So the Vegan Challenge is Over – What Now?

Mushroom and Hummus sandwich

Most of you will know by now that, throughout March 2013, I committed to following a vegan diet. I researched the health benefits and possible nutritional drawbacks, scoured vegan blogs for inspiration, cooked up some amazing food and created one or two disasters.

During that month I blogged about why I took up this vegan challenge in the first place, my experiences with vegan bloggers (who sometimes made me feel inadequate), the financial cost of being vegan (is it cheaper than eating meat?), the joys and perils of unplanned eating (it’s not easy to eat vegan on the run) and what happens when you invite 10 carnivores for dinner and serve them vegan food.

But now, March is over, so where does that leave me? Am I now a convert?

The short answer is – not entirely.

Don’t get me wrong; I really enjoyed the challenge. In the beginning I described it as a thought experiment but it became so much more. I loved the food and so did Martin. As a family we enjoyed some meals so much that they have become firm family favourites – the Portabello mushrooms and hummus sandwich, pictured above, being just one of them.

Apart from enjoying what I ate, I also have to tell you that I got a real energy boost from this diet; after the first week I felt like I was emerging from a long hibernation, I slept well and woke up feeling refreshed each morning. The biggest surprise for me was that, despite eating whatever I wanted (I baked cakes, made puddings, used olive oil etc.) I lost 8lb in weight over the course of the month. Hmmm how did that happen?

Most people that I spoke to talked about my experiment in terms of deprivation. That’s not how I saw it. I also gave up coffee for Lent this year – now THAT was deprivation! Eating vegan was more of an adventure and I never missed meat at all. When I woke up on 1st April I actually felt a little sad that it was over.

So far so good, so why am I not now a vegan?

Well, there are a few reasons really:

I did not enter this challenge for ethical reasons. I don’t want to offend any vegans in writing this, especially not the ones who have been so supportive over the course of the last month, but I don’t have an ethical problem with eating meat, fish or dairy. I live in an area that is both rural and coastal, we have friends who farm and friends who fish and the local economy depends on both of these industries. For me, the ethical issues are how the animals are cared for and how they are dispatched:  I take care to know where my meat comes from and how my fish was caught, I care about sustainability and I care about welfare.

This brings me to the next reason. Part of my ethical approach to eating is to buy as much local produce as I can. This usually works out at around 80% local in the summer but less in the winter. I do regularly buy some foods that have travelled (spices, rice, sugar, bananas etc.) but I try to make the bulk of my shopping local. In order to have a varied vegan diet I found that the food miles increased significantly.

For example, locally grown veg is pretty limited in Cornwall in the winter (mostly brassicas and root veg) but that’s ok when the variety in our meals comes from changes in meat / fish etc. When the veg is the centrepiece then the potential for boredom is very high (there is only so much you can do with a cabbage)and I have found myself buying much more imported and out of season vegetables than I am comfortable with.

Whilst I found a company in Devon that makes organic soya products (tofu and tempeh etc) most of the soya used in the UK is imported. Likewise with quinoa, another vegan staple; not only is this imported from Peru but the price has been so inflated by export demand that ordinary Peruvians can’t afford to buy it and this is causing real hardship in traditional communities. I don’t believe that the wholesale importation of food staples is sustainable and the potential for a joint food/fuel crisis is very high.

The third reason for not becoming vegan (and I realise that this is a little trite) is that no one has invited me out for dinner over the last month. The idea of vegan food scares people (although I hope I have done my bit to make it less scary) and who wants to have to cook a separate meal for one of their guests?

So, the final reason for my decision, and I need to tread carefully here, is that I don’t identify myself as a vegan. “Being vegan” means something; it is not just a decision about what to eat (or not eat) it is a whole way of life, a sense of belonging to something, a shared set of values. As soon as you belong to something you necessarily exclude others who do not and there is a strong risk of becoming judgemental about people who make different choices in life. Of course there are vegans out there who are tolerant and non-judgemental – and I count some of them amongst my friends – but there are a significant number for whom being vegan is almost a religious experience and with that comes a need to convert. I wish them well but that is not for me.

So all in all my choice is to continue to be an omnivore but I am changing my default setting to plant based foods. I am aiming for 70% plat based but I am quite relaxed about where I end up. I want to be full of energy and to continue losing weight but I also want to eat out with friends in places where we are all relaxed and can make the choices we want to make. I want to continue to support local farmers and fishermen but will also be hanging out at the allotment a lot more.

I have loved this experiment, it made me think about what I eat and that can only be a good thing, it made me experiment and it made me feel better. I hope it also encouraged bun scuffle readers to think about maybe incorporating some vegan food ideas into their diet.

In the future, bun scuffle will continue to feature a range of recipes including meat and fish based dishes but you can definitely expect to see more vegan and vegetarian ideas too. I hope you have enjoyed this series of articles / recipes over the last month – I have certainly enjoyed creating them.

If you enjoyed reading this and would like to see more please visit and like the bun scuffle facebook page or follow @bunscuffle on Twitter for updates and more.

The Vegan Challenge Week 3 – Is it Cheaper than Eating Meat?

Flax seed, hemp protein powder, raw chocolate powder and agave syrup.

Flax seed, hemp protein powder, raw chocolate powder and agave syrup.

When I have told people that I am following a vegan diet for a month one of the first questions I get asked is “is it cheaper than eating meat?” That’s a really interesting question (although not surprising in the current economic climate) but it’s not really a straightforward one to answer.

I am just about three weeks into the experiment and I feel that I am now ready to give an informed answer – and that is – it depends. I know that’s not a very satisfactory answer but please bear with me and you will soon see what I mean.

Let’s start with protein. Instead of meat, fish and dairy I have mostly been eating more pulses and tofu. Weight for weight or serving for serving pulses and tofu are cheaper every time. For example, an average (150g) free range chicken breast costs in the region of £2.30, the same weight in tofu costs around 60p. In terms of a meal that makes the vegan option significantly cheaper.

However, in terms of nutrients, the150g serving of chicken would provide around 45g of protein whereas the tofu would only give you around 10g of protein. You would have to eat four and a half times more tofu to get the same amount of protein and this would cost you £2.70. Price wise, this would make the cost of your protein more or less the same for chicken or tofu but no one wants to eat 675g of tofu in one meal!

If, as a meat eater, you aren’t particularly focussed on free-range or organic you can buy your chicken much cheaper than this so, in some ways, meat eating becomes the cheaper option.

Are you beginning to see why this is not straight forward?

Of course nuts and seeds are higher in protein than tofu (or other soya products) at around 30g per 100g but you wouldn’t want all your protein to come from such a high calorie / high fat source even if it is a healthier type of fat than the saturated fat in meats.

Lots of (but by no means all) vegans buy food supplements to boost their protein levels. I bought some hemp protein powder which can be added to soups or smoothies to add a little protein punch to the day. I bought it in an independent health food shop which I know to be expensive but having looked on-line you can still expect to pay around £12 to £15 for a 500g bag. This is NOT a vegan essential but it does make getting a balanced diet easier so I can see why people might opt to use it.  I also bought flax seed /linseed (for essential fatty acids) and raw chocolate powder (cacao) and these things all add up.

We already ate a lot of fruit and veg before the vegan experiment but have probably eaten around 50% more over the last few weeks. This can only be a good thing for all sorts of reasons but it does mean that we are spending more in the greengrocers. I desperately wish that fruit and veg was cheaper and this year, after all the rain fall and failed crops in the UK it is more expensive than ever, so, if you are on a very tight budget, you will feel the difference. If you are thinking of becoming a vegan or a vegetarian – get an allotment – it really makes a difference.

Regular readers of bun scuffle will also have noticed that I like to bake. Baking vegan cakes and biscuits takes a bit more thought and may also work out a little more expensive although it really is a little bit “swings and roundabouts”:  Refined, granulated sugar is the cheapest sort of sugar available at less than £1.00 per kg but most vegans don’t eat refined sugar. Refined, specialist sugars cost quite a lot more; I pay around £2.00 per kilo for unrefined golden caster sugar and around £2.80 per kilo for Muscovado sugar but, quite honestly, I would use them anyway even if I am not following a vegan diet. Using agave or maple syrup will push the cost of your baking up quite significantly. However, using vegetable oil instead of butter reduces costs a little and, depending on your egg substitute there is scope to save again.

Specialist vegan groceries tend to be a little more expensive than their non-vegan counterparts but I have been pleasantly surprised by how many products are “accidentally” vegan (lots of bread, most pre-made hummus for example).  However, it is fair to say that milk turns up in some surprising places too (why is there double cream in pre-made guacamole?).

I also like an occasional glass of wine (or three…) and have found that most of the vegan wines I have come across are at the cheaper (£5.00 per bottle ish) end of the scale and some of them have been quite drinkable considering the low cost.

So, all in all, is it cheaper to be a vegan? That still depends. I think most people eat to suit their budget and if being vegan is important to you then I am sure you can be a low budget vegan – you may miss out on a few nutrients but the same is true of low budget meat eaters. If you want to ensure that you eat a wide range of nutrient dense foods then it will cost you more – just as it would a meat eater.

In summary, if you want to become a vegan in order to save money then it is probably not the best choice you will ever make. There are, of course, other very good reasons for making this choice (more later).

However, if as a meat eater you currently eat a wide variety of foods and get all the nutrients you need then you could definitely save money by introducing one or two vegan meals per week into your diet. There will probably be health benefits too. Most omnivores tend to get more protein than they need in the course of a week so getting less at an occasional meal won’t have a significant impact on your health. However, the ability to feed a family of four a scrummy bean and vegetable chilli for under a fiver will definitely do your wallet some good.

If you enjoyed reading this and would like to see more please visit and like the bun scuffle facebook page or follow @bunscuffle on Twitter for updates and more.



The Vegan Challenge – Unplanned Eating

Unplanned Eating

One of the reasons that I engaged in this challenge was to refocus on what I eat; to make me think more about the food choices I make. This means that, for the most part, meals have been planned and shopped for in advance. However, real life dictates that sometimes, in a busy week, spontaneity is required.

Let me tell you, food spontaneity is much harder when you are eating a vegan diet. There is no such thing as “grabbing a sandwich” and asking for a vegan pasty in Cornwall on St. Piran’s Day may well have got me lynched.

Over the last two weeks I have been amused, impressed and vaguely irritated when trying to eat on the go.

Last Saturday I was running around before hockey, shopping for dinner and generally getting weekend jobs done and I didn’t take the time to plan lunch. This is not an unusual occurrence but the normal solution would be a coffee and a sandwich from a coffee chain or a pastry from a bakery. Coffee is out because, as well as the vegan challenge, I have given up caffeine for Lent and even if I hadn’t I like my coffee with milk – and lots of it (soya milk really doesn’t do it for me).

I usually like to support local, independent shops but, apart from the greengrocers, this has not proved quite so fruitful for instant food. (My local greengrocers is run by Kim who is a vegan and who stocks yummy snacks as well as gorgeous fruit and veg).  The supermarkets do better – just. They are likely to stock Nak’d bars and flavoured rice cakes (my snacks of choice this month) but it is still hard to buy a vegan sandwich. I got very excited when I saw a hummus and roasted vegetable wrap but the wrap itself contained milk powder – what a thoughtless and irritating waste of an opportunity.

I have asked for help in a couple of supermarkets with varying results but the “what does vegan mean?” response wins the unhelpful category hands down. Overall, I found the Co-op to be most helpful. They produce a regularly updated list of their vegan products on-line, the staff in-store at my local branch couldn’t be more helpful and (perhaps most importantly of all) their vegan wines are labelled as suitable for vegetarians/vegans.

I tend to avoid fast food outlets and chain restaurants (with one or two exceptions) even when I am eating meat but apparently some of them are good for vegan food. I have read that Wagamamas has a number of really tasty vegan choices and their website includes a dietary filter so you can search for vegan options easily but, as my nearest branch is 100 miles away, that’s not terribly helpful!

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day and I went to the Eden Project along with my mum, one of my daughters and my granddaughter. We had a lovely day exploring the gardens and the biomes and then it was time for lunch. This wasn’t a day for a picnic, I wanted to treat my mum and just had to hope there would be something vegan for me. I was very impressed. I know that Eden has a strong policy on sustainably sourced food and lots, if not most, of it is vegetarian but I didn’t know about vegan. The self service restaurant was very busy and a queue had formed. A young woman was directing the queue so I asked her what vegan options there were. Apparently they had a vegan curry, the soup was vegan and all their bread is vegan, which is great, but actually I was most impressed by the fact that the first person I asked had all the information I needed.

If I go into Truro, the nearest big town which is about 9 miles away, life gets much easier as there is a good health food shop with a fantastic vegetarian café with plenty of tasty vegan options – and they do take away. I guess that most big towns have somewhere like this but it is just a little bit harder out in the sticks and, suffice to say, I have eaten a lot of spontaneous bananas over the last 2 weeks.

Even though I am not really a vegan and this is just an experiment in conscious eating, I have made a point of engaging with shop keepers over the vegan issue. I have asked for information in the hopes of raising awareness of the needs of vegans. I have been told, more than once, that there just isn’t a demand for vegan food. This may be true with only about 1/3 of one percent of the UK population (200,000 people or so) describing themselves as vegan it probably doesn’t make good commercial sense for small shops to make big changes but if one of the supermarket chains decided to target this group they would be likely to see an increase in sales.

I naively thought that vegan food would be clearly labelled and readily available – that has not proved to be the case. Of course it is better to plan your eating and cook from scratch but, sometimes, that just isn’t feasible.

The point that most retailers miss is that a lot of non-vegans would choose a vegan option if it was tasty enough. As a meat eater I often choose foods which are “accidentally” vegan; salads, Innocent Veg Pots, fresh soups etc. and I can’t believe that I am alone in that.

Of course this is not a critical issue, with only a little forethought I can make a sandwich to take with me or fill a flask with soup but, despite eating well when I have time to plan for it, I still have a hankering for that spur of the moment roasted pepper and hummus wrap.

If you enjoyed reading this and would like to see more please visit and like the bun scuffle facebook page or follow @bunscuffle on Twitter for updates and more.


The Vegan Challenge – 1 Week and Counting


If you know bun scuffle then you know that I am an omnivore; I love to cook and I love to eat just about anything and everything: My recipes include meat, fish, vegetables, dairy, desserts and cakes so this vegan challenge; one whole month of an entirely vegan diet, may come as something of a surprise.

I am now one week into the challenge and the word which best sums it up so far is “interesting”.

Finding and devising vegan recipes is quite easy; the internet is full of fascinating blogs and recipe sites and there is plenty of nutritional advice out there too (although I would suggest that you choose your sites wisely). In addition I have had lots of help and advice from my vegan friends and from some lovely people who have found the bun scuffle facebook page this week.

I have been trying hard to find meals which are nutritionally balanced and which meet the needs of the rest of my family who, after all, had this experiment foisted on them. So far, we have been doing pretty well although my daughter sometimes opts out in favour of a meat option. On Sunday she decided to make a roast dinner for the rest of the family and I had to coach her through roasting a shoulder of lamb and making gravy – which made it a little harder to get excited about my sweet potato and borlotti bean patty! (Actually it was scrummy and the meat eaters shared my food rather than the other way around).

Breakfasts have been good; porridge (made with water) topped with fruit and toasted seeds, a fruit smoothie with a handful of nuts, toast and peanut butter or a “Raw Chocolate Wake-Up Call”; a protein rich, raw chocolate and banana smoothie courtesy of Day Radley. I am usually a bit lazy about breakfast so the discipline of eating properly in the mornings has been really good.

PorridgeLunches have mostly been of the soup and salad variety and the freezer is full of individual portions of carrot & coriander and spicy parsnip but my favourite is definitely Asian matchstick soup.

Soup - carrot & coriander

Dinners have really allowed for some creativity, I’ve made friends with tofu (I was never a fan before), played with pulses and fried falafel. I have “veganised” family favourites like cottage pie and mushroom risotto. I’ve even had a go at a banana and chocolate mousse and I baked blueberry muffins which my daughter claims are the best she has ever eaten.

Vegan mushroom risottoSo why do I feel like my efforts are just not good enough?

Perhaps I am just reading too much – vegan bloggers tend to set the bar high: Somehow it is not enough to be vegan; to be really healthy I should apparently also give up gluten and all forms of sugar or I should stop cooking altogether and only eat raw food.

This week I also read a piece by a well known vegan blogger who suggested that people who eat a vegan diet for the “wrong” reasons “dilute” the message that “real” vegans are trying to get across. In other words, people who are vegans for health reasons are diluting the animal rights message. Judging by the ensuing debate she is not alone in those thoughts.

I have immense respect for people who have strong beliefs and find a way to live their lives without compromising their convictions. Personally, I don’t choose to eat a raw food diet but I am more than a little in awe of those who do. I don’t normally choose to be a vegan but this experiment is increasing the (already immense) respect I have for those who do.

The best advert I know for a vegan lifestyle is seeing the people I know glowing with health and vitality but I’ll be honest with you – being lectured about what a bad person I am (despite the fact that I am eating a vegan diet at present) makes me want to go out and eat steak.

In fairness, the same distinctions exist in the omnivorous world. I am conscious that my own concerns about sustainably sourced fish and high welfare meat might seem judgemental to people who choose processed products without knowing their origin. Just think about some of the media reporting of the recent horsemeat scandal with anger and hyperbole on all sides of the debate and everyone looking for someone to blame.

I guess these food debates will continue forever. In the meantime, bun scuffle is about “one woman’s adventures with food”, as I am that woman, I will continue the adventure with my mind and my mouth wide open.

Links to some of this weeks recipes:

Asian Matchstick Soup


Asian Marinated Tofu

Vegan Blueberry Muffins

Vegan Chocolate and Banana Mousse



One Month of Being Vegan

Preparing to be vegan

Well, I am a girl who likes a challenge but this one may be a bit of a stretch:

I have committed to maintaining a vegan diet for a month – that’s a full month; 31 days of meat free, fish free, dairy free meals and snacks. As that month is March I have only one omnivorous day left before I start.

Please don’t misunderstand; I have no intention of becoming a permanent vegan. I eat meat, I like eating meat and, as I invest a little time and effort in ensuring that I buy ethically sourced meat from a local butcher I have very little guilt about eating meat. I also live on the coast so I eat fish – I think it is important to support a declining fishing industry and some of those fishermen are also my friends.

So why am I doing this?

To be honest it’s mostly because, as I have already said, I like a challenge. I am viewing this as an extended thought experiment. Despite the fact that I am always on the lookout for interesting new recipes for bun scuffle, our diet at home can be a little predictable; you can almost guarantee that we will eat pork escalopes with cabbage at least once a week and the chances are that chicken will feature quite high on the list too.

To be vegan requires thought; I will need to consider nutritional balance as well as flavour, I will need to think about what I can and can’t eat and, of course, what I can and can’t drink. I will need to think about everything in a way that I don’t need to now (I have already done the thinking about meat eating).  I will also need to take my glasses with me when I go shopping so I can read all the small print on labels.

Funnily enough, I don’t think that meat and fish will be the challenge. We already eat vegetarian meals once or twice a week but they are usually milk, egg or cheese based meals. I think replacing dairy food might be more difficult. How will I live without cheese?

We don’t really eat processed food now – I tend to cook everything from scratch – and I don’t intend to change that. So will I use “vegan egg substitute” out of a packet? How will I bake if I don’t? I don’t know yet. I do know that I won’t be eating chicken flavoured chickenless burgers or soy bacon. If I want the taste and texture of meat I would rather eat meat than some faux substitute but that’s just about personal taste.

I have been doing a little research and it seems that honey is out but yeast is ok (although lots of bought bread has milk in it). More worryingly, most wine is out as it is clarified using finings which are often gelatine or casein based – the same applies to lots of beers which use isinglass to settle the sediment. Apparently this is not allowed in German or Belgian beers so they are all vegan friendly – what a pity lager isn’t my thing!

Baking will also be a challenge, most cakes and bakes rely on butter and eggs to make them taste great but I will be experimenting with vegan baking and I’ll let you know how I get on. What will puddings be like without cream or custard or ice cream?  Surprisingly, sugar is also an issue but more on that later.

If I am honest, when I see photos of vegan food it often tends to look very worthy and not very pretty. I am not into deprivation – I like my food to be a feast for the belly and a feast for the eyes so I will be trying to bring some comfort and joy into my vegan diet.

I am looking forward to this challenge with a mix of excitement and trepidation. A month is a long time and March has Mother’s Day and Easter Sunday in it – so (just in case my daughters are reading this) it might be worth mentioning that Green and Black’s organic dark chocolate is accidentally vegan (hooray!) – no milk or casein in it.

I’m not trying to convert anyone here – not even myself, but I do hope to inspire you to try some plant based meals from time to time. If you try any of my recipes let me know how you get on. I’m also open to tips and advice from any vegans who migh read this. Wish me luck…

I will write regular posts here on the blog but will keep a daily diary on the bun scuffle Facebook page so please visit and “like” my page to keep up with my vegan adventure.