Doing your own food shopping and cooking can be a daunting task for any student at University. It may seem even harder if your diet is restricted, but being a vegetarian can make cooking easier, healthier and save you a lot of money in the long run. I became a pescetarian at University (someone who does not eat meat but allows fish in their diet). With more and more students choosing not to eat meat or fish, I’ve written this article with the intention of helping those who live a meat and fish-free lifestyle, including some helpful tips from veggie students across the country.
Is being a vegetarian expensive?
The main worry for those who decide to become vegetarians is that food shopping will be far more costly, however, this really isn’t the case. Meat and fish would be the most costly things in my shopping basket on most food shops, with my meat-free and fish-free goods costing much less. Meal staples such as rice, potatoes and pasta really aren’t very costly at all, particularly if you shop at Aldi or Lidl. Go to fruit and veg markets (which most unis have), you’ll find that veg and fruit are incredibly cheap, especially if bought when they’re in season. Stock up your cupboard with herbs such as oregano, basil, rosemary and thyme to add flavour to your meals. It’s good to keep nuts in the cupboard too, as they can be added to salads, pastas and curries to make the meal more filling.
Do you find yourself eating the same thing?
Many people may think that having a vegetarian diet means that meals are more samey, but there are a lot meat-free alternatives that mean you can enjoy a varied diet. Quorn offers an array of alternatives from meat-free burgers, sausages, lardons, and fillets to fish-free fingers and deli options such as ham, chorizo and pepperoni. Other companies such as Linda McCartney also offer meat-free meals such as ravioli, pies and stir-fries. Veggie hack: If you buy nut stuffing mix (Sainsburys’ Taste The Difference is my favourite) and add the recommended amount of water, you can make burgers and sausages out of them – perfect for the bbq season!
Are there really health benefits to becoming a vegetarian?
Yes, cutting out meat such as lamb, beef and pork means that your diet will be lower in fat – obviously, you need to keep an eye on other fats in your diet, though! Lots of people assume that if you’re a vegetarian, your diet lacks a lot of protein, however this really isn’t the case. Despite suffering from anaemia, giving up meat did not affect my iron deficiency in the slightest. Foods such as seeds, nuts, beans and pulses, cereals and greens such as spinach and kale are high-iron foods which are great for you. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are also high in iron so you have an excuse to indulge now and then! If you are still worried about your diet lacking in iron, there are hundreds of multivitamins in Holland and Barrett and other health food stores which can boost your general health (with many starting at around £3 for 90 tablets). If you are worried about how vegetarianism may affect your health, you can speak to your GP, too!
What are some basic veggie meals?
Veggie meals are easy to make – you can make stuffed pepper dishes, pastas, rice dishes, salads and more. Below are two easy examples of basic veggie meals – particularly good for when you’re in a hurry.
Grace Hunt, University of Warwick, Sociology.
"In line with a vegetarian/vegan ethos it's worth checking out local green grocers in your student town at the end of the day - they often give people fruit and veg which they're chucking out - whizz up the veg with onions, garlic & stock for a nutritious soup that will last a few days. Or depending on what you get, veg is always a good base for a meal so if you get it for a free spend a couple of pounds on some quorn or noodles or whatever you fancy! A few people also take part in something called 'skipping' which involves going through the bins of supermarkets or chains as they often chuck away decent food which may be going off that day or may just have a split in the packaging. (There are some legal aspects to this to bear in mind though..) It very much depends on where you are in the country as to whether there is access to cheap, locally sourced vegetarian produce but my main advice would be to source out a good green grocers, get to know them, get some freebies and cook with others! The cheapest and most enjoyable way to eat is with others - everyone contributes and everyone enjoys!"
Tara India Kergon, University of Birmingham, English Language and Hispanic Studies.
"My tip is to get veggies/fruit cheap by shopping at around 5/6pm when things are reduced and then cook something like a veggie curry and freeze it, along with fruit or bread so it doesn't go out of date!"
Martha Jane Teverson, London, Politics and Sociology Student as of September 2015.
"Being a vegetarian/vegan is actually a lot cheaper than eating meat. I eat a lot of Quorn which is really tasty. I also eat falafel, bean burgers and tofu. I think once you stop eating meat you open yourself to a whole new variety of delicious meals and if you love cooking, you can be a lot more creative with what you eat. I buy a lot of fresh vegetables (which are really cheap) and cook them with spices and herbs. You can add soya milk for a creamy texture. I love to make curries using coconut milk, chick peas, butternut squash, and other vegetables with rice. I also love to do noodle dishes. Being a vegetarian can be fun and rewarding as it is generally a lot healthier and satisfying. This is just the starting point on reasons why it's good to go veggie - there are tons of other reasons too!"