Quitting meat and fish was a gradual process for me and the latest food group on my radar is dairy.
Influenced by both health and animal welfare factors featured in some eye-popping Netflix docs I’ve been watching lately like Food Choices, Vegucated and Forks over Knives, I’ve decided to go dairy-free for a month. I’m calling it…
#f*ckdairyfebruary (sorry Mum)
It’s not quite veganism as I plan to continue eating eggs from my own hens. As far as I can gather, the only health risks posed by eggs surround battery hens and the associated animal welfare issues (please correct me if I’m wrong, I’m still learning).
So, at the moment I feel fine about consuming eggs produced by the divas who trot around my garden, bully my dog and make Quincy to go “tssssss tsssss!” (baby for chicken) about 50 times a day.
The easy bits
Huge parts of my daily diet are already dairy-free so in some ways, it’s a straightforward challenge.
Breakfast is usually porridge or granola with almond milk or yogurt. Switching to dairy-free yogurt is no problem taste-wise (hello Coyo) but it will make more of a dent in the budget (£4.99 for 400g… yikes).
Work lunches and evening meals tend to revolve around batch cooking basics, many of which are vegan but I do plan to branch out with some new recipes to mix things up.
Last week I tried a cheesy butternut pasta sauce (a take on this recipe with added nutritional yeast and less cayenne and salt, so Q could have the leftovers for lunch).
Next on my hitlist are some Thug Kitchen recipes from a book Chaz bought me for Christmas. So far, their chickpea biryani went down well with our (meat eating) friend Lianne, who said she “never knew vegetarian food could actually taste good” (has she never had chips?).
This week, I’ve ordered my third Wholegood organic uber veg and fruit box and I’m basing most of my meals around these.
After I deleted all of the cheese out of my first dairy-free Ocado basket (a sad moment), I added the following to see me through week 1 of the challenge:
- 1kg tub of Meridian crunchy peanut butter
- Koko dairy-free spread
- Violife cheddar flavour slices
- Ecomil organic sugar free almond milk
- Coconut Dream rice and coconut milk
- Coyo yogurt
I also ordered extra cashews (for creamy sauces, stir fries and granola) and avocados (because I don’t need an excuse to be even more of a basic b!tch).
And survive week one I did – and that even included a pub lunch (albeit in the v vegan-friendly Northern Quarter).
I LOVE cheese and it’s the culprit behind many of my indulgences…. pizza, cheeseboards, grilled halloumi on veggie burgers, baked camembert with warm bread (thank god bread is vegan), grated cheddar on chilli or pasta…. I could go on but I’ll stop before I run to Tesco and lose my sh*t at the deli counter.
It’s a challenge, but changing habits is what it’s all about. I’ve never been one to give things up for Lent, I’m not religious so never saw the point. As I have proper reasons for doing this, I’m already finding it much easier than I expected.
And according to some, cheese is as addictive as crack, so going cold tofurky may be a smart move.
A weekend coffee and cake date is one of our main joys in life and while we always opt for dairy-free lattes and vegan cakes where they’re available, the reality of living in a small town means they are seriously limited in places we frequent.
If anyone knows of vegan-friendly options in cafes round our way, please share them to save me from Costa soya lattes!
Now I’m practically a Ribble Valley resident (half a mile out, people!) I’m a big fan of the Benedict’s almond milk latte and we are planning a trip to Lolo’s vegan cafe in Ramsbottom because it looks amazing and people keep telling us to go… But any other secret tip offs will be much appreciated, as it’s sometimes good to have a surprising option in an otherwise “normal” place that keeps everyone happy.
Feeling like a pain in the neck is one of the biggest downsides of being veggie and I do fear taking it to extremes will make me even more of a social outcast. February is already filling up with a wedding on the horizon and several other social occasions, so I plan to just do my best.
Exchanging messages with our vegan friend Jade, she’s enlightened me to the ease of vegan dining and added me to a Facebook group full of ace tips and tricks to navigate the Lancashire culinary landscape.
I get annoyed when people claim switching to healthier eating habits is more expensive as someone on a constant budget; I do my weekly food shop for around £40 for three of us and lentils, chickpeas and seasonal veg are affordable staples.
BUT when it comes to indulgences like vegan chocolate and coconut yogurt it sure adds up. HOWEVER, this list of 44 accidentally vegan snack foods has reassured me dairy-free treat times needn’t break the bank. Obviously one of the main points of this is to adopt (even) more of a plant-based diet, so I don’t plan to exist on Pot Noodles and Pringles, but it’s good to know I could grab a Bournville from the garage if the urge for chocolate takes over (UPDATE: I actually checked my local garage yesterday and they don’t even sell it… WTF Nightingales? So veganist!).
I plan to report back at the end of the month (if I manage to stay out of the cheese aisle for that long).
In the meantime, anyone for an almond milk latte and an Oreo?!