Our Vegan Experiment

My breakfast of choice these days.

  • DH = Dear Husband
  • DD2 = Dear Second Daughter
  • DD3 = Dear Third Daughter

“It’s not an experiment,” DH says. “And I don’t use the word ‘vegan’; it’s got connotations of religious radicalism. I just say I’ve switched to a plant-based diet.”

I, on the other hand, can’t be sure it’s a permanent lifestyle change. I’ve tried this before. A few years ago, I ate vegan for 6 weeks, but I found it wasn’t sustainable. The big difference this time isย  that I’m not doing it alone.

DH, DD3 and I have been eating more and more plant-based meals over the last two weeks as we’ve gradually finished off the meat and dairy foods in our fridge. The last of our items – butter and frozen fish – are going home with DD2 at the end of this Family Day long weekend. (And I hate to admit it, but we threw out our mayonnaise and left-over meatballs.)

The catalyst for our switch to plant-based eating

I think we were fertile ground for this kind of diet change. I have always been fairly health conscious, and DH has become more and more so – surpassing me – over the last decade. But our catalyst was DD3, now the only of our three children still living at home. “I want you to watch What The Health with me,” she first said several months ago.

In January, I finally did. Then DH watched it. A few days later, led once more by DD3, he watched Cowspiracy. And just like that, we were all committed to going full-on vegan – “for at least a month,” I said. But I was the only one who said that.

These documentaries were our tipping point, bringing home issues that had long registered on our cousciousness, but not enough to prompt significant changes. I’m reluctant to dwell on them here, probably because like DH, I’m aware that it can come across as “religious radicalism.” So just in point form I’ll say that we’re concerned about the following:

  • our health
  • the environment
  • cruelty to animals
  • sustainability of food production for the world’s population
  • water conservation

Our transition to plant-based foods

“So what are we going to eat?” was my big question.

DD3 showed me a video of Avant-Garde Veganย in an effort to assure me of all the delicious plant-based recipes there are out there. “You should buy the Oh She Glows cookbooks,” she told me. I did. We all poured over the recipes, ooo-ing and ahhh-ing over possibilities.

Our first vegan meals were staggeringly delicious. The breakfast you see above, the shepherd’s pie you see below, and the lentil-walnut loaf you don’t see at all – because in my excitement about eating it, I forgot to take a photo of it – convinced us that we would be happy to eat this food forever.

Time-consuming meal prep

I used to think salads took a long time to make. Ha! These vegan recipes are definitely time-consuming. The only way for us to sustain a plant-based diet for the long term will be to share the burden of meal prep. So far, so good. We’re still excited by it all. Sometimes, the kitchen verges on chaos with all three of us chopping, blending, and re-checking our respective recipes. With practice, I’m sure we’ll get more efficient. Right now, there is no flow – and plenty of painstaking effort.

We used to be in the habit of grocery shopping only once per week, but on Saturday alone, DH had to go out 3 times as we kept realizing that we were missing ingredients. Again, I hope we get more efficient with time. And the dirty dishes we produce!

As a step towards efficiency, we bought a basic Vitamix blender – in addition to the small Ninja we already had. Not a cheap purchase, and a real indication of DH’s commitment. “We didn’t buy that expensive blender for an ‘experiment.'” The onion and mushrooms (with lentils) you see on the left, neatly chopped by me, took far longer to prepare than the onion, celery, garlic, ground flax seed, and ground oat flour (with lentils) you see on the right, split-second chopped or ground by DH using our blenders.

 

Connection to personal finances?

This is a personal finance blog about our journey out of debt, and here I am talking about food. But if you’ve given focus to money-management for any amount of time, you already know that it’s connected to e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Including food.

At this point, I can’t say how a plant-based diet will impact our finances. So far, of course, it’s cost us. The cookbooks, the blender, the need to stock up on strange ingredients we’d never even heard of before … I’ll be able to talk more about our vegan grocery budget once it’s become the new normal.

Parallels between our shifts in finances and food

Apart from the dollar amounts involved, this shift in eating reminds me in many ways of our shift in money-management almost six years ago.

  • We had a financial wake-up moment after listening to the CD version of Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover – like our food wake-up after watching What the Health.
  • We had to get rid of old habits and make the effort to work out new ways of managing our money – like getting rid of our meat and dairy habits and putting in the effort to learn new ways of doing meal prep.
  • An ongoing fine-tuning of our money-management meant messiness in the form of tracking our spending, working out details of our budget, having disagreements, and facing conflicts – just like the mess involved in our inefficient grocery shopping, dishes, and intense/chaotic meal prep now.
  • We needed a team effort to change our finances – and it’s a team effort to change our food.

We started outย $257,000 in debt in June of 2012, and even after the first month, we were encouraged by how far we’d come. Almost 6 years later, we’re grateful to our former selves for undergoing the paradigm shift involved in our financial makeover. Our remaining debt is $37,000 – just a small mortgage that will be gone by October of this year.

In the same way, we’re encouraged now by our victories in switching to a plant-based diet. If DH is right and this isn’t just an experiment, I believe that in 6 years we’ll be grateful to our present-day selves for undergoing this paradigm shift for our health.


Have you seen What the Health? Have you tried a plant-based diet? What connections between food and finances have you noticed? Your comments are welcome.


 

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16 CommentsLeave a comment

  • This is so exciting! It is so much easier with family on board. I’ve switched to about 80% vegetarian at this point, but my own DH is very much a carnivore. He is slowly seeing the light, all the connections between animal based foods and disease are backed by a lot of science at this point… perhaps someday we will be on the 100% vegan bandwagon, but for now I will take what wins I can get. I don’t find eating plant based super time consuming, but also I’m not a recipe follower … I’m more of a “put in some of this and some of that and see what happens” kind of cook. Luckily it is good at least most of the time! Good luck on your journey, and I’m sure your future selves as well as the planet will thank you.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Budget Epicurean. Sounds like you are a more creative vegan chef than I am. I rely on those recipes big time! I work with someone who, like you, is vegan 80% of the time – 5 days vegan, and then the weekends are open to more food types. I’m glad that you and your DH manage to accommodate each other’s food preferences with grace:)

  • I haven’t seen it but I have heard some controversy about it. I tend not to go “routes” with my diet, aka, paleo-only, vegan-only, something else-only….and just add little bits of good things along the way and try and remove bad as I go along. The only thing I’d say that I’d get rid of entirely (if it wasn’t so darn delicious) is sugar and processed food. I do like meat and eat it and do want to make good choices if possible in that area (organic, responsibly farmed, etc.). It’s not always easy….and/or cheap! I find for me, the occasional red meat makes me feel better, so I don’t think I could ever give it or other kinds of animal protein up entirely.

    • Thanks Tonya. I totally understand what you’re saying. My previous 6-week vegan effort ended when a colleague pointed out to me that I was white-knuckling. I didn’t realize that I was, and I told her of my vegan diet. “Eat a steak,” she told me. I did. And I felt better. I’m more hopeful for this time around though, because of the big, delicious, protein-filled meals that we’re making. Time will tell. If I’m white knuckling after 6 weeks, steak might end up being the answer again.
      Also, fun fact about sugar: I recently heard the theory that when we crave sugar, let’s say in the form of a cookie, it’s actually the sugar-fat combination we crave – as in the butter in the cookie combined with the sugar. Without the fat, sugar is less appealing. I think there’s something to that theory, because I’m finding that on a plant-based diet, I’m not craving sugar. It’s a bit early to say that for sure, but it’s what I’ve noticed. Again, time will tell.

  • My son’s a vegan. Bleh. He’s always trying to get us to go that route, but, no, I’m a happy carnivore. I do eat a lot less meat these days though. Moderation has always been my goal. I’ll let you know when I’ve achieved it! ๐Ÿ™‚ In the meantime, best wishes with your new lifestyle. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hey Kay, I heard that “Bleh”!! If you tried the walnut-lentil loaf we made – with cauliflower mashed potatoes and vegan gravy to boot! – you’d be a convert and join your son. (I wouldn’t call it our “new lifestyle” yet. It might end up being an experiment after all.)

  • I think it’s safe to say we will never go vegan in this house (the sheer amount of milk my husband drinks….) but we are definitely reducing our meat consumption of late. Particularly as we are kitchenless currently doing renovations…

    • Being without a kitchen has got to make food prep challenging! I think I’d be resorting to a whole lot of take-out – or at least nicely prepared grocery store meals. As for you husband, I would never have guessed my own DH would ever have opted for plant-based – but here we are. People do change. There’s something sobering about age too. The importance of health really hits home as the years go up.

  • I’m not sure we could ever go full vegan. We are certainly trying to make better choices overall with the foods we eat. I have celiac and our youngest son as a peanut allergy, so there are many things we have to avoid altogether. We invested in a Vitamix blender a few years back, and enjoy making smoothies, ice cream and soups in it. Good luck! It will be great to hear an update on how its going, and how everyone is feeling in a few weeks.

    • Yes – I wonder if we will be able to make it ongoing. If I’m not feeling well in a few weeks, I certainly won’t. The thing that I found challenging about “trying to make better choices overall with the foods we eat” was that real food addictions came into play. Fat, salt, and sugar are an addictive combination. I have already found that getting rid of at least the animal-based fats really lowers that addictive power. I’m glad you’re enjoying your Vitamix, Brian. It definitely facilitates healthy meal prep.

  • Been there, done that and back to being a carnivore again :). It was too much prep work for me and I missed being able to bite into something substantial and chewy — meat. We tried going completely raw also – that lasted about three weeks – we lost weight on that one, to the point where someone asked me if my husband had cancer …

    I wish you and your family success with your new eating habits – it is a real commitment, but you proved you have what it takes by your debt repayment victory.

    • I can relate, Nancy – because I’ve been there and done that too. If you did all of the prep work yourself, I can see why you couldn’t keep up with it. There are 3 of us prepping food here (and we do make “substantial and chewy” meals – for real!) and as I said, it’s the only way that this has a chance to last for us. Raw vegan is a whole other level. I don’t think I’d last 3 weeks!

  • My husband and I went full-on vegan about 5 years ago and lasted about 8 weeks. I literally had the energy of a gnat towards the end. My husband and I tried to last longer than we did, but just couldn’t make it happen. One night he said enough was enough and made salmon for dinner ๐Ÿ™‚

    We just basically now try to eat as healthfully as possible. We try to buy organic when we can afford it and just do the best we can. I do enjoy plant-based meals and truthfully wish I had more time to make them.

    • I think there must be a few tricks involved with successful plant-based eating. You and your husband lasted 2 weeks longer than I did when I first gave it a try. Having time to devote to meal prep is a big part of it, and with our children all grown, we now have that time. I’ll give an update in a few weeks to let you know how are energy levels are holding out. Hopefully, we’ll be better off than gnats ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Interesting that What the Health started us both on a road to nutritional changes. I did a lot of research following my viewing, and decided on an omnivorous diet for health reasons (and actually found some interesting holes in the sustainability arguments too). If you continue to feel strongly about eating plant-based, but you don’t feel well- consider supplementing with Vitamin B12, D, A, Selenium, Zinc and Iron. These are the common nutrient deficiencies among vegans.

    • Hannah! Good to hear from you! (I checked your site several times and thought you’d stopped blogging. I’ll check it out again.) We do take B12, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up taking iron too. If I don’t feel well, I won’t continue with exclusively plant-based eating. In the mean time, I’m truly amazed at the amazing vegan meals we can make:)

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