To be a vegan in this area of Riverside County you have to be creative, said Laura Miller of Temecula, 45, who has been vegan for almost two years.
Adapting to a vegan lifestyle in Southwest Riverside County can be somewhat difficult, she also said; she’s a busy mom and wife.
Unlike a vegetarian diet where one can eat dairy and eggs, vegans do not consume any animal by-products.
Miller is originally from San Diego County where the options for vegans are unlimited. Since moving to Temecula, she’s found it a lot more difficult.
No-meat kitchens like Veggie Grill and Native Foods, popular in Orange County and San Diego County, are hard to come by in this area.
With any Google search one will see that there are no meat-free kitchens within the area. It seems odd, since veganism and vegetarianism are becoming more popular, Miller said, and it would be smart of business owners to begin doing so.
She explained how she has met a lot of vegetarians and vegans in the Temecula area through websites such as Meetup.
“If a place here had vegan stuff, it would go like wildfire,” she said.
Miller said although there no meat-free kitchens in the area, she doesn’t need it as long as restaurants will offer vegan options.
She found that Earth Bistro in Temecula and @Thai in Murrieta are two great options for vegans. She said @Thai will bring out a vegan menu if you ask for it.
Miller thinks that part of the reason why vegetarian/vegan restaurants are slow to expand in this area is because the cities are still new. And with that, there are a lot more chain restaurants in the area, and although she’d like to eat Chipotle everyday she’d rather support small businesses.
Chipotle recently added sofritas – tofu with chilies and spices – and they also removed the bacon from their pinto beans. The sofritas are “really good,” she gushed.
Miller and her husband both work full-time and they eat out a lot during the week. She calls herself a convenience food shopper and in the future she would love to see a Whole Foods Market in the area.
“I could run in and grab something, without having to resort to Chipotle,” she said.
She said the demographic to open a Whole Foods is right for the area. The closest location to Whole Foods from Temecula is in San Diego.
Although Southwest Riverside County has Sprouts, Trader Joe’s and Roots in Temecula, these places don’t carry everything she needs. She’ll have to go to about three places to get everything she needs. One of the downfalls to shopping at Roots is that it’s really expensive, she said.
For those who are looking to try veganism but are worried about it being too expensive Miller suggests a blog called “Plant Based on a Budget” (plantbasedonabudget.com). The blog does a whole menu plan and shopping list for the week for single, couples, or families.
Both Miller and her husband went vegan for health reasons, and later ethical reasons, and both used to love meat.
She said going from cooking omnivorous dishes for over 20 years and transitioning to cooking vegan was hard. She also said the holidays are really hard because of family.
As for going vegan, “If I can do it, anybody can do it,” she said.
Her husband and two of her daughters are also vegan. When her husband went vegan he lost 30 lbs. and his blood pressure went way down, she said.
Miller said being vegan has made it easier for her as a working mom. She doesn’t have to worry about coming home and thawing out meat. She said it can be as simple as cooking a pot full of beans for $0.99 and using it throughout the week to cook meals such as bean burritos. She also said her children love it.
Miller’s daughter Angela, 13, hasn’t gone vegan yet. She’s also had health issues in the past, such as eczema, but since eating her mom’s vegan meals the patches have seemed to have disappeared.
“The food was better than I expected it to be,” she said.
Angela also said she is considering going vegan someday when she gets older, but she still can’t give up some of her favorite foods like cheese.
Even coworkers with Miller’s husband have become interested in what he’s eating.
“Sometimes they’ll eat quinoa with him,” she said, laughing.
Quinoa is a grain-like crop and high in protein.
As for a change in the future Miller said she would like to see the owners of restaurants to promote vegan options on the menu.
She said, “Their counterparts in other counties know how to do it.”