Leaving home to study can be full of daunting moments and uncertainty about the future, but being vegan at university doesn’t have to be one of them…
Many students feel anxious about their first time at university. If you’re vegan, you may be more nervous about moving in with a flat full of potentially judgemental meat eaters than you are about budgeting, the endless workload or even the concept of making new friends!
Being vegan at uni is more commonplace now than ever before and universities are expanding their plant-based offerings on their campuses. According to research by Magnet, students are six times more likely to be vegans than their parents, and statistically speaking, students and young people make up the most rapidly expanding sector of the global vegan demographic. And whilst you may encounter some challenging moments during your time at uni, there’s no need to be concerned about your lifestyle choices impacting upon the incredible experience that lies ahead of you!
Keep reading for our top survival tips for university students.
Well Read, Well Fed.
First of all, let’s talk budget-friendly vegan meals. There are only so many times beans on toast will hit the spot. No matter how hard you try, sustaining yourself on a diet of pot noodles and toast will not leave you feeling satisfied, or healthy, for a prolonged period of time. Keep this advice in mind when it comes to cooking and preparing your meals:
- Bulk cook: Bulk meals that can be made with ease, such as curries, chillies, hotpots and casseroles, also work well as dishes which can be frozen or refrigerated in reusable containers. Check out these cheap vegan recipes for more inspiration.
- Plan ahead: Take 10 minutes to plan your meals for the upcoming week. This might seem like a time-consuming exercise, but your future self will thank you for preparing that hearty lunch the day before, when you’re stuck running from lecture to lab at 10am. Make a plan for your week, including lunch and dinner ideas suited to your daily schedules. Make faster meals on busy days and prepare lunches ahead of time when you have back-to-back lectures. Planning ahead will also allow you to shop weekly for your dishes, preventing expensive mid-week dashes to supermarkets and convenience stores at uni (which are most likely overpriced and unhealthy).
- Make time for breakfast: A good day begins with a nourishing breakfast to see you through the morning. Easy vegan breakfast ideas include overnight oats, scrambled tofu on toast, granola yogurt parfaits, energy bars and smoothies. Most of these can be made ahead of time for a grab-and-go option, saving you time for an extra 20 minutes in bed.
- Take snacks: One important piece of advice is to always ensure you carry snacks with you. Trust us: you don’t want to learn this the hard way with your stomach grumbling in lectures. Snacks such as pouches of peanut butter, rice cakes, energy bars, dried fruit and nuts are perfect for throwing into a bag for the times when hunger strikes.
- Show food the cold shoulder: Place food that’s going out of date, or turning the slightly wrong shade of brown, in the freezer to preserve for later use. Bananas are ideal for freezing (skin on or skin off), but you can freeze almost anything. Chillies, garlic, spices and herbs, fruits (not citrus), vegetables (skin off and prepared), bread, sauces, bulk-cooked dishes, cakes and sweet treats can be kept fresh and well-preserved for a few months.
Bust Your Budget
Buying groceries on a budget is one of the most challenging aspects of living independently for the first time. But with some smart hacks, you can keep your food spend to a minimum.
- Buy local: Make yourself a regular customer and you’ll find yourself building up a rapport with your local grocers and market stall holders. The result? Discounted products and special offers! Buying fresh fruit and veg from a local market stall could end up saving you a small fortune. You can usually fill a bag for life with plenty of fresh produce for just ten pounds!
- Shop around: To ensure you get the best price possible for your groceries, shop around at a few supermarkets and websites. Buying vegan essentials such as legumes, grains and nuts in bulk will help keep costs at bay. Buying wonky or imperfect vegetables can also help reduce the cost of your staple food items, leaving more in the budget for luxury vegan items or a well-deserved take away.
- Choose your time to shop: Finding discounted items and shopping at the reduced aisle at the end of the day is a tried and tested way to grab a bargain. Check out your local supermarket’s closing hours and head down with an hour to spare. You’ll discover some of your favourite staples are significantly reduced due to sell-by-date restrictions. These items are perfectly fine for later consumption, and will most likely last in the fridge or freezer for a few more days.
Now… you’ve planned all of your meals meticulously, sourced your groceries as affordably as you can, and all that’s left to do is move in. If you have decided to move into halls of residence, the best way to tackle the vegan-shaped elephant in the room is simply to talk about it. From day one, be sure to make your flatmates aware of what you are, and are not, comfortable with. Be open to compromise, and be willingly flexible when it comes to accommodating your fellow flatmates’ needs regardless of dietary requirements:
- Suggest taking the top shelf in the fridge. This will prevent any animal products from contaminating your food accidentally.
- Reserve yourself a few freezer shelves for your bulk-made meals and prepped foods.
- Ask to use a specific chopping board for your food preparation, as to not contaminate your cooking with animal products.
If you really want to show off your vegan cooking skills, why not bake your new flatmates a tray of vegan brownies and some muffins, or offer to host a vegan taco or pizza night? After all, the best way to educate others about vegan food is by sharing your own delicious culinary creations.
Undoubtedly, one of the best parts of going to university is the diverse range of exciting people you’ll meet along the way. Why not join your university’s vegan and vegetarian society (commonly known as VegSoc)? You’ll meet like-minded individuals who might just become friends for life. By getting in with a vegan and vegetarian society, you’ll also discover your university city’s hidden vegan menus, great café spots and become acquainted with the local vegan community.
There are so many exciting opportunities awaiting you, so go forth with confidence and begin your adventure into independence with confidence.
Don’t forget to check out our recipe section for some cheap, cheerful and delicious meal ideas!