(This was originally posted on 28th December 2021 but is republished each day of January 2022 to stay at the front of this blog)
Having just read Dale Vince’s excellent Manifesto, I decided that maybe I should make an effort to reduce my red meat intake this next year.
Part autobiography, part business biography and all manifesto, the book ended on a chapter about out our carbon footprint. I’ve known about carbon footprints for a long time and I’ve done what I can to fix the household side of things. Many years ago, as a subscriber to The Ecologist magazine, I stumbled across Ecotricity and signed them up as my energy provider. I’m still with them, at least a decade on. I also insulated my loft with natural wool and recycled materials, adding cavity wall insulation and keeping my thermostat turned down. I’ve not been able to afford a better central heating system nor a more economical vehicle, triple glazing etc. But they are all on the agenda.
The part I hadn’t made too much effort to reign in was the source of my food. That’s where Manifesto gave me a prompt.
Now Dale Vince is known for his stance on the meat and dairy industry. He makes occasional comments on Facebook and LinkedIn about his beliefs, however, it’s not just the fact that meat and dairy farming are not entirely ethical; he makes a good point for the ecological side of the argument too. Put it this way – great swathes of the Amazon rainforest have been destroyed to make way for beef and soy farming. The rainforest, the lungs of the world, has been destroyed to plant feed for cattle so that you can have your burgers. If you didn’t eat so many burgers, you’d be able to breathe better and the climate wouldn’t be so screwed up.
So what can you do about it?
Obviously, at home get insulated etc. Try and drive a more economical vehicle and drive less. As for food, think about what you’re eating and the wider impact it has.
Hence Veganuary – the chance to try a vegan diet for a month.
I’ve already signed up and I’ve made some inroads already.
Tuesday 28th December 2021
I brought a copy of Dale Pinnock’s Plant Based Diet. I’d picked up a copy before Christmas as a present and then decided I’d grab another for myself. In anticipation of making a meal, I perused the aisles of my local Sainsbury’s and picked up the ingredients for “creamy tomato and chilli gnocchi”. I filled my basket with only vegan products.
Now the gnocchi was interesting – making it “creamy” meant blending cashew nuts, water and lemon juice to a pulp. That was the first foray into non-dairy and it worked out OK.
I also added some plant-based spread for my toast. That was good because I’d had it before and it was a good substitute for butter. But what exactly it’s made of I don’t know.
The third thing was grabbing oat milk. And that does not taste so good in tea.
So the gnocchi was a success, the toast was fine but the oat milk tea left a lot to be desired.
Thoughts on my first day of being vegan? I can probably go vegetarian to some extent but giving up dairy could be an issue.
Wednesday 29th December 2021
Toast is great with Plant Pioneers’ spread on it, I can swap that for dairy. However, I’m still not convinced about the milk substitute in my tea – I used Oatly in my morning cuppa and you really have to give it a good shake to get a more thick consistency because, if you pour it straight from the pack it’s a bit thin. Taste wise, the Oatly is good but still not sure yet.
Lunch was leftovers from yesterday’s creamy tomato gnocchi.
For dinner, the vegan cookbook came in handy again with a tofu and pepper stir fry. As has always been a personal issue with vegetarian/vegan food, it’s the texture of the food that’s an issue and not having meat to rend with my teeth was a key factor in my overall enjoyment of the dish.
Thursday 30th December 2021
Whilst browsing for vegan substitutes for regular ingredients, I stumbled across Nurissh plant based cheese the other day (The cheddar & mozzarella blend to be precise) . Feeling a little lazy this morning I opted for a brunch of that staple feelgood food – the cheese toastie. My cats pursued me around the kitchen thinking the pouch of grated plant based cheese was a treat for them!
The first encounter with this new vegan cheese was with the content spilling out of the side of the toastie – I let it cool down and took a sample. First thoughts? Fake cheese! By that I mean those “cheese flavoured slices” that the cheap burger stall throws on your patty. By the end of the two toasties? I was quite happy with the experience. Not perfect but that’s not the aim of this session.
As for dinner, I got a text message from a friend asking to go for a pint – with just 45 minutes to spare I quickly grabbed a tin of soup from the cupboard. It was pretty much all I had in the house unless I could knock up something mega quick using a pepper, onions, raspberries and bread! I skipped the chicken noodle, mulligatawny and Scotch broth soups, homing in on the broccoli and stilton, the only can that had no meat in it. Before I knew it, I’d heated my non-vegan soup and realised my error. Oh well. The beer down the pub was probably non vegan too.
My friend has been vegetarian for many years and is almost vegan. He was helpful with his recommendations of coconut-based milk, although he too said tea without milk is never the same again. He also admitted to requiring protein in his diet so he was happy to divulge that he and his wife ate eggs in their diet – free range of course, what else is better other than woodland and organic?
Friday 31st December 2021
It’s the last day of the year, folks. The vegan breakfast is cereal – own-brand, malt cereal. I thought I’d give that a go because, if the oat milk was rubbish at least the strong malty flavour would make up for it. I’m happy to say that this oat milk on cereal experiment was a success. I reckon I could pour my daughter a bowl of this and she wouldn’t notice.
I did trip up today at lunch because I went out on autopilot and brought a personal pizza – so that was meat and cheese.
Then I forgot I was out to Italian in the evening so had another pizza – meat, cheese and egg this time.
Saturday 1st January 2022 – New Year’s Day
Happy New Year everyone.
Breakfast was toast so that was OK.
Lunch was a fajita chicken wrap – that’s all there was on my walk through Fleet town, so again, I’m not being disciplined enough.
Dinner was that leftover pizza from New Year’s eve, so not the best start to the year.
I’m already feeling that I should go vegetarian/vegan as much as I can but not be bothered too much if I make the occasional slip back into old habits. My vegetarian friend said it’s OK to be flexitarian, so as long as I’m mindful of being as vegan and vegetarian as possible and actually make those better choices for at least half the week, I’ll be helping to cut down on meat and reduce my CO2 footprint.
Also, if I was going to do “dry January” like I did so successfully last year, then again, I’ve had a pint of Blitzen at The Oatsheaf in Fleet plus a couple of bottles of Bishop’s Finger whilst watching the Venom movie on TV. Oh well.
Sunday 2nd January 2022
I had tea and toast again, body needed some energy. I’ve not overloaded on food though as I need to see my daughter later for the first time in over two weeks! Scratch that, she’s not flying back until Monday!
What I did learn this morning is that the Plant Pioneers brand is a Sainsbury’s own brand label. It has 31 products in the range including vegan tikka masala and “no chicken” samosas. I’ll have to look out for those next time I’m in the store.
Monday 3rd January 2022 – Bank Holiday
The basket is full of vegan options today including substitutes for minced beef, sausages, and chicken.
On the way back from the supermarket I succumbed to the drive-thru and ordered a Haloumi King – so yes, trying to be good, avoiding meat, but then being a but dairy too. Oh well.
Tuesday 4th January 2022 – Inset Day. Back to Work (From Home)
I picked my daughter up today – haven’t seen her in overt two weeks! She’d already had dinner so my waiting for her was in vain – hence a customary trip to Burger King. She chose chicken fries and I tried the veggie whopper with apple fries. Not too bad. Prefer the
Wednesday 5th January 2022
I admit it – I can’t handle the oat milk tea any longer. I’m buying dairy products for that.
As for dinner, there wasn’t much time to prepare tonight and it was getting late so I went for the easiest thing in the fridge – gnocchi with grated cheese and olives. So I can go veggie but not full vegan I reckon. Still, no meat in
Thursday 6th January 2022
My girl had pancake and syrup for breakfast, I had crumpets. Tea all day, no oat milk.
Dinner tonight was spaghetti Bolognese using Meatless Farms’ plant-based mince (Mainly soy) so that was a vegan main meal day success.
Friday 7th January 2022
Leftover bolognese for the daughter because she fell asleep before dinner last night.
Saturday 8th January 2022
Had a long walk in the morning, so visited a branch of Morison’s to grab a meal deal – luckily there was a vegan option but it was the only option – falafel wrap in a spicy dressing with a vegetarian samosa. Very nice.
I cheated tonight – it was late and needed to cook in a hurry so a macaroni & cheese ready meal sufficed.
Sunday 9th January 2022
Skipped Burger King today to save a few pennies so cooked up a korma using Fry’s plant-based, lightly seasoned chicken-style strips (Their due date was sooner than the other fake chicken). It was OK but probably not the best first choice chicken substitute. I ate it all but my youngest left half of hers. She said it was alright but preferred real chicken.
Monday 10th January 2022
Tried some of that Koko brand coconut milk in my tea today – has a similar consistency to milk so that’s a better personal choice than the oat milk, could keep that going.
Dinner tonight is going to be margarita pizza and garlic bread, so it’s vegetarian not vegan.
Snack wise, I picked up some Quorn veggie cocktail sausages for the daughter, she thinks they’re OK.
Tuesday 11th January 2022
Breakfast and lunch are light and consist of toast and butter, but it’s dinner that’s the big choice meal of the day. I know the king, prince, pauper saying but dinner’s the best meal of the day in this house when my daughter’s around.
Tonight it was Plant Pioneers’ “smoky jack quarter pounders”, seeded rolls and chips – we ran out of peas & sweetcorn. It was really filling. I did succumb to using the last of the real cheddar cheese though, so not vegan again, but definitely vegetarian.
My daughter has been doing really well – she’s gone along with all these meals and has said she’ll continue until the end of January but she does prefer the texture and taste of meat in her diet.
Wednesday 12th January 2022
I decided to try the “THIS” range today, particularly “THIS isn’t Bacon”. With seeded rolls ready, I fried the “not bacon” – it looked like biltong or even strips of donner kebab and tasted OK but not quite like bacon although the texture was quite fibrous. The only thing I was slightly put of by was the branding, particularly the quote on the packaging from the founders text saying “THIS came from inside our bearded heads”. OK, it’s not quite as shocking as the beer made with yeast from the beard of the founder of Rogue Ales, but there’s something a little unnerving about it.
A friend brought me fish and chips for dinner, so that was an unplanned outcome.
Thursday 13th January 2022
Pretty simple today – cereal with coconut milk, poppadoms with hummus. And all because I worked non-stop today to handle the workload. Not proper in the slightest.
Snacking on fake cocktail sausages as well today – the Quorn ones weren’t as good as I expected but the THIS brand ones were excellent – great texture, great taste – a proper replacement for real sausages.
Friday 14th January 2022
Again, no proper meals today due to focusing on the varied workload and trying to catch up with scheduled jobs that were knocked out by unscheduled tasks. Cereal with coconut milk is easy and great, toast and marmite, snacking on Plant Pioneers’ chorizo shroomdogs (Hated them, tasted awful to my palette, texture wasn’t great either).
However, in Sainsbury’s same own-brand plant-based range I did try their “No soured cream and chive dip” and it was excellent; a perfect non-dairy substitute for the real thing, highly recommended. The only issue was the chick-pea tortillas that went in the dip – you get a few big ones when you open the pack but they crumble far too easily and you’re very quickly left with a bag of bits!
Saturday 15th January 2022
Been snacking on some plant-based sausage rolls – I can’t recall the brand as I’ve already thrown away the packaging; it might have been Plant Pioneers again, I’ll check next time I’m in the supermarket. Anyway, they were REALLY dry, so they needed sauce – habanero or “no soured cream…” made them better.
Sunday 16th January 2022
Tea and toast for breakfast, BK for lunch (Halloumi King FTW) with Mac & cheese for dinner. Actually, I forgot the dairy sauce was actually a carbonara so that was my first proper mistake in over two weeks (I’m not going to put vegetarian days as a fail when my dairy intake has actually plummeted, but two days of tiny portions of meat is technically so – not going to beat myself up about though, I’m actually doing pretty well considering)
Monday 17th January 2022
Its the usual tea and toast for breakfast with snacking on fruit today. As for dinner, my daughter’s “fallen off the wagon”, I’m not going to push her, she did so well last week, so she had a “winner winner” chicken dinner whilst dad tried the Richmond brand veggie sausages in a sandwich. Very good and a great substitute for real bangers, once again recommended by a vegetarian friend and certainly a future consideration whilst shopping.
Tuesday 18th January 2022
Gnocchi with butter and cheese – once again, I can’t seem to shift away from real cheese, it’s so much better than the vegan attempts. The Sheese brand mozzarella-style grated cheese was nt stringy like it said on the packet, a bit disappointing, so it was cheddar. Sorry.
Wednesday 19th January 2022
Mac & cheese for dinner with garlic bread. So again veggie not vegan.
Thursday 20tth January 2022
I was starving by lunchtime so I threw some THIS isn’t chicken pieces in the wok with some sliced peppers and tumbled that for a few minutes in oil before adding a pouch of Korean sticky BBQ sauce, and a bag of coconut rice – absolutely delicious.
Friday 21st January 2022
Saturday 22nd January 2022
Had cinnamon swirls with my daughter for breakfast before embarking on a 7 mile Saturday walk with a pit-stop at Morrison’s in Elvetham Heath for a £3 meal deal. It was a 3-bean wrap with a veggie samosa side.
Dinner was Domino’s pizza – their Peppero-NAY branded pizza was OK, even had some very salty fake cheese sauce on it too. Kept me going on Sunday as well.
Sunday 23rd January 2022
Toast for breakfast and BK for lunch – my daughter stayed on the meaty burgers but I tried the Vegan Royale, an excellent chicken sandwich substitute.
Monday 24th January 2022
Plant Pioneers’ “No chicken chow neon” was quite disgusting actually.
Tuesday 25th January 2022
We ran out of meat-based dinners for my daughter so I surrendered my Plant Pioneers’ katsu chicken meal. She loved it. At first she said there was SO much rice but she finished it all anyway, she must have been hungry. She concluded by saying she _still_ prefers real chicken but that was OK.
Wednesday 26th January 2022
The THIS is not chicken pieces came out again, once more in a Korean BBQ space stir fry, this time with the same sliced peppers but also spring onions and an overabundance of coriander. It went down well.
Thursday 27th January 2022
Lunchtime’s Pizza Hut flatbread meal deal was meat free Italian sausage. It was enough to keep my satisfied all day so no dinner. I did buy another basket full of vegan/veggie ingredients, so that wi get me to the end of Veganuary.
Friday 28th January 2022
Hot spicy noodles form the Asian supermarket for dinner. So hot they made me sweat!
Saturday 29th January 2022
Popped in to Sainsbury’s for some quick provisions and grabbed some of their “no pork pies”… I wish I hadn’t. The pastry was so dry it was crunchy. The filling was good but you’ve got to get through the outer to the decent inner.
Dinner was Margareta pizza.
Sunday 30th January 2022
I like those Burger King fake chicken royales so I had another today, I could eat these every time from now on.
Dinner was a Plant Pioneers katsu curry, sweet potato based. My daughter said she didn’t like it so ate the rice and sauce.
Monday 31st January 2022 – Last day!
Yet another katsu curry, this time a Wasabi brand pumpkin based version in a microwave bento box. Decent.
My thoughts on Veganuary?
It was good fun trying out something different for a whole month.
It was easy. Probably so much easier than even 10 years ago. My own family’s history of vegetarianism alone goes back over 40 years, so I saw their issues with everything fro the availability of veggie meals in supermarkets to the use of animal products in things as simple as biscuits, to the limited dishes in restaurants. Nowadays being vegetarian must be so much easier.
Veganism was once viewed as being a bit extreme, a little hardcore. But today it’s OK. They’ve all done a long way.
I was less tired. My energy levels were better and, even though my job is intense and often draining from the sheer mental effort I always put in, I was less exhausted than I usually am.
Overall? Veganuary was great, I urge anyone to give it a try.
Will I go vegan? Probably not. At least not fully. Until Koko brand coconut milk I struggled to have a decent cup of tea with oat milk but nothing beats dairy for a decent cuppa. As for cheese, I wasn’t massively impressed by the offerings. It was mostly orange and synthetic tasting, much like those cheese-flavoured slices or orange liquid cheese things with so much American fast food (Sorry USA, I know you do better)
How about vegetarian? Again, not fully, but I went into this with my mind ever-open and will probably consciously be more vegetarian and even subconsciously moreso than I give myself credit for.
My meat consumption will probably drop, red meat moreso. Even if you go vegan for just one day a week, that’s 14% less demand on the meat industry, two days of healthy choices is 28%. Will that halt or even reverse the effects that meat production has on the planet? If less rainforest is cleared for cattle ranching or animal feed production then yes (People with more research time than I have currently, feel free to comment below)
If you’re thinking of going vegan, at any time, give it a go. And it’s OK if you slip into simple vegetarian choices, it’s better than what we’re doing now.
If you want to join in, Veganuary is an initiative to help people go vegan for the month of January. Brand ambassadors include Chris Packham, Paul McCartney and Sarah Pascoe, so you’re in good company. As a charitable organisation they do ask for a donation, so you can improve your health, animal welfare and the environment as well as helping and supporting others too.