Guest Post: Sara’s Crash Course In Vegan Student Living, Part II

October 14th, 2010 - filed under: Furthermore » Guest Bloggers

Our very first guest blogger, Sara Howie, continues from yesterday . . .


In my experience, the easiest way to stay vegan in university is by living on your own, or in apartment-style dorms. Again, don’t freak out! Preparing meals is fun and easy, and I find it relaxes me after doing a bunch of school work. I’ve found that living on my own, it’s really easy to eat a balanced diet. Actually, it’s a lot easier because I just don’t buy non-vegan items, so I’m not tempted by anything and I know everything in my fridge is ‘safe’ (that isn’t my roommate’s, anyways).

To start off, you need some equipment to cook with. Although you’ve probably seen food shows with cooks using crazy devices and gadgets, you don’t need any of those. In fact, all you really need is a pot, a frying pan, a wooden spoon and spatula, a chef’s knife (or similar), a paring knife, and a cutting board. Some bowls for prepped food and a baking tray would be nice, but you don’t need to be that fancy. Add to that some cutlery, plates and glasses, and viola! A kitchen is born. When it comes to cooking, there are hundreds of vegan cookbooks out there, and who knows how many vegan food blogs!? A great resource, especially if you’re a beginner cook, is Veganomicon. It’s pretty widely available where all fine books are sold.

Whether you cook all your food or most of it, the best way of keeping yourself healthy is routine. Trust me – it’s a lot easier to plan your meals in advance so you know what you need to buy. Maybe this kind of planning sounds mom-ish to you, but hey, it makes life a lot easier and a lot less stressful! Prepping food in advance is nice too, like washing/chopping your veggies before you put them in the fridge, or cooking extra for leftovers (next-day lunch or for the freezer). Check around your neighborhood, too. For example, my city of Toronto has a foodshare program. It’s a co-op where I pay in advance and get cheaper, local/organic fruits and veggies picked in their prime. I get the box from my school and I don’t need to go produce shopping! My school also offers a “campus cupboard”, where I can buy organic dried goods like grains, beans, and granola, as well as alternate milks, for a discounted price (plus it’s faster to shop on campus!). If your school doesn’t offer something similar, you could suggest it to your student union or even start up something yourself!

And now comes the tough part: eating out. It’s hard when your omni friends choose a steakhouse and all you can eat is french fries and head lettuce. Be sure to explain to your server what you can’t eat (and “vegan” doesn’t cut it, say “no dairy, no eggs, no meat, no fish”) Perhaps ask if the chef could prepare something off-menu for you. Remember, restaurants put items on their menu so they can cook them fast and efficiently, and you’re asking for the chef to prepare something specially, so be sure to thank the server and tip well. If you’re looking for veg-friendly restaurants check out, which has listings from all over the world. Don’t be surprised if you get funny looks or if you get cheese on your pasta, but do be firm. Remember, you’re not being a jerk for saying you can’t eat it. But keep in mind that you live in a meat-eating world, and people just don’t think about veganism. Finally, you can always plan to eat before or after the meal, too.

Now that we have the eating part under control, it’s time to talk about the harder part of being vegan: the people around you.

When it comes to your peers, it’s fine to express your opinion, but be careful not to put anyone down in the process. If you start preaching to your roommate that you hardly know, implying they’re a terrible person for eating meat, then you’re not going to make a friend. Keep in mind that your roommate probably doesn’t know a lot of vegans and you’re setting the example for what a vegan is like. Guys especially may call you a “sissy” for not eating meat, but hey, you know that’s not true. Try not to argue back. Instead, say something lighthearted, like “Don’t you know chicks dig vegans?” Or make a little joke, like “Well don’t be surprised if I crush you from high atop my tower of moral superiority” (thank you Vegan Freaks!). Most of the time, people just want to get a rise out of you, and it’s pointless to argue back. People may have genuine questions that sound stupid to you, but you probably had those same questions not so long ago. And some people are just curious. If somebody seems defensive, something like “I like animals” is a much better response than “I refuse to take part in a society that enslaves animals and expects us to drink pus-filled secretions that you call milk.”

Your parents will probably be worried. First, remember that they’ve seen you in diapers and they’re going to be worried no matter what. Sit them down, tell them why you’ve chosen to go vegan, and assure them that you can feed yourself. What won my parents over was cooking for them at home. Tell them that you know more about food than you did before, which is true 99% of the time. Tell them that this is the right thing for you to do right now and you would really like them to support you. Don’t get angry, don’t make them feel bad; stay calm. When it comes to family meals back at home, help your parents cook! It will show your parents that you really can feed yourself, and also it gives you food to eat. You’ll be surprised how influential you can be, too. My father is seriously considering vegetarianism, which I never thought would happen in a million years, and is a great step in the right direction. Then again, there are certain people who are just never going to “get it”. Like, for example, my 87-year-old Italian grandmother. She’s never going to understand that I can still eat well . . . but that’s okay. You may consider telling certain family members half of the truth so it’s easier for them. We tell my Nonna that I can’t digest eggs or dairy anymore (which is actually half true anyways).

Hopefully after this crash course, you’ve seen that being a vegan in college isn’t only doable – it’s easy! – and conquering food challenges actually isn’t much of a challenge at all. Good luck in your studies and happy eating!


Sara Howie is a graphic design student attending OCADU in Toronto, Canada. She’s lived in an apartment since moving out and managed not to starve to death! She likes alternative rock concerts, photography, cooking, and playing the ukulele. You can ask her questions at at gmail dot com, or catch up with her on her website,

  • MathTutor

    Love your article Sarah! I’m a vegetarian who is in college and luckily my meal plan has some pretty good options.

    And a word of advice for university bound vegans/vegetarians…
    Oatmeal and Veggie Chips! NOM NOM :)

  • Sara

    Glad you liked it! Personally, I’m a green apples and paprika roasted chickpea person :).

  • Amanda


    I was wondering if you could post something about finding/making cheap toiletries and what-not for college students. I have a hard time finding cheap shampoos/conditioners, lotions, toothpaste, etc. . .

  • T

    Great series! I turned vegetarian in April. I’ll probably look into veganism in January. My family has been dealing with my choice pretty good until Thanksgiving dinner. My mother was urging me to eat turkey! Ugh! I prepared 4 vegetarian dishes for supper and she was still trying to get me to eat turkey. It was a step backwards in my book because she was being pretty accepting prior to that. I’m an adult with my own home, I don’t live with my parents. I’m proud of my boyfriend though, he took a stand by not having turkey either. He’s semi-vegetarian. He eats veg at home but occasionally eats meat outside of the home. I’ve been teaching him, and he’s gradually making the change to veg on his own. He can eat meat if he wants, that’s his choice.

  • Meghan


    You know what’s really cheap? NO-POO! ;-)

  • Jen

    Great post! Staying away from aggressive or confrontational explanations is definitely important when explaining anything that’s not considered a societal norm :)

  • Laura Louise

    I loved your article, Sara! Thank you so much for giving us tips and things to think about!
    I’ve been a vegetarian for 2,5 years and vegan at home for a couple of weeks. I’m a college student who has been living on my own for 3 years already and I’ve managed to feed myself better than my parents did. It’s getting better and easier every day. It was quite hard at first, because most cookbooks seem extremely daunting for me. Videos are a bit better and the best thing ever is a vegan friend who teaches and cooks with me. The only thing I still find difficult is breakfast. I’m so sick of oatmeal already but can’t seem to find any other quick and very cheap vegan breakfast foods. Any ideas?

  • Sara

    @Laura Louise

    Good question! I sort of go through breakfast phases, so right now I’m on a yogurt/granola/fruit spurt. Besides that I have cereal, toast and jam, and tofu scramble. There are good recipes out there, most involving turmeric, onions, salt and parsley. It requires blanching tofu, so I blanch the tofu and mash it, then set it up the night before so I can just pop it in the pan the next morning. Tastes great with salsa! I also have a friend who makes buckwheat pancakes at the beginning of the week and reheats them in the mornings.

    Besides that, I think that breakfast foods sort of limit your options. I don’t see a problem with hummus for breakfast or some easy miso soup. If you’re on the go, edamame beans (from the freezer with some soy and black pepper is good, or scoop the flesh out of an avocado with rice crackers! Super delicious and easy and hooooly cow is it good for you and satisfying :).

    Hope this helps!

  • Sayward

    @ Amanda – I couldn’t be a more enthusiastic advocate for no-poo. It is dirt cheap and has totally changed my hair and the way I feel about it. I LOVE NO-POO!!! =D

    For lotion I wrote this review, but pure olive, coconut, or jojoba oil is also an excellent choice. For toothpaste I make this recipe. My deodorant recipe is the best I’ve ever used.

    Hope that helps!

    @ Laura Louise – Green Smoothiiiiiiiieeeeee! Frozen fruit + greens is cheap anfd quick and sooo good for you! =D

  • Laura Louise

    @ Sara – Thank you! It did help me. I had hummus for a couple of mornings and some granola with soy milk today. I should think of 7 different breakfasts and have a schedule for them so I wouldn’t get tired of one thing too quickly :D

    @ Sayward – I don’t think I’d survive on a smoothie, I need to chew things to tell my brain I ate something. I don’t even drink juices or anything like that.

  • Laura

    Yay, a fellow Torontonian vegan at university (and also with an Italian nonna)! Great article :)

  • Christian

    Oh this is such an awesome, positive post. I wish I could go vegan. I just get hung up on having to eat all those processed, GMO vegetable products that are killing the earth. And am scared by the fact that no traditional cultures have ever been vegan. But your grandmother is 87, it sounds like she’s doing something right. Great article :)

  • Sayward

    @ Christian – I’m wondering why you think it’s necessary to eat GMO products if you’re vegan? You can easily be a whole-foods, eco-friendly vegan – it’s actually much more sustainable than being an omnivore!

    Also, no traditional cultures had, say, pacemakers . . . or flew airplanes . . . or used a toothbrush. We are modern peoples! =D