There are many reasons why someone may choose to be a vegetarian. Saving the planet is a biggie. Religious beliefs, too. Health, wealth, environment, ethics…I’m sure you’ve heard most of them before. But is it possible to be a vegetarian, and give up meat completely, without even realising?

Yes, is the short answer. Accidental vegetarianism is apparently a thing.

Now, you might be thinking ‘What kind of person doesn’t realise what they’re eating?’ Well, I am one such person, and this is how it happened to me…

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Becoming a vegetarian…without realising 

I’ve always been a conscious and mindful eater. Ever since I left home, I’ve responsibly sourced my animal products from the most environmentally-friendly and sustainable sources that I’ve been able to find. The local butchers and farm shops know me by name. But I was always, without a doubt, a meat-eating carnivore.

My philosophy was more ‘meat is a treat’ so I suppose you could say that I was a flexitarian. But oh em gee, did I love a good steak! It was genuinely the highlight of my week. And that’s one of the reasons it was such as shock to realise that, for the best part of 5 weeks, I’d not eaten a single piece of meat!

Even more shocking, I’d not missed it at all.

It started when I was trying to save money for a holiday. Coincidentally, it was a trip to Málaga, Marbella and Seville (I say ‘coincidentally’ because Seville is where La Española are sending the winners of their competition this year!). However, it turns out that saving up is easier when you’re not splashing your cash on prime cuts of beef from the local. So, I decided to do the adult thing and give the tasty-but-expensive treats a miss for a bit.

This also coincided with my new flatmate moving in.

(Spoiler alert: She’s a massive foodie and a lifelong vegetarian)

Even from day one was offering to cook meals for us both. She’s a whizz in the kitchen and I was working quite long hours so this was totally fine by me. Coming home to a freshly cooked meal each night? Absolutely, sign me up.

I’m not ashamed to say that she was even meal-prepping my lunches (okay, I’m a little ashamed, but her food was so gooood!). What’s more, we shared the same attitude towards sourcing sustainable ingredients so even split the cost of the shopping, which meant I was saving up faster – win, win!

That awkward moment when you realise you don’t eat meat

Over a month later we decided to go out for dinner together to one of her favourite eateries. When the waiter brought the menus, I took mine without thinking. My flatmate, however, refused hers with perfectly-practised politeness and asked to see the vegetarian menu. Thinking I’d missed a trick, I casually joked about her pretending to be vegetarian to access the secret menu. She laughed it off and we carried on with the night.

It wasn’t until we got home that I mentioned another restaurant we should visit, and how I order the same dish every time – an amazing game pie. Needless to say, much, much confusion entailed.

As it turns out, all this time my flatmate thought that we were both stalwart vegetarians! Meanwhile, in my head we were both woke, flexitarian, environmentally-savvy meat-eaters!

WAIT! ALL those meals you made were vegetarian?”

Yep. Every last one…

“But..the lasagne the other night…the paella…the pizza?!”

Meat substitutes. And I didn’t even notice the difference…

“So, hold on, when was the last time I ate meat…?

We worked out that I’d gone 32 days without meat. I’d even survived two meals out. That night I’d managed to order one of the only veggie options on the main menu! Which got me thinking. Thinking, researching, and planning …

How easy is it to be a vegetarian? 

Evidently, really easy. You can even do it accidentally.

But nowadays I’m vegetarian on purpose – seven months and still going strong!

I’m definitely not a preachy vegetarian. I’ve met some people who will practically steal meat from your mouth! But, considering how much of a meat-lover I used to be, I’m now a huge advocate for meatless lifestyles. The way I see it, the more people reducing their environment impact, eating healthier and exploring new avenues of food – either purposefully or accidentally – the better for everyone in the long run.

If you haven’t already, I would seriously recommend spending a little time as a veggie. Trial it. See if you can go a week or two. Perhaps you might feel like I do! My journey started with a missed steak, almost by mistake, but now I feel happier, healthier and will not be changing back. And who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll be accidentally vegan!!

Yours meatlessly,
Stephanie James

Stephanie has kindly volunteered to share her tips on living meat free and her favourite vegetarian recipes. If you would like Stephanie to hear more from Stephanie then please let us know on Facebook and Instagram.