If you read this post at the beginning of the month you’ll know that in 2018, instead of making resolutions, I decided to take on something I called ‘The 12 Month Challenge’. In short, instead of giving myself a long list of unrealistic goals for the year, I decided to break it down into smaller chunks and take on a brand new challenge every single month. As it only takes 21 days to form a habit, I figured this was a pretty good way to focus on making small changes that I want to make to my life, one small step at a time.
So in case you’re not aware, January’s Challenge was meat-free! I’ve wanted to cut down on eating meat for a long time now, but have never really given it enough focus to explore it properly. So this month I decided to take on the challenge of eliminating meat and fish completely from my diet and see what happened.
So today’s post is a little round-up of how I got on and whether I think it’s something I’m going to incorporate into my life long term.
The first thing I want to talk about is inspiration as for me, unless I’m feeling inspired, I really struggle to motivate myself. So at the start of the month I was on a bit of a mission to seek out lots of places for recipe inspiration and advice on maintaining a meat-free diet. I’m happy to say that I was never short of inspiration and that’s thanks to a bunch of great blogs and websites that I found. Here are a few of my favourites!
Cookie and Kate Kate’s blog is full of delicious veggie food and I swear every recipe I’ve tried of hers has been super tasty! I also love that she incorporates snippets of her life, along with her dog Cookie, into all of her recipes. It gives it a more personal touch.
Amuse Your Bouche I discovered this blog while searching for easy veggie lunch ideas and it didn’t disappoint! Its packed with simple vegetarian recipes and they’re all great for midweek meals. It’s also got some really unusual things on there like this Homemade Chip Shop Curry Sauce recipe!
Niomi Smart Ok so this wasn’t a new discovery as I already follow Niomi’s YouTube channel, but I definitely went to her for recipe inspiration a lot more this month. Niomi is vegan but many of her recipes are really tasty and have the right balance of adventure and ease.
I’ve been much more adventurous this month and have tried a whole host of new recipes that I know I’ll be cooking over and over again in the weeks to come. I’ve also discovered how tasty veggie food can be! Here are a few of my fave recipes from this month…
Lentil Bolognese It tastes even better than traditional Spag Bol!
Moroccan Spiced Pie This is absolutely delicious! If you’re struggling to find a good veggie pie and you like a bit of flavour, this is the one for you!
Jamie’s Sicilian Squash Stew This recipe is great if you want to cook up a big stew on a Sunday. It tastes like a tagine but it takes much less time to prepare.
Coconut and Cashew Daal I make this recipe pretty much every week to take to work for lunch and I cannot put into words just how tasty it is! The split peas and cashews give it an almost crunchy texture and it always leaves me feeling super full.
Cauliflower and Lentil Tacos Ok, bare with me on this one! I know cauliflower wouldn’t be the first thing you’d choose to put in your tacos but paired with a chipotle sauce, you’d never know these were meat-free! I’ve served them to family and they had no idea it was cauliflower!
China Masala I made this to take to a friend’s house and it went down really well, especially with the non-veggies!
Considering it’s January I’ve actually been eating out quite a lot this month and have had some really tasty meals that have really proven to me that food doesn’t have to have meat in it to be amazing! Here’s where I’ve been eating..
Wagamama – so Chicken Katsu curry has always been one of my favourite meals and, if I’m honest, I was a little worried that the veggie version wasn’t quite going to compare. I’m happy to say I was wrong as it was in fact better. It came with discs of squash that were coated in Katsu spice and it was absolutely delicious. If you go to Wagamama, it’s a must!
Tattu– This is a new restaurant to Leeds and it is on the pricier side. But as they were offering 40% off in January I couldn’t resist booking. There wasn’t a great deal of veggie meals to choose from on the menu but the Crispy Tofu and Mushroom Spring Rolls I had were well worth the extra pennies!
The Old Red Bus Station– this is the first vegan restaurant I’ve ever visited and I was a little nervous that I was going to be served a bowl of pulses. After ordering the seitan skewers though I was very pleasantly surprised and it was honestly as good as any chicken skewers I’ve ever eaten (ps seitan is a meat substitute that is made from wheat and is quite doughy in texture)
Zaap– if you’re veggie and you can’t decide where to eat out, Thai is always a safe bet! They’ll usually do most things on the menu with tofu or veg if you ask nicely. Zaap is my favourite Thai restaurant and they were more than happy to swap the chicken for tofu when I wanted to order the Massaman off the non-veggie menu.
I have to say that I really haven’t found this month that difficult and to be honest, meat hasn’t even crossed my mind. There have however been a few challenges that I came across over the last few weeks…
Ready meals- Personally I’m not a big fan of ready meals but there was one night when i finished work late and decided to pop to the corner shop to pick something quick up for dinner. When I found the ready meal section i was faced with the options of mac n cheese or tomato pasta, neither of which I was particularly in the mood for.
Top tip- prepare your own ready meals by batch cooking meals ahead and freezing them in portions!
Socialising– there were a couple of occasions where I was invited to my friends’ for dinner and was the only non-meat eater there. To avoid being the ‘awkward guest’ I cooked a veggie dish and took it along for everyone. It meant I wasn’t having to play the fussy eater and also took the pressure off my friend hosting as there was more food for everyone.
More time cooking– I’m not quite sure why but I did find that over the course of the last month I’ve spent a lot more time preparing food from scratch, most likely because it takes a lot more effort to make veggie food taste exciting. I have to say though, I have rather enjoyed it!
Cooking Tofu– so the biggest challenge i’ve faced over the last few weeks is cooking tofu well. Whenever I order it at a restaurant it tastes delicious but I’m really struggling to get the knack of cooking it myself. I am getting there though and the best tip I’ve picked up so far is to ensure you carefully press all of the water out of it before cooking.
And here’s a few good things that have happened since I stopped eating meat..
Improvement in my health- I don’t think not eating meat has had a huge impact on my health but two things I have noticed is that a. My stomach is much less bloated and b. I’ve had a lot more energy than normal and getting up in a morning has been much easier. Again, I’m not sure this is down to my diet but on the whole I’ve felt really good!
Saved money- Although I’ve been buying much more fresh stuff, I have found that food shops have overall been cheaper. I used to spend around £10 a week on meat and fish, so a pretty big saving there!
Eaten more veg- Another thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve eaten a lot more veg than I used to. Not because I’ve been chomping on carrots all day long, but because I’ve had to bulk out my meals with veg instead of meat.
Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed January’s challenge and I’m so happy that I’ve finally dedicated the time to explore something I want to incorporate into my life. Although the label ‘vegetarian’ still feels pretty intimidating at the moment, I have decided I’m going to carry on meat-free and see how I get on. It really has become second nature over the last few weeks so I definitely feel like giving my goals some focus, one at a time, has really worked for me.
Watch out for Sunday’s post where I’ll be talking about what I’m going to be doing for my February challenge!