Like thousands of other people, I decided to adopt a vegan diet during January this year. I amazed myself by sticking to it for 29 out of 31 days. Generally, when I try to eat a certain way, I crack during the first day, so this was really quite the achievement for me.

I've since decided to eat vegan 99% of the time - only buying vegan food from the supermarkets and preparing vegan food at home. When eating out with friends, I will treat myself to something non-vegan if I really don't fancy any of the vegan options on the menu or there aren't any available. I know many hardcore vegans will see this as a cop out but hey, I'm just doing what I can to contribute to a better planet for us all.

During my Veganuary, I learnt a lot of things about being vegan - some I was expecting from reading the experience of other vegans, some I wasn't.

There is hidden milk in EVERYTHING
OK, not quite everything, but a surprising amount of products have milk in. I was actually caught out twice by this, I came home from the supermarket with bread rolls that contained milk (despite deliberately avoiding my usual brioche burger buns!!!) and it was also in the coconut milk powder I like to use, much to my horror. Milk also manages to sneak its way into crisps and even dark chocolate!

You spend six times longer in the supermarket
After getting caught out by surprise milk for the second time, I decided that was not going to happen again and started reading labels obsessively whilst I was doing my shopping. I used to be in and out of the supermarket in 10 minutes max thanks to my shopping lists which I write in the order that I go round the shop but now, because I have to stop and double check labels, I tend to spend about an hour in there.

Vegan cheese tastes better cooked
Vegan mozzarella on a pizza is great. Vegan parmesan stirred into your pasta sauce is great. Violife slices melted onto your burger and into your quesadillas are great.

Violife slices in a sandwich you haven't toasted? NO THANK YOU. Blergh.  I recommend you don't smell the vegan cheese either before you cook it.

There are no replacements for feta
Believe me, I tried. I found a recipe for homemade vegan feta made from tofu and that was terrible. I tried Sainsbury's Free From version of feta, that was awful. I tried the Sheese version. That was sadly a nope. I think that really solidified the point that vegan cheese is better cooked.

I much prefer plant milks 
I've never been a massive milk fan. In fact it was only a few years ago that I stopped crying if milk happened to touch me. Yeah, seriously. I've never ever eaten it on cereal or had it as a drink in its own right, but I would have a tiny, tiny drop of it in my tea, that's all.

Plant milks are another story. I LOVE almond milk, and I've recently developed a fondness for coconut milk. I also tried oat milk during January and whilst it isn't one of my favourites, it's also like a million times better than dairy milk.

Even if the rest of my vegan lifestyle falls apart, I'm not ever going back to cow's milk.

I don't need cheese and chocolate as much as I thought I did 
Before embarking on Veganuary, I literally ate cheese and milk chocolate every single day. I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm not. I was convinced that I would be utterly miserable without those two things in my life. The funny thing is, I was consistently happy throughout the entirety of January. Clearly, I do not need cheese and chocolate. Sure, I dabbled in vegan alternatives (Vego chocolate bars are insanely delicious, highly recommended), but I've finally managed to change my mindset to view chocolate as a treat, not a daily staple. I'm also much better at planning meals that don't require cheese for them to feel complete.

The best thing is, I've had a massive craving for brie for the past fortnight, and I've yet to give in. I'm so much stronger than I thought I was.

How inexpensive veganism is depends on your approach
I'm really not sure where the idea that veganism is super expensive has come from. Unless you live in a food desert, the healthiest vegan foods, e.g. fresh veggies and wholegrains, are actually the cheapest foods to buy.

Of course, I personally think that the transition to a vegan diet is much easier if you adapt the meals you already eat into vegan versions and a lot of the time, this is easiest if you use meat and cheese substitutes. Foods like Violife, Quorn and Linda McCartney items are not cheap, but they're also not much more expensive than buying meat and cheese, if at all. If you're already eating a varied diet, with lots of different meats and cheeses in the meals you cook from scratch, then you can afford to go vegan.

For January, my food shopping expenditure was round about the same as it was when I was eating meat, but the overall amount of money I spent on food in January was so much lower because I wasn't having takeaways anymore - I was way more interested in home cooked vegan food.

During February, the amount I spent on food was significantly lower than it was when I was eating meat, because I started batch cooking my meals on a Sunday night as well as continuing my vegan diet.

If you've been thinking about going vegan, do your research first 
I think one of the reasons I was so successful during Veganuary was because I actually decided I was going to do it about four months before I actually did it. A lot of my family members are vegan and I noticed an increasing number of other bloggers were adopting the lifestyle as well and this is what increased my awareness of how brutal the dairy industry actually is. I had been considering the health benefits of veganism for a much, much longer time - the ethical side was something that only came into my consciousness more recently.

I decided to research everything to do with being vegan. The potential health benefits, the cruelty involved in animal farming and most importantly, I sat down and meticulously planned what I was going to replace the things I would be removing from my diet with.

If I hadn't spent literally months planning how I was going to make going vegan work in my life, I never, ever would have managed to do as well as I am doing.

If you are considering going vegan yourself, I'd be happy to have a chat with you. I am not a perfect vegan, nor am I an expert but I am honest about my experiences with it and I won't judge you. I also really recommend signing up to receive emails from Veganuary - their daily emails in January kept me motivated and enlightened me on lots of issues.