Updated November, 2019. 25 Budget Friendly Vegetarian Meals
Whether you’re vegetarian or happen enjoy a Meatless Monday meal every week, preparing vegetarian meals can be a great way to save money on groceries, especially if you’re preparing those meals from scratch. These tasty meals are loaded with veggies and are easy on the wallet, so you can eat well on a budget.
How Do You Save Money By Eating Vegetarian Meals?
When you eat vegetarian, whether it’s full-time or just once in a while, you’re bound to save some money if you play it smart. For starters, proteins like chicken, fish, steaks, and other meat can be so costly. You will spend several dollars per pound, even for the lower end cuts of meat, and the costs add up super quick. So, fill up on a vegetarian meal every once in a while and your bank account will thank you!
Here are a few things you can do to stretch your dollar even more when eating vegetarian.
- Hit the discount bins. Produce will go bad at some point, and because markets and grocery stores know that, they try to sell it at a highly discounted rate. This allows them to make a little bit of money and keep it out of the trash. When you go to the market, be on the lookout for deep discounts on fruits and veggies that are starting to go bad. My local grocery store bags them and keeps them on the end cap at the back of the store. My nearby Harris Teeter puts them all on a large rolling cart on the edge of the produce section.
- Watch flyers for sales. Most stores rotate what is going to go on sale week after week. Keep a close watch and buy foods when they are on sale. Plan your meals around the ingredients you pick up for cheap.
- Cut, dice, and freeze fruits and veggies when possible. If you find a deep sale on tomatoes, for example, chop them up, and then you can add them to soups, stews, omelets, and other recipes later. Just make sure to label anything you put in the freezer, so you know what you have.
- Plan your meals in advance. It’s so much easier to plan your meals one or two weeks at a time. By planning ahead, you can make dishes that have similar ingredients. For example, if potatoes are on sale, make several recipes that require potatoes to be cooked in different ways. This will give you some variety, but save you money too. Use a meal planning tool like these free printables to keep you on track!
- Buy larger containers of herbs and seasonings. I gave up buying small containers of my most commonly used items like soy sauce, herbs, white wine vinegar and olive oil. Check out the per unit pricing at your grocery store. Then compare it to online prices, or even Costco! I have a love-hate relationship with Costco, but when it comes time to buy my grocery staples, the prices make it worthwhile!
Can I Make These Recipes In Advance?
Each recipe in this list has its own instructions. However, many of them can easily be made ahead of time. Imagine how much free time you will have when you don’t have to cook every day! Just pull something out of the fridge, warm it up, and dinner is served.
Many of these dishes are perfect for meal prepping. You can easily place them in individual food containers, heat them up, and enjoy.
Can I Eat Dairy When Eating Vegetarian?
Yes, you can still eat cheese, milk, sour cream, etc. when you eat vegetarian. There are no strict rules against it. If you eat a vegan diet, however, you are not permitted to eat anything that comes from an animal. This would include dairy products. Eat foods that work for you, your family, and your lifestyle, and you’ll be good.
What Kinds Of Food Should I Keep On Hand For Vegetarian Meals?
Sure, each recipe has its own list of ingredients that are needed to make the dish. However, I tend to keep several staples on hand. This way, even if I just want a quick and easy snack, I have food ready to go. Here is a list of the staples I recommend keeping on hand:
- Potatoes – Having some potatoes around is a life-saver. You can quickly make a baked potato and eat it as a simple lunch idea or chop them and oven roast them. The options are endless when it comes to potatoes, and they are cheap.
- Sweet Potatoes – For the same reason as having regular potatoes. They are easy to turn into a meal. Bake them, toss them in olive oil and roast them or cut the sweet potatoes and turn them into french fries. My favorite recipe is black bean stuffed sweet potatoes. There are tons of ideas.
- Carrots – They make a great snack on the go, or you can use them in all sorts of recipes. They are perfect for many vegetarian meals. We joke that the sheet pan roasted balsamic carrots are so good that we usually eat them before the meal is even served!
- Beans – If you are just trying to have a meatless meal here and there, you will love how much protein you get from beans. They make you forget all about meat!
- Rice – Whether you are making something Mexican themed or are looking for comfort food, rice is a huge asset. You can add different seasonings to give it some more flavor too.
Tips on Freezing Vegetables
A little prep work here will save you a lot of hassles later. These steps will eliminate the problem of trying to portion out a specific amount of frozen vegetables without having to defrost the whole package.
- Step 1: Start off by cleaning all of the vegetables.
- Step 2: Cut the vegetables into pieces. Generally, I do a 1 inch piece for freezing.
- Step 3: Place the vegetables on a parchment lined sheet pan and spread out.
- Step 4: Place the sheet pan in the freezer 8-12 hours or overnight.
- Step 5: Remove the sheet pan and place all of the vegetables into a freezer safe ziplock bag and label with what is in it and the date. Place back in the freezer until ready to use.
25 Budget Friendly Vegetarian Meals
Vegetarian Pasta Recipes
Spinach Lasagna Rolls via Savor and Savvy. Who doesn’t love a lasagne ANYTHING?!?! This recipe uses a spinach mixture layered on lasagne noodles and a homemade tomato sauce to make a mouth-watering (and filling) vegetarian pasta dish. Make some extras for meal prepping your lunches for the week. You won’t regret it!
Crock Pot Baked Ziti via Dinner Mom. My go-to recipe for potlucks is a big batch of baked ziti. I love love love it! I used to include a spicy sausage in my version, but this one is vegetarian friendly. Also, it is made in a slow cooker, and I really appreciate the ease in making. Definitely check out this one.
Easy Vegetarian Pasta via Savor and Savvy. The only thing better than a good slow cooker recipe is a 30 minute meal. This recipe brings a few vegetables together with some seasoning for a super-fast, super-healthy and super-delicious pasta meal. It’s great for those busy evenings.
One Pot Peas and Pasta via Lusci’s Morsels. I had several tomato-based pasta recipes in a row, and really wanted to try something lighter. The primary ingredients are peas, spinach and pasta with a very light olive oil dressing. So good and healthy!
Cheesy Vegetarian Chili Mac via Budget Bytes. You just can’t go wrong with a big batch of chili mac. It is definitely on the frugal scale, but it ranks pretty darned high on my taste-bud scale! At $1.11 per serving, this recipe will help your grocery budget for the week. Do yourself a favor, and don’t tell your family how inexpensive this one was to make.
Homemade Spaghetti-o’s via Strength and Sunshine. Do you remember what a special treat it was when your mom let you eat Spaghetti-Os? She opened the can and I swear I could eat the entire thing. Check out this healthy version of homemade Spaghetti-Os! It’s gluten free and vegan and I don’t have to worry about all of the preservatives found in the canned variety.
Vegetarian Mexican Recipes
Vegetarian Black Bean Chili via Mashup Mom. I love a recipe that is so tasty, you don’t even notice that it is meatless. This is a very frugal recipe and you’ll spend more time letting it simmer on the stove to thicken than you will in meal preparation.
Vegetarian Mexican Tortilla Casserole via Mama Likes to Cook. The only thing I like better than a good casserole dish is Mexican food. Mix the two together, and I am a super-fan! I did add some of my homemade crock pot refried beans to the layers, and loved it. I don’t go easy on the hot sauce, but I know some of you like to take the heat to the extreme – so go for it!
Crockpot Layered Bean Burritos via Thrifty Jinxy. Most of the ingredients were from the local Dollar General, and the layered bean burritos in a slow cooker gives a delish dinner with just a few minutes of prep. I haven’t used a crockpot liner before, but I see folks raving over them. As much as I like to minimize cleanup time, I may just need to add one!
Black Bean Salsa Burgers via Veggie Inspired. Four Ingredients. Fifteen Minutes. Do I need to say anything else? Oh, yeah – Delicious! Seriously, this is the easiest veggie burger I have found to make, and I love the fact that you can top it with anything you want! Did I mention 15 minutes? 😃
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos via Mama Likes to Cook. One skillet meals means one dish to clean! If you haven’t tried a veggie burrito before, give this one a shot. The sweet potato and cumin mix brings a sweet and spicy flavor that is to-die-for! The black beans really fill you up.
Vegetarian Rice Recipes
Easy Rice and Beans via Happy Deal Happy Day. This 30 minute meal is super clean and easy to make. I loved the tips on how to use coupons to save even more money on this frugal recipe. Sometimes, simpler is better, and this recipe earned a spot on my cooking rotation.
Veggie Fried Rice via Cooking Classy. This is another simple recipe that takes about 20 minutes to whip up. It calls for a bag of frozen carrots and peas, but I usually use whatever leftover veggies are lingering in my freezer. I usually use soy sauce, but wanted to try some liquid aminos – it looked at tasted almost identical, but is much better for you.
Cauliflower Fried Rice via Savor and Savvy. I included this recipe as well. In this case, the cauliflower is a substitute for rice. Try it, and I bet you’ll be challenged to taste that the rice is missing.
Vegetarian Main Dishes
Easy Vegan Buddha Bowl via Savor and Savvy. This is my end-of-week recipe for using all my leftovers. It is so good that it deserved a special place as a stand-alone recipe! I have made it differently every time. Knowing that this is my Friday lunch, I’ll make a bit of extra rice earlier in the week just so I have enough left over for this.
Puerto Rican Habichuelas Guisadas via Savor and Savvy. This is a super frugal recipe but will fill you up in a skinny minute. I used canned kidney beans as they were pretty inexpensive, but save even more money by rehydrating some yourself. Plan ahead and this recipe will save you a lot of money. This is proof that some of the best recipes are not the most expensive!
15 Minute Pesto Pizzas via Savor and Savvy. In my quest for quick and easy recipes, this personal sized pizza won me over. Naan bread pizzas are a weak spot for me. It crisps right up in the oven and best of all, only takes 15 minutes to make. I even planted a cherry tomato plant on my deck in the hopes of using fresh home-grown vegetables on it this year. We’ll see!
Pumpkin and Sweet Potatoes with Brown Rice via Mama Likes to Cook. Don’t worry. This isn’t a Pumpkin Spice dish. Pure pumpkin is just a squash (so no PSL comments please!) This is a super simple fall dish that is a fun twist on sweet potatoes. I mentioned above how sweet potatoes should be a frugal staple in your pantry, and it is nice to mix up the flavors so you don’t get bored.
Black Eyed Pea Curry with Swiss Chard and Roasted Eggplant via Strength and Sunshine. This is another recipe where I tried out curry. Yup! Loved this too. Roasted eggplant is the binder in this recipe. Between that and the black-eyed peas, it filled me up! I am going to have to find more curry-based recipes.
Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad via Avocado Pesto. This gluten free and vegan salad uses two extremely frugal vegetables. I used canned chickpeas but you could save even more money and buy a bag of dried chickpeas to rehydrate if you have the time. If you us an instant pot, it will take less than an hour from beginning to end.
Broccoli and Cheddar Baked Potatoes via Budget Bytes. This recipe comes in at $1.68 per serving but tastes like a million bucks. I actually think the cost is much cheaper as I use leftover shredded cheese that probably would have gone bad if I hadn’t repurposed it for this recipe. But, for the sake of fairness, we’ll go with the stated price per serving.
Curried Brown Rice Bowls via Eat Healthy Eat Happy. This is another inexpensive vegetarian dish that doesn’t skimp on taste. I hadn’t cooked with curry before and was expecting the taste to be a bit overpowering, but I am glad I tried it. It was amazing! I used my instant pot to cook the brown rice, and the rest of the dish took less than ten minutes to put together. Cheap, fast, and delicious – my favorite kind of recipe!
Butternut Squash Stew via Avocado Pesto. One pot meals means one pot to wash! Hooray! This hearty soup is perfect for those cool fall days when you want to warm up. Quinoa, squash, beans and kale are a great combo here and won’t break the bank.
Vegetable Barley Soup via Watch What U Eat. Pearl Barley may be harder to find in your grocery store, but ask a clerk to help you. You’ll be glad you did. This is an extremely inexpensive grain and works wonderfully in this clear broth soup. Substitute the chicken broth with vegetable broth if you want.
Cauliflower Sloppy Joes via Healthy Helper. So, I am fascinated with how much cauliflower can be used as replacements for other ingredients. That’s the case with this Vegan, Paleo and Gluten Free sloppy joe recipe. I liked my cauliflower a bit crisp. Soggy veggies just aren’t my thing!
Mediterranean Vegetable Casserole via Neil’s Healthy Meals. Lentil beans and chopped tomatoes bind the vegetables together in this amazing vegetarian casserole. The paprika and cumin add a wonderful flavor to complement this hearty dish. I thought I made enough to last for a few days, but my husband and son finished it off within 24 hours. I’ll make a bit more next time so I can reheat for my lunches next time!
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