Good morning! I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the more affordable recipes on my blog today. The reality is that vegetarian cooking is generally inexpensive, since we’re typically using beans and eggs for protein. Plus, cooking from scratch is a great way to save on groceries and minimize your exposure to the preservatives found in processed foods.
I went through the archives and marked the least expensive meals with my new “budget-friendly” category. Access it here or at any time by hovering over ALL RECIPES, then mousing down to “EVERYDAY” and clicking “Budget friendly”.
While we’re at it, I thought I’d share a few tips on saving money without sacrificing quality, starting with fresh produce! In-season fruits and vegetables are generally your best bets since they require less resources to grow under optimal conditions. Check my monthly seasonal produce guides to find out what’s in season now.
Organic produce is typically more expensive, unfortunately. You can spend wisely by choosing organic produce for the items on the dirty dozen list and often opt for conventional if they’re on the clean fifteen list.
You can often buy local produce at a discount if you shop farmers’ markets near closing time. Those hard-working farmers don’t want their vegetables to go to waste. If you’re ever wondering what to do with a lone eggplant or zucchini in your fridge, check my ingredient index for ideas (you can always access it by hovering over ALL RECIPES, then mousing down to INGREDIENT).
Cooking well-balanced meals with whole grains is a great way to save money and keep your belly full until the next meal. Whole grains offer more nutritional bang for your buck than processed grains, since they offer more fiber, nutrients and healthy fats. Some of my favorites include whole grain pasta, brown rice and farro. Gluten-free, grain-like options include quinoa, millet (millet is downright cheap, by the way) and sorghum.
Pulses like black beans, chickpeas and lentils are great additions as well, and they’re especially affordable if you cook them from scratch (although canned beans are undeniably convenient and still inexpensive). I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but one half-cup serving of cooked lentils has twice as many antioxidants as blueberries and costs a fraction of the price. Pretty amazing.
Growing an herb garden is a great way to save on fresh herbs. You can buy a whole plant for the cost of one on those three-dollar-per-packet specialty herbs! I grab cheap bunches of cilantro and parsley at the store, but prefer to grow basil, mint, rosemary and thyme at home. Those are all pretty hardy plants that don’t require too much fuss. Another option is to use dried herbs, substituting one-third the amount of dried herbs for the specified amount of fresh, but that trick works best in simmered recipes like soups and pasta sauces.
When you’re cooking, feel free to play around with herbs, spices and other flavorings. If the recipe calls for multiple spices and you’re missing one of them, you can probably skip it altogether without sacrificing a lot of flavor.
Extra-virgin olive oil costs more than processed vegetable oils, but I use it liberally for its incredible health benefits. It’s my go-to cooking oil (quality extra-virgin olive oil can actually be heated up to around 425 degrees Fahrenheit before it starts breaking down). Big bottles of California Olive Ranch Everyday, Trader Joe’s 100% Greek Kalamata and organic olive oil purchased on sale are my top picks.
Maple syrup and local honey are pricy and there’s not much to be done about it, although I do buy the biggest jars available to save per ounce. (Let’s get real, though—treats are treats and are therefore nonessential.) You can also save on vegetable broth by making it from scratch or just replace it with water, albeit for less flavor.
Alright, I think that just about covers my tips. What are yours?!
No. 1: Cilantro-Pepita Pesto with Squash Ribbons and Fettuccine
Vegan and easily gluten free
Pesto is traditionally made with fresh basil and expensive pine nuts, but you can make pesto with just about any kind of flavorful greens and nuts (or even seeds, like pepitas). I love making pesto with arugula, kale or cilantro and pecans, almonds or pepitas. I often skip the Parmesan in pesto to let the flavor of the herbs shine, which cuts costs as well. Check out more pesto recipes here.
No. 2: Sweet Potato Burrito Smothered in Avocado Salsa Verde
Easily gluten free and vegan (use gluten-free tortillas and skip the cheese and sour cream)
Sweet potatoes are inexpensive and packed full of vitamin A and other nutrients. I love them with spicy Mexican flavors and black beans. Check out more sweet potato recipes here.
No. 3: Spiced Lentil Soup
Gluten free and vegan
Lentils are about as cheap and good for you as ingredients get. This soup features inexpensive collard greens and you can save by substituting water for the vegetable broth, though you might want to up the dried herbs, salt and lemon to make up for it. Check out more lentil recipes here.
No. 4: Brussels Sprouts Pizza with Balsamic Red Onions
Easily vegan (skip the cheese, this pizza has lots of flavor without it)
Homemade pizza is so fun to make and costs so much less than delivery! I often take a shortcut and buy whole grain pizza dough at Trader Joe’s (for about $1.20 per batch) or Whole Foods. Check out more pizza recipes here.
No. 5: Spicy Roasted Ratatouille with Spaghetti
Pasta, one of my favorite comfort meals! Pasta dishes are affordable and easy, and they can be very good for you, too. Choose whole grain pasta (DeLallo Foods brand is my favorite) and load up your bowl with an equal amount of vegetables for a balanced meal. You can cut costs by skipping the Parmesan, which I found to be optional in this dish anyway. Check out more pasta recipes here.
No. 6: Lebanese Lemon-Parsley Bean Salad
Gluten free and vegan
Bean salads are a flavorful and hearty option for packed lunches and potlucks. I often turn them into a more complete meal by adding greens, a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. Crumbled feta is almost always a good idea, too! Check out more bean salad recipes here.
No. 7: Deb’s Kale Salad with Apple, Cranberries and Pecans
Did you know that greens, like kale, contain protein in addition to all those vitamins? It’s true. Kale salads can be pretty filling, especially when they’re full of fruit, nuts and goat cheese like this one. They pack well for lunch, too. Check out more kale recipes here.
No. 8: Sweet Potato & Black Bean Veggie Burgers
Gluten free and vegan (depending on your choice of buns and toppings)
These veggie burgers feature some of the cheapest and most nutrient-dense foods out there: sweet potatoes, beans, oats and millet. They’re also mega delicious!
No. 9: Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Sauce
Easily gluten free and vegan
I love how much you all love these tacos! Roasted cauliflower is delicious and nutritious. Combined with lentils and a drizzle of smoky, spicy sauce to tie it all together, it makes a fantastic, well-balanced dinner. Check out more cauliflower recipes here and taco recipes here.
No. 10: Breakfast Quesadillas with Scrambled Eggs, Spinach and Black Beans
Easily gluten free
Eggs! Cheap, tasty and full of goodness, eggs are one of the best sources of protein out there. Local, organic eggs are generally the healthiest and tastiest eggs. Eggs plus beans plus Mexican flavors equal some of my favorite meals! Check out more egg recipes here.
No. 11: Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce over Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Rice
Gluten free and easily vegan
Here’s a secret: peanut butter is one of the healthiest foods out there. It’s good for your heart and good for your waistline, for real. I’m obsessed with savory peanut sauces and they pair remarkably well with sweet potatoes (West African cooks figured this out a long time ago!). Check out more peanut butter recipes here.
No. 12: Spicy Vegan Black Bean Soup
Gluten free and vegan
Did you know that black beans are actually so blue that they appear black? They’re blue because they’re packed to the max with anthocyanins. Hearty, homemade soups are a great way to warm up during cold weather. This black bean soup packs well and freezes well. Check out more black bean recipes here and more soups and stews here.
More resources you might appreciate: 13 make-ahead breakfast recipes, 16 recipes that pack well for lunch and 14 simple weeknight dinners. You can shop my essential kitchen equipment here. Don’t forget to follow us on Pinterest for a steady stream of recipe inspiration!