Done properly, a vegan or vegetarian diet can be a great way to save money and eat healthily whilst at university. But it can be hard to know where to find good diet-friendly snacks, and lots of first-time students worry about whether their new flatmates will understand their choice not to eat animal products.
We asked Lauren, a 2nd year BA (Hons) Film Production student, all about her vegetarian diet – and how easy it is to stick to in Gloucestershire. Here’s what she told us:
1. What has your experience of being veggie at university been like?
Surprisingly very easy! I thought it would be difficult living in a flat full of meat-eaters but everybody tends to actually be really respectful if, for example, you prefer to not share your sponges or pans or baking trays, to keep them meat-juice free.
A lot of people are mostly curious. I get asked “but what do you eat if you don’t put chicken in your meals?!” – but I find that I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all. There are some really good meat substitutes available, but I find that I can make do without them and still eat well. (This also includes when everybody flocks to KFC after a night out in Cheltenham – I pass on the chicken queues and get cheesy chips from Turkish Delight instead).
Living independently at first meant that I resorted to ‘easy’ veggie options like pizzas and ready meals, but the longer I’ve been here the more interested I’ve been in actually cooking for myself and I think I’m much better off for it.
“Some expect me to be a pushy radical vegan so they instantly become defensive. Others think I'm super sensitive to even mentioning meat which also isn't true. Usually, after explaining myself and my lifestyle they treat me like anyone else. The way I see it, I'm not very different from people who don't eat tomatoes or fish or olives, or anything else.”
– Tereza, 2nd year BA (Hons) Advertising
2. Where are your favourite vegan and veggie places to eat out in Cheltenham and Gloucester?
For independent and fully veggie friendly places to eat, there’s Vinnie’s Eatery and Vegetus Café in Cheltenham, and for everything you could want in a takeaway there’s Sowl Fuud in Gloucester (who have just started delivering via JustEat so lucky if you’re living in halls in Gloucester!).
The Stable in Cheltenham has a great range of vegan pizzas and have just started a ‘Meat Free Monday’ offer where any vegan pizza is only £5 on Mondays! For an amazing all-day brunch, Portivo Lounge at Gloucester Quays has a dedicated vegan menu too.
“There are quite a lot of chains that do good food suitable for veggies and vegans now. My favourite is Creams, as they also do student discount in-store, and also do vegan bubble tea which is perfect on a hot day.”
– Erin, 2nd year BA (Hons) Creative Music Technology
3. How easy is it to eat vegan or veggie on campus?
I study at Park Campus, and there is always a veggie-friendly hot main option in the refectory, and more often than not it will be vegan too - these will always be cheaper than the meaty alternative. Often the ‘budget buster’ option is veggie friendly too, like vegetable noodles or tomato & mozzarella pasta bake.
They do an impressive range of veggie and vegan sandwiches and paninis, even one with vegan mozzarella! If you need coffee or hot chocolate in your life, the Starbucks’ counters usually have soya, oat and almond milk on offer too.
4. Do you have any tips for food shopping?
Definitely stock up on long-life cupboard foods like pasta, lentils, rice, etc. as they can be really versatile and come into a lot of veggie recipes. I live in Cheltenham so I find it most affordable to pick up these long-life items from Lidl – there’s one right in the centre of town or a slightly larger one a short drive or bus ride out of town.
“I think it's not hard to eat vegan, especially with so many options in the supermarkets nowadays. I don't require that many substitutes so it's not even that expensive.”
There’s several health food supermarkets, such as Grape Tree on the high street or the Natural Grocery Store on Bath Road where you’ll be able to pick up a lot of interesting items that a regular supermarket may not stock, such as a wider range of non-dairy milks or meat alternatives. However, this can be a little pricier.
Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda all have a great range of chilled and frozen meat alternatives and ready meals. unless your accommodation is close to one of these superstores, the best option may be to group up with your flatmates or housemates and do an online order and get it delivered. This is also a great option for stocking up on heavy things like non-dairy milk that have a long cupboard-life.
5. What kinds of meals do you cook for yourself?
One thing that really changed the way I cooked at uni was actually buying a wok! It meant that rather than just cooking chilled & frozen items in the oven or eating ready meals, I was making my own stir fries, fajitas and burritos with proper vegetables! Peppers and onions became a staple in every one of my meals. These types of foods are also really good for communal cooking in your flat or house, like having a ‘fajita night’.
Another one of my favourite super easy meals to cook is a curry that’s just ‘throw in all your vegetables’ – I cook up lentils with sweet potato, broccoli, or any other veg that can all be boiled together for 20 minutes, then I cover it with masala sauce and get a really delicious, genuinely easy and cheap curry that’s easy to make big batches of too.
Sweet potato is definitely something I always make sure I’ve got, as I’ve learnt you can boil it, mash it, roast it and again it’s super versatile from using it in hot meals like curries to just cutting it up and having it in a wrap.
7. Where do you look for more information about local vegan and veggie options?
I’m a member of the Facebook group Gloucestershire Vegans (even though I’m not vegan) as it’s a really good platform for people posting local restaurant and café recommendations, recipes, new products in supermarkets etc. They also do meetups, trips and meals out together, which is great.
8. Would you recommend a vegetarian or vegan diet to other university students?
Making that decision was a really simple and
positive change to my life - and I’d definitely recommend it as a student
lifestyle/diet, not only for the money-saving aspect of not eating meat, but
also because it’s a really great time to be thinking about how you can lessen
your impact on the environment.
I don’t feel like I’m at a point where I’m ready
to go fully vegan but the times where I have tried to stick to it for a short
time have been where I’ve felt most healthy, positive and good about myself!
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