Vegan Eats on a Dime (or a Dollar)

blog-show-me-the-moneySometimes, budget can seem like a big deterrent to eating nutritious food. And, it’s true that there are rarely amazing sales, loss leaders, and coupons for fresh nutritious food. But, it is not true that eating vegan, being healthy, and maintaining a budget friendly diet are incompatible.

In our house, food and beverage budget per person is about $35 a week, and that’s not being nearly as careful as I could be. With a little more attention to it, and a few less pizza meals, it would be no problem to pair that back to $25 a week per person, which is less than the cost of one Big Mac meal or one venti soy latte a day. I’ve certainly managed to do it on less than that when needed.

Most of the meals I make aren’t complicated either. All of the recipes you will find on this site are within your power, really.

Some general thoughts:

  • Eat in season when you can – If you can get to a farm stand or a farmers’ market in the spring, summer, and fall, you’ll find the best deals on fruits and vegetables (unless you want to plant a garden, in which case the deals get better).
  • Plan your starches – Don’t eat white rice or white pasta every day. You’ll get bored and hate it and end up spending $20 on one Papa John’s pizza (ahem!).
  • Cook ahead – If you are cooking for 1 or 2, it’s more cost effective to cook ahead and freeze or eat the item across the week. You can always repurpose or reseason things to make them seem different the second or third time. Waiting until the last moment will lead you to more pricey choices.
  • Protein is important, but we don’t need as much as the beef industry wants us to think we do. You’ll notice a lot of beans in the recipes below, because beans are good and I love them. But, you have other options. In fact, you will probably find it’s just not that difficult and doesn’t require buying expensive meat replacement items.
  • Buy in bulk, and generic, where it makes sense, and, when you can’t, compare prices!
  • When something that doesn’t go bad is on super sale (like dried spices, sea salt, or hot sauce), get a few! You’ll spend a little more now and save later.
  • Pick one “luxury” ingredient to buy each week. One week it might be a nice bottle of olive oil (not super pricey, maybe $7). One week it could be a container of dark cocoa for cooking and baking. You’ll build your pantry supplies without spending a fortune at once.
  • Eat at home. I really cannot say it enough. Even if you are splurging at a large fast food “inexpensive” national taco chain, you’ll spend more than you would making your food and you’ll get less nutrition out of it.
  • Avoid prepared food. Everything that is in a package and sold as super easy to grab and eat (breakfast pastries, protein bars), or “just reheat” (frozen dinners, meals in a can) is much more expensive than making it yourself and is often full of crap you don’t need.
  • When in doubt, “a grain, a green, a bean.” This idea, sometimes called a vegan bowl, and referred to by the No Meat Athlete as AGAGAB, is exactly what it sounds like. Cook a grain; add a green; add a bean; season. The end.

So, with that having been said, some ideas for cheap eats!

Old fashioned oats can be had for about 20 cents a serving for the oats*. That’s cheap, right? Go ahead, add a banana for 20 cents, some almonds for 40 cents,  or raisins for 20 cents. The choices of what to put in are almost endless and can depend on what you have a bunch of or what was cheap this week. If you make a pot of oats on Monday, you can mix it up however you want it all for several days. Oats are not only tasty, they are full of fiber, magnesium, and vitamin B1 and have a significant amount of protein.

Black beans and rice
Cheap and delicious eats. A basic pan of black beans with some onion, jalapeño, celery, chili powder, and cumin, plus enough rice to have a cup for each serving of beans, can be pulled together for under 70 cents a serving. And, these are not little servings. I’m talking a cup of rice and a cup of beans! You can check out a full recipe here.

Pasta bake with protein
Who does not love pasta? I don’t know anyone like that, actually. Buy pasta when it’s on sale and stick it in the freezer and it lasts a long time. Add some texturized vegetable protein (buy in bulk) or chickpeas for protein. Squashes, tomatoes, and maybe some kale give you your veggies. The carbs are obvious! And all of this is low in fat. A no-nonsense pasta bake with diced zucchini and summer squash, diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, and texturized vegetable protein comes in at a whopping $1 per serving! You can find a couple of additional recipes here and here.

Bean and carrot soup
We ate quite a bit of bean soup when I was a kid. It had ham in it, but I don’t miss that when I make it now. One bag of beans, a pound of carrots, an onion, a few celery stalks, and some vegan broth powder will set you back around $4.50, but provide at least 6 servings of hearty soup. Throw in a little corn or rice if you wish. And, it’s an easy meal to put on and let simmer and not need to fuss with.

Tofu wraps
Tofu cooked slowly for a long period takes on an interesting chewy texture that really gives a good mouth feel, enhancing that sense of satiation. Make your tofu not-jerky ahead of time and slice it into narrow strips. Use burrito sized tortillas to wrap up the tofu, romaine lettuce, diced onions, shredded carrot, and diced tomatoes, with your choice of dressing or hot sauce. You can make 8 large wraps from 1 block of tofu for only about $1 per wrap.

People have been making chili as a cheap and delicious meal for ages, and vegan chili is no exception. If you cook your chili starting with dried beans, it is darn inexpensive! A large pan of basic chili with pinto beans, jalapeños, onions, celery, tomatoes, and carrots can be cooked up for under $8 and will provide at least 8 servings (and those are servings for hungry people). Pull up some low cost tortilla chips or store brand saltines and you are set. This recipe makes almost double that and reduces the cost even further!

Split pea soup
Much like chili, split pea soup is inexpensive, filling, and goes a long way. It can also be frozen and reheated easily. This easy pressure cooker split pea soup comes in at between $7-8 and provides at least 10 servings of soup. You can certainly make it without the pressure cooker, but they are amazing, so it might be worth it to watch out for a super sale, put one on your list for Santa, or check out your local yard sales.

Tavoor dal (yellow lentil curry) and rice
Lentils are really good and really good for you. Lentils are exceptionally high in protein and have good amounts of iron and potassium too. This yellow lentil curry recipe packs some flavor punch and is easy to pull together and very inexpensive. You can serve this over rice for less than 70 cents a serving!

Baked potatoes and all the things!
Do you know how cheap a baked potato is? Seriously, DO YOU? You can buy 5 pounds of russet potatoes for $2. That’s a lot of food. Now, grab a roll of generic foil and bake the potatoes you want. And then throw whatever leftovers you have on top of that potato! Chili – yes! Lentils – indeed! Black beans – jump on it! Any green veggies you have handy to sauté – affirmative! Oatmeal – no, probably not. So many things go on a baked potato and taste good. Don’t forget about them when you are thinking about your starch options.

You know this one. I know you do.  Go with it. Toss some al dente spaghetti with sesame oil, soy sauce, hot sauce, and edamame = dinner. Make a basic spaghetti with marinara sauce (in fact, go ahead and get a couple of jars when it’s on super sale for times you are really in a rush). Throw some olive oil and nutritional yeast into a bowl of spaghetti and toss it with some sea salt and have it with a little salad on the side. Easy peasy and wildly cheap.

These are just a few ideas for eating simple vegan on a budget. Of course there are many more! Here are some additional links to peruse at your leisure:

Vegan on a Budget from the ChooseVeg blog
31 Vegan Recipes for $3 from Peta
Plant Based on a Budget Challenge from The Plant Strong Vegan
10 Plant-Based Meals You Can Make for Under $10 by the Frugal Vegan
Frugal Vegan Dinner Recipes by Real Food Real Deals

Enjoy your frugal and cruelty-free eating!

*Prices calculated from Shoprite in Cherry Hill, NJ, so not the cheapest place in the U.S., but not the priciest either.


Black Bean Mole Chili with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Spinach



Warm, spicy, rich, and full of vitamins. This vegan black bean chili can be served with the roasted potatoes and spinach in the bowl or on the side. Delicious!

Ingredients IMG_2397b

2 lb black beans
3-4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
5-6 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
4-5 celery sticks, sliced
1-2 large onions, diced
8 cups fresh baby spinach
2 large cans diced tomatoes
2-3 jalapeños, sliced
4 T of vegetable broth powder
4 T of cumin
3 T of chili powder
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
1 T turmeric
1 T sea salt
1/4 cup of creamy peanut butter
4 T olive oil


In a large pressure cooker, add beans, 2 T olive oil, onions, celery, carrots, jalapeños, cocoa powder, chili powder, turmeric, cumin, sea salt, diced tomatoes, and 3 quarts water (so, everything except the sweet potatoes, spinach, peanut butter, and 2 T of olive oil). If the broth does not cover the beans by at least 4 inches, increase water until it does.

Place lid on cooker and bring to high pressure. Cook at pressure 15 minutes and then turn off heat and allow to depressurize. Once pressure is released, test beans for doneness. If beans are ready, add peanut butter, stir until melted in, and allow to simmer 5 minutes to cook.

While the chili is cooking under pressure, toss sweet potatoes with remainder of olive oil. Spread on a baking stone or pan and cook at 350* until potatoes begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Pile spinach on top and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until spinach wilts and potatoes are tender.

Serve potatoes and spinach on the side, or add a large spoonful to the bottom of your bowl and ladle chili on top. Add vegan sour cream if desired.

Green Tomato Chili



So, with it being green tomato season at my house, I’m trying to come up with uses for the big bag of tomatoes I brought in last week, besides fried green tomatoes (which we love, but I did once this week already). As I had nachos on my to-make list this week and was about to start the chili, it occurred to me that maybe I could do that with the green tomatoes, and it came out wonderfully!


1 sweet onion, diced
2 jalapeños, diced
3 large green tomatoes, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 T olive oil
2 limes, juiced
IMG_1230a1 t turmeric
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
6-8 cups cooked beans (I used black and kidney)
1 T raw sugar

Place olive oil, veggies, tomatoes, and lime juice in a large skillet. Sauté over medium heat until all are soft. Add spices and let simmer another minute or two. Mix in beans and heat through.

Because the family was having this on nacho chips, after mine was done, I mashed some of  beans with a hand masher to create a thicker base.

This was delicious!