In celebration of #Veguary.
Feeding yourself on a student budget is hard enough without additional complications, so what can you do if you decide to become vegan or vegetarian? It means that the Tesco in Guildford might be a giant superstore, but you can only eat about ¼ of the food they sell. Dont’ despair though! SUBCULTURED has piled together some tips for helping you eat the way you want at university… without breaking the bank.
Firstly though, making the choice to cut out meat/dairy can be quite difficult, especially with having to go through a very superficial version of ‘coming out’ to your friends and family about your new dietary choices. People choose to become vegan for various reasons, including animal welfare (‘Free Range’ means access to outdoors for at least part of the day, yet pens are often too cramped for most animals to even see light), concerns for the planet (it is widely claimed that a vegan diet is the most sustainable; and that the animal agriculture just doesn’t provide a sustainable way to eat), and health reasons (it’s also widely thought that vegan diets are some of the best for your health as they include eating loads of fruit and veg, and cutting down on cholesterol-inducing fats).
With that in mind, and with a dramatic increase in the amount of young people and students choosing to become vegetarian/vegan, here’s some advice on how to handle being a vegan at university, particularly on a student budget.
- Eat vegan the cheap way
The best thing you can do is to ditch expensive meat alternatives as soon as possible and begin to cook using vegetables and grains/pulses such as pasta, rice and lentils. Obviously this doesn’t work for every meal, but these foods are really cheap as well as yummy. On this topic, tinned foods are your best friend: own-brand versions of tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, and baked beans can be as little as 20p. Cooking like this is also healthier for you as every meal includes vegetables, and then a carb or protein. Vegan milk and cheese can be expensive so it’s best to buy a couple when they’re discounted instead of buying as you need.
- Eating out
Most restaurants you go to can veganise at least one of their meals for you. Even Nando’s can do their veggie burger without mayo, and some of their sides (including garlic bread!) are vegan too. Zizzi’s in Guildford has its own vegan menu with vegan pizza (!?), which is 30% off on Mondays and Tuesdays if you have an NUS card, and 25% on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. If you’re not sure whether you can eat at a certain restaurant, ring up and ask. The only exception to this rule is Creams, which is a dessert restaurant. If your mates decide to go there, I’m afraid there is no hope other than sorbet.
- Junk food vegan
Most often associated with ‘accidentally vegan’ type foods. If you’re craving junk food get yourself down to Tesco, and browse round for foods which just happen to be vegan by accident. This includes a lot of own-brand biscuits (no proper ingredients, just sugar and toxic waste), oreos (?!), Lotus biscuit spread, Tesco’s churros, Alpro ice-cream and many more. For chocolate lovers, the free-from section has bars of vegan milk chocolate, while Tesco’s own dark chocolate is also dairy free. For garlic bread lovers, Tesco Everyday Value garlic bread is in fact vegan because it doesn’t have proper butter on it (woohoo for us, less good for others who expect proper garlic bread).
- Join Vegsoc
Vegsoc is a fairly new vegan/vegetarian society on campus. They’re free to join and hold loads of events such as meals out, tea and cake, and vegan barbeques. It’s the best place to meet other vegetarians or vegans, and pick up some tips/chat to like-minded people. It’s also good to support the society if you want to put pressure on the uni to create more vegan options across campus! (Note to Surrey: there is a difference between health food and vegan food, thnx).
Ultimately, being vegan at university, and in general, is exactly what you make of it. If you buy junk food and meat alternatives all the time, or survive off jam and toast, you’ll end up both ill and broke. Just like if you eat meat and junk food all the time, you’ll be in a similar situation. It’s important to make healthy meals out of cheap veg, do research so you know what nutrient comes from where and look after yourself. Eat in a way which is healthy enough that it enables you to make informed choices and eat only foods which reflect YOUR values.
Text by Katt Skippon
Picture research by Donna Darafshian; featured image by Gurpreet Khera.