In the past few years the Meat-free Mondays movement has gained further traction thanks to social media, where people follow the hashtag and, of course, post pictures of their Insta-worthy creations.
But the call for embarking on a more vegetarian diet has long preceded these platforms.
In 1992, the Vegetarian Society founded National Vegetarian Week and it continues to be marked across the UK each May.
The celebration, which is taking place from 10-16 May in 2021, is a time to promote going meatless and to learn about the benefits of moving towards a fully plant-based lifestyle.
Whether your reasons for cutting out animal products are due to health, the environment or ethics, there’s never been an easier time to get started. The food on offer is becoming more exciting and adventurous, with no need to compromise on taste or cost.
So if you’re looking to cut down your meat consumption, or have been wanting for some inspiration to improve your meat-free culinary repertoire, we’ve rounded up everything you’ll need to do so without hassle.
From cookbooks to food boxes, you’re sure to find something in this round-up to help kickstart your efforts to incorporate vegetables as a bigger part of your diet.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Following a recipe is how most of us perfect a dish, as there are few meals we can make without a little guidance on measurements, preparation and cooking time.
In our guide to the best vegetarian cookbooks, we loved Green Kitchen at Home: Quick and Healthy Vegetarian Food for Every Day by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl (£18.39, Amazon.co.uk), who are a popular Scandinavian foodie couple.
In it you’ll find everything from quick weekday breakfasts to speedy dinners that are perfect for busy parents.
Our reviewers especially liked the taste of the mushroom, goats’ cheese, pear and walnut fettuccine, and the baked donuts. And all the recipes are free from gluten and refined sugar.
If you love Indian food, pick up a copy of Saffron Soul: Healthy Vegetarian Heritage Recipes from India by Mira Manek (£15.25, Amazon.co.uk) which we found challenged stereotypical perceptions of Indian food as being rich and indulgent.
Instead, our reviewer found it offered healthier and lighter interpretations of classics that she has tweaked from recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother.
“The book is full of flavourful plant-based goodness such as mango and cardamom smoothies, masala grilled aubergine, avocado chutney and grilled maple pineapple with frozen coconut saffron yoghurt,” said our reviewer.
For those with a sweet tooth, you won’t be disappointed with Veggie Desserts + Cakes: Carrot Cake and Beyond by Kate Hackworthy (£11.45, Amazon.co.uk), which proves you don’t just have to stick to soups and salads to be a veggie.
Our reviewers commented: “If you think beetroot brownies and courgette muffins are old news, you’ll be delighted by the wealth of unusual recipes such as asparagus and lemon cupcakes, pea and vanilla cake, spinach and strawberry swiss roll, cauliflower and chocolate hazelnut filo sticks, and sweetcorn cookies, to name just a few.”
There’s a long list of reasons why we love recipe boxes: you can do a food shop without ever leaving your house; you only get the exact ingredients you need so there’s no waste; some are mostly pre-prepared; and you can chop and choose between whatever fits your dietary requirements, rather than trawling every aisle of the supermarket.
One of our favourites is Pasta Evangelists (from £7.25, Pastaevangelists.com), a letterbox-friendly parcel that contains two different fresh pasta recipes. You can choose from 10 varieties each week and get next-day delivery.
“It’s an incredibly clever idea because pasta is so easy to transport and takes so little prep – as the sauces are premade, you’ll never have to spend more than 10 minutes cooking, and you get near-restaurant-quality food”, said our reviewer.
And we found dietary requirements to be well catered for: we had vegetarian cacio e pepe and vegan orecchiette with pesto and a pistachio crumb.
Another impressive option is the Abel & Cole recipe box (from £12, Abelandcole.co.uk), which will feed two to four people. You can get boxes delivered weekly, with subscriptions up to eight weeks apart if you prefer to have them less frequently.
Each week, there are 15 seasonal recipes to choose from and our reviewer found the rosti-topped "shepherdess" pie – made with lentils and earthy mushrooms instead of meat – was fragrant and flavoursome, and brought an interesting update to a family classic. “While all the recipes we tested were good, this is a recipe card we’ve actually kept to make again later – which is a very good sign indeed.”
Prices start from £6 a plate and plastic packaging was kept to a minimum too, making this an all-around superstar in the world of organic food.
Supermarket Morrisons has also begun selling recipe boxes that can be delivered weekly, fortnightly or monthly, all without needing to book a delivery slot.
One is a “feed a family” recipe box (£28.50, Morrisons.com) which will feed a household of four for five days and includes dishes such as a vegetable pasta bake and veggie chilli with wedges.
Its vegetarian essentials subscription box (£33.25, Morrisons.com) offers both fresh produce and cupboard essentials to keep you stocked up for mealtimes.
In it there’s items such as pasta, butter, milk, soups, meat-free sausages, tofu, cheese, meat-free mince, bread, sauces, cereal, potatoes, onions, carrots and even toilet roll.
Now you’ve got the recipes and the ingredients, all you need to do is cook. So dust off your cooking skills and get equipped with the kitchen essentials that our IndyBest team of reviewers have tried and tested.
A wok will come in handy for veggie stir fries, when you’re working with high heat and little time. In our guide to the best, one of our favourites was the Prue’s World dual handle lidded wok (£34.99, Lakeland.co.uk), which is designed by The Great British Bake Off’s very own Prue Leith.
“Its shape means this pan is good for stir frying, searing, and even things like tempura – it also comes with a rack that rests on one half of the pan, so you can rest your fried foods and let any excess oil drip through. There is also a clear glass lid, making it ideal for sauteing, simmering and stewing,” said our reviewer.
All kitchen cupboards need a non-stick frying pan too, and this ProCook professional anodised non-stick frying pan (£49, Amazon.co.uk) took the number one spot out of the 10 that our reviewers put to the test.
Our reviewer said: “This quality pan can be used for so much more than a fry up and it’s an invaluable addition to any kitchen. Compatible with every kind of hob, it heats very evenly, but stay conscious of the fact that the handle will get warm too. Great for curries, sauces and anything that needed a combo of frying and low heat, this is a versatile pan for every cook.”
For the rest of your culinary needs, a saucepan set is an easy way to grab these everyday essentials in one purchase.
They can withstand oven heat of up to 250C, can be used on all hob types and, best of all, when you’re done, you can simply put them in the dishwasher to clean and save yourself scrubbing out the remains of that veggie chilli.
For the latest discounts on kitchen gadgets, try the links below:
For more cooking inspiration, read our guide to the best healthy recipe books
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.