I know a thing or two about being broke, but still wanting to eat healthy. I don’t mean “Ooh, I went over budget last month, better reel it in” broke. I mean I was working for a nonprofit animal rights organization, where I had to move to a new town with student loan payments, rent, and the other bills that come with adulthood, due immediately.
So when I hear people talk about how expensive it must be to go vegan, I’m downright confused. If I could still afford to eat healthy vegan meals in that situation, I know anyone who makes that comment probably can. You just need to get thrifty. To make it easy on you, here are 10 easy, cheap vegan meals that helped me survive for a year:
Note: If you want to save even more money on these meals, buy a big bag of frozen fruits & vegetables to cook with. They retain more nutrients & less sodium than canned vegetables, and they’re still cheaper than buying fresh. Also, frozen vegetables last much longer than fresh, so you don’t risk wasting your money or contributing to food waste. You can also go to a local farmers market and buy fresh foods in bulk – it’s cheaper than the grocery store.
Another note: Some of the spices might seem expensive, but they last for a while and are a worthy investment in your health!
1. Veg Stir Fry –
You’ll need: Whatever vegetables are on sale or come in bulk frozen (think: bell peppers, broccoli, carrots), soy sauce, and olive or coconut oil to grease the pan. Add cubed tofu if you want a protein boost.
To make: Grease the pan in oil. Lightly saute the vegetables for a few minutes. Cook the rice as instructed. Mix everything together with soy and/or teriyaki sauce and enjoy!
2. Pasta & Tofu – any pasta will do, but my MF favorite is angel hair.
You’ll need: Any kind of pasta. Whole wheat, quinoa, chickpea pastas are healthier than the “white” pastas, but more expensive. Firm tofu. Tomato sauce (I like spicy arrabiata the best). Red pepper flakes and nutritional yeast (it’s loaded with b-vitamins, protein, and gives the sauce a cheesy texture, but can be a little pricey) optional. Olive or coconut oil to grease the pan.
To make: Cook the pasta as instructed. Drain and cube the tofu. Grease a pan in oil and throw in the tofu until edges begin to brown. Pour the sauce into the pan with tofu, sprinkle nutritional yeast throughout, and simmer until hot. Mix it all together and enjoy!
3. Vegan Burger –
You’ll need: Vegan burger patties, which are cheaper and way healthier than beef burger patties. I have yet to try a brand of vegan burgers I didn’t like, but black bean burgers are by far my favorite. You’ll also need toppings! Pictured above is a black bean burger topped with red onion, tomato, and kale. Served on sprout bread because, at the time, I didn’t want to spend extra money on boujee burger rolls.
To Make: Cook the patty as instructed on its package.
4. Sweet Potatoes & Black Beans – made this with my niece in mind because she absolutely loves sweet potatoes =]
You’ll need: Sweet potatoes, black beans, salsa.
To make: Set oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut sweet potatoes in half and bake for 45 minutes. Use a spoon to dig out the center of the sweet potatoes. Rinse black beans and pour into the center. Bake for about 5-10 minutes. Serve with salsa and enjoy! If you make this dish during colder months, you can even keep your oven open afterwards to heat up your home! Just make sure your companion animals are kept safely away.
5. Peanut Butter & Fruit Sandwich –
You’ll need: Berries – strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries are all delicious. Using berries instead of jelly, which usually contains a lot of added sugar, adds natural sugar, fiber, and antioxidants into a traditional sandwich.
To make: You don’t need my help with this one 🙂
6. Tofu Scramble –
You’ll need: Firm tofu, white onion, turmeric, curry powder, cayenne pepper, coconut oil. For added deliciousness & health, add veggies such as spinach, broccoli, and/or red bell peppers.
To make: Cube the tofu and slice the vegetables the night before. Grease a pan in coconut oil. On medium heat, add the tofu into the pan until edges begin to brown. Add the vegetables into the pan. Sprinkle turmeric, curry powder, and cayenne pepper onto the ingredients, to your liking. Stir the dish to make sure the spices spread evenly. Continue cooking until you can stab through the broccoli with a fork.
7. Veggie Quesadilla – YUM. You can easily buy all of these vegetables frozen!
You’ll need: 1 red and 1 green bell pepper, onion (red or white), spinach leaves, brown rice, black beans, tortillas – hot sauce optional.
To make: Slice the bell peppers and onion (if bought fresh- they come pre-sliced if frozen). Grease a pan in olive oil and saute the veggies and spinach leaves together until the onion becomes translucent. Pour black beans into a strainer and wash them to remove excess sodium. Cook beans in a separate pan until hot. Cook the rice as instructed. If you want your quesadilla crispy, place tortilla in oven for a couple minutes. If you want soft quesadillas, place tortilla over hot bean pan until warmed. Combine ingredients & fold!
8. Ginger Tempeh Salad- another delicious protein-packed meal
You’ll need: Olive or coconut oil, baby spinach leaves, tempeh (I like using flaxseed tempeh with this meal but any kind is yummy), ginger dressing, avocado (optional – a sad fact of life is that avocado prices are on the rise, but damn they’re worth it).
Note: Tempeh is made of fermented soybeans and is packed with protein (31g per cup), and high in fiber, calcium, magnesium, and iron. It has a nutty, grainy texture that complements greens nicely. I usually find it near the tofu in grocery stores.
To Make: Grease a saucepan with oil. Cut the tempeh into strips and saute them in the pan for a few minutes, until edges become brown. Slice the avocado. Pour ginger dressing on top, mix all ingredients together and eat up!
9. Brussel Sprouts and Tempeh-
You’ll need: Brussel sprouts, tempeh, coconut oil, soy sauce
To Make: Crumble the tempeh and saute in coconut oil and soy sauce for a few minutes on medium heat. Quarter the brussel sprouts (halve them, then halve them again), and add to the pan for a couple minutes. Your brussel sprouts should still be firm when complete. Enjoy!
10. Bean Burrito- my favorite go-to, protein-packed burrito =]
You’ll need: Olive or coconut oil to grease the pan, 1 can black beans, 1 can red kidney beans, 1/2 jar of salsa, tortillas, avocado, juice of 1 lime – spinach leaves and hot sauce optional.
To make: Grease the pan in olive oil. Toss beans into a strainer and rinse with water to remove excess sodium, then toss into pan. Add salsa and squeeze in the lime juice. Mix ingredients until hot. Place tortilla over the bean mixture in the pan until it warms/softens. Put salsa-bean mix into tortilla and top with spinach and avocado slices.
It can be frustrating and stressful when you need to make ends meet. But always remember that your health is your true wealth. So take care of yourself!
Peace & Love.