Spoiler alert! Going vegan sounds a lot more difficult than it actually is. Trust me, I thought it was going to be difficult, and I'm the type of person who usually isn't up for a challenge.
I decided to try to go vegan for a week for two reasons. One: I love animals, and eating meat and dairy hurts them. Two: the meat and dairy industry are worse for the environment than the entire transportation industry. So, even though going vegan seemed difficult, it was important enough to me to give it a try.
Now I'm a college student living in an apartment, so I have access to a kitchen at my disposal, but I didn't have the means to spend a fortune on groceries. So my basic plan before the week started was to find out which foods I already eat that I can still eat, choose recipes that aren't super difficult to do with ingredients that aren't super expensive, and find dairy and meat substitutes that I liked.
I have to admit: I was scared that I wasn't going to find anything to eat that'd I'd actually like for the week. Turns out, a lot of foods are already vegan that you may not even realize! Most pasta is vegan. Your favorite cereal is most likely vegan. It really wasn't difficult to find foods that I already liked to stick to for the week. Want a small dinner? Wrap a sweet potato in tin foil and pop it into the oven for a bit. Drunk and need something greasy to munch on? Fries are vegan, and they will hit the spot, trust me!
Now, the most challenging part about going vegan was probably the fact that you will have to cook a lot of your own food. As a college student with a busy schedule, that was slightly difficult to get used to, but once I found a couple of recipes, I started to get the hang of it. There are plenty of vegan recipes online that are easy to make with ingredients that are easy to find.
Since it's wintertime, I often crave some hot cocoa (with marshmallows, of course!). Normally, marshmallows are made of gelatin, which is not vegan because it is made from animal bones. Thankfully, there are vegan marshmallows—the brand that I used was Dandies Marshmallows, and they tasted like a perfect marshmallow. On top of that, they were also easy to find at my local Meijer. For the liquid component, I either did the easy way which was to buy a carton of dark chocolate almond milk and heat it over the stove. I did also try the more creative route, which was to take some dairy-free chocolate—which is actually pretty easy to find as most dark chocolates are dairy-free—and melt it in some almond milk over the stove (almond milk is my favorite milk substitute, but you can try any other substitute!).
Vegan hot cocoa with vegan marshmallowsHanna Buchwak
Wintertime is also my favorite time to indulge in a bowl of hot soup. My favorite soup is chicken noodle… which, if you're going vegan, is kind of a problem. I decided to make the stock simply from different vegetables instead of a vegetable and chicken combo stock. I found a homemade chicken noodle soup recipe and basically just took out the chicken aspect of it—and it was pretty good! I honestly didn't really taste the difference between chicken noodle and the vegetable noodle soup I made, because I kept everything else the same in the recipe, including the seasonings. I was pretty happy to learn that I could still indulge in my favorite winter foods as long as I was creative about it.
Even though it was kind of difficult to order takeout while going vegan, that didn't mean that there weren't any options for me. I was surprised to find that some of my local restaurants here in Champaign-Urbana had vegan-friendly options! I ordered a vegan calzone from D.P. Dough (because I had such a pizza craving), and it was so yummy. My roommate and I also tried takeout from an entirely vegan restaurant here called The Dancing Dog, and they had the best vegan vanilla and lavender cake with fantastic vanilla buttercream. For the most part, I just stuck to making food at home, because that was what was easiest—and cheaper.
Vegan vanilla and lavender cake with vanilla buttercreamHanna BuchwakTrying a vegan diet wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, and I'd like to keep my vegan diet for longer than a week. Even thinking toward the holiday season that is quickly approaching, I'm thinking of all the vegan recipes that I can find and contribute to Christmas breakfast and dinner—recipes that I feel confident in completing successfully. I'm happy to know that just by changing my diet, I'm making a difference for animals' well-being as well as the environment. And it's easy too! Anyone can do it, including you.