Vegan Salt –the blog

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I recently asked Twitter, “Do you spend more or less money on food as a vegan than you did as an omnivore?” and the responses fell pretty evenly into the following categories.

Specialty Vegans – One group said they spend more because food items made for vegans are so expensive.   (See Vegan Grocery Bills -Part 1 on vegan replacements for old favorites like cheese and marshmallows.)  Restaurants that cater specifically to vegans also tend to charge slightly more per plate than low-end standard eateries.

Organic shoppers – Another group said they spend more now, but that it’s because becoming vegan lead them to critically examine the items they consume, and they now buy significantly more organic produce and other high-priced health foods.  Tahini, raw cashews, coconut oil, chai seeds, spelt flour, organic peanut butter; all those would have seemed like luxuries to, say, my mother.  This group of folks is paying more, but eating much higher quality food.

Home Cookers – People in the third category said they actually saved money as vegans by eating out less (sometimes because so few vegan options are available) and by cooking more, usually from scratch.  This is the secret to being a frugal vegan eater. By all means, use Chick’n patties and vegan cream cheese as needed, especially as you transition to eating vegan, but keep in mind that your goal should be eating more whole plant foods.

Yes, this means learning to cook.  Yes, it takes some time, but it saves you a bunch of money, and as much as you may think you hate cooking, you’ll find that a simple meal can taste scrumptious when you have put it together yourself.  Accomplishment is a spice that goes well with everything. Read the rest of this entry »


{August 27, 2010}   Vegan Grocery Bills -Part 1

Is it expensive to eat a vegan diet? There are a lot of pricey vegan specialty foods that could lead you to think so.  Countless hours of research and development have lead to vegan versions of many meat-and-dairy staples.  I’ve tried nearly all of the items below, and I’m quite fond of some of them.  But with very rare exceptions, vegan alternatives to meat, dairy, and other animal-derived products cost significantly more than the items they are replacing.

Of course, there’s a good reason for the disparity in price.  Government subsidies (yep, that’s our tax money) keep the price of animal products artificially low.  In other words, animal farmers and their suppliers are on welfare!  (They have to be, because they’re running an unsustainable industry.  People simply wouldn’t buy much meat or dairy if they had to pay the true cost for it, and factory farms would rapidly start going out of business.)  The makers of these vegan products are not subsidized, so what seems like a high price, is really just a fair price.  Now for some vegan munchies. This is just a tiny sampling of the many incredible animal-free foods now on the market!! Read the rest of this entry »

One of the most common objections to veganism is that we ought to be concerned with human suffering more than that of animals.  If you’re vegan, someone has probably asked you how you can care so much about animals while human beings are suffering from injustice and exploitation.  Shouldn’t people come first? This is a nuanced question, so I’ll expound on three different responses: Yes, No, and Irrelevant.  Here we go now, in reverse order.

1-Shouldn’t people come first? – Irrelevant.  You don’t have to choose one or the other.

Black Americans are disproportionately imprisoned, while being under-represented in colleges and in government.  Women do most of the world’s work, but earn significantly less money than men.  More than 10% of Americans are treated as second-class citizens because of whom they love.

Is it possible to be an advocate for racial equality, gay rights, and feminism simultaneously?  Of course it is.  You yourself are probably in favor of environmental protection and the spread of education.  Not only is it possible to push for animal rights and human rights at once, it’s rare to find a vegan who isn’t also an advocate for other causes. Read the rest of this entry »

I distinctly remember the last handful of M&M’s I ever ate.  It was early summer, 2006.  A friend and I were at my mother’s house, talking about how we felt we should be vegan.  We’d recently attended an animal rights conference at the library downtown.  Some time before that, I’d invited him to a lecture by a vegan former professor from BYU.  I’d been circling veganism since the prior year, when I’d met and befriended a vegan classmate; a friendship which led me to watch disturbing YouTube videos like Meet Your Meat.  By the day I was munching M&M’s out of a bowl, I had already phased meat out of my diet and stopped buying milk, at least on its own.

So… there we were, talking about animal suffering, how wrong it was, how bad we felt about the constant genocide going on behind the cleanly packaged grocery store products, and how we ought to be doing something… or rather, he was talking about doing something.  I was avoiding eye contact and devouring the free M&M’s my mom had left on the counter.  There was a panic brewing in a tiny corner of my brain – the chocolate center!  I know, biologically-speaking, neuroscientists will argue that there’s no such part of the mind, but I could feel it shifting uncomfortably and trying to tune out my friend’s voice.  He was telling me we could do it, it was possible to be vegan, even in Utah, and that he even knew vegans who no doubt would help us make the change.  The next thing I knew, he was sticking out his hand and asking me to shake on it.  We would become vegan.  Together.  I crammed the last of the M&M’s into my mouth (What? I needed the hand free!) and shook on it.  Goodbye, precious chocolate….or so I was thinking at the time.

Cocoa, of course, comes from a bean.  It’s only during the production that non-vegan ingredients are often added, and the lower the quality, the more they skimp on ingredients and add things like cow milk.  As for M&M’s, none of them are vegan.  (Yet.  They’ll come around, once their customers all go vegan!)  Neither are Dove, Cadbury, or anything made by Mars.  But the good news is that there’s a lot of chocolate out there that a vegan can enjoy right now.  (For the record, cocoa butter is actually a  creamy plant product and has nothing to do with cow butter.  When label-reading, watch for milk, milk solids, and whey.  Also keep in mind that unless the sugar used is labeled organic or vegan, it is possible that it’s char-bleached.)  Ready for the chocolate now?

Read the rest of this entry »

There are few things more cliché than a vegan (or vegetarian) eating a salad, and few things could have sounded less appealing to me 5 years ago. But as I write this, I’m devouring a bowlful of delicious salad.  Look!

Five years ago I could list the vegetables I liked on one hand.  Corn, potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, and mushrooms.  (All of those in cooked form only.)  The word “salad” conjured up images of wilted iceberg lettuce with a two slices of cucumber and a tomato wedge, drenched in some highly processed, creamy goop: in other words, something practically inedible.

In defense of salad, I want to clear up a few things.

  1. Most pre-made dressings tend to be junk.  I’ve never found a salad dressing that beats this one: oil, balsamic vinegar, a bit of salt, and a bit of sugar.  All to taste.  Lemon juice or even mustard works in place of vinegar if you like.  I put these ingredients in the bottom of the bowl while I start chopping and dicing, to let the salt and sugar dissolve.
  2. Salad should not have iceberg lettuce in it!  Nothing should, for that matter.  There are so many leafy greens out there with actual flavor, not to mention nutrients.  My current favorite is spinach, which is the only green in my salad above.
  3. Salad has no rules.  Put anything you like in there!  You like wine, capers, jalepeno, and leftover  sauteéd squash?  Go for it!  My favorite extra salad ingredients are walnuts and black beans.   They add weight to the salad, both literally and in terms of hunger, since they contain more carbs and fat (healthy fat) than your ordinary salad veggies.

Now some of you are saying, “That’s great, but what if I don’t like greens or raw veggies at all?”  Well, I’m sure you like something Start from there, and experiment with adding small amounts of other foods.  If your salad is a bowl of cucumber, pine nuts, and olives with just a touch of romaine, that’s ok! Start eating more salads and I promise you’ll start liking salad.  Maybe even loving and craving salads!

See, a strange thing happens when you start eating more vegetables.  You start liking more vegetables.  Things I used to only eat under very particular instances I now enjoy and use every day.  (Tomatoes, carrots, and onions are on this list.)  Taste buds die and are replaced with new ones regularly, and you can teach yours to love the foods that love you back.  How great is that?

Here’s what I put in today’s salad, in case you’re curious: spinach, mushrooms, carrot, black beans, walnuts, avocado, and tomato.  Dressing was the simple vinegar-oil-sugar-salt combo I mentioned above.

  • This blog post is the first in a series in which I refute my former excuses for not being vegan. Several readers suggested I follow up on the Excuse List, and I appreciate the feedback! This post addresses my concerns of hating salad and of not liking most vegetables.

{December 29, 2009}   My Excuse List

What does every non-vegan have?  An excuse.  Or a rambling list of excuses.   (Now, before anyone starts getting defensive, let me mention that as a non-runner, I have a list of excuses for not running.  Fact is fact.) Some lists are short and to the point: “I like meat and cheese.”  Others are a nebulous cluster of myths masking an underlying fear of change.  Well, this is the time of year for self-examination and organizing one’s thoughts, so I’m offering up my own list.  This is the list I never wrote or articulated at the time, but which hid in the shadows and held me back for months.

Reasons Why I Could Never Be Vegan

  • When I was vegetarian, I didn’t feel healthy, so how could I possibly be healthy as a vegan?
  • I’m not a very health-focused person.
  • I’m not much of a cook.
  • Most recipes I know focus on meat or cheese.
  • I really like homemade cheeseburgers.
  • I’d have to give up baking, which I love.
  • I’ve never liked salad.
  • I don’t even like many vegetables.
  • Tofu looks inedible and I wouldn’t know what to do with it.
  • I can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods all the time.
  • I don’t have the willpower.
  • I’ve never been able to stick with a diet for more than 3 days.
  • Vegans seem militant.
  • I don’t know any vegans.
  • My roommate and my boyfriend aren’t vegan.
  • I don’t want to put that much effort into what I eat.
  • I can’t imagine going a day without chocolate, cheese, or ice cream.
  • I’d have to explain and defend my diet, and I just don’t know enough about it.
  • I’m not even an “animal lover.”
  • I’d feel like an impostor.

Whew.  It always feels good to clean out the dark corners of the mind.  I surprised even myself at what was hiding there!  The list is certainly longer and more contradictory than I would have imagined.

Challenge: write your own list.  Make it as long as possible while still being utterly truthful.  Don’t leave off any excuse you have, or had at one point in your past.  If you want to share your list, or just a peculiar excuse that came up during your inner search, I’d love to hear from you.

et cetera