Kids, Carers and Cats – Catering for a Variety of Needs in a Vegan Household!

FamilyMy household is 100% vegan, but quite unusual! I have been vegan for over 25 years, as has my partner Paul and our 6 year old Zak has been vegan since birth. We also live with Paul’s dad Gerald, an omnivore, who is disabled following a stroke. He has live-in carers (3 different carers cover the week) and we have 3 rescued cats, Jessica and her sons Handa and Akeyo. The household is completely vegan so when Gerald and his carers are here they only eat vegan food. The cats are also fed a vegan diet.

The day begins by feeding the cats Ami cat- their favourite vegan cat food supplied by Veggie Pets. Then I make breakfast for Zak. Today it’s cereal and fortified rice milk. I send him off to school with his packed lunch – a wholemeal roll topped with flax seeds (full of omega threes) with tahini and Marmite (his favourite topping) a carton of orange juice, red pepper sticks, black olives (another favourite) and a packet of raisins.

The postman delivers some info arrived from the Vegan Society about vegan school meals. Zak’s school are doing a review of school dinners so I’ve seized the opportunity to request a meeting to discuss providing a vegan meal for Zak. Armed with leaflets, recipes and menu suggestions from the Vegan Society I’ll feel confident!

I also receive a parcel from the Vegan Store containing a new product called Vegg. I thought this would be good for Gerald who might enjoy a more eggy scrambled tofu, and it would be a quick and nutritious meal his carers could easily make. I’ve also ordered some Nanas choc chip cookies which contain no refined sugar. They are one of Zak’s favourite treats. Holland and Barratt have stopped selling them so I was pleased to find them in the Vegan Store. A can of Soyatoo vegan whipped cream is a welcome free gift!

I sit down and make a rough plan of the weekly menu. I find this helps with having lots of different needs in the house. Then I pop into the ice cream parlour where Zak’s class are going on a school trip to see if there are any vegan options. Unsurprisingly there aren’t, but they agree that Zak can bring something along with him. Will have to investigate some options.

Then I do the weekly shop at the Co-op and local wholefood store (Your Nuts). They agree to order some Swedish Glace non-dairy ice cream lollies for me, which will be perfect for the school trip.

Being a parent has been the most challenging role to be vegan. Finding healthy and nutritious foods for Zak to eat is no problem, but dealing with the non vegan world and ensuring Zak doesn’t feel left out takes some thought and preparation. However, it is perfectly possible and becomes as second nature as the other aspects of being vegan like checking labels! Zak has a box of treats at school for whenever the children are given non vegan foods, and I liaise closely with the teachers about trips, cooking and any other occasion where food is involved.

Grandad Gerald arrives home from the day centre with a bar of vegan chocolate he’s won as a prize. One of his carers kindly informed them that Gerald lives in a vegan household so they have been brilliant in providing him with vegan goodies for us all to share.

I collect Zak and his friend who is coming for tea. I give them chips, Linda McCartney Sausages, beans and steamed veg. This is my usual option when Zak brings a friend home because it’s good to give the guests food they are familiar with and most kids will at least eat chips! Also, it’s important that Zak’s friends see him eating normal food so they don’t think he is weird! Zak and his friend both polish their tea off while taking it in turns to tell a story about Mario. They are equally keen on their chocolate cup cake (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World).

We don’t have a family meal tonight as we normally would. Zak has eaten with his friend, and Gerald ate a big meal at the day centre so his carer Matt rustles up a quick meal for him of Suma pea soup and bread roll.

Gerald and Zak are not keen on spicy food so I use this opportunity to make chilli for the rest of us served with brown rice, guacamole and green salad. Matt is the easiest to cater for of the three carers as he is not fussy at all about his food. He says he loves the food here and it’s better than he gets at home!

By Chrissy Leyland