Friday, 16 September, 2016
Fellow student Kathryn Wheeler gives advice to vegans at university, from how to manage your budget to making real change on campus
Starting university is a milestone; an adventure; a fresh start; and a terrifying jump into the unknown. Whether it’s stress about money or worrying about meeting hundreds of new people all at once, starting university can be pretty tough. But if there’s one thing you shouldn’t worry about, it’s sustaining veganism whilst being a student.
As a vegan going into her third year of university, I know all these pressures only too well. But I’m here to reassure you that of all the stresses of university (including working out how you’re going to get three months’ worth of dirty laundry home at the end of semester) being a vegan student shouldn’t be one of them. These top 5 tips for vegans at university, from how to manage your budget to making real change on campus, should help, whether you’re a new vegan, transitioning, or an old hand.
1) Learn how to save on food
You don’t need reminding of the ever-looming debt you’re harbouring, but you do need a plan. Saving money on a vegan diet isn’t difficult. After all, vegan diets are often made up of the world’s cheapest foods, including rice, pulses, lentils and grains. But there are ways to make your money go even further. Firstly, forget about brand loyalty: just completely let it go. Supermarket versions of food are more often than not exactly the same as branded food, just more expensive. Whilst deals and discounts can be a good way to save, branded food often simply isn’t worth the extra cost. And as for fresh food, Lidl and Aldi offer fruit and veg at very reasonable prices compared to other supermarkets, but you should also try going to markets for bargains and great seasonal food.
Planning in advance and creating meal plans can also save you a lot of money. By deciding what you want to eat beforehand, not only will you save time, but you’ll be able to work out exactly how much you will be spending – then you can keep this in line with a weekly budget.has more budget advice here.
2) Have a good understanding of nutrition
As a vegan, you’re probably already pretty clued up about nutrition. Making sure that you are getting all the right things in your diet whilst on a budget is all about going back to nutritional basics. It’s about understanding that each day you need to be getting the right proportion of fortified foods as well as Michael Greger’s ‘daily dozen’ in order to make sure you’re getting the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need. A good way to achieve this is by building on the meal plan that you have drawn up to help save money on food, and making sure that each day you are getting all of the right nutrients. To keep things interesting, make a two week meal plan rather than just a week. This will keep your diet varied and stop you from getting bored.has a useful and nutritionally balanced meal plan here to get you started.
3) Join a vegan society
Group cooking at university is a great way to save on money, make friends and experience new foods and flavours. Unfortunately, the chance that a vegan going into university halls will be paired up with an entire kitchen of other vegans is very low. This is where veg*an societies come in. Most universities will have VegSocs (also called vegetarian and vegan societies) and, if it’s fellow vegans you’re searching for, they’ll likely be found here. A top tip for starting university in general is to get involved with societies, and joining a VegSoc will help you find new friends as well as potential cooking partners. If your university doesn’t have one, you can always start your own: get the word out with flyers and posters, and organise potlucks to get fellow foodies interested.
4) Get involved with campus activism
VegSocs aren’t just food-sharing friend-makers: they can effect real change on campus. The VegSoc at my university are very active, which has resulted in a huge variety of vegan food available across campus. Our crowning achievement is a delicious chickpea and spinach burger from the campus takeaway, that you can even have topped off with vegan cheese. Societies can have a huge impact on the way that a university is run and can help change your experiences for the better, so make sure to get involved and improve the options for vegans. You could also encourage more people to go vegan by running campaigns, writing articles in your campus newspaper and promoting the Vegan Pledge:will even send you outreach leaflets for your next stall for free!
5) Have your story ready
Talking about being a vegan can be fun, interesting and rewarding. As a student vegan you’re in the perfect position to smash one of the many misconceptions about veganism: it’s too expensive. But even so, sometimes talking to new people about veganism can be a challenge, especially if the conversation becomes confrontational. If the person asking the question is friendly and curious, go for it: spill your heart out and tell them all about your personal journey with veganism. However, for some people your choices will be so different from their own that it will be hard for them to understand why you made them. It can be helpful to have something planned in order to avoid any upset, especially when talking to people you’re going to be living with for the next year.
I like to go one of two ways. The first is to remain light hearted. I would say something along the lines of “Well, I was brought up a vegetarian, but thought that wasn’t quite extreme enough for me so went the full way and turned vegan”. The second way is to keep it simple with something along the lines of: ‘I want to reduce cruelty to animals’, or go even more basic with: ‘I just think it’s the right thing to do.’ Of course, talking about veganism shouldn’t be a stress, but being able to talk to people about your reasons for being vegan whilst remaining clear and non-confrontational is still a good skill to have in general. has more tips on their social page.
Saving money, keeping healthy, and getting the most out of your university experience really couldn’t be easier as a vegan student. Your decision to go vegan couldn’t be more beneficial to this exciting stage in your life, so have fun with it!
By Kathryn Wheeler
is an English student at Keele university, due to graduate in 2017. She enjoys cooking and reading and has aspirations of a career in journalism in the future.