Friday Tips: Eating out

Vegan Goodness:

Today we ate:

  • Breakfast: Green smoothies for Mom and LP and then cereal with soymilk for everyone.
  • Lunch: Yogurt and avocado for LP and leftovers for Mom and Dad
  • Dinner: Delicious take-out Indian while we enjoyed a great visit with friends  We also had cocoa-dusted almonds and brownies

Money Matters:
Today we spent the following:

  • $26.40 on a Whole Foods grocery trip

Friday Tips for Living Vegan and Living Cheap – with kids!:

Eating out when you’re a vegan

After being vegan for a while it’s easy to forget that the so many other people eat meat, dairy and eggs.  I’m used to having tons and tons of food options at home and when I go out with my family we know the best places to get delicious vegan food.  However, there are times when I’m eating out, usually with non-vegans, and I have to figure out how to get something tasty to eat in a restaurant that doesn’t cater to us vegans.  Here are some of my tried and true methods for making eating out enjoyable and stress-free, even when you are the lone vegan at the restaurant table.

Do some reconnaissance: Before I go out to a new restaurant I always check out the menu online if I can find it.  This helps a lot, because then I can figure out how vegan-friendly (or vegan-unfriendly) the place is.  If there are a few vegan or easily veganizable options I know it will be easy to just go get my meal.  If there are not many vegetarian options (and no vegan ones) I might want to call ahead, or bring a Clif bar with me so that I can live with just a salad.  It’s also great to check out the yelp reviews, or google the restaurant name along with the term “vegan.”  Often other vegans will post about their experience and you might learn about how friendly the restaurant is to ordering “off the menu.”  Speaking of which . . .

The menu is your guide, not a rule book: When I became vegan I often felt like I had a little Yoda in my head constantly telling me “you must unlearn what you have learned.”  For example, I had to learn that I was allowed to ask for substitutions, or even create a dish for myself based on things that were on the menu.  Are you somewhere where you can get fettuccine alfredo or a side of steamed vegetables?  Ask to get the fettuccine (minus alfredo) with olive oil and vegetables mixed in!  Every burrito has cheese?  Don’t just “hold the cheese” – ask for some guacamole to replace it!  I’ve even been places where I just told them I was vegan and found out that there was a non-dairy vegetarian dish that they simply didn’t list on the menu, but had available just for people like me!  So, check out that menu, think creatively, and don’t be afraid to ask your server what they can do for you.

Believe your friends: For a long time my friends would always ask me “where do you want to go” when we would go out to eat.  I always said “we can go wherever you want!” because I didn’t want to hold anyone back or feel like I was a burden to them.  Over time, however, I have realized that it’s ok for me to make some preferences known.  In fact, most people seem to feel better when they know that there will be something for the vegan(s).  I’ve also found it helpful to recommend general categories like “Thai or Indian food sounds good” or recommend specific places.  I’ve also opened people up to some great places like Veggie Galaxy this way!

Be Proud: If you are going out to eat with people, the fact that you are vegan (or trying to be vegan, or have been vegetarian, etc.) will probably come up.  Sometimes people wave meat in your face and sometimes people apologize for eating it at all.  Sometimes people will ask questions like “where do you get your protein” or start explaining all the reasons why they couldn’t possibly be vegan.  I actually appreciate the people I go out with who ask about being vegan, because it brings up interesting points of conversation.  I’ve also found that people generally respond well to an honest dialog about why I became vegan, what I love about, what their thoughts and experiences about vegetarianism are, etc.

These are just a few of the tips that have helped me eat out easily as a vegan.  I also highly recommend this podcast from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau about eating vegan in social situations.  She is such an awesome resource!

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