I went to University in 2016 and my student budget quickly realised how expensive it was to buy meat in the weekly shop. My diet was pretty all over the place during the first term, but my meat consumption was MUCH lower than it was previously and after Christmas, I was probably eating vegetarian meals for 70% of the week without realising it.
More and more vegetarian recipes begun to be shared online and as I attempted to live ‘healthier’, cooking vegetarian just became normal for me – I had already discovered that curry could taste just as good with sweet potato, rather than the ‘staple chicken’. I adopted the term ‘flexitarian’ to explain my diet, which simply means increasing the intake of plant-based meals without completely eliminating the meat.
But it was getting to the point where I was eating meals with meat, when I didn’t really want to. So, when this was combined with a dodgy goulash from Budapest (perhaps googling cheap goulash restaurants wasn’t the best idea?), the rest of my interrailing trip became ‘meat-free’ (you can see my travel guide for Budapest here, I did love the city (despite the cheap goulash and very cheap accommodation….). Once I was home, my ‘flexitarian’ days were over – it was vegetarian meals going forward.
That’s the story. But why does a vegetarian diet work for me?
I HONESTLY FEEL HEALTHIER – I actually do think that there are mental benefits to eating vegetarian and for me, it works. I like the meat alternatives, but they’re not a staple. It’s a lot more of falafel, beans, peppers, sweet potato and courgette – an underrated vegetable in my opinion. I am partial to Linda McCartney vegetarian sausages and the mozzarella, vegetable and pesto melts from Tesco though.
I ENJOY COOKING SO MUCH MORE – Preparing a vegetarian dish for myself, or cooking for others is probably one of my favourite parts of being a vegetarian. I’ve made some experimental mistakes, but some pretty good wins too! You can find my recipe for the best vegetarian nut roast (and vegan when no cheese is added) here.
I TRY DIFFERENT DISHES WHEN EATING OUT – If there is only one vegetarian dish on the menu, then that’s what I’m going for. I’ve got to admit some restaurants are smashing it in terms of serving vegetarian and vegan dishes and I love it when there is plenty of choice, but equally when there isn’t, I do push myself out of the comfort zone! Side note, if there is a butternut squash lasagne on the menu, it’s the best thing ever whether you are a vegetarian or not.
A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE DISHES CAN EASILY BE VEGETARIAN – I’ll name a few; red pepper, onion and mushroom fajitas or burritos, three bean chilli con carne, sweet potato and chickpea curry – the latest favourite comes from Madeline Shaw’s book, ‘Ready Steady Glow’, it’s a roasted cauliflower and spicy lentil dish. In her book, you’ve got the range of meat to vegan recipes so there is something for everyone and I can confirm that the veggie recipes are DELICIOUS.