Tackling University: How to Survive as a Vegetarian

Most students arrive at university with a lack of cooking skills, and a longing for “mum’s cooking.” Cooking for yourself can seem daunting, especially if you follow a stricter diet such as vegetarianism. I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t be at all worried.
Most of your concerns will probably be based on myths. The myths that vegetarian food is more expensive, more difficult to cook, and it’s more difficult to source protein and iron.

However, if you aren’t surviving just on pot noodles and can boil water you will be just fine. In fact, cooking as a veggie is much easier. You will never need to worry about defrosting meat, or if you’ve cooked your meat long enough to not give yourself food poisoning. 

I’ve been vegetarian for five years now, but during my first year of university I learnt a lot about my own diet, how to cook well, and how to cook flavoursome vegetarian food on a budget.

My first piece of advice for anyone tackling a vegetarian or vegan diet, is to choose 3-4 veggies that you love, and use them for every dish.

If you did this, you’ll cut down the amount you spend on food, and decrease your fresh food waste. There’s no point in having a whole head cauliflower in your fridge that you’re never going to use! Personally, I am always stocked up on red peppers, carrots, broccoli, and of course onions and garlic, as they add flavour and nutrients to any dish. I would also recommend having frozen veg in the freezer ready for those busy weeks, when you don’t have time to pop to Aldi. Additionally, if you aren’t too big on vegetables then buy a bag of spinach; spinach wilts into your food, so you’ll barely notice that you’re eating greens!

Of course, vegetarian and vegan diets aren’t always healthy. Probably one of the biggest challenges at university will be finding veggie drunk food and trust me you’re going to need it!

While your meat-eating friends are stuffing their faces with kebabs and burgers, you don’t want to be missing out when your only options are limp French fries. Luckily, Leeds has a breadth of veggie and vegan drunk food options. My go to drunk food stops includes: Crispys, Milanos, Chicko’s, and of course good ol’maccies. From a wide range of pizzas, to wraps, to burgers you won’t be subjected to limp French fries. Though, a few of my vegetarian friends have fallen victim to the temptation of a chicken burger! However, there’s no need to put lots of pressure on yourself to get it right all the time, we’re all trying our best.

My final advice is to try your hardest to not just live off Quorn and Linda McCartney sausages, because unfortunately you won’t be able to afford that in the long run. Learn how to make your favourite dishes, and to nail the perfect fluffy rice (a staple of my diet). Experiment with your food and try different spices and combinations.

Finally, just practice cooking, because in actuality it’s therapeutic, fun, and a lot more rewarding than sticking a frozen lasagne in the oven!

Anushka Searle