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The Lifestyle of a Vegetarian

One of the biggest injustices that the vegetarian movement has endured is that in popular culture, the image of a vegetarian is that of a fanatic hippy or cult member who is “off the deep end” and cannot think about anything else besides “saving a cow” and pushing vegetarianism on everyone he meets. The truth is that the lifestyle of a vegetarian is not that different than everyone else in the culture. In fact, the odds are that somewhere in your social circle at work, school, church or in your family and friends network, you already know several people who are quietly enjoying the lifestyle of a vegetarian. So to help us get over the negative stereotypes to understand how a vegetarian actually lives, lets examine what is different about a vegetarians life.

The most significant difference in how a vegetarian lives is obvious because it is in how he or she eats. You will not find any meat in a vegetarian’s kitchen. Now this doesn’t mean that a vegetarian cannot live in a family and be at peace with meat eaters. If the home has one vegetarian but others who are not, you will be able to tell from the presence of soy and perhaps more fruit and fresh vegetables in the refrigerator. But the idea that vegetarians cannot be around meat eaters is false. If anything vegetarians are peace loving and can live their lifestyle around others who are not of their belief system very well.

Grocery shopping with a vegetarian is an eye opening experience and one that is quite different in more ways than you would suspect. Being a vegetarian isn’t just about what you don’t eat in that you don’t eat meat. It is also about a completely different approach to diet and foods. So you will not see a vegetarian buying food in the same way most people do. There will be much more time spent in the fresh produce section of the grocery store. The checkout basket of a vegetarian will give him or her away every time because it will be overflowing with fresh foods.

But shopping for food with a vegetarian means shopping in other places than the local grocery store. It means buying grains and beans in bulk at a warehouse store because that is one way that a vegetarian maintains health by replacing the protein and other nutrients that the rest of the world gets from meat and replacing it with proteins from beans and other natural foods. It also means shopping in farmer’s markets and even shopping in a vegetarian specialty store for some high nutrition meat substitutes like tofu.

The vegetarian movement is in harmony with many of the earth first movements such as the organic movement and the green movement. So a vegetarian kitchen will have more organic foods on hand to reduce the presence of harmful pesticides and other substances in the diet. Also vegetarianism affects the lifestyle beyond just the refrigerator and the pantry. You will not find leather clothing in a vegetarian’s closet and you wont find fur there either. That is became for the most part vegetarians are sensitive to animal rights and they don’t want to see the skin of animals used in their clothing.

The house of a vegetarian will also be a recycling house to do all that is possible to cut down on waste and to be earth friendly. Along with recycling bottles and cans as you might expect, a vegetarian recycles a lot right at home. A recycling home will often have a compost pile in the yard for food waste and it will also support a good sized garden to use that compost to grow at home organic foods to supplement a healthy diet.

For obvious reasons, a vegetarian will have vegetarian friends and belong to social groups and attend functions that support the vegetarian lifestyle. Eating out with a vegetarian will mean going to more ethnic food restaurants and you will see a lot of creativity in how to order foods in a restaurant. But contrary to popular opinion, vegetarian eating is more flavorful and diverse than the normal diet.

Just spending a day with a vegetarian will reveal to you a more harmonious lifestyle that is sensitive to the environment and at peace with itself. It is a healthy and happy lifestyle and one that should be attractive to all of us.

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Vegetarian on a Budget

In many family budgets, one of the biggest food expenses is often meat. So in theory at least becoming a vegetarian should be an outstanding financial maneuver. In theory, if all you ate was rice and vegetables, you should be able to live for very little.

But theory and reality are often far apart from each other. Because the culture of vegetarian living has developed so many high quality foods to fill the gap left behind by a good steak or a plate of barbeque ribs, you can spend as much or more on your vegetarian lifestyle as you did when you were a meat eater. The high cost of living as a vegetarian is not entire attributable to gourmet foods however.

The truth is if you are going to live in day in day out and month in month out on a vegetarian diet, not only do you need some high quality foods to substitute for taking a whole food group out of your diet, you need variety. The quality is needed because its your health on the line if you don’t get the proper nutrients. The diversity is needed because if you get bored with the vegetarian lifestyle, you may quit and give up. And nobody wants that.

Another reason that the cost of vegetarian eating is often higher than a “normal” diet comes from the fact that vegetarians are still in the minority. So prepared vegetarian foods and vegetarian only restaurants are rare. And to be able to make a profit, these specialty stores must charge a lot because they are specialty stores. Unfortunately, even though we see the vegetarian community as a supportive one, if you are going to be able to afford the vegetarian lifestyle, you are going to have to learn to cut costs.

Cutting costs means eliminating shopping at “boutique” vegetarian markets and no more eating out. Or at least it means cutting down on the eating out significantly. You can buy fresh vegetables and fruits at farmers markets or grocery stores that are just as valid as vegetarian options as any you get as a specialty store. Using a good food processor and other means, you can chop, dice, boil and puree just about any kind of vegetarian meal that you might be able to imagine getting in a restaurant. And at a much lower cost. Not only that but the leftovers can go into a compost pile to make fertilizer for your garden when you can grow your own vegetables next spring.

That “grower to consumer” market that often surfaces as a farmer’s market is a great way to save lots of money also because you are buying your produce directly from the farmer and you cut the grocery store out of the loop entirely. One way to make sure you capitalize on every opportunity to buy inexpensive produce is to work as a community. Get about a dozen vegetarian families working together to always be on the lookout for a great buy. One might find a small farmer’s market or roadside stand that is selling produce far below grocery store prices. Another might find a farmer who will basically give his food away just to clear the field. With some coordination, you could field an army of vegetarians to grab those bargains while they are fresh and stock everybody’s kitchen with low cost fresh produce.

These are just a few of many ways you can find to save money on your vegetarian groceries and still have just as much quality but without as much cost. By shopping smart and shopping for bargains, you can live the vegetarian life and feel good about it because you are not only healthy, you are smart.

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Vegetarians are NOT Crazy

vegetarian crazy
One of the things that often holds up a lot of people from considering a lifestyle of vegetarianism is a negative stereotype of vegetarians that is really not at all accurate. Of course there are extremists in any discipline and the same is true of vegetarians or vegans. Its good to dig a bit deeper and put any preconceptions on hold that might be holding you back from what would be a wonderful lifestyle choice.

It is true that the vegetarian way of life can be part of a larger spiritual discipline as well. But you can get a lot of good from a life of vegetarian eating even if it is not part of your religious or moral life. So if you are hesitant to explore making a switch to a vegetarian diet, you don’t have to also join a new religious or social community to get just as much out of it as anyone.

When you begin to explore the work of vegetarian disciplines, you will find a wide variety of types of people who enjoy the lifestyle. The vegetarian “community” is a diverse population with cultures of people who are at various levels of commitment to the vegetarian lifestyle. There is not reason to have guilt or fear that if you wish to start out slowly. In fact, starting out just easing into a vegetarian way of life is a good way to find out where in the discipline you feel comfortable.

The first myth about becoming a vegetarian to overcome then is the idea that as soon as you make a commitment to start cutting meat from your diet, you will necessarily become part of some strange eastern cult that will change your beliefs and your way of life. The huge majority of people who make a vegetarian lifestyle their own are normal people just like you.

It might surprise you if you found out that its very likely that many of your neighbors and coworkers are quietly enjoying a lifestyle of vegetarian living. And becoming a vegetarian does NOT “turn you into” some kind of obnoxious wild eyed religious fanatic. In fact, you can enjoy all the benefits of being a vegetarian and live happily among others who are not following your diet choices. And you can be a vegetarian and develop a reasonable diet that still allows you to get your protein from cheese, fish and other traditional sources as you cut out the more conspicuous sources of protein such as beef and chicken.

Just as it’s a good thing for you to get over the idea that becoming a vegetarian is some kind of strange or “bizarre” idea, you should discard quickly any fears that you will be seen as odd or peculiar when you inform your friends and loved ones you have made this lifestyle choice. There is no “coming out of the closet” to becoming a vegetarian. As long as it is as natural as switching to low fat milk from whole milk to you, it will be natural to your friends and loved ones.

The people you know well will watch your behavior closely to see if there is any reason to worry about you in making this change. If they detect you are going to be angry at them for not following you into vegetarianism or that you are going to become “an evangelist” for living without meat, then they will become nervous and avoid you, especially at meal time.

But if your vegetarian lifestyle is a choice you can make without disrupting the lives of others and one you can live in harmony with others who are not vegetarians, you will demonstrate to them that it is no problem that you just eat different things than they do and that above all vegetarians are NOT crazy.

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