Going vegan is super hard, right? That’s what plenty of people think, but is it really? The answer is different for everyone. After all, we don’t all live in the same places, have the same habits, or the same finances, but most people are surprised to realize that going vegan is relatively painless.
My Story(The short version)
Since everyone’s experience is different, I felt like I couldn’t get too far into this without explaining my own personal journey to veganism. This is the super short abridged version, but it should give you a decent idea where I’m coming from.
As far back as I can remember, I questioned what made some animals different than others. The answer always came back; they’re not. We’re not either. There’s a deeper philosophical discussion behind this, but here’s not the time or place for that.
So, I decided to go vegetarian. At the time, I thought this was great. After all, I wasn’t needlessly killing animals for food in a modern society where plenty of meat-free options are readily available. I was aware the dairy industry sucked, but I didn’t really know the extent. I had this idea that, with reform, humans and animals could work together. Humans would provide food and shelter in exchange for milk, eggs, and things like wool, that don’t necessarily require harming animals to collect.
Living as a vegetarian was easy. I’m from NJ. Pizza is EVERYWHERE here. Plus, just about every place you could go for food had decent choices, even the crappiest dive bar. So, I continued like that. Giving up meat wasn’t a problem, and I thought that I was doing the right thing… until I slowly started to realize that I wasn’t. The diary industry was way worse than I thought, but I thought for sure that I wouldn’t be able to go vegan. So many of the places I regularly got food didn’t have vegan options, and I wasn’t making much money. There was no way that I could possibly afford it.
I was a vegetarian for eleven years. Finally, I realized that I didn’t feel great every time I ate dairy. I decided to give going vegan a shot, at least temporarily. By now, you probably guessed the end of the story; I never went back. Buying vegan food wasn’t nearly as expensive as I had thought, and even though finding places to eat was much less convenient than it had been prior, I felt better, and I was finally doing what I knew was morally right.
It’s Not Hard. Going Vegan is Inconvenient
So, going vegan isn’t hard. It’s actually very easy. It is extremely inconvenient, though. It requires that you actually plan certain things and be aware of what goes into both your food and the products that you buy. After all, veganism isn’t just about food. It’s a philosophy, and you can’t claim to care about animals at the grocery store and turn around to buy those sweet new sneakers. Sorry, but it just doesn’t work like that.
When it comes to buying food, your situation is going to vary greatly, depending on where you live. Some places, where plant-based lifestyles are more common, you’ll find tons of excellent vegan options in your regular grocery store. In other places, you may need to seek out a specialized health food store. When neither of these are available, you can do what vegans have been doing from the beginning; cook with fresh produce. There are tons of amazing recipes all of the web that require only the produce you’d find in any basic supermarket. It takes some more effort, but you still have access to great tasting plant-based food. Regardless of what’s available near you, this is still the most cost effective and flexible option, but more on that later.
When it comes to eating out, things aren’t nearly as straightforward. Very few restaurants explicitly have vegan options. Even in areas where veganism is more common, you’ll still run into waiters that look at you like you’ve got six heads when you ask if there’s a vegan option on the menu. This unfortunate reality gave rise to the popular joke that the only vegan things on the menu are salad and fries. Worse yet, in most places, the fries aren’t even vegan.
Before you start citing examples like Burger King’s now famous Impossible Whopper, you should know that it isn’t vegan either. First, it’s rare that Burger King employees take the care to cook it on a separate grill with separate utensils, meaning the cross contamination with beef Whoppers is a big factor. Next, the bun they serve it on contains eggs. So, the Impossible Whopper is most definitely not vegan. The same sort of catches apply to most “fast food” meatless options.
What do you do then? Surprisingly, the situation isn’t as bleak as you may think. If your friends and family are willing to adapt, you can always try to find local vegan restaurants or ones that do have options. Even though they aren’t actively advertised, plenty of options and ways to customize the menus at fast food and fast casual restaurants. Check out this excellent list from PETA for a full breakdown.
Otherwise, plan ahead. Again, this part sucks, but you may have to resign yourself to making yourself something before you go out and just ordering the salad. As long as you’re aware of things before hand, you can set yourself up for a smooth experience.
The same thing can be said for a whole variety of situations. We take for granted the ability to just pull in some place and get something to eat. That convenience all but disappears when you go vegan. Now, you need to be aware of when and where you’re going to get food. Personally, I’ve found that bringing a sandwich with you is always a great option. You can easily put something together with avocado and veggies and throw it in your car. This one’s a great option if you’re going to be out for a while.
What About the Cost?
People tend to think that vegan food is expensive. I sure did. In reality, it can be, but so can any other food. Think abut this; beans and rice together provide complete proteins along with unprocessed carbohydrates. Throw some vegetables into that mix, and you’ve got a nutritionally sound meal at next to no cost. This sort of strategy isn’t uncommon among vegans. It’s simple, cheap, and it works.
There are plenty of other examples like this. Soups are awesome. You can do a lot with vegan soups. There are quite a few vegan pastas(not all pasta is vegan) out there too. The more you dig around for recipes or try to come up with your own, the more you’ll realize that there are more than enough low cost options. When you consider that meat is usually the most expensive item on your shopping list, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that you can actually save money by going vegan.
There’s another trick to save money too. Cook in bulk. Plant-based food tends to keep longer, and freeze better. You can use this to your advantage, cooking food in large portions and saving what you don’t need right away. I’m a big fan of this technique, since I’m usually just cooking for myself, and there’s almost always extra left over. As I learned, I decided to steer into that fact and cook huge portions and save them. It saves a ton of time in the long run.
If vegan food is so cheap, where does the myth come from? There are a couple of reasons why people assume vegan food costs more. The first one is simple; some of it does. When you start looking at meat alternatives, you’ll notice that some of them aren’t exactly cheap. In most places, meat alternatives like Beyond and Impossible are significantly more money than meat. There are plenty of reasons why, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. They’re still more money, and that sucks. It’s important to remember, though, that most vegans aren’t eating those products every day. Think of it like a replacement for calling for takeout, and you’ll get a better sense of what it’s really like.
Then, there’s another interesting thing that happens when you go vegan, and it accounts for the other reason people think the food is so expensive. Because you need to start paying attention to the ingredients in what you buy, plenty of vegans start to realize that what they were eating before wasn’t really that healthy. I know I did. Once you’re more aware of the junk in a lot of food, there’s a better chance that you’ll make healthier choices. Needless to say, healthy food tends to cost more, and there you go.
Should You Go Vegan?
Well, because I’m not, in any way, biased, I’m going to say; yes. Joking aside, you need to seriously look at what resources are around you. Explore. See what your local stores carry. You may be surprised. A lot of meat and dairy alternatives are becoming popular enough to get a foothold in unlikely places. You can also try to plan out vegan meals and go shopping for them. See how easy it is.
That brings me to my final point. Try it. Seriously, just try it out. It can’t hurt, and you may find yourself falling in love with a more conscious and empathetic lifestyle. You’ll be helping yourself, but you’ll also be helping countless animals and reducing your carbon footprint.