I’d been thinking about making a significant change in my life for a year or so. In all honesty it’s something that has made sense for some time and in a way I’d been rather hypocritical in not doing anything about it sooner but I guess I just made my excuses and then forgot all about it until it came up in conversation the next time. I’ve decided to become a vegetarian.
I’ve been an animal lover for as long as I can remember but because of my mother’s dislike for almost every animal imaginable, I didn’t really get to have pets (apart from goldfish) until moving out. When I met my wife and we moved in together it was almost something of a culture shock, going from no pets to living amongst what has become a menagerie. We’ve amassed our own private zoo over the years mixing the traditional (dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs etc) and the exotic (bearded dragons, snakes, crested geckos and so on). It had me thinking though… As such an animal lover, could I truly justify eating meat as part of my regular diet?
Reading all of that, becoming vegetarian would seem to be a logical choice. I’d pondered the issue in the past about giving up meat completely but there were a few doubts in my mind holding me back which, frankly, are still there that are posing questions that I’m going to have to tackle head on. It’s not going to be easy and certainly not just a case of stopping eating meat and switching over to meat free alternatives and sadly I wish it were that simple but I hope you’ll join me on this journey as I try to figure everything out and make it happen…
Easier Said Than Done…
The first problem I have in making a transition to a vegetarian diet – and this is something of a major stumbling block – is that I absolutely detest vegetables with a passion. With one or two exceptions I genuinely can’t stand the taste or texture and in a few cases the taste make me feel physically sick. Doesn’t get me off to a good start but being what can be at best classed as a fussy eater is going to make things very difficult to find a wide variety of things to simply stop boredom setting in. I certainly don’t want to be living off the same two or three basic foods for the rest of my life!
While not a problem per se, I like the taste and texture of meat so substitutes are going to be important especially for flavour and as a protein source. Here’s another problem though. As a family we’re on a low income and vegetarian friendly meat-free products aren’t cheap and some aren’t the most apetising both in terms of appearance or flavour. Again this may need some creative thinking. Fortunately I do like a lot of Quorn meat replacements so that does get me off to a good start but they’re not cheap.
The price of meat substitutes is certainly a stumbling block and when you look at the food industry it’s quite saddening to think that more value is placed on artificial meat than anything that has come from living creatures. If you stop and think about it, as a supposedly civilised society, do we really put such little regard on life to price them so cheaply? I certainly don’t want to sound as if I am preaching here (although my wife would beg to differ on this), but I just can’t fathom the logic over why something derived from plants should cost more under any circumstances.
All that aside the price of meat-free products is considerably higher than their meat-based counterparts and it does make things much harder for someone like myself needing those as part of a vegetarian diet. With prices typically being double that of meat options I need to budget carefully. For the most part I’ll need to look to alternative options rather than substitutes or when I do choose to use them, to take advantage of in-store price offers or use them just occasionally. There’s certainly enough variety to cover most types of meats I have eaten over the years so that’s not an issue, it’s really a financial one.
One thing I am trying to decide at the moment is the initial approach to take to the change in my diet. I do know that I won’t be making the switch to a vegan diet simply because a lot of foods I will be eating need dairy or eggs as key ingredients and that with my already limited choices I don’t think I’d be able to cope restricting things further.
Saying that, what I’m not sure about is either my initial route or long term plan and I’ll probably talk to my family and close friends for guidance and advice on this. Part of me is considering the pescetarian option first and then switching to vegetarian afterwards although I don’t want to feel as if I am “cheating” in any way. I think a gradual change to being vegetarian by cutting out all meat except fish may make the shift easier but I don’t quite know yet.
On a practical level, even with the best intentions in the world one thing I can’t do is change diet overnight. As I said before money is a genuine concern for us as a family and we do have food in the cupboards and freezers that we simply can’t afford to let go to waste. While I’m making all the preparations to switch I’m going through this as quickly as I can and being more focused as I shop in the future so – at least for myself – I only buy food that will help my long term goals.
So How Do I Make It Happen?
After all of that, I’m still determined to make the change but it’s going to take a lot of planning. I’ve started by looking at a lot of foods I eat right now and thinking about meals and meal ideas. I need to make sure that I can develop plenty of ideas to have variety and choice, not just for a week or so, but over an extended period of time. I accept that my choices of core ingredients may initially be limited as I explore what is out there and available to me, but as I start to be more creative I’m sure I can discover plenty of options that I can develop.
One thing I have already discovered is that I can’t make assumptions about food over what is and isn’t vegetarian friendly. I know cheese will play a notable part in my diet, but I am aware that not all cheeses are considered to be vegetarian. More importantly for me (as a huge pasta lover) is that many pasta sauces seem to contain certain cheeses that stop them from being acceptable and regardless of how much I enjoy it, for now pesto seems to be out of the question amongst others.
Surprisingly even some soft drinks seem to be causing the same issues but I think it will really just be a learning curve and I’ll be able to identify troublesome ingredients over time. One thing that has puzzled me is food flavourings and I don’t think I’ll ever make sense of that… chicken flavoured noodles seem to be a no, but bacon and beef are fine. For now it makes no sense!
Finally, I have decided to do some batch cooking as well for the freezer, preparing quick meals as I manage to get deals on various Quorn ingredients but more on that next time… if any of you are still reading by then!
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