Happy ‘World Vegan Month’ (news to me too)! After many failed attempts at veganism over the least 3 years, each stint only lasting a couple of months, I began to give up hope of being able to stick to it permanently. I had nailed being a vegetarian, but there was something about cheese and the ease of popping a pizza in the oven that got me every time. That was, until lockdown 2020 when I found the key to veganism which was (for me) – lots of spare time!
Previously my issue had been that most recipes online or in cookbooks are trying to give you Jamie Oliver or Gordan Ramsey style dinners with 20 different ingredients when you just want an easy mid-week meal. My simple cooking knowledge meant I didn’t know which ingredients were important and which ones you could leave out.
With my newfound free time, I started cooking and discovering which vegan recipes were easy, tasty and adaptable. I started writing these down so that once/if life went back to ‘normal’, I could make these tried and tested recipes after work without risk of a disappointing dinner.
Realising I can’t be the only person with this problem, I very nervously decided I was going to post the recipes I had adapted on Instagram. I had to come up with a name for my account and it just so happens my name ‘Maddie’ sounds like ‘Mad Easy’ (if you really want it to) and @MadEasyVeganFood was born.
When I first started, Instagram was a breeze. Although a bit shaky at first, still learning the ropes and worried my content was terrible, my followers started rolling in. Within 2 months I got to 1.5 thousand followers and it felt like I was hardly trying.
However, this momentum was short lived. Instagram starting to make it more difficult for my account to be successful as time went on. Its like a switch they turn off and you must work to get it back on. One week I was getting 250 likes per post and the next week 130 with no explication why. Surely my content hadn’t changed that much?! I only gained 500 followers in the 3 following months. People genuinely use phrases like ‘the fight against the algorithm’ because it really does feel like it’s against you.
I have found that the key to Instagram is time. In truth, when I stopped gaining followers so easily, I was also spending a lot less time on the app due to lockdown restrictions easing. However, all but one of the ways I have found work to increase your followers and engagement involve spending time on the app. Ultimately, Instagram favours the accounts which build genuine relationships with their followers. This means replying to their stories and giving posts a like, share or comments which all take time.
Apart from time, it’s all about amazing content. Which content works? Honestly, I still haven’t quite worked it out yet. Anything seasonal or topical seems to do well. I personally find my more Asian style food seems to get the most likes as people love to explore cuisines. Plus, anything with your face does well. I think this is because it breaks up the constant food on every foodies feed and makes you feel as if you know the #facebehindthefood helping to strengthen relationships.
The vegan community is an extremely positive one and everyone loves to support one another. There isn’t a sense of competition, you are there to build relationships, boost each other and support the vegan cause.
I am yet to attempt to monetise my Instagram and I am sure that is a completely different ball game. There are ways to do it but I would imagine it to be painfully slow at the start. I do know of people who have quit their jobs to become Insta bloggers at just 8k followers (although not within the vegan community!).
My platform did allow me to sell an e-recipe book I created for charity – raising £400 for the Runnymede Trust and Stephen Laurence Foundation. I am not sure how committed my followers would be to spend money on my recipe book I made on PowerPoint, if it wasn’t for a charitable cause.
Overall, I have found the overall experience of my Instagram platform a highly enjoyable one. It has helped me stick to a plant-based diet, improved my understanding of social media from a brands point of view, improved my cooking and photography, made me feel part of a community, raised money for charity and hopefully helped others to eat more plant-based foods.
My advice to anyone thinking of creating an Instagram account is just do it! You learn as you go and you have nothing to lose.
D-NINE-BEAN CHILLI (NO CARNE)
Effort: 5/10 / Serves: 4-5 / Time: 45-60 mins
Kidney Beans (1 can)
Other Bean (1 can) I recommend: Lentils, black beans or chickpeas
Chopped Tomatoes (1 can)
Onion – red or white x 1
Side of choice: rice/ tortilla chips/ sweet potato
Veggie stock cube (200 ml water)
Cumin (1 tbsp.)
Paprika (1 tbsp.)
Chilli Flakes (1/2 – 1 tbsp.)
Mixed herbs (1 tbsp.)
Garlic (2 cloves)
Tomato Puree (2 tbsp.)
Balsamic Vinegar or/and soy sauce (splash)
Cayenne Pepper (1 tsp.)
Pepper x 2 (any colour)
Fresh coriander (to serve)
Avocado/ guacamole (to serve)
Sweetcorn (1 can or 2 handfuls of frozen)
Kale (2 handfuls)
- If serving with sweet potato, stab it, and pop it in the oven to roast with a bit of oil and salt and pepper on. If using another side, time the cooking yourself.
- Chop and fry the onion and peppers in a pan until soft (around 8 mins).
- Meanwhile, mince the garlic and add to the pan and fry for a further minute.
- Then add the spices, salt and pepper and the tomato puree and cook for 2 mins.
- Add the tinned tomatoes, stock, beans, splash of balsamic vinegar/soy sauce and simmer for 25-30 mins, until no longer watery, stirring occasionally. If using sweetcorn and/or kale add 5 mins before the end.
- Get the potato out the oven and serve topped with the chili and coriander and guacamole.