Here are fresh tips for each day in November to celebrate World Vegan Day (November 1) and World Vegan Month. With so many benefits and so much at stake, there has never been a better time to embrace your inner-herbivore.
November 1/Day 1
There are so many amazing resources for new and transitioning vegans. If you are on Facebook, I highly recommend joining online support networks like New Vegan Support and Vegan Beginners 101 for lots of information and support as you navigate the challenging early stages of veganism with both fellow neophytes and seasoned mentors. The transition can feel like a steep learning curve without friendly encouragement and knowledgeable assistance. Ask questions, knowing that there are probably lots of people who are wondering the same thing but are nervous about asking.
There is no replacement for in-person community, though. Check out all these vegan meet-ups offered around the globe to see if there’s one near you.
November 2/Day 2
If you get in the habit of always keeping some basic staple items always on hand in your kitchen, it’ll be easier to stick to your vegan commitment. If you have some basics like beans, potatoes, oats, rice, pasta, sauce, frozen veggies, onions, bananas and some convenience items like veggie burgers and non-dairy milk on hand, you will be less likely to return to old habits out of hunger and necessity. What should you keep stocked up on? Whatever you eat often but here are some ideas on stocking a vegan kitchen.
November 3/Day 3
One of my favorite resources for finding vegan food and new options near me or on the road is HappyCow.net. Available both on their website and as an inexpensive app, HappyCow has revolutionized the ease of living as a vegan. From vegan-friendly to all-vegan options listed, restaurants, grocery stores and more, I have found travel in particular to be so much more enjoyable now that I can learn from the ambassadors who’ve entered dining options onto the listings everyone can enjoy. Consider signing up as an ambassador so you can also add your expertise to this growing excellent resource, which is only as good as its user support.
November 4/Day 4
If you’re concerned about non-vegan ingredients in cleaning supplies and animal testing, why not transition to the simplest cleaning supplies you can find, like using vinegar, baking soda, lemons, essential oils and cruelty-free liquid soap to make your own household cleaners that also won’t contribute to your chemical exposure and are thrifty as heck to make? Now that it’s beginning to be tangerine and orange season in the grocery stores, it’s a great time to make your own citrus-infused vinegar, which smells A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.
If you’re still not into the DIY thing, look for vegan and cruelty-free items through the Beagle Freedom Project’s Cruelty Cutter app or the Leaping Bunny app, both of which will designate items without animal testing, and look for certified vegan items. Check out Cruelty-free Kitty’s excellent primer on animal testing so you can be as informed as possible. Remember that the cruelty-free label doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s vegan: it simply means it was made without animal testing and doesn’t speak to the ingredients unless indicated, so also look for a vegan label or certification.
November 5/Day 5
It can feel daunting when you are transitioning to veganism so having a mentor or guide help you through some of those challenges can make a huge difference. Vegan Outreach has a free mentor program, and for anyone who signs up, you will be assigned an experienced vegan who will help you to navigate rough patches and answer questions. Also, if you’re already vegan and have some time to volunteer as a mentor, sign up at the link.
November 6/Day 6
Check out and follow vegan recipe developers like BOSH, Vegan Black Metal Chef, Sweet Potato Soul, hot for food blog, It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken, The Vegan Zombie, the Jazzy Vegetarian, Vegan Richa, The Minimalist Baker, Avant Garde Vegan, The Gentle Chef and my own Vegan Street (plus many more) to get some great — and free — recipes. From easy to more advanced vegan recipes, you can find it all free online.
November 7/Day 7
Libraries are a wonderful resource for checking out vegan cookbooks, allowing you to explore recipes without commitment. Most large libraries have lots of vegan cookbook options for checking out but don’t forget that libraries are also a great source for vegan-inspired non-fiction and fiction.
November 8/Day 8
Cooking for ourselves can save us a lot of money as well as improve the nutritional profile of our overall diets. If you’re new to cooking, though, all that slicing and dicing can be intimidating. Learning good knife skills keeps us safer and can actually save us a lot of time. Plus learning how to properly slice, dice, chop, mince, julienne and chiffonade is just fun. Check out this excellent primer on basic knife skills from the New York Times to get started, or this one from Craftsy. If you are more of an experiential learner, many kitchenware shops (like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table) and independent cooking schools have very affordable basic knife skills classes.
November 9/Day 9
One of the common myths about vegan food is it’s expensive. In truth, any way of eating can be expensive depending on what you buy but if you keep in mind that the world’s least affluent people are often nearly vegan by default, you’ll see that not only is it is a myth that vegan food has to be expensive, but it is often very thrifty. Focusing on whole ingredients — like legumes, grains, seasonal produce — means that you can make the occasional more expensive convenience purchase without breaking the bank. Check out my Frugally Vegan article for lots of thrifty ideas.
November 10/Day 10
Clothing like coats, shoes, belts and bags can be hard to replace when you’ve gone vegan and you start noticing how often they are made with leather, wool, down, silk and other animal-based products. (As I explore in this article, these items are not really by-products as much as they are co-products that help animal agribusiness remain profitable.) Some new vegans opt to keep the items until they wear out and others give them away or to resale shops because they don’t want to use them anymore. Replacing old clothing items, though, is becoming easier and easier with more vegan businesses all the time and companies that are not vegan are exploring ethical fashion options. Farm Sanctuary offers some great options, many of which are also sweatshop-free. I still think the best option is to shop resale whenever you can makes the most ecological sense.
November 11/Day 11
It’s soup season in the Northern Hemisphere. Woot woot! Soups are economical to make, comforting and make great light meals or additions to meals. Creamy or broth-y, they are easy to improvise and a great way to use up produce that is on its way out. We try to make soup at least a couple of times a week in the colder months. Looking for soup inspiration? Check out these recipes from Serious Eats.
November 12/Day 12
It’s important to celebrate the little victories to avoid burn out. Whether that means acknowledging that you are learning how to cook better, that you have found some new resources or community, taking the time to notice and be thankful for progress is essential to maintaining a positive attitude. What was easier this week with your vegan transition? What do you do better than before? Acknowledge these victories! Your spirit needs it.
November 13/Day 13
There are so many amazing vegan publications that deserve your readership and can help you to feel less alone in the world, including but not limited to VegNews Magazine, T.O.F.U. Magazine, Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine, Driftwood, Vegan Lifestyle Magazine, Chickpea Magazine and Raise Vegan, many of which have both print and electronic versions. From recipes to fitness advice, travel to eco-fashion, in-depth feature stories to exciting news about emerging restaurants, brands and products, magazines are a great vehicle to becoming better informed and feeling part of the growing vegan community.
November 14/Day 14
If you are looking for a new companion animal and you’re ready for the responsibility, please adopt one (or two!) from a shelter or rescue and do not buy from pet stores or breeders. Tragically, millions of dogs and cats are killed in US shelters each year, many healthy and fully adoptable, because there is no home for them and shelters run out of cage space. Please show your compassion for companion animals by adopting: there are many young, senior, mixed breed, hypoallergenic and specific breed dogs and cats in addition to other domestic animals like birds, rabbits, hamsters, and so on who are desperately in need of a home. We are fortunate to share our home with three adopted animals and we couldn’t be more grateful. In addition to being part of our family, they contribute to the quality of our lives immeasurably. Last, please consider adopting first from shelters and pounds that do euthanize: those animals are most vulnerable and their days there can be very limited. This also opens up cage space for another animal who is in serious need of a forever home.
Nov. 15/Day 15
Many people who are transitioning to veganism have children they’d like to raise vegan as well. Some are planning to have children in the future but are worried about getting proper nutrients for their pregnancies and children. Check out Baby and Toddler Feeding Guide by Julia Feliz Brueck for raising little ones and this link for some great vegan pregnancy resources. Raise Vegan is also a great resource for vegan families. Already have some kids you’d like to nurture a foundation of compassion and caring in? Check out VegBooks, which has reviewed hundreds of books and films for kids of all ages.
Finally, want my recommendation for a great children’s book with a compassionate message and a Thanksgiving theme? Check out ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dan Pilkey, creator of the popular Captain Underpants series. It’s so fun and inspiring for little animal lovers.
Nov. 16/Day 16
One of the best ways to make veganism work for you is to learn some time-saving tips that make it more convenient. One of my favorites: when I’m already cooking something in the oven, like a casserole, I will throw in some foil-wrapped potatoes, squashes or garlic bulbs for roasting. There is a lot of more space in a hot oven that you can take advantage of so why not feed two birds with one scone? You’ll have ingredients ready for a future meal and you’ll save on your gas or electric bill a little.
Nov. 17/Day 17
Just a simple tip for today: Buy bulk grains, legumes and pasta when you are able to save money and limit packaging waste and keep them in clear containers, preferably glass, so you can always keep track of how much you have and know when you need to restock. With bulk-purchased grains, store in the freezer for a few days first to decrease the likelihood of a moth infestation.
Nov. 18/Day 18
Weekends are a great time to plan your meals for the week so you don’t find yourself hungry and at-risk of caving in to old habits when you’re tired with a growling tummy at the end of the day and are out of ideas for what to make for dinner. (Remember that being in a hangry state can result in caving into regrettable impulses and we want to eliminate as many of those as possible.) Meal planning is also a great way to ensure that you’re eating a good variety of whole foods but it’s good to be flexible with your list in case there’s a great sale on something. In any case, meal planning and shopping with a list is excellent for saving time and money.
Nov. 19/Day 19
Another way to make eating a lot of veggies affordable is to figure out small ways that maximize what you get out of your vegetables. Not only can you eat more of a vegetable than many people typically do (raw broccoli stalks are delicious, by the way, especially once you peel them), but keeping the scraps, odds and ends of your produce in a freezer bag for a future vegetable stock is a great way to make a delicious soup base. It’s also thrifty and helps you to create less food waste. We’ve been doing this for years and it feels so good to put those in the freezer bag for a big future stock. You can also make a separate Asian-flavored broth by keeping a separate bag with things like the tough ends of ginger (or dried-out ginger), garlic pieces, ends of scallions and the tough stems of scallions.
Nov. 20/Day 20
Sometimes, new or transitioning vegans make the mistake of thinking too far in the future about possible food challenges and this can create a mentality of stress and anxiety as well as a scarcity mindset. Instead of worrying about what you might eat at your next birthday party or when your extended family eats out together — or if you’ll be able to remain vegan on your trip through Europe next summer — try to focus on one meal at a time, whatever meal is your next. With more time as a vegan, you will develop more skills and resources that will see you through any future challenges. Focus on being vegan one vegan meal at a time and before you know it, you will have some real know-how. In the meantime, learn some breathing techniques for managing stress and anxiety. Just when we most need the restorative and calming power of breath, we seem to cut ourselves off from it. Learn some gentle but powerful techniques so you will always have the power of breath at the ready.
Nov. 21/Day 21
There are lots of kitchen appliances, gadgets and tools that can make meal prep easier, quicker and more convenient. What is a worthwhile investment and what is a waste of space and dollars? Check out this crowdsourced article for recommendations — or otherwise — to get a thorough overview of what may actually be helpful for your vegan kitchen.
Nov. 22/Day 22
Happy Thanksgiving! Want to nurture your vegan soul? Plan a visit to an animal sanctuary. There are animal sanctuaries all around the country and the world. There is no better feeling of integration than spending time with the animals you are working to protect. Even if you’re not a so-called “animal person,” it does the spirit good. Can’t make it to a sanctuary? Consider sponsoring a turkey — or another rescued animal — at one of the many hard-working farmed animal sanctuaries that offer animal sponsorships.
Nov. 23/Day 23:
Having trouble making it through the vegan transition on your own? In addition to online support and local groups, organized programs like Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s free 21-Day Vegan Kickstart is a great resource to help you through the nuts-and-bolts of a smooth transition with recipes and meal plans in addition to daily messages and tips to help you along the way. Did I mention that it’s free? This African-American Vegan Starter Guide by Tracye McQuirter and Farm Sanctuary is also free and excellent.
Nov. 24/Day 24
Having a hard time with all the chatter from the people who are being discouraging or blatantly sabotaging your vegan transition? Consider adopting a mindfulness practice to help you figure out what your inner-voice is saying, keep track of your emotions and to help you tune out those who are feeling threatened and defensive. Mindfulness and meditation have many benefits but one is simply more equanimity in the face of challenges. I recommending checking out Lani Muelrath’s terrific book The Mindful Vegan: A 30-Day Plan for Finding Health, Balance, Peace, and Happiness to help you develop a mindfulness meditation practice that will serve you well in life, as a transitioning vegan and well beyond.
Nov. 25/Day 25
Hey, it’s small business Saturday: why not through a little financial support behind the independent businesses run with a vegan ethic? There are too many to mention but most vegan businesses are small and independent; searching on Etsy will net you some great options. Some of my favorites are The Fanciful Fox and Perennial Soaps for amazing body-care products; Frostbeard Studio for incredible and creative soy candles inspired by literature; colorful bags, belts and accessories by Miss Alison, and, last but not least, my own darn self with Vegan Street’s e-cookbook and guide, Fun, Festive and Fabulous: Vegan Holidays for Everyone.
Nov. 26/Day 26
There are some powerful vegan films on Netflix. Films can educate us, inspire us and even help create a critical mass around change in the world. Consider spreading the word about your favorites to your networks. These days, people seem to be more willing to watch a film than read a book (or even an article), so please help get the word out about these resources.
Nov. 27/Day 27
Eating out as a new or transitioning vegan can present some challenges but the more you develop confidence and know-how in dining out, the easier it becomes. We share a ton of very helpful tips from seasoned vegans in this “Dining Out Guide for Vegans” article. Have you been dining out for a while as a new vegan but want to step up your outreach game in an easy way? Check out some helpful leave-behind cards that help you to let restaurants know you appreciate their vegan offerings.
Nov. 28/Day 28
Want to increase your fresh produce consumption substantially? Step up your smoothie game! No, you don’t need a high-speed blender, though it can make things quicker and smoother. If this is new to you, start slowly by adding a handful of spinach or tender greens to a fruit smoothie and over time, aim to add more and more vitamin-rich components. Smoothies are a great way to add veggies to one’s diet for those who haven’t much of a taste for them yet. We also love to add things like cacao powder, nuts, dairy-free yogurt, powdered maca, hemp or flax seeds and on and on to our morning smoothies for a power-packed breakfast that sees us through to lunch.
Nov. 29/Day 29
Being vegan doesn’t mean you can’t travel the world; increasingly, as the movement grows, it is easier and easier to find vegan food wherever you may roam. Using resources like HappyCow.net and the Vanilla Bean app are great ways to make sure you won’t have to depend on nutrition bars for your sustenance as you perambulate. Also, check out The Nomadic Vegan for lots of ideas and resources. And, oh, look! It’s a free mini-book on vegan travel from The Nomadic Vegan and HappyCow.net, Nine Steps for Easy Vegan Travel.
Nov. 30/Day 30
Congratulations, Rock Star!
You have made it over the hump, but, honestly, even if you weren’t perfect, who’s keeping score? Remember that even for longtime vegans, there can be challenges. If you make a mistake, there is no reason to throw in the towel. It is that kind of “win or lose” mentality that wreaks havoc on our best intentions. Just get back on the bike, my friend! We live in a non-vegan world: yes, it’s improving by leaps and bounds, but it’s still profoundly non-vegan so give yourself a little margin of error as you make your way through it, focusing on progress, not perfection. Check out my free Guide for New Vegans for tons of free resources and helpful advice as you go.
Lather, rinse, repeat in December, January, February and on and on. The longer you go, the easier it will be for you to save the animals and the planet. Happy World Vegan Month!