So you've decided to go vegan. It might be that you find the ideology or the health aspects right for you, and are looking for a simple, sane way to weather the change. Or you tried to go vegan once before, and found yourself struggling with lack of knowledge, perseverance or ideas. Or like me you decided to turn your kitchen for a vegan live-in loved one.
I guess you've already found out that the vegan way of life comes with its own set of obstacles and challenges. It's been my experience, in turning my kitchen vegan for my wife, and from that of many fledgling vegans encountered along this way, that the greatest challenge in being vegan is maintaining a daily routine of meal planning, shopping for groceries and preparing everyday meals.
The hardest part of being vegan is making it last
I have heard less frustration expressed about the absence of animal products in vegan food, than from the "deciding what's for dinner" issue. Handling the routine of daily meals – planning, shopping and cooking – is thought of as a burden and the main issue confronting nubile vegans as they set on the vegan lifestyle.
The daily routine's weakest link usually snaps when there is little time to cook and the hunger is at its peak. When the cycle of: making a shopping list - doing the shopping run - stocking the pantry - consuming what we bought, is at its end. And you're standing in the middle of the kitchen thinking: Vegan?! What was I thinking?!
Now try it in an inter-dietary household, with a container full of meatballs in red sauce in the fridge, leftovers from yesterday's dinner, or eggs ready to be fried, or cheese that you can marry in seconds with some macaroni... This is the time when the vegan way of life is really challenged. It then becomes almost impossible to resist the temptation to fall back on old habits, that as second nature don't require any attention at all.
And here's what doesn’t change
The simple truth is: What's needed to keep a daily routine, goes on being just as much of a day-to-day hassle as it was before, no more no less. You had to make your own food before, and will continue to do exactly so when cooking vegan.
Deciding what's for dinner, making sure your pantry is properly stocked, and cooking – is exactly the same process you had to undergo when you were non-vegan. Don't expect THAT to change.
Kitchen work also continues mostly uninterrupted: I still use my existing kitchenware and employ many of the techniques learnt preparing non-vegan food – if you can use a knife and a cutting board without losing fingers, it makes little difference if what you prepare is vegan or not.
Most of the ingredients in my pantry are old acquaintances – You really don't need to go foraging or use ingredients with names you're not sure how to pronounce.
So, what DOES change?
Your go-to dishes
The variety of foods
Your shopping list
Giving up animal products, one of the most basic elements in your former diet, means replacing many of your daily go-to dishes (i.e. quick and easy recipes made with ingredients you always stock in your pantry), and coming up with new ones. It's important that you acknowledge and expect this change. In the beginning, you might find yourself not knowing what food to prepare, and that's totally reasonable.
There are no shortcuts here. You'll have to go through a period of exploration and experimentation until you reestablish your list of go-to dishes to populate the routine of daily meals.
I too had to overcome "too tired to cook" nights, with new vegan go-to dishes –
I found new ways of preparing main dishes from ingredients i kept until then only for making side dishes. And I recount many other insights, revelations, ideas, thoughts and anecdotes about how i make sure cooking vegan is no more of a hassle than the non-vegan kind.
What does it take?
The willingness to do it, for you or a live-in loved one
The patience to learn
The creativity you already have
But most of all, it takes a stocked pantry.
You need the right pantry to have a leg to stand on
While the "what to make" part will probably require a period of exploration and learning, until you find your new favorite vegan go-to dishes and make them as familiar as second nature, it is essential that your pantry is always ALWAYS suitably stocked, starting tomorrow. Starting today.
It's not as if you didn't keep an eye on your pantry thus far – you did and you'll keep on doing so – it's just that from now on you'll have to make sure it's stocked with a different set of ingredients, the ones that support a vegan kitchen.
This means changes to your shopping list, and that's it.
No extra hassle or over thinking, just keeping your pantry ready for vegan cooking, as it was ready for non-vegan cooking before.
With your pantry vegan, and after a short period of exploring, you'll always have at hand everything it takes to prepare something delicious and satiating on the spot.
If you do that – all the rest can smoothly follow.
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