Are you considering going vegan, but just not sure how to do it?
Maybe you are already a vegetarian who wants to make the next step, maybe it never occurred to you until you watched a movie that freaked you out, or maybe you’re just curious. Somewhere in that delightful head of yours, you are wondering, could I go vegan? Then that wonder is promptly followed by another… Well how do I do that!?
It actually isn’t as hard as it sounds. In fact, when I was thinking about starting this blog, I even considered naming it something like “It’s Really Not That Hard .com” but there was just something about that, that was…well, vague.
So what’s the secret to making the transition a breeze? Drum Roll Please! It starts in the kitchen!!!!!
I mean it makes sense right? That is where you eat after all. The hardest part about making a change in your diet, is change! So by setting up your kitchen to be veganified, (I don’t think that’s a word), you have a much better chance of actually being able to comfortably transition.
I broke this down for you in six simple steps. I recommend you take a long day and devote it to these 6 steps. Then wake up the following day feeling shiny and new!
Step 1: Decide your approach.
Are you on the edge of your seat, ready to go head first into veganism? Or maybe you aren’t quite that gung ho. No problem. I think that there are four ways to approach going vegan, so first select the approach that is right for you.
The Insta-vegan. You are a brave soul, or perhaps you’re a little traumatized by something you just saw… I like brave soul better. Either way, you are raring to go. This is the approach I took too so I totally get it. Best part? Skip to step 2. Your done.
The Replacement Method. Not quite as raring to go, as the insta-vegan, but still pretty eager. Your attack? Eat the food that you have. That’s right, use it all up, or at least the food you would still like to eat. Then, the key part, when you run out of something, replace it with the vegan option. Ran out of meat, tofu for you. Ran out of cows milk? Try almond or soy milk. Ran out of mayonnaise? Pick up Vegenaise! Before you know it, your kitchen will be over taken by only delicious plant based foods.
The Bit-By-Bit Method. Does the replacement still seem like a little bit too much for you? That’s totally cool. You are the perfect candidate for the bit-by-bit. Every week, every two weeks, or even every month, decide to cut one non-vegan item from your menu. You could start by saying no to beef, once that settles in, next its pork, then fish, then chicken, then milk. Or whatever order you like. You slowly lower the amount of meat, dairy and eggs in your diet, and slowly increase the fruit, vegetables, grains, and legumes, and before you know it, you are full on vegan! Way to go!
The At-Home Vegan. Do you love the idea of being vegan, but can’t handle the restaraunt food, or perhaps nagging from family and friends? We’ve all been there. Be an at home vegan! Have an entirely vegan kitchen, and only eat non-vegan when you’re out of your house. Before you know it, you will probably be ordering the vegan options on the menus anyways.
Step 2: Be a Code Breaker
Now that you have decided your approach, it’s time to make sure you actually know what you’re eating. Think those crackers are vegan? Are you really sure? Those ingredient lists can be tricky. Sometimes you can skip to the bottom of the list and see in bold that it contains eggs or dairy, but most often, you have to learn the sneaky, sneaky words. Milk is the trickiest of them all. You can even sometimes find it in soy cheese! So to give you a helping hand, here is a list of the most common milk ingredient words.
Dairy, milk ingredients, whey, casein, curds, dairy product solids, ghee, cheese, galactacose, lactose, buttermilk, cream, and cheese flavouring.
For a full list of non-vegan ingredients, check out this article by PETA.
Are you worried that you can’t possibly remember all of these sneaky words? Your best approach, stop buying foods with a million creepy ingredients. Except for the occasional Oreo (which are totally vegan!), I rarely buy anything with an ingredient list that I can’t read. Simple ingredients are easier to understand, and are better for you to!
Step 3: The Big Kitchen Clean!
Whichever plan of attack you have chosen, I think it’s a great idea to do a big clean out of your kitchen, and get rid of everything that isn’t up to snuff.
Just because you want to go vegan, doesn’t mean you are used to it yet, so making sure your whole kitchen is vegan, allows you to indulge guiltlessly in anything and everything in your house.
Start by taking EVERYTHING out of your fridge, pantry, cupboards, and anywhere else you stash food. One by one put it back in, only if the ingredients are up to your new standards.
Fight that Fridge. What to ditch: Meat (duh), fish, milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, butter, eggs, fake eggs, chicken or beef broth, and mayonnaise. What to code break: any prepared foods, salad dressings, worcestershire, and other sauces.
Thaw out that Freezer. What to ditch: Frozen meat, fish sticks, frozen pizza, ice cream, frozen hamburgers. What to code break: frozen entrees, sorbets, or any other prepared foods.
Prep that Pantry. What to ditch: honey (for strict vegans), marshmallows, fish sauces. What to code break: Crackers, cookies, granola bars, breads, tortillas, chocolate bars, cereal, soups, jello, gummy candy, bottled pasta sauces, baking mixes, and bread crumbs.
Step 4: Trash or Treasure?
But what about all that food? I don’t want to waste it! Fair enough. I am not a fan of food wasting myself. Anything that you aren’t going to eat anymore, just give it away to friends. When I did this, it did seem kind of weird giving them food I didn’t believe was good for them. But, I realized they were going to eat it anyways, so we might as well not waste the food. Another option would be donating any non-perishables to the food banks.
So now that your kitchen is clean, either you have eaten your way through it, or you did it all in one big go. You might be thinking something along the lines of, “I’m going to staarrrrvvee!!!”, Right? On to step 5.
Step 5: Go to the Grocery Store.
You made some pretty impressive progress in your kitchen. You’re feeling fresh and clean and healthier already… or your stomach is growling. Plan a big grocery store shop. Give yourself a long time in the grocery store, no rushing today.
Now studiously go up and down every aisle. Pick things up. Look at the labels, and either add them to your cart or put them back. Fill your cart with all sorts of delicious food.
Start with the produce section and grab lots of veggies, some to eat raw like salad ingredients, or snacking veggies, and some to eat cooked. Select some of your favourite fruit. Move on to the baked aisle and pick up some bread, or tortillas (making sure to read the ingredients).
Don’t forget the health food section, or go to the health food store if you are lucky. This will be your new favourite place. Try items like Earth Balance, a great replacement for butter, Daiya instead of cheese, Soy Dream ice-cream, or Amy’s No Cheese frozen pizza. Stock up on granola bars, nuts, crackers, oatmeal, grains like rice or quinoa, juice, frozen fruits and veggies, really anything you find that you want to try. Just don’t skimp, because you don’t want to go hungry!
Once you get used to your grocery store all over again, shopping won’t take as long as you will learn your favourite products and brands. By the time you’re done, you will probably have way more vegan fare than you thought possible, and you will be licking your lips with excitement.
Step 6: Tools of the Trade
Your kitchen is bursting at the seams with all of your fantastic finds! All you need to do now, is prepare it. To start cooking vegan, you really need just a few tools that you probably already have. A good chefs knife, a cutting board, a few pots and pans, and an assortment of spoons. That’s it!
If you want to upgrade your kitchen a little, I recommend getting a decent food processor, which is great for making things like hummus, sauces, and nut butters. I also highly reccomend a Belndtec or Vitamix. These blenders are beauties at whipping fruit into amazing smoothies, grinding flour, making creamy sauces from nuts, you name it! That being said, they are pricy, and you might not be quite ready to spend that much just yet. That is totally fine! I was vegan for well over a year before I picked up my Blentec. So if you can’t afford these tools now, don’t worry! You really don’t need it.
Now subscribe to your favourite vegan cooking sites (hint, hint), pick up a new recipe book, and start feasting!
I hope this step by step method helps you transition to a vegan diet. If you have any tips or tricks that helped you, or a question, please leave a comment below.