Hola bambinos! Hope you’re enjoying this new mini-series? It’s specifically written with new vegans in mind and for people who are about to have a go at Veganuary, but you’re all welcome! I’d like to show you that although it’s not always 100% effortless; being vegan is often a lot easier than you might think.
I know you might be reading this from around the world, so sorry that this might not be terrifically relevant to you, but I’m writing this with the assumption that you work in an office, somewhere in the UK and that you have a standard high-street nearby and nothing more than a microwave to work with.
Obviously some of us are lucky enough to live near amazing markets, cafes and diners that can cater to our every vegan whim. Some of us are able to work from home where the lunch possibilities are pretty much endless. Hashbrowns at every lunch! Ha, I’m kidding. Or am I?!
I personally try and eat a packed lunch as often as possible as I find buying lunches can add up and cost a small fortune before I know it and because I save hard all year for my American roadtrips. However, now and again I forget to make something or have to eat out-and-about. So, as well as packed lunch ideas here are some things you can pick up off the shelf.
I have to highlight the fact that vegan options in the UK are improving ALL OF THE TIME so I will try and keep this updated but there’s a good chance that vegan options will be added to high-street cafes and shops before I can refresh this blogpost. BACK OF THE NET!
Soup – whether it’s tinned or home-made get yourself a bowl of soup, some bread, maybe some dairy-free spread or vegan cheese, possibly some sunflower seeds or a drizzle of chilli sauce. You’ve got yourself a warming, super healthy, tasty cheap lunch. BOSH.
Salad – My ideal salad would have lots of rocket, some perfect just-ripe tomatoes, beetroot, soft roasted butternut squash, pumpkin seeds and creamy tofu. I’d sling on a piquant dressing and eat a tonne of it. You CAN win friends with salad.
Sarnie – hummus, falafel and roasted veg is a classic-filling. I really like grated carrot, hummus and chilli sauce. Or Mock-meats and vegan cheese. Or roasted veg, stuffing, cranberry sauce and vegan mayo. Or peanut butter and tomato. Mock-chicken, sweetcorn and mayo recreates one of my fave sandwiches and avo on toast is a sure-fire vote winner.
“Bits lunch” – I love a “bits lunch” – you know, when your tuppawear is crammed with leftovers and weird things you find in your fridge: cous cous, veg, hummus, vegan cheese, salad, veggie samosas or onion bhajis. Sometimes even when the flavours shouldn’t work together they do. They really really do.
Pasta – My go-to pasta lunch is to boil some pasta with a few massive handfuls of spinach. Stir through some Sacla ‘Free From’ pesto, a handful of nooch (nutritional yeast) and top with baby tomatoes, pine nuts and basil tofu. It. Is. Superb.
Leftovers – Did you make an incredible Thai Green Curry last night? Or a winter pie that was just incredible. Was there a little leftover? Congratulations! You have yourself one of the world’s smuggest lunches. All the taste of a proper nice dinner, none of the effort or expense. Give yourself a pat on the back.
If you’re eating vegan, need lunch on the go and have a Pret nearby you’ve hit the jackpot my friend. Online they have a ‘Not Just For Veggies’ page which shows their veggie menu and there’s a ‘vegan’ tab to make life easy. Options include: the Chana Chaat Flat Bread, Pea & Mint Soup, their Super Greens & Reds sandwich and a Dairy-free Coconut Yoghurt Pot. There are smoothies, crisps and their coconut chocolate “bounty” bars rocked my world. Their Cacao & Orange Pot was ludicrously decadent and rich. DROOL. Pret’s good value too.
Eat are, sadly, way behind Pret for vegans. For some reason their hummus & falafel wrap contains milk (whhhyyyyy?) but they currently have a Veggie Festive Bloomer which is suitable for vegans. They do sell the following vegan options though: the Houmous & Falafel Mezze Salad, Thai Greens & Grains Salad, the Chilli Non Carne, Harissa Carrot soup and fruit for pudding.
I am a huge fan of Itsu’s food – which manages to be healthy and full of flavor. And it feels like they’re doing more all the time to cater to vegans. Some of my fave meals from Itsu include: the veggie club maki rolls, the avo baby rolls, the incredible ‘sushi salad’ made up of vegi maki, avo rolls and veggie gyoza dumplings and the detox miso soup. Their bento box of the month: the vegan bento was out-of-this-world delicious.
Did you know there’s a facebook group, with more than 200,000 members, dedicated to debating the UK’s various meal deals. The common consensus seems to be that at £3.29 and offering a main, a deal (which can include innocent smoothies) and a snack, the Boots mega-deal is the best loved. Vegans may naaaaht want to rejoice too hard. My top Boots meal-deal pic is the veggie-sushi rice bowl, a bag of Hippeas crisps and an aforementioned smoothie. It’s not amazing but it’s cheap and cheerful enough. Boots also sell Cliff bars and Nakd bars, along with bags of nuts, dried fruit and fresh fruit and are pretty ubiquitous.
The “Nations Favourite Coffee Shop” is, well, super crap for vegans. Aside from their Cheddar Cheese and Chive crisps their crisps are vegan, as is their popcorn. Their sweet potato and falafel wrap is not suitable for vegans nor the Falafel and Cous Cous salad. So, unless you fancy a hot drink with soy milk I’d probably avoid. They also ignored my tweets when I asked for help with this so naaaht cool bro.
Much better for vegans is Café Nero. Primarily, for me, because their mince pies are vegan and AMAZING. They also sell certain soups with a ciabatta bread roll, a hummus and falafel wrap and a Spicy Bean Wrap which are vegan. Also soya milk is served in their hot drinks at no extra cost.
Ok, OK. I can’t polish this turd. The drinks may be fairly vegan-friendly but the lunch options at Starbucks SUCK. They offer only the falafel, quinoa and lentil salad and the raw raspberry and nut bar, asides some sweets and mints, for vegan lunch options. Bleurgh.
Marks and Spencer
Pre-made food options include: the Orzo Pasta & Roasted Tomato Salad, Three-Bean Salad, Giant Couscous & Wheatberries With Roasted Butternut Squash, the Edamame Soybean Salad and my personal fave, the: Mexican Rice, Quinoa & Avocado Salad.
They have fresh and tinned soups which you could eat along side their ciabattas, pittas breads, or crumpets. Or there are plenty of items in store which you could create a “vegan picnic” with: hummus, stuffed vine leaves, olives, nuts, vegetable spring rolls, veggie samosas, avocados and other veggies and loads of crisps, popcorn and pretzels which are vegan-friendly. They now sell “made without” dark chocolate bars with orange sugar crunch which are well nice.
In 2017 M&S made every single UK vegan swoon when it launched not one, but TWO new ready-to-go vegan sandwiches: my fave the ‘Super Greens’ sandwich which is made with minted edamame and pea crush on soft linseed and chia bread and the ‘Rainbow Veg’ sandwich with chilli squash, avocado and pumpkin seeds on soft red pepper bread. This means it’s easier than ever to be vegan in the UK with more choice and easy options. Thank you M&S!
Soups suitable for vegans include the LoveLife Italian bean soup, LoveLife pea, edamame & chilli soup and tomato & fresh basil soup. They sell a microwavable Vegetable Tagine Cous Cous & Quinoa.
Salad-wise they have the adzuki & edamame bean salad, Moroccan Spiced Fruity Couscous, Wild Rice Salad, Oriental black quinoa salad and the very light and tasty LoveLife Buckwheat Noodle & Broccoli Salad.
I am yet to find a vegan-friendly Waitrose sandwich. Maybe 2017 will be the year my dreams come true.
The lack of off-the-shelf vegan-friendly items might mean you need to pull together a “vegan picnic” but they can be really good and last for a few days.
Tesco seem to have a pretty decent free-from range – plenty of items for your “vegan picnic” and they sell vegan cheese so you can make a sarnie and a decent selection of dairy-free yoghurts. They also have a wide range of Nakd bars and crisps suitable for veggies. Pre-made meals include the Rainbow Vegetable Couscous. They also sell Amy’s Kitchen Gluten Free Chinese Noodles are microwavable.
This year Sainsbury’s launched their own-brand vegan cheeses so you can choose from a soft cheese, a cheddar-style cheese, a Wenslydale-style cheese with cranberries and Greek-style cheese. Four Bean Salad, Edamame & Butter Bean Salad, Taste the Difference, Fruity CousCous, Tabbouleh Salad, Taste the Difference, a Sainsbury’s Smokey Chipotle Bean & Quinoa Soup, a Glorious! Vietnamese Super Green soup, a Bol Thai Coconut Curry and a Bol Mexican Sweet Potato Chilli. Finally, they have also created their own Sainbsury’s brand ‘Deliciously FreeFrom Vegetable Lasagne’ which is microwaveable.
In 2016 alone I’ve seen loads more vegan items being sold on the high street and the higher demand grows the more choice we’ll get. I have very high hopes that my lunch options in 2017 are going to be off the hook!