“Let’s have a family veganuary,” my other half annouces at 9am on 1 January. I woop and cheer and there’s an audible groan from the back of the car. It’ll be easy, we think. We’ll all just eat what I eat, we think. We don’t need to plan and prep because there is already a vegan in the family. How wrong we were…

Foward Thinking and Planning

I totally ace those two things up there when it comes to the day-job but for the home life, it’s less planning and more winging it. We didn’t go into vegan January particularly well prepared or in fact, not at all. The only food we had in the house were some limp carrots and a very non-vegan Christmas pudding which is still sat in its box, slowly making its way to its best before date. We were doomed for failure from the start.

We did however, manage to rustle up a number of vegan meals before we got around to doing the shopping. I am forever thankful that my kids love anything titled ‘Carrot and Lentil Soup’. Granted we may be in the minority with this and I can sense you all flipping me the bird right now. Basically, I stumbled across a soup that one day my kids announced they didn’t hate and since then EVERY soup in our house is called carrot and lentil even if there are no carrots or lentils in said soup.

Even with our lack of fore-thought (and there was no way I was letting this opportunity pass by saying ‘well let’s start in February’) we managed to bungle our way through the first couple of days.

School Meals

I don’t do packed lunches. I don’t get up early to make sandwiches. I definitely don’t make little pots and nicely cling filmed snacks. Except now I do. At my son’s school there is no option for vegan and if he wants the vegetarian meal, he has to actually ask for it. Which he isn’t going to do, not because he doesn’t want it but because he doesn’t like asking for things. Probably linked to the fact he is 5.

So now I do do packed lunches, early rising to make sandwiches and I have mostly got a handle on the whole cling film thing.

Before the school term started we Googled ‘vegan school packed lunches’ which came up with a whole load of blog posts about making soups, stews and one-pots. Most of these options were great packed lunches if you have access to a microwave and a kitchen. But he doesn’t, he is 5. I didn’t really fancy sending him in with hummus sandwiches every day so instead we sat and made a list of things he would eat that were neither bread nor hummus.

I would say this is the most successful aspect of Veganuary for us. Probably because we planned. While missing the weekly serving at chips at school, he is placated with a ‘rainbow wrap’, when I’ve not been organised I have a back up pasta pesto salad option and a rice salad.

Childcare

Okay, I’ll own up to this, my daughter has been getting vegetarian meals from our child minder from the outset. While it may seem simple to just do two packed lunches at the same time, some days really are leftovers scrabbled together with some fruit and nuts. I am just not that good at preparation. So, my childminder has graciously been provided vegetarian meals for her this month.

Marathon training

It was on 5 January that my husband annouced from his office he was assessing the vegan part of veganuary and was in fact going vegetarian instead because he was so hungry and it didn’t help him go carb-free. He was filling up on crackers and that was impacting his carefully planned nutrition for his marathon training. At the time I was reading an article in the Standard Issue about 5 January being the day most people give up their New Year Resolutions.

While I don’t see his move to being vegetarian as giving up – he was certainly maintaining meat-free January and mostly just eating plants – I do think that had we planned Veganuary and done a bit of marathon-training research then it would have been more successful. Fiona Oakes doesn’t become an ultra-marathon runner from a lack of preparation and she manages just fine as a vegan. A little search of Vegan Runners might have been more helpful at the start but we know for next time.

In Conclusion

Yep, we have failed at family Veganuary but family Vegetarian-January has been a booming success and that can only be a good thing. My husband has not really missed meat, not even last Friday when he went out for curry with friends. There were some grumblings in the pub over Sunday Roast but really if we plant-eaters start demanding better Sunday Roasts, we might start getting some.

We have stopped being so lazy with the kids’ meals. We both work and often chucking some fish fingers in front of them is way easier than battling through something we’ve lovingly prepared. My son has realised, despite his best protests, that he loves vegan sausages, veggie fingers and cauliflower ‘cheese’. We’ll be eating these meals more often as a family rather than me having something different on my own.

While there’s a part of me that cannot wait for January to be over so I have the safety net of school lunches, there’s a more thoughtful part that like knowing what he’s eating every day and ensuring it is something more than bread and vegetables with a side of sugar-filled pudding. I’ll be making him more packed lunches and bringing ever more variety to his diet.

The only person this hasn’t really affected, aside from me as it was business as usual, is my daughter. She will eat anything, except when she decides she no longer likes it mid-meal. I don’t for one second under appreciate just how amazing this is. If it is edible (and sometimes when it is not), if placed in front of her, she’ll eat it.

Finally, we wouldn’t have gotten this far in our attempt at Veganuary (which I am now referring to as Vege-January), without the support of our friends, family and those who look after our children. It reminded me how difficult it can be starting out as a vegan. It is far harder than saying ‘if it comes from an animal, just don’t eat it’. Something which I forget over the years. For everyone out there who attempted a vegan day, week or month, I wholeheartedly salute your efforts. Well done.

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