I Live With People Who Aren’t Vegan. Here’s How I Deal.
I’ve been vegan a long time. We’re talking years. So when my mother calls down to me (usually when I’m reviewing a heartbreaking video of animal abuse) and asks me if I want an omelet, I immediately fill to the brim with frustration.
I’m not going to lie to you. Living with a family who still sees veganism as a phase—after seven years? OK, Dad—is at times very stressful. Not only am I vegan, but I’ve worked in animal rights for nearly a decade, protesting the circus my family once owned. Fighting for animals is my passion and I’m incredibly vocal about it. So, if I am struggling here, I know I’m not the only one.
After a year of living on my own in Los Angeles, I decided to move back to New York to be closer to family. Since my family missed me so much, my parents extended the offer to stay with them until I can find a place of my own. I’m incredibly grateful for this, so every time I’m asked about eating omelets (or worse, my dad recently asked me to eat veal), I remind myself of this fact.
So if you’re in the same position as I am, living with family or a partner who doesn’t want to stop eating animal products, I have some advice.
Claim a drawer or shelf in the fridge.
This may seem obvious, but I really don’t appreciate having my tempeh marinating next to a package of bacon. It’s gross. It can leak. And it reminds me every time I look at it that an animal had to die merely for fleeting pleasure.
Every fridge has at least one drawer and mine has three: a meat drawer and two specifically for storing fruits and vegetables. Given I’m one person out of four in this household, I snagged the least-used drawer for storing my seitan, tofu, and vegan yogurts. It keeps all my vegan products away from the animal-based ones, giving me peace of mind that no processed meats will end up rotting my avocados. (They’ll do that all on their own.)
For larger products, like Califia soy milk or coffee creamer, I claimed a shelf on the refrigerator door. This ensures all my food will fit without being in the way.
Don’t be afraid to say no to food offered to you.
Sometimes, and with the best of intentions, my dad would make me plain pasta—smothered in non-vegan butter—for dinner. I’d politely decline. “Thanks, Dad. I really appreciate it. Next time, can we cook this together?”
There is no shame in telling someone who tried to help that you won’t eat what they made, as long as you do it respectfully. They are trying, which is what matters. I know it can be an awkward situation sometimes, but by having them cook with you, you’re spending time with someone who is actively supporting your lifestyle while making sure every ingredient in the food you eat is vegan. It’s a win-win!
Don’t pressure them to change.
Nobody likes to be judged, myself included. I wouldn’t want anyone to tell me what to eat, so why would I do the same to them? After a long time of talking about the benefits of plant-based milk over dairy, my sister now willingly buys coconut milk creamer for her coffee. And she enjoys it!
I’ve found people who have been closed off to veganism may take some time warming up to the idea. While I would tell them why I prefer my vegan cheese, I wouldn’t shame them for eating dairy cheese. It’s easier to plant seeds than to break down a wall.
Introduce them to vegan food.
My family is obsessed with food. And I mean obsessed. Even at the dinner table, conversation about the dinner they ate the day before or the crockpot recipe they tried is pretty standard. So when sit-down dinners like Thanksgiving come around, make some vegan food that everyone can have. Sides like stuffing, mashed potatoes, delicious marinated veggies, or even some mock meat mains can pique Grandma’s interest.
I once made vegan Buffalo wings at my older brother’s house party. Not only did he love them, but all the guys he invited devoured the bag. They asked where I got them, they loved them so much, and were shocked to find out they were vegan! Even the most hardcore meat eater will try vegan food if you make it look delicious enough.
Spend quality time with them.
Whether you’re living with your family or partner or just dating, spending quality time with the people you love will help them better understand your stance on animal cruelty. Whether you bring them to an animal sanctuary, out to a savory vegan dinner, or even to a volunteer event, you’re introducing more of your life to them. By seeing a part of your life that’s important to you, they’re more likely to respect your decision to live a vegan lifestyle and meet more awesome vegans along the way!
Do you know someone who wants to switch to a more compassionate diet? Click here for tips to help them.