Using It All Up

I am astonished at how much animal based stuff I have in my kitchen. Almost everything has something in it. Dried foods especially are full of dried milk and eggs and cheese and all sorts of stuff. Not to mention the fact that my vitamins are totally not vegan, my toiletries are probably not vegan, I drink wine which probably isn’t vegan (why? I don’t know yet), and although I would consider us a low chemical household we still have our share of toxic stuff lying around (which is a separate issue entirely, but one I’ve kind of moved away from that I used to care a lot about).

Five years ago, when I first started my first ever blog, it was to document my way to a greener, healthier way of life.

Since then, so much water has passed under the bridge. Those feelings, about wanting to be greener, more environmentally friendly, to own less, and be kinder to the earth never leave me. But somewhere along the way they have become less of a priority. Other people do not seem to obsess as much as I do about what we should be eating for better health, and the rampant consumerism that makes us buy, buy, buy all the time. There is a lot about modern life that disagrees with me, but as a mum it is so difficult to keep it at bay. The kids want to be like all their friends. They want to own iPads, visit MacDonalds, watch TV for hours a day. You know how it is. I resist what I can, but I don’t want to force my kids to stand out and suffer for my personal beliefs. I would hope that I will pass on enough for them to make the right choices, if not so much now, then at least as adults.

Making a change

Anyway, I am getting off the point of this post, which is: I have decided to stop buying and cooking meat and fish. So we’re essentially going to be a vegetarian household again, at least initially.

With my previous comments in mind, my children often eat school dinners and get a choice between meat and veg options each day, so they will still have plenty of access to meat if that’s what they want to eat. Just about the only meat/fish they consume in any great quantities at home are sausages and fishfingers, neither of which are the epitome of good food anyway. I will have to find some substitutes for those.

I hate throwing food away, so we’re going to use up what’s left:

Fridge

Meat/fish

Whole, organic chicken (cooked and ate the breast last night, and some leftovers for lunch. 1 pack of leftovers still in fridge)

Dairy

Organic butter
Organic cheddar
Mini Baby Bels
Yoghurts (kids)
Plain yoghurt (me)
Dairy-lea dunkers
Pesto
Milk
Mayonnaise
Salad cream
Organic, free range eggs

Freezer

Meat/fish

2 packs of leftovers from the chicken I roasted
1 organic chicken breast
2 wild caught salmon steaks
Fishfingers
5 hot dogs
1/2 pack organic minced beef

Dairy

None

Constant Snacking

My children could snack for Britain. They always seem to be telling me they are hungry and they always want snack food. They eat fruit and nuts, but I also buy a lot of other things, like dried fruit shapes, granola bars, and so on. Snack food is expensive, and I know these kinds of things are not (that) difficult to make at home, so something else I have been thinking of doing is cooking more snack/sweet stuff so that at least the less nutritious stuff we are all eating is homemade. Also, for me, some GF snacks in the house would be great as I find so much GF cake/biscuit stuff is overly, sickly sweet, full of preservatives and just generally really horrible.

Since I’m now conscious of using dairy I’ve been looking at vegan recipes for snacks.

I wanted a recipe that didn’t need anything I didn’t have at home, so today I made some vegan digestives, which turned out better than I was expecting. I am not a great cook, so what I’m really going to be looking for in snack replacements is recipes that are not too difficult to make at weekends and that taste REALLY good.

biscuits

Now, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly (I used plain GF flour and white caster sugar). And mine aren’t 100% vegan (doh. Yeah, I know), as I only have normal milk in the house until I do the next weekly shop. However, as home made GF biscuits go, they are not too bad. I don’t love the coconut flavour that comes through on a lot of vegan/GF cooking, but it’s not too strong on these, and they are remarkably like a digestive in texture. I ate five in one go with a cup of tea. I’ll take some for the kids when I pick them up as they all have a late day on Thursdays, and I’ll see what they think.

These were really easy to make, but taste-wise I’m not sure if I’ll be adding them to my snack-replacement plan just yet. I need to try out some more recipes I think, so feel free to point me to any favourites!

The Vegan Thing

Things here are in turmoil. The healthy eating was derailed by Christmas and I’m struggling to get that back.

I have separated from my husband and he is no longer living with us. That requires multiple posts all of its own, but it’s not something I feel comfortable sharing to an audience that might or might not include people I know that might or might not take the trouble to speak to me about it. Sigh.

Those things aside, what prompted this post today was that I have recently watched two documentaries:

Cowspiracy, and Earthlings.

I have always been the first person to put my hand up and state that I would never become vegan. Isn’t it funny how knowledge can change things so quickly?

Here are some things I have (shamefully) said about veganism (who have always been viewed with slight suspicion by all us happy meat eaters and vegetarians):

Why anyone would chose to eat vegan is beyond me – we clearly need B12 so why eat a diet that excludes it?

The thing with this comment is that I can see I was only thinking about one person. Me. I need B12, so I should therefore at least be vegetarian. I never really connected with the principle behind veganism – i.e. it is a sustainable way to feed a planet of 7 billion people. The horrors of the meat and dairy industry are indescribable in a blog post. Out of the two documentaries above, Earthlings is by far the harder one to watch. In fact, I didn’t actually watch a great deal of scenes because they were so utterly distressing. Cowspiracy, on the other hand is easy to watch (mostly), but is a total revelation. The utter destruction of our planet caused by agribusiness is literally beyond belief. There might be 7 billion people, but there are 70 billion cows. Do you know what happens to all the cow poo? Vast areas of dead zones, massive ocean pollution. The farming land required is destroying rainforests and other eco-systems. 51% of carbon emissions come from agribusiness. I have, just like the maker of Cowspiracy, been doing my bit by recycling and choosing green products, with no idea that just choosing not to eat meat in one meal probably beats all my other efforts for the week. As someone who cares about our planet, I had no idea that farming was causing so much devastation.

I only buy high welfare meat.

This is one I have said for years. I actually wouldn’t touch the cheap stuff in the supermarkets – I know how disgusting intensive farming is. However, firstly, there is not enough land on our planet to feed high welfare meat to every human. Secondly, high welfare meat still goes to the slaughterhouse, and what happens at the slaughterhouse is horrific. I always thought cruelty videos and dreadful conditions were from far off places in the States. Animal Aid is a UK charity and they have been running undercover operations in slaughterhouses for many years. If you want to know more about our ‘nice’ UK abattoirs, you can read more here (tmi warning). Also, even in slaughterhouses that are well run, the margin of error for “humane” stunning and death is large. Horror-movie scenes that cause workers to be signed off with depression are a daily fact. Thirdly, even organic animals receive dozens of vaccinations soon after birth. Parents are concerned about giving their children a handful of vaccines in childhood, but if you feed your children organic meat, they are ingesting trace levels of vaccinations every time they eat.

I don’t know why vegans don’t wear leather – it’s a by-product from all the meat that would go to waste otherwise.

This one truly shows my ignorance and misunderstanding. It turns out that the demand for leather is greater than the demand for meat. So much for thinking I was just buying something that would go to waste otherwise.

I only buy organic, free range eggs

Again, I thought I was doing great here. Sadly, there is no part of the provision of food for billions of humans that is “kind”. Male chickens from egg layers (even organic ones) are killed after hatching because they are of no use. They can’t lay eggs and they grow too slowly for food. Fast growth is imperative, because the demand for meat is so huge. In the UK chicken sexers are paid £40,000 a year. They sort of the males from the females and the males are frozen for pet food, or macerated alive. Millions of them.

I could never give up cheese!

To be honest, I think I still think this. But I am also carrying knowledge of what the farming industry has to do to supply the world with it’s cheese, cream, milk and ice-cream. Dairy cows have their calves taken away (what do they feed the calves? I don’t know if I want to learn any more), and are milked relentlessly. They are artificially inseminated to cause recurring pregnancy so the cycle can be repeated. After around 3 or 4 rounds of this, the cows become so weak and milk production starts to fail (all mums who have breastfed will know how much demand it places on your body). They die years before their natural lifespan. And even at the most well run farms, collapsed dairy cows can only be moved with farm machinery – in the jaws of a digger, or dragged by rope with a truck/tractor. Can you even imagine someone doing this to human slaves? Repeatedly making them pregnant? Expressing until they produced maximum milk? Trucking them to the crematorium when they collapsed? Sigh. It makes me, as a mother, so very sad. Who are we to treat animals this way just so we can have milk on our cereal? Why are we allowed to do this? (Also, did you know that artificial insemination is a skill that requires practice? The people that do this are allowed to practice on female cows at the slaughterhouse. Because the cows are going to die, it’s okay to violate them just beforehand.)

The demand for meat and dairy is so enormous, and the profits are so massive, that we have moved from traditional farming to ever more high-tech and intensive methods to generate the goods.

And in doing so we treat animals like a commodity. We forget that they feel pain, fear and attachment to their young.

They are, in the industry, an inconvenience for being alive in the first place.

And then the industry works very, very hard to conceal anything distasteful. Happy chicken pictures on packaging. Cows in fields. Sanitised, homogenised, standardised, dyed products that do not “remind” us of the transition from alive to dead.

How many of us would kill an animal in our own garden in order to eat it?

So what now?

I apologies if this post sounds preachy. It’s not my intention to lecture anyone on their choices. I have been choosing to eat meat and dairy for most of my life.

For me, personally, my opinion has been changed. I have always looked at diet and nutrition from a selfish perspective – what’s best for me? I can’t believe I didn’t know before about the impact my choices have on the planet, and on the animals themselves.

We have a fair amount of meat and milk in the house. My children eat it and always have. I have no idea where to even start. But I do have to start somewhere, because to be honest the thought of now consuming meat and dairy makes me feel faintly queasy.

5 Weeks In

I’m still here! Busy work, busy with the kids. You know how this time of year is. I’m loving it though and feeling so much better than in the early weeks. It’s as though there’s a hump that you have to get over when you change anything about your lifestyle and once there it becomes a lot easier to look forward rather than looking back at what you’re missing. Quick vlog.

Healthy Eating Days 6-8

I’ve saved last weeks food and mood diary as a PDF, which hopefully you can view using the link. The edges are cut off and I don’t have time to sort them out to look all pretty right now, but I thought it might be useful if anyone wanted to see what I am actually eating. My nutrition lady said I did really well in the first week, and that my energy and mood should pick up by the end of this week:

Week1.pdf

And I think things are on the turn. I still have the remnants of a horrible cold, but I had enough energy this afternoon that I actually wanted to go out for a run. I’ve only been once since the GSR and have just not had any love for it, but today it was awesome to be back out. I did an easy 4km and enjoyed it. I’m relieved that I haven’t lost all my fitness in the three weeks I’ve had off, since I am supposed to be doing a half marathon in January (whether I will or not remains to be decided).

Quick vlog update too: