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Eating On a Budget

Whether you’re a student, a parent raising a family on a tight budget, or someone just trying to save a buck, a vegetarian diet can be a money-saver as well as a life-saver. As mock meats and soy milk have grown in popularity and become more commonplace (they are now available in grocery stores everywhere), prices have dropped and will likely continue to do so.

Aside from these products, there are plenty of other delicious and nutritious vegan options that will save you money. (Plus, going vegetarian now will save you a boatload of cash later in life, when you won’t have to pay for expensive cholesterol-lowering drugs or pricey liposuction surgery or gym memberships.)

Here are some cost-effective meal ideas that are sure to please:

Breakfast

  • Cereal with soy or rice milk, topped with sliced bananas or raisins
  • Oatmeal with sliced fruit, jelly, maple syrup, or soy milk
  • Baked beans on toast
  • Toast or a bagel with peanut butter, jam, hummus, or margarine
  • Fresh fruit with soy yogurt
  • Smoothie made with frozen banana chunks or berries and orange juice (add peanut butter or protein powder for a further boost)

Lunch and Dinner

  • Veggie sandwich made with cucumber, tomato, lettuce, sprouts, and mustard or hummus
  • Bean burrito (just wrap some beans, veggies, rice, and hot sauce in a tortilla)
  • Canned vegetarian chili or soup
  • Beans, rice, and vegetables with corn tortillas or chips
  • Pasta with tomato sauce and frozen veggies (splurge and mix in some meatless meatballs)
  • Tacos with beans, rice, and veggies
  • Brown rice with steamed vegetables and soy sauce
  • Baked potato topped with salsa, baked beans, or chili
  • Veggie burgers or veggie hot dogs (top with chili or baked beans for variety)
  • Fresh salad (add some zing by tossing in raisins, chopped “deli slices,” or diced apples)
  • Top Ramen (the Oriental flavor is vegan)
  • Stir-fry vegetables and tofu and serve with rice, noodles, or another other grain (add garlic, oil/water, and soy sauce for extra flavor)
  • Mashed potatoes topped with broccoli and Bacos (yes, Bacos are vegan!)
  • Cheese-less pizza topped with veggies and garlic

Snacks

  • Chips and salsa
  • Pita and hummus
  • Celery, apples, or carrots topped with peanut butter
  • Popcorn (sprinkle with margarine and salt)
  • Raw vegetable plate: carrot sticks, tomato wedges, and celery
  • Potato wedges (sliced, baked, and topped with spices and salt, margarine, or barbecue sauce)
  • Trail mix (make your own with nuts, raisins, and sunflower seeds)
  • Pretzels

Tips to Save Money and Time

$  Plan your meals in advance by jotting down dinner ideas a few days ahead and make lists of things to buy for the week (or month!). Knowing what you need in advance will also help reduce expensive impulse purchases.
$  Don’t be tempted to eat out every day: Pack a lunch.
$  Make enough to have leftovers. Don’t be afraid of the freezer—leftovers are great the next day, but many things (from soup to pasta) can be frozen and kept longer too.
$  Shop in the bulk sections of grocery stores or health-food stores, where you can often purchase bulk pasta, rice, pre-packaged meals, spices, and beans at cheaper prices than the pre-packaged brands, and you can buy as much or as little as you need. Or try bulk pre-packaged foods from stores like Costco.

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  • Gary says:

    I am thinking that going vegan might be difficult for me since I am lactose intolerant and nut/rice irritates my stomach…It seems to involve alot of nut/rice dairy recipes…Please help…I eat very little meat/chicken now but am finding it difficult to keep up my stamina…

  • vivi says:

    Hi, Im lactose intolerance and im allergic to soy and almond and coconut. I’d love to become a vegetarain or vegan. What’s out there for me to eat?

  • kjoy says:

    This list is highly processed. Can you please contrive a more healthful list that is low in cost?

  • KerriWhiteRN says:

    I liked this article, and I thought they had some valid ideas for meals. I know some of it is convenience food, but the idea was “Cheap and Vegan,” not “Perfect.” Sometimes, even vegans need a little ramen…Just sayin.

  • Connie K says:

    I don’t suppose you could include in this list the lack of GMO Soy and Wheat from your diet. Or do you only worry about the animals. Because those cows, chickens, and pigs are fed corn, GMO corn.

    Just needed to ask. Was considering using this as a resource for an article, but not now. Almost everything you list is some form of packaged food. Adding to the waste and the toxins. Ick.

    Thank you and bless you.

  • Katelin says:

    Popcorn with earth balance butter; sprinkled with nutritional yeast,spike (a spice blend found in bulk at whole foods) or garlic salt is very yummy and nutritious too!

  • Ruthey01 says:

    I agree with jamfhall1. I didn’t like ramen when I ate meat! A big batch of homemade vegan black beans and rice is enough for several lunches or snacks.

  • Jessica says:

    Top Ramen Oriental Flavor is not vegan, I bought some from Wal*Mart and listed on the back as ingredients were “beef extract” as well as “lactose”.

  • jamfhall1 says:

    There is NO NUTRITIONAL VALUE in top ramen! Stop eating it! Vegan or not! It’s less expensive to buy a pound of beans and rice and has an ifinite more amount of nutritional value.

  • Marina says:

    Question for Jill: Could you tell us what animal product is listed on the Top Ramen Oriental flavored package? The Nissin website http://www.nissinfoods.com/faqs.php states that their “Top Ramen Oriental and Chili flavors contain no animal products.”

  • Brittany says:

    @ Jill… make sure you actually get the Top Ramen brand, not all “oriental” ramens are vegan, but Top Ramen Oriental don’t contain milk or any other animal ingredients.

  • led_zippa says:

    @Jill, there are a ton of ramen noodle brands, but the actual ‘Top Ramen’ brand oriental flavor IS vegan. i’ve been vegan for 7 yrs, and i eat it on a semi-regular basis.

  • Jill says:

    I went out and bought the Oriental flavored Ramen noodles because, PETA said on here they are vegan. They are not vegan!!!! They contain milk. Luckily I looked at the label before eating them as I am allergic to dairy! I have always trusted that the information provided by PETA could be counted on as correct. I will second guess that information from now on:( Read your labels people!!

  • Melania Padilla says:

    Great article, thank you!

  • chander kumar soni says:

    so delicious.
    thanks.

  • LexingtonNC says:

    @ Guzel … While there are vegan foods for cats, if you let your little darling out from time to time, it’s going to hunt and consume flesh.

    I became vegan for health reasons only a few months ago. So far, the hoped-for weight loss just hasn’t happened. No gain … but no loss. OTOH, except for aches due to being overweight (BMI 31.8), my health is pretty darned good … for an old codger.

  • Rae says:

    Aldi supermarkets also carries many vegan items, check labels of course. I bought Mamba fruit chews there – yes they are vegan and even say so on the pack.

  • pride19 says:

    Bakogan: Low fat soy milk, such as so good organic, and there is some low fat soy yogurt! Also stock up on hummus and low fat peanut butter. Switch up if you find it being too hard on your system (switch one snack for another)

  • josie says:

    I’ve heard so many people say eating just vegetables is boring but just do not realize there are so many vegetables out there to try or make a main dish out of while there are only 4 animals to choose from and then once a year, eat the 5th one. Even if I weren’t vegan, I’d certainly get bored having just 4 items to choose from to make a main dish. Buy a cookbook people! Meats is only one chapter. The rest are based on vegetables (salads, soups, breads). Just pick a soup or salad recipie and leave out the meat or pick out a bread recipie that doesn’t call for butter and milk. It’s that simple.

  • Julia says:

    Man so true I’m on the top ramen diet, of course not by choice.

  • bakogan says:

    Help! I gained 5 pounds since going vegan 2 weeks ago! My old diet was full of non-fat and low calorie foods, albiet mostly filled with chemicals. But my favorite vegan foods seem higher in fat and calories. For example, soy yogurt. Any advice?

  • Amanda says:

    didn’t there use to be a link somewhere for vegan on a budget? it listed products (cleaners, personal care, etc.) that were cruelty-free and/or vegan. I remember coming across it by accident and didn’t bookmark it. anyone know what I’m talking about? I can’t find it now.

  • tana says:

    Why does it say vegetarian this, and that but the only options here are vegan? I don’t wanna go vegan change your wording

  • Thorn says:

    About the cat diet comment, from the articles I have read and the research I have done, cats must eat meat in order to survive – unless you are very careful with their meat free diet because there are several serious risks if you do decide to feed them a meat free diet, dogs however can have a vegetarian diet and be ok.
    Check out all of this info about it.
    http://www.vegetariancats.com/Ethics_VCs.html
    http://www.vegancats.com/pages/1007/FAQ.htm
    http://www.peta.org/issues/Companion-Animals/meatless-meals-for-dogs-and-cats.aspx
    http://www.catinfo.org/
    http://sciencefocus.com/qa/can-cats-or-dogs-live-vegetarian-diet
    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1221/can-you-feed-dogs-and-cats-a-vegetarian-diet
    I say if there is too high a risk of sickness for your cat then to not make them have a meatless diet. Would you really want to take that risk for your cat? Plus I’m pretty sure whatever they are eating they are pretty happy with anyway. I also say if you do decide a meat free diet for them then be very, very careful!

  • Lin says:

    I went veggie almost 2 years ago before Thanksgiving – since then one of my sons is a veggie, and my husband has adapted to my cooking meatless as well. He was fighting the battle of the high blood pressure and cholesterol and finally after 6 months of very little meat (only when he is away on business!) his levels amazed the doctor and we no longer have to think about giving him meds. I have also turned friends on to many veggie alternatives as they want to get healthier. I find as long as you have enough colourful and interesting sides, you can really get carnivores to accept a meatless dish without an argument. I don’t preach either, I wait for them to ask and then I give them info but the food usually speaks for itself! it is not hard at all being veggie these days – it is actually fun.

  • Jennifer says:

    Regarding the comments about pets eating a vegan diet: My dogs have been on a vegan diet and it has eliminated itching and ear infections.

  • LaLaLovely76 says:

    Yes, I went Vegetarian all the way as of last Wednesday!! And I’m loving it…i’m so looking towards the future!! I currently am overweight and have high cholesterol so I’m aiming to lose 80 pounds by next April and i’m sure this life change will help me achieve my goal!

  • Jahniece says:

    I wonder If they have those stuff in the bronx.

  • candace says:

    I am all for avoiding cruelity to animals, but cats are not like dogs, they need a meat based diet. Their bodies depend on the protein from meat, and I think it is cruel to your animal friend to force her to change her diet to were she may not be getting the fullest amount of nutrition. If your worried about cruelity to the animals that are slottered for pet food, research and find farms that raise the meat with better living conditions and pet foods that use these farms.

  • Hilary says:

    While I totally support a vegan lifestyle for humans (because we are omnivores, and are also buying our one food/responsible for our decisions) I feel like it’s cruel to try to make your carnivorous pet eat vegan. It will make them sick. I think if someone is that concerned about it, they probably shouldn’t own cats or dogs (and some people would argue that we shouldn’t own them anyway!)

  • Bex says:

    I used to be a vegan about 10 years ago, and since eating meat again, ive felt so sluggish etc and am just starting to go back to a vegitarian lifestyle, along with my 2 year old son. (he’s like me, not really into meat) this is quite a good article. I’d eat all these sugestions and it good to see there is still great advice out there to newbies. It truely is worth trying. Its not for everyone, but you’ll find yourself feeling so much better (if you take the time to do it properly)not only did i have so much more energy, felt lighter on the inside, my hair and skin got better and I lost 15 kgs> I didn’t need any supliments, so its very acheiveable. :)

  • kate says:

    WOW! Thank you so much I never thought that Bacos were vegan but I can’t wait to add them to my salads!!! Awesome article!

  • Catherine To says:

    Hi Guzel,

    I would like to make suggestion how vegan feed their cats. Though it’s difficult for cat to be vegan since they are meat-eating animal. It’s still possible to instill positive reinforcement by petting her when she tries vegan cat food. Cats are very responsive to gentle touch and soft-spoken encouragement by their owners. Alternatively, you can grow ‘cat grass’ (you can buy the seed from the petsmart or general pet store) and let them enjoy the cat grass. I have tried to grow them recently so that my ‘meowmeow’ can have some green on a daily basis. It helps improve their health and longevity a great deal. Hope it helps. xoxo

  • Tanyon Daniels says:

    This comment is for Guzel. I am a veg among carnis(well omnis I guess) I have found by introducing my family to veg dishes they are discovering how delish non meat diets can be. You dont have to push the issue, be sneaky, that’s how I do it! And when they comment on how good it is then I tell them. I don’t know about your cat, but my dog would definately prefer my food over hers! You can google homemade pet food recipes too!

  • Guzel Gontcharova says:

    I am a beginner (have just signed up for a 30-days trial) and somewhat naive and clueless, however very excited with the perspective of a better cleaner life. Thank you for the eating tips.
    I wonder, how do vegetarians (vegans) feed their loved ones: cats, dogs and others?
    It is next to impossible to persuade my darling cat to join me in my quest.
    Please share examples and tips on how other people do.
    Thank you

  • Suzi Kasarda says:

    Thank You!!! I never used to by boxed foods and moved to a new state & just now realized I haven’t seen any bulk sectons. But, I will call and find one now. Great article and advise!

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