One of the many misconceptions we once had about going vegan was that we thought it would make the day-to-day of our lives more difficult. But this mentality has been countered going as far back as the third century A.D., when plant-based Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry urged "those who have arranged their life conformably to truth" to "liberate ourselves from many inconveniences by abandoning a fleshly diet."
(Dude really isn't helping with the whole sanctimonious holier-than-thou rap vegans get, but you get the gist.)
Yes, for those with access and autonomy, the inconvenient truth about the need to change our diets is actually far more convenient than the vehemently vegan-resistant may imagine, and here are some of the many ways this is so today. They may surprise you!
1 - Grocery shopping is streamlined.
With nothing off-limits, choosing groceries can get overwhelming. Unless you're shopping at Veganz (we wishz!), apart from the produce section, vegan items account for a smaller portion of a typical grocery store's inventory. (Although plenty of foods are "accidentally vegan" as well.) Sounds like a bummer, but research shows that the fewer options people have, the easier it is to make decisions and be happy with our choices.
And although at first we were scouring labels, we quickly figured out what's vegan and what we like. Now we're in and outta there pretty quickly.
Plus, there's a certain satisfaction to be had in purposefully skipping over entire sections of the store - including whizzing by the deli line while people stand around waiting their turn. (Just don't breathe in, because that sh*t kinda stinks once you stop eating it long enough.)
As far as whether it's more expensive, it's been our experience that although some (but definitely not all!) vegan versions of foods may be pricier - partly because plant-based farming doesn't benefit from ginormous taxpayer subsidies like animal agriculture does, plus demand is currently lower (but growing rapidly) - the lack of meat expenses seems to even everything out, so the amount we spend on groceries is generally similar or cheaper. Many affordable global staple foods are plant-based, but any diet can be as expensive as you make it.
In fact, a recent Gallup poll found that Americans who make less than $30,000 a year are more likely to be vegetarian or vegan, while people who make more than $75,000 a year are less likely to self-identify with either diet. “The lower the income level, the greater the likelihood of reporting reduced meat consumption.” This makes sense, as the Washington Post notes in their coverage of the poll, because "meat adds expense to an already-tight grocery budget." St. Joseph Health System in Sonoma County, CA reports, “Vegetarian entrées cost about 50 percent less than meat entrées.” The hospital projects saving $5,000 a year by serving more meat-free meals. Think of what it can do for your annual grocery budget!
2 - Dining decisions are less agonizing
I don't know what was harder, trying to decide where to go out to eat before we went vegan, or deciding from the many hysterical memes about this conundrum for this blog post.
We obviously have fewer options now, but in an over-saturated market, again, that's actually helpful. We know exactly which eateries are worth patronizing in our area, as well as those in the larger cities within reasonable brunch/dinner distance, and can decide fairly quickly.
When traveling, we just use the Yelp or Happy Cow apps to find great options everywhere we go. Sometimes we even end up discovering interesting towns we never would have otherwise. (Hello vegan tikka masala curry pizza with curry fries at Pizza & Sub Stop in Lowell, MA, home to a national historical park – who knew?). More and more great options are popping up all the time all over the place.
Basically, rather than trying to make do with scraps in spaces that fundamentally don't understand or won't consider adjusting to accommodate the vegan ethical position, we prefer the new spaces that have been created by others who share it. We have access to these kinds of spaces, which are popping up all over the place. Plus, many global cuisines found everywhere have an inherent focus on plant foods, like falafel joints and Thai and Indian restaurants. (And as you can see, the vegan options at this famous falafel restaurant in New Haven we visited are considerably cheaper than the non-vegan options.)
Even dining at restaurants that aren't vegan-friendly can sometimes be surprisingly pleasant. Although Craig would rather die than call attention to himself or put anyone out for one second, I will veeeery politely ask if the chef could possibly whip up any plant-based plate of their choosing. This approach often gets great results. (Other times, the chef's efforts may be so laughably halfhearted they go viral. Then you can go hungry but be internet famous.)
Once, the chef himself personally served me a yummy concoction of rice and beans, plantains, roasted veggies, and salad to our table, beaming with pride, noting he relished the opportunity to go off-menu and get creative. Another time, the waitress at an old-school seafood joint (where I assumed they would think "vegan" was a type of alien) excitedly presented an artfully-plated herbaceous grain and root vegetable dish, confessing she made the chef promise to make the same for her meal break because she was f*cking sick of fish.
3 - Getting ready is quicker.
Okay, this is the last one on the list with the fewer options = easier theme.
After deciding to give away my massive collection of vintage leather shoes, belts, jackets, and bags, wool sweaters, silk tops, etc., I no longer have to agonize (as much) over making sartorial decisions, given my streamlined wardrobe. My non-leather shoes even fit in one closet instead of basically needing their own storage shed.
Craig still chooses from the same goofy t-shirt collection he's had since college - although he's diversified to a "Tofu: The Other Other White Meat" option.
Similarly, as a vegan you get to know which toiletries are vegan and work for you, and without the constant temptation of every single cheap drugstore option, bathroom clutter is banished. (Mostly.)
4 - Safer, Easier Clean-up & No Cross-Contamination
When the nineteenth century feminist abolitionist Grimke sisters adopted a meat-free diet, they found it to be "an emancipation of women from the toil of the kitchen," while their biographer observed that it "simplified housekeeping."
Okay, so Craig does most of the cooking, but I usually clean up after, and we agree that keeping a vegan kitchen is easier for several reasons.
To illustrate this, while recently visiting relatives who happen to be plant-based these days (woohoo!), my cousin's husband joked while grilling the marinated BBQ tofu if anyone minded if he used the same fork on the cooked piece he'd just used on the raw piece. Lolz.
Happily, careful hand-washing after handling meat and using separate knives and cutting boards to avoid germs are now distant memories. We typically use the same one throughout the entire day (and sometimes beyond – don’t judge). Was this knife used to make avocado or peanut butter toast this morning? Yum, PB. In the coconut butter it goes! That night, they'll get a halfhearted rinse before reusing them the next day. Or not. (Again, don't judge.)
If it's discovered upon waking that someone (someone!) forgot to put dinner leftovers in the fridge, oh well, it's not gonna kill us. Lunch it is.
And while baking - a process which in no way actually requires the ovulatory secretions of a fertile female bird – who knew? – without eggs in the picture we don't hesitate to scarf down raw batter or cookie dough.
Fun fact: Apparently the only reason kitchen water can't be reused as greywater is because of the bacteria in meat and animal products, so vegan kitchens are actually perfectly safe for this.
Plus, no more gross jars under the sink full of congealed bacon grease, no more bacon grease coating everything within a few feet of the stovetop, no dish sponges coated in... you guessed it, bacon grease. Today we enjoy the delectable umami of bacon without the grease or animal slaughter by roasting shitakes to a salty crisp.
Oh, and in light of recent research showing how scarily germ-infested kitchen sponges can get, you'll go through those less often without all the meat grease everywhere.
On a related note, in the 1800s, fashions free of "animal matter" were called "humanitarian" and "hygienic."
Also, food-borne illnesses typically derive from human and animal waste (plants can also be contaminated, but they are not the direct source). Nearly all of the foods pregnant women should avoid are animal-based (excepting sprouts, which again would have been tainted by animal-derived contaminants). While pregnant, I still ate all these foods – just the vegan versions! Then there’s the fact that most contagious diseases originate from farming animals. Per Live Science, “About 60 percent of all human diseases and 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, according to the researchers. Most human infections with zoonoses come from livestock, including pigs, chickens, cattle, goats, sheep and camels.”
To be completely frank, it's truly hard to believe we once saw no problem with storing, thawing, and cooking actual dead body pieces in our kitchen, or keeping the bodily fluids of lady animals in our fridge, let alone putting them in our mouths - and all the extra sanitizing efforts required to do this safely. Why? Can't even. Ok, moving on.
5 - Less Food Waste
Before going vegan we remember often not being able to finish a meal and frequently scraping the uneaten portions into the trash or disposal. As vegans, we typically clean our plates. I don't know if this is because of the fact that the portions aren't necessarily massive but have plenty of fiber to give more bulk, are typically less fatty and dense, or just because plant-based food is freaking delicious. But down our gullets it all goes, leaving us feeling satiated but not in a food coma. (Okay, sometimes a food coma.) Upon a fridge inspection, fruits and veggies on their way out get tossed into a smoothie, or into the freezer to do so later.
No guiltily scraping bits of some lovable individual's remains or soured or molded lacteal secretions into the garbage or down the sink. No bones or chunks of fat. No ungodly smell - or worse, maggots! - emerging from the trash, as I cringe to admit has happened more than once. Cannot. Even.
But the FAR greater amount of food waste we are avoiding by being vegan is less palpable because it happens before animal foods ever reach us. Since most of the crops fed to animals are not converted into their flesh or secretions, the practice of farming animals for food accounts for 40% of all losses of harvested crops globally. (Take a minute to let that sink in.) This hidden form of food waste was recently coined by researchers as the “opportunity food loss” of animal farming. If, after all that built-in waste, you then actually toss what makes it onto your plate or into fridge, which isn't shocking since animal products are very filling and also highly perishable, it's even greater waste upon waste. Not to mention a waste of animals' lives.
And don't give us that marginal lands nonsense. We wouldn't need to convert "unarable land" ecosystems into pasture for pre-slaughter livestock if we didn't use so much arable land to grow livestock feed.
6 - Perfect Built-In Excuse
That massive extended family dinner you're dreading? That work lunch outing with annoying co-workers you'd rather skip? Just tell them you can't go because you're vegan. (Then silently count down to ten and wait for someone to say, "How do you know someone's vegan? They'll tell you!" Then humanely stab them.)
This doesn't work if the people in charge have actually made an effort to ensure vegan options will be available. (What kind of jerk is nice like that?) Yet this isn't totally safe either, since there's about a 50/50 chance they'll conflate vegan with gluten-free.
But of course, either way, we can typically figure something out, but they don't need to know that. Shhhh.
7 - Ideal Conversation Killer
Chatty seat neighbor on your flight? Religious solicitors at your door? Blind date gone bad?
Maybe they'd like to hear about how animal exploitation is unnecessary and avoidable for those with access to other choices and autonomy over said choices, so it's a moral imperative for those in that position to take a clear ethical stance against it and simply make other choices, and also...
Didn't think so.
8 - You Gain New Expertise
Because people constantly put you in a position where you have to defend veganism, especially online, you basically need to become somewhat of an expert on things like nutrition, history, philosophy, psychology, world religions, anthropology, animal "husbandry," veganic farming, ecology, linguistics, culinary arts, all the logical fallacies, Maslow's hierarchy of arguments, paranormal vs. physiological plant perception, other social justice movements, and plenty more.
Okay, plenty of vegans don't do this, but we're nerdy like that. And we really like winning arguments with aplomb.
9 - Nothing Surprises You
Life after the paradigm shift that leads one to veganism is a bit like taking the red pill. You are now painfully aware of how we've been conditioned to see animals as disposable commodities who are willful participants in their own exploitation... but now you have to live amongst a dominant culture still under this spell willing to make completely absurd rationales to keep their illusions intact.
We're talking about otherwise intelligent, socially aware people who will tell you that plants have feelings too as a reason to exploit animals (while catering to their dog's every whim), or that vegans are destroying the planet with soybeans (which are used mostly for animal feed), etc. etc. etc.
For example, people talk about cage-free eggs while ignoring the fact that the cage-free hens' brothers were killed as day-old chicks at the hatchery (chick culling). They want free-range milk while ignoring the fact that each of the free-range cow's calves were removed from her within hours after birth (maternal deprivation). They want the "humane" killing of healthy young individuals in the early prime of their lives with a strong will to live who have done nothing wrong and can't defend themselves. Okay.
Then when something happens like, say, a hateful bratty belligerent man-child reality star becomes president of the United States, you're relatively unfazed.
In other words, "alternative facts" are nothing new to you.
10 - You may reverse/dodge some common health problems
We don't focus on this point because we understand that replacing animal foods with plant foods is not a magic bullet, and yes, even vegans die. However, plenty of credible research shows that this change often results in a decreased chance of many of the chronic diseases killing people in record rates and crippling our healthcare system. One study found adopting a vegan diet globally could avert 8.1 million deaths per year by 2050 and save $1 trillion per year on healthcare!
Purely anecdotally, after going vegan, my chronic tonsil issues and threat of having them removed went away. We both get far fewer colds. Plus we can now fly. Not really, just making sure you're still paying attention.
There's even an ad that keeps posting up on my Facebook claiming that vegans can get discounts on health insurance, but I don't know if that's really a thing. I'm just happy I still have my tonsils.
11 - Lighter psyche
As a vegan, all that time and energy previously used twisting oneself into a pretzel via the mental gymnastics required to try to defend needless animal use/killing can be used for something else. Maybe real gymnastics! Who knows, you could become the next Simone Biles. Or, speaking of Olympians, what about weightlifting, like vegan powerhouse Kendrick Farris?
In all seriousness, there is a weight off your shoulders that comes with no longer clinging to old destructive ways. There are many, many things wrong in the world, and humanity's exploitation and farming of animals is actually tied to many of them. Although you can't single-handedly stop this damage, or animal exploitation, you sure as hell don't need to be another person contributing to it.
And there really is something to the Kafka line: "I can now look at you in peace. I no longer eat you."
Now if only by we didn't have to deal with being the butt of predictable jokes, the target of passive aggressive quips, or provoke discomfort in others if not downright contempt by simply going outside of the (passively) violent and exploitative status quo. Many people seem to be triggered by a damn veggie burger (or more recently, a vegan sausage roll!). But that's another blog post for another time, folks.
How else does being vegan actually make your life easier? Comment below!