Over the years I have heard so many people say that being a vegetarian is harder, more expensive and more time consuming than eating meat. “I would be vegetarian, but I can’t afford it.” Or “I’ve thought about it, but I just don’t have the time.”. I’ve never understood what the hell these people were talking about, personally. Just to be clear, I don’t care if you eat meat or not. No one is obliged to cut it out, and if you see my post on vegan ethics and the environment you will see I don’t want the world to turn vegan. However, you should get your facts straight and if you do want to make the change you shouldn’t be scared off because of misinformation, so I’ve compiled a list that will hopefully clear some things up.
1: Being vegetarian is cheaper than eating meat.
My average weekly shop is normally between £15-30 . When I say average, we are talking two full carrier bags and a backpack style shopping, where I’ve normally bought more food than I can realistically use. When I was at university I used to go food shopping quite regularly with my meaty flat mates and their shop would normally be either more expensive than mine or have less items for a similar price. Why? Because meat is expensive!
At least, good meat is. I’m not talking about those weird 40% meat sausages because, frankly, I have way too many questions as to what the hell the other 60% is. I’m not saying all ready made vegetarian or vegan products are cheap I.e quorn or Linda Mcartney, although they do tend to be under £3 and you can usually find deals, but if you cook from scratch and have a diet rich in beans and vegetables it is likely to be quite a lot cheaper. You can always get chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans etc for under £0.80, most of the time they can cost as little as £0.30, and you can easily base an entire vegan or vegetarian meal around those products. Fresh vegetables, unless you are obsessed with perfect shape and fancy brands, are very easy to find for under £1.00. Tofu is typically £1-2. Then you just need some sauce ingredients (hello £.030p passata) and some spices and you are good to go! Quorn isn’t exactly cheap (or particularly nice, in fact) but it’s still reasonably priced in comparison. Of course it depends on your personal taste and which brands you buy, but if you cook from scratch (or even cook at all) you’ll be surprised how much you could save as a vegetarian.
It also tends, although definitely not always, to be cheaper to eat out as a vegetarian. Of course it’s always hit and miss on how much choice you’ll have (see point 2) and this doesn’t apply to McDonald’s, but a lot of the time your veggie meal will be the cheaper base that meaty people will then order extra bacon etc for. South Indian vegetarian food and vegan Chinese food can also be found easily in London for under £7-9, often all you can eat too.
2: There’s everything to eat as a vegetarian/vegan
At the time of writing this article I have 29 recipes posted on lazyvegetarianmealideas, which are all lacto vegetarian and many are fully vegan. This is just a fraction of the stuff I actually cook due to lack of time, decent photos, an attempt to stay original etc and if you check my Instagram you will find many more, but if you see my blog and the many others out there on WordPress and Instagram you will see there are loads of things you can eat as a vegetarian. People post more and more vegetarian and vegan recipes every day, and the vast majority of these people aren’t professional cooks. If they can make these dishes so can you, and that’s the beauty of the blogging community.
Ordering in a restaurant can, occasionally, be hard. Sometimes the only thing you can eat is chips, or sometimes the only option is some weird concoction of pears and goats cheese, but most of the time there will be a decent option available; even Angus Steakhouse and Nandos have a decent vegetarian option. Being vegan is going to be harder, but with the rise of awareness of lactose intolerance more and more places offer milk free options, and whilst egg can randomly turn up and ruin your lunch it is normally marked and therefore possible to avoid.
You can customise almost any meat dish using beans, tofu or meat substitutes. I haven’t eaten meat for so long I don’t miss the taste and so my cooking isn’t really focused on tricking myself into believing I’m eating meat, and obviously there are going to be differences in taste, but you can still tweak traditional meat dishes to be deliciously vegetarian in their own right. Chilli con carne without the carne? Painfully easy, uber tasty and rich in protein. Shepherds pie? Of course! Any curry you have ever eaten ever? Yes! And if it is meat you crave there is a massive selection from mock duck, ‘tofuturkey’, fake chicken, porkless bacon… Of course if you do just want to taste meat then you are best off sticking to meat, but you’d be surprised at how versatile a vegetarian or vegan diet can be.
3: Being vegetarian isn’t time consuming
It’s not. If you are just starting out and are worried about getting enough protein (which is very important, see point 4) then it may take a bit of time to research, but once you get the knack of it it’ll become easy in no time. You do need to check labels as some things can be deceptive (especially when fish has been smuggled into a seemingly innocent product), but most of it is common sense and if you don’t want to cook everything from scratch a lot of base products (jarred curry source, stir fry sauces etc) are vegetarian. Being vegan is harder because milk comes up in the most unlikely of places, but again once you get the hang of it it’s fine.
It normally takes less time to cook a vegetarian meal then a meat meal, and our sausages, burgers etc typically take less time to cook too. Why? Because there’s no neat that could poison us if it’s undercooked! Of course this doesn’t apply to everything, tofu for example takes ages to prep and cook, but on average being a vegetarian is quicker and less worrying, and we are less likely to get food poisonining!
4: I’m not worried about protein, iron and nutrition
I’m not going to lie, it’s harder to get protein and iron if you don’t eat meat. That’s because that stuff is already in meat and so if you eat that stuff everyday you don’t really need to think about it, whereas a vegetarian or vegan (particularly if, like me, you dont eat egg) has to actively incorporate it into their diet. However again once you get the hang of it you can be just as healthy as our meaty friends. Remember that fresh fruit and vegetables contain a lot of the nutrients we need, so as a vegetarian your already winning in many accounts.
You need to eat protein every day. Protein helps boost your immune system, and so if you don’t eat it you are more susceptible to illnesses, more likely to get sick and you will heal slower. Protein is easily found in beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh, cheese, quorn products (which mostly contain egg), hemp (not weed, hemp), quinoa , nuts, seeds and some leafy vegetables like spinach. I know that when I used to work I often wouldnt want to cook when I got home and it is so easy to exist on bread and cheese, but although cheese is giving you some, you need more and you need variety. It is easy to make little changes to make sure you get the protein and iron that you need:
Add beans where possible. Doritos and salsa? Why not turn it into a main meal? Having pasta or rice ? Why not toss with some pumpkin seeds (a source of protein and iron) for an extra crunch? Like quinoa? Use it instead of, or with, rice (also has protein and iron). Having a salad or macaroni and cheese? Add nuts! Tofu and soya can be annoying, but it’s also a strong source of protein and iron so don’t shy away from it, and try to find vegetarian/ vegan frozen products that use soya protein. Peas have iron, why not try adding them to your curry or on the side if potato dish? Mushrooms contain several b vitamins and are another source of iron, so try to eat more of them. Try adding spinach to things, I know it can taste kinda bland but try it in a feta pie or in a chickpea curry.
You don’t need to take many artificial vitamins if you follow a healthy vegetarian/vegan diet, but the one you do need to take artificially is b12. You can find it in some orange juice and cornflake products or you can buy vitamins, but you need it.
5: Vegetarian/vegan food is tasty!
All food can be bland if cooked wrong and some products like tofu do need extra prep as it itself doesn’t have much of a taste, but with the right spices and cooking method vegetarian and vegan meals can be delicious.
Remember that most dishes can be made vegetarian and whilst the taste of the meat will be different, all the other flavours can stay the same and may even be enhanced by your modifications. Invest in a collection of spices and you are good to go.
If you believe vegetarian food is bland head down to a harre Krishna/south indian restaurant for some of the most diverse and delicious vegetarian food in the world. Also try making a simple authentic Italian dish like penne arrabbiata and see if you still think vegan food has no flavour, and check out my recipes and the rich selection of vegetarian and vegan inspiration available on WordPress, Instagram and the big wide internet.