LOT) ends up being in the neighborhood of $20-$40, and my monthly average is $80-$120. If I had to do it for less, I feel confident that I could (because I have before – HI NYC LIVING), but those numbers are what feel p. good to me at the moment!
HAVE MONEY? DINE OUT SOMETIMES!
Congratulations on having money! (I usually don’t!) Eating at a restaurant can be a great way to avoid burnout, plus it can even inspire you to recreate the same (or similar) dishes at home for less $$$! But if you go to just any old restaurant, you may find yourself in this position:
Fortunately there are lots of great vegan-friendly spots to choose from in DC and NYC, so let’s start off with the ones we like best in DC, shall we?
- I mean, who even are we if we don’t talk about Beefsteak?! Jose Andres is a gift from god, as is this restaurant ft. soups, salads, bowls ‘n burgers.
- For upscale times, make it Fancy Radish or Elizabeth’s Gone Raw!
- But if it’s brunch you’re after, then YA GOTTA make a beeline for Equinox!
- Meanwhile, Pow Pow is king when it comes to vegan drunk food!
- Shouk is great for vegans who love Israeli food…
- …and Little Sesame is tops for its hummus bowls!
- But BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE, and if you’re down for vegan ramen, Toki Underground is THE PLACE!
- More into soul food? NuVegan Cafe has you covered!
- Or if you just want the best of all the worlds, Fare Well is a combo bakery/diner/bar!
In NYC, meanwhile, there are SO MANY options, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Rip’s Malt Shop is great if you want a milkshake, chopped cheese or anything in between!
- by Chloe might be basic as hell (in terms of like, Instagram-worthiness), but I love it all the same! Whether you’re goin’ healthy or not-so, they have borderline illegal options to satiate ya.
- I’d also be remiss not to mention Champ’s, which is the vegan diner that dreams are made of!
- If you wanna kick back with friends for some kimchi home fries and a drink, then Organic Grill is the spot!
- For total Korean vibes, Hangawi is the vegan eatery of your dreams!
- If you’re into wine, Le Botaniste is also a must-try restaurant if you haven’t already!
- Slash if it’s drunk/late-night food you’re after, you gotta get to Ladybird! POUTINE FTW! (Also, cute as hell interior decorating!)
- More into Mexican? JaJaJa has an all-vegan menu that is SURE to satisfy.
- But for fine dining, it’s gotta be Avant Garden!
- In my neck of the woods? Swing on by Modern Love!
- If you’re completely new to meat and dairy alternatives, take it slow – you’ve got three weeks left to experiment, but know that not everything is going to be a home run for your taste buds. For example, I have learned the hard way that I’m not a seitan worshiper, nor do I like almond milk, but I do really like tofu and TVP, and soy milk (to me) tastes even better in cereal and coffee than regular dairy.
- You’ve been at this a week, so you might know that people are (probably) going to give you a hard time! And fuck those guys! The hate comes from a place of insecurity and WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR PEOPLE WHO GET HUNG UP ON WHAT WE CHOOSE OR CHOOSE NOT TO EAT!
- It’s all going to be okay! There’s no right or wrong way to tackle this month, but you definitely shouldn’t feel restricted in any way. And if you need to tap out at some juncture and eat a cheeseburger, do it! Even after a week of completing Veganuary, I think you’ll notice a difference in how you feel when it comes to eating plant-based vs. animal-based – that’s one of the main things that has kept me hooked, is that I feel like I have a much more sustainable energy reserve when I eat vegan. If you end up realizing you don’t want to go full-time vegan, that’s okay, too! (Says the non-full-time vegan!) But I think the main thing is that you start exploring how you can reduce your animal product consumption, slash any little bit helps. And good luck to you on your journey!