Can’t we all just get along: how vegans and omnivores can live together

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I am vegan, and my girlfriend is not. We are looking to move in together, and I had always had this (now unrealistic) idea that my home would be a vegan one.

How have other veggies and meat-eaters gotten along, and what are some tips for making everyone happy food-wise?

-Aurora

Great question! For the first 12 years of our relationship, my partner was vegan and I was not. Our wedding cake was actually TWO cakes (one vegan, one not) woven together.

Honestly, the vegan/non-vegan cohabitation thing was pretty easy for us, primarily because my vegan partner was the one who liked to cook, so when we were home, I ate vegan. We did have two different cartons of milk, and I had my stash of cheese — neither of which bothered Andreas. (Well, ok: it sorta bothered him when I would grate cheese on top of my serving of vegan food.)

For the most part, however, the dynamic worked for us because the vegan (Andreas) was also the one who liked cooking, and the non-vegan (me!) was happy to eat whatever food he put in front of me. As I see it, the non-cook/omnivore doesn’t get to be demanding. I can eat anything, including delicious vegan food!

I’d be curious to hear from Homies who’ve been in this situation, though — what about when the primary cook is the omnivore? What about when it’s not just a stash of cheese, but a stash of bacon? How can the vegan and the omnivore peacefully share both a kitchen and a meal?

Comments on Can’t we all just get along: how vegans and omnivores can live together

  1. For the first half of our relationship, I was a vegetarian and my now-fiance was an omnivore. I’m the primary cook, but we also cook together a lot. Generally, if he wanted meat with something he would just make it on the side in a separate pan and mix it into his food at the table. That worked out pretty well for us! I was never hardcore about not wanting to use the same pans or anything, so that never bothered me… but if that bothers you, just have designated veggie and non-veggie pans, separated out in your cupboard, to make sure you don’t cross-contaminate. 🙂

  2. I am a veggie and my husband is an omni and primary cook. He just makes us both veggie food, he doesn’t bother eating meat unless we go out to dinner or get fast food. I don’t even think we have meat in the house. Except the raw meat for our dogs!

    • I would love to go raw with the dogs but my guy is uncomfortable enough with me feeding them a meat-based kibble…

      • Ah, that’s where I differ. I’m a vegetarian but wouldn’t insist that my cat be one, because his body is completely different from mine. He loves his raw food (Sojos brand) and by husband is delighted to have another meat-lover in the house.

        This could be a whole separate post, though–lots of viewpoints.

        • I’m right with ya. I refuse to have our dogs veggie. His mom’s dog is and is also grossly overweight and has random severe skin ailments. I don’t understand how they don’t see the connection… We adopted a couple barn cats and I give them both dry AND wet food. The wet food freaks the hubby and his mom out but I solely deal with it. When we go on vaca we hire a pet sitter rather than have my mother-in-law feed the animals. I respect their beliefs but I will NOT sacrifice my fuzzies health because they believe it messes up their karma (I’m an atheist so there’s a lot of cheek biting when it comes to my mother-in-law. Old and outspoken. Believes every other ‘path’ is wrong **sigh**). ANYway. Long story short, my dogs and cats eat meat and my birds eat the occasional scrambled egg. They’re happy and healthy. I’m happy.

        • I hear you there. I never expected my cats to be vegan because I felt that they had to kill to live. I eventually came to understand my own body this way after some health struggles with veganism. (With that said, lots of folks can be healthy vegan, I’m just not one of them.)

  3. My spouse is an omnivore and I’m vegetarian. Respect and compromise are important for us — he’s always looked for vegetarian-friendly restaurants we could go to ever since we began dating; I’m okay with him ordering meaty tacos and steaks when we go out and don’t mind him eating meat at home. I think it’s good to find foods you enjoy together as well, not just for practicality, but as a way to bond over food tastes and choices you have in common. It’s nice to see yourselves not just as “vegan and omnivore,” but as “mutual lovers of quinoa.”

  4. i’ve been a vegetarian (not vegan) for 17 years and i’ve always lived with meat eaters. i practive a live and let live policy about my food choices in general. it’s my choice to not eat meat and i have no right to tell someone else not to. i also feed my cats raw meat so it is in the house. as long as an omnivore roommate doesn’t make me clean up their meaty mess, i’m cool. i also really appreciate it when my roomy makes the effort to cook bacon and other smelly things when i’m not home or at least cracks a window and turns on the fume hood fan. breathing really strong meat smell annoys me after a while. most roommates i’ve had have thought this was very reasonable and were happy to comply since i don’t bitch about their eating habits. protip: meat should always be stored on the bottom shelf of the fridge. if it leaks it’s less likely to drip blood and grossness on my organic veggies or leftover hummus

  5. My husband and I are both omnivores, but we eat a lot of veg dishes anyway — we’d been in our new apartment for a couple weeks when one of us commented to the other “you know, we haven’t cooked meat here yet…”. Mostly, food isn’t that big of an issue for us — we both like to cook, so we split the cooking fairly evenly (although I do a little bit more of the cooking, since I love it more than he does…). There are some things that one of us likes, and the other doesn’t — he doesn’t care for raw tomatoes, cilantro, or mushrooms, whereas I could live off raw tomatoes, with a side of cilantro, or sometimes a pile of mushrooms, all summer. So, I chop up a tomato on the side, or occasionally make an additional dish that has mushrooms. Cilantro I can generally add just to my serving. Not exactly the same thing, but I guess the same principles would work — depending on tolerance for each other’s food.

  6. I’m a carnivore. (I do eat and enjoy veggies but realistically most of my meals are built around meat and eggs.) So I’m coming at this from the other side. The most considerate thing a veg*n can do with one of my ilk is to not cook us anything with Qorn, TVP, seitan, or anything else that imitates a different food. Fake foods taste like butt**. It’s not good. A veggie dish made with *real* veggies is infinitely tastier and much more likely to win over omni/carnivores.

    Just a message from your friendly neighborhood T-Rex.
    **This doesn’t just apply to veg*n substitute foods. I’ve tried plenty of low-carb “bread” recipes that were just. not. good.

  7. Left to my own devices, I’m perfectly happy being flexatarian, or eating fish or poultry a couple times a week, but when Viking and I moved in together I was eating meat almost every day and it was not a good idea for me. Viking isn’t healthy WITHOUT eating meat (I know it sounds weird, but he tried going vegetarian once and it was all kinds of bad. He did it properly too, making sure he got all the protein and everything. It just did not work for his body. Bodies are weird). Also, I don’t eat pigs and I prefer not to eat cows, which made it harder for him, since he mostly does the cooking.

    A lot of the time we just made our own food, or he would make meat for himself in addition to whatever else.

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is how y’all divide up paying for groceries? Viking and I would trade off shopping trips, and he bought meat when it was his turn, whereas I rarely bought meat on my turns, because I didn’t eat much.

    • Whenever I tell people that I can’t not eat meat they tend to either think I’m joking or that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Nice to see somebody else who recognizes that this is a real thing.
      Add the fact that I’m allergic to soy, and I’d have a hard time living with an uncompromising vegetarian.

    • As i mentioned in my comment, i am a vegetarian who lives with 2 omnivores. when we do the grocery shopping we divide it up eaqually, and will sometimes each buy something seperate for ourselves… i get the biggest say in the shop as i am the one who cooks, but i dont stop them buying meat. it all evens out as they occasionally get meat and i get meat substitues and various fruits and vegetables that they wouldnt eat so it doesnt seem to be much of an issue.

  8. A similar although not the same issue in our house: My partner loves pork and shellfish, and I keep kosher. We’ve established rules for our house. We don’t cook non kosher foods in the kitchen, except he has a small set of “treif” pans and a plate, bowl and fork, in which he devours pork and shellfish when I’m out of the house (mostly, he only cooks it when I’m out of town, as he knows I hate the smell of bacon, and when I’m home, we plan meals for the both of us). We discuss our kashrut, and our house is perhaps less kosher than I would prefer (we don’t do separate plates for dairy and meat, etc), so when we have spaghetti and meatballs, he can grate all the cheese he wants on his, and I can grate no cheese on mine.

    When we eat out, he almost always gets pork or shellfish. I love to share food with people when I go out to eat, but I’m ok with the fact that that doesn’t happen when we go out to eat. In fact, I’m usually urging him to the pork.

    It’s a matter of respect and compromise, I think. The house might not be vegan, but maybe the cast iron pan which doesn’t get washed with soap is. Etc.

    • We are in a similar situation. I’m Jewish and have always kept (somewhat) kosher at home, he is an atheist who never knew any Jews before me. When we moved in together, he agreed to keep (somewhat) kosher at home if I did all the cooking.
      Unlike Ariel and Andreas, I did not like cooking, or at least I didn’t know I did because I had never done it before. But it seemed fair that the more restricted person should be in charge of the cooking. And now I like it!
      We have made some compromises. Non kosher food does not get cooked in our kitchen but if his guests (who are pretty ignorant of Jewish stuff) bring non kosher meat to a bbq, we use foil on top of the grill. That seems better to me than embarrassing them (and Judaism is pretty clear on the embarrassment issue). We eat non kosher takeout on disposables (although after 3 years, I still have to remind him).
      This has helped him feel not-deprived. Also, my cooking has gotten pretty good, so that helps! On top of the kosher situation, I just don’t like cooking meat, so everything I make is vegetarian. His family is pretty meat-and-potatoes, but he is thankful enough to have a warm, tasty dinner put in front of him when he gets home. He’s happy to eat anything at that point!

  9. We are both omnivores but with medical dietary restrictions and I think it applies. Cross contamination is simply not an option.
    We do mostly layered meals and interchange ingredients as necessary.
    Build your own tacos, pasta bowl, stir fry and pizza are weekly fixtures.

    And since we need leftovers for lunches its not wasteful of time or money to make 2 different pastas or 2 different pizza crusts etc…

  10. I am vegetarian and my Fiance and our flatmate are both omnivores. and wwe never have an issues as i am the one who cooks, and we often sit and eat ameal together.

    But when we do things like BBQs or get take-away they get meat which i am acctually ok cooking, i just wont eat it.

    As you said in the article, its fine when its the vegie or vegan is cooking…. but whilst i lived at home both me and my sister were veggie and our parents wern’t, most of the time we cooked for ourselves or our dad would cook us an alternative to the meat part, or im my case i just ate everything that wasnt meat, so christmas dinner often consisted of a plate heapped with veggies, just how i like it.

    i dont think it is as difficult as people imagine, if you love someone your willing to accept them and their diet, and accomodate it.

  11. For medical reasons I have to eat mostly vegan, and my BF is a real meatosaurus. Since I get to cook, I get whatever food I want without difficulties, and I have no problem making the occasional extra burger or steak for him. I think it is important to realize that these lifestyles are a personal choice (unless they take place for medical reasons, and even then… I might just as well take steroids instead), and that no one can push the other.

  12. I’m in a similar situation, my fiance is vegan, and I am an omnivore. He’s been vegan since before we met. I’ve always been a bit funny with meat, I can’t eat steak unless its well done, I hate preparing it, cutting chicken grosses me out and it always has. As a kid I was always the one that somehow ended up with the ‘bad bit’ of chicken or steak. Turns out, fatty bits are supposed to be good eatin’ and the rest of my family just ignored and ate chicken blood vessels. (yuck.)
    Since Kyle and I moved in together, I haven’t cooked a single piece of meat (except some chorizo once when my parents came over for dinner). I’ll eat it when my mum cooks it and I’ll eat meat when we go out to a restaurant, but I’m more than happy to cook vegan every night of the week (I do the majority of cooking). The only exception is the stash of cheese and milk I keep in the fridge.

    Also to Rose, who asked about other people cooking meat or eggs in the house? Even though some people give up meat for ethical reasons, the majority of them are happy to let everyone else eat whatever they want! It’s nice though not to come home to the kitchen stinking of cooked bacon, so much so that the bacon grease is still hanging in the air! (Had some former housemates who cooked a lot of bacon and eggs, and this was a common thing!)

  13. I’ve been a vegetarian for a couple of years, and my partner is an omnivore. While we used to eat meat on a frequent basis while I was an omni, his meat consumption at home has decreased dramatically to maye one meal with meat per week. But he does eat meat for lunch at work, or when we dine out.
    We didn’t set rules of any kind as we are both respectful of each other’s choice: I don’t mind him buying and cooking meat if he wants to, he doesn’t me buying and cooking vegetables he hates if I want to. That’s all.

  14. I lived at home with my parents for about 6 months between jobs. My mom is over cooking since the kids left and can’t begin to imagine how to cook for a vegetarian. So I did most of the cooking. My parents would sometimes add precooked chicken to their own portions. In that time my dad’s cholesterol dropped significantly. Unfortunately, they went back to their meaty ways when I moved out.

    I have been vegetarian going on 5 years and my boyfriend is vegan for the past two, discussing our diets was actually how we met. It is a relief to finally date someone who is supportive of my self-imposed dietary restriction. He also has no problem if I eat cheese or ice cream, etc. in front of him.

    We do have one issue though, or sort of a future issue. He wants to have a veg/vegan household when we marry and start a family. I know that we both chose to be veg as adults and I do not want to impose my choice on future children. I don’t want to make meat taboo for fear that they might then seek it out like I did with pop-tarts and candy when I went to college.

    His argument is that if we both know that a veg life style is healthier why wouldn’t we want our kids to be healthy too. That is a valid argument. I know that with us cooking the food will be primarily vegan anyway and we can just provide occasional meat an dairy so they know what its like. I realize this is premature for us but I would love to hear how other veg couples have handled living with omni or veg little people.

    • Since there’s no meat in our house (I’m veg, husband is pescatarian but were both omni when we married) it really isn’t that hard. We have decided to raise our son vegetarian but as soon as he’s old enough to ask for meat he’s free to have it. However, I’m not going to cook it for him. So, should he one day ask for it, it still won’t be a norm in our house. We will not, however, act negatively if we see him eat meat.

      So far, this hasn’t been a problem. (He’s almost 3) He is not used to eating meat and finds it a bit gross. He’s always declined it if anyone has offered it to him. I think he will at some point try it, but I’ve had meat in my life too. I’m not hoping to raise a purist and want him to make his own decision (just as his father and I did). I’m hoping to set a healthy habit for him as he grows.

    • That was a big thing when the man and I became exclusive. He said he didn’t mind if I ate meat (just not at home) but if/when I became pregnant I’d have to go veggie and the kid(s) would be raised solely veggie. Since his is a religious reason, it’s would have been a deal breaker. Since we’ve met I’ve watched his veggie grandkid grow up (yeah, he’s a BIT older than me, :P) and she’s healthy and the most active and tallest kid in her class. I have no problem adhering with the veggie law of the land. I mean, he’s been 100% veggie since birth as have all his grown kids and the grandkid.

  15. My husband is the vegetarian (still eats eggs and dairy), and I’m a “flexitarian” (also eat fish and chicken or turkey once or twice a month, beef about twice a year). However, I also have religious dietary restrictions, so that makes things even more complicated, especially since we also have two omnivore roomates with no dietary limitations at all to share a fridge with. I do the majority of the cooking for the two of us, and our compromise usually involves cooking vegetarian when we’re together, and I’ll eat meat out or for a meal we don’t have to share, like work lunch. My wonderful husband has no qualms with my (or others) eating habits or food storage, although he won’t kiss me after I’ve eaten meat. It’s actually tougher for me with the roomates who bring home some sort of religiously forbidden food, and proceed to store it right next to my own stuff that CAN’T be touching it. Gar. Ultimately, I feel that unless I’m willing to be the super bitchy roomate who tells grownups what they can and cannot put in their own fridge (I’m not), I have to suck it up and make a stronger personal effort to limit potential cross-contamination. My philosophy is, I know that I’m making the most effort I can to follow my dietary restrictions without impinging on other people’s lifestyles, and that’s all I can really be held responsible for, religiously. Luckily, we’re planning on *finally* getting our own place next spring, so it shouldn’t be an issue anymore. And once we have our own storage space, I’ll be sure to keep all of my own meat products separate from everything else my honey might want to eat as well.

  16. I’ve been a lacto-ovo-pesco-vegetarian since I was 13 (I eat dairy, eggs, and fish). My husband eats meat and enjoys occasional junk food, which I don’t. What works for us is cooking vegetarian in the house but meals he doesn’t eat with me are fair game. He buys lunch meat for his sandwiches which doesn’t bother me in my fridge, and when we go out he often eats meat. I hate the smell of cooking meat and don’t like my pans covered in meat grease (it grosses me out to clean them) so he only cooks meat when I’m out of town. He says he doesn’t miss it because the food we cook is so good. Seriously, other people coming over to eat are more annoyed by our houses lack of meat than he is.

    • I had someone tell me that I had pulled a “dirty trick” when I served meat-less chili. What?? Thing was he enjoyed it until he realized…

  17. In college, my partner and our two other housemates were all vegan- and I was not (although, I was vegetarian). Somehow, though, I did end up doing most of the cooking, since I was always the first home around dinner time. We all shared groceries, so they were not comfortable with their money going toward dairy products. Because of that, I was vegan at home. We ate vegan, I cooked vegan (I’ve never been vegan but ALL the cookbooks I own are!). I think I had wanted to cut a lot of dairy out of my diet, anyway, and learning to cook in a way where I could accommodate the dietary needs of many different people made me feel good. I really didn’t mind cooking vegan (although I DID mind the death stares I got from my partner the few times I brought home my own cheese…). I think my advice for non-vegans is: be open to trying new things and don’t expect vegans to buy or cook anything for you that they wouldn’t eat. My advice for their vegan counterparts is: don’t be super judgmental when they bring home a hunk of cheese. Getting upset with them over this won’t encourage them to want to eat vegan.

  18. If you go on Amazon, or to a book store, look for books that cater to going vegetarian for meat lovers. There are also some books geared toward on Vegetarian, and one Omnivore. I want to get some, since I’m trying to convert. I think they’re written so that you have two meals with the same base, but one will have meat, and the other a substitute. That way, it can be cooked with the same ingredients at the same time.

  19. Another iteration- I am omnivorous, my partner is vegetarian. I do 90% of the cooking. I have no interest in cooking food she won’t eat so I just cook vegetarian food, which is fine for me. I’ve lived in vegetarian households before and I would say I am an advanced cook. I finally stopped missing it… When she was like, I think I would be fine eating a small amount of local meat. Roasted my first farmers market chicken last week- it was delicious. We only buy local animal products, except for imported cheese occasionally, and are not religious about the whole thing. It works out. If she’d been vegan I think it might have been a deal breaker. I would have felt resentful. My BFF is vegan and I love her but. Earth balance is not butter. I am not going to replace eggs with powdered things. Coconut cream is not cream. I wouldn’t want to do it every day, as the cook in the family. If someone else was cooking I wouldnt care. But I am sure I’d compulsively eat animal things at every opportunity.

  20. I was omni until I moved in with my college roommates, both of whom were vegan. They had no problems with me buying or cooking meat, dairy, eggs, etc. in the house, but to be honest it made ME a little uncomfortable, probably because in the process of obtaining my Animal Science degree I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with the animal food production industry. So, after 5 months, I went vegan and never looked back.

    I now live with three omnis and it’s basically a “do whatever makes you happy” philosophy. Obviously I’m outnumbered and can’t make a big stink about what they bring into the house, but honestly it doesn’t bother me. Veganism was a personal choice for me, and I hate preachy vegans just as much as the meat-lovers do. 🙂 Now if I were to marry an omni, I don’t know how comfortable I’d be using shared funds to buy non-vegan foods or cooking them for my partner, but I’d certainly be tolerant of them in my fridge (properly contained, of course).

    And I would never feed my pets vegan (except for the horses), as they have no choice in the matter and they are best equipped to survive on animal protein. But there’s opinions all across the board on that, too.

  21. Step one: All meat goes on the bottom of the fridge, so that it can’t accidentally drip onto any non-meat food. That’s just basic food safety, but it will help to smooth the way for other issues to be sorted out.

  22. I was the only vegetarian in my house growing up, and so I cooked a lot from a young age. At this point, I’m pretty good at it. My partner is omni, but was previously married to a preachy vegan, so he had to learn to fend for himself if he wanted him some steak. So I guess we two had a pretty easy time of respecting one another’s dietary choices.

    Since moving in together, I’ve developed an intolerance to gluten, so we’re still kind of navigating that one. I bake a lot of GF bread now, and he is NOT a fan. Says it’s got a texture like “really wrong scrambled eggs”. lol

  23. i think the biggest thing to remember is that if you want her to respect your choices being vegan/veg/whatever, you have to respect her choices to also eat whatever she deems acceptable.

    i think a blanket “no meat in my house” rule is very much “everyone has to believe as I believe” and I think its very unfair and demeaning to the other partner.

    • I disagree. I don’t want meat in my house. I don’t think that has anything to do with “everyone has to believe as I believe”. I have quite a few reasons for why I feel the way I feel but people are free to eat and do however they choose with no judgement from me.

      However, it is very important to me that my own household remain 100% vegetarian. It is my right to keep my house however I choose. I am not trying to impose anything upon anyone else but if someone wished to move in with me I would need them to either share my values or respect my limits. That’s just where my personal boundaries lie and I don’t think there’s anything “demeaning” about that.

  24. I am vegan and my husband is vegetarian, although he wasn’t when we met. I would not allow meat to be cooked in my house because your home is your safe space where you should feel comfortable. I don’t eat meat for all the reasons you could possibly think of, but it also grosses me out when I smell a hamburger cooking or barbeque or other strong smelling meat.

    If it was a roommate situation for one year or something then I guess we could have separate pots and pans, but for a long term relationship there really is no way I would compromise on that.

    My husband stopped eating meat while we were dating, but he still eats dairy – but not at home because we don’t buy it.

    The most important thing to me was that our future kids not eat meat, and that is the only serious conversation we have had about the topic.

    I disgaree that it is “demeaning” to hae a no meat rule. It is your house and if you are willing to put your lifestyle beliefs first – then that is your choice. Your partner can either choose to be with your or not!

  25. I’m vegan and my husband’s an omnivore so we have a kosher kitchen.

    I’m Jewish and I really wanted a kosher kitchen, not least so that more religiously observant Jews can eat at our house and we can take things to pot luck dinners at the rabbi’s house. I let my husband decide whether to go with a dairy or a meat kitchen as I don’t eat either, but I’m glad he went with diary because there are some things which are vegan but classified as dairy because they’re made in a factory which uses milk. Most of the time when we eat together we both eat vegan because it’s not worth making two separate meals, but hubbie sometimes adds cheese or fish to his and he has butter on his toast for breakfast.

    I’d recommend http://www.theppk.com to find vegan recipes that will please omnivores. I love all her cooker books.

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