Cheap vegetarian meals for families, students, singles and older people

by HollieT

Create cheap vegetarian meals, for under $1.72, for families, students, singles and older people. Make green bean and corn barley risotto, Spanish eggs and mushroom curry.

I always feel completely baffled when I'm asked how to make cheap vegetarian meals. Why, you might ask, does this question baffle me? Well you see, the staples of a vegetarian diet are, by their very nature, cheap. Think about it, legumes, beans, rice, grains, pasta, vegetables and eggs, all of which are really inexpensive.

Why then, do people hunt for cheap vegetarian meals, if they have the herbs, spices, beans, grains etc, practically all the meals they put together will be cheap. Ahh, they haven't invested in the essentials! So many people who wish to learn how to create cheap vegetarian meals have not thought about the fact that the vegetarian pantry needs to contain a few items in order to transform the "cheap" foodstuffs into some great tasting dishes. Another issue which crops up again and again with those people who have recently become vegetarian, is that they feel they need to replace meat with "fake" meat products such as Quorn, artificial bacon or meat free convenience foods. I'm not suggesting for one moment that you shouldn't eat these products, but they are expensive, and in terms of the convenience foods really aren't that nutritious at all.

The Vegetarian Pantry.

Whether you're a student, single person, pensioner or are cooking for the family, there are a number of items which you need to have in your pantry in order to create some mouth watering vegetarian dishes.

If you're truly serious about making cheap vegetarian meals which taste delicious, you will initially need to invest in some herbs, spices and a few other essentials for the store cupboard. None of these items are expensive and they do last for quite a long time. Once you have made the initial purchase, you'll find that you only need to buy a few cheap, fresh ingredients each week in order to produce some amazing vegetarian meals.

Herbs and Spices.

As far as I'm concerned, the following are essential items for the store cupboard:

Mixed herbs, marjoram, thyme, paprika, chilli powder, oregano, basil, cayenne pepper, black pepper, rock or sea salt, bay leaves, curry paste, powdered vegetable stock and tahini paste. Going forward, you can add more to your pantry.

To begin with, however, mixed herbs, paprika, chili powder, curry paste and vegetable stock will help you to create some tasty vegetarian dishes.

Of course, you can't really beat fresh herbs, but if you're buying them as you need them they can work out to be quite expensive. Have you considered growing your own? They're fairly easy to grow and the seeds are pretty inexpensive. It's also great to have a fresh supply on tap.

These are just a few of the items from my pantry, essential ingredients for awesome vegetarian meals.
These are just a few of the items fro...
Hollie Thomas.
VARIETY PACK OF THE 12 MOST USEFUL AND POPULAR HERBS with Easy Instructions to Grow Your Own Fres...

Custom Collection of High Quality Herb Seeds - Germination tested and guaranteed to produce a beautiful, edible herb garden! Lovingly harvested, fresh from their most recent sea...

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Visitors from the United Kingdom can find the same or similar products from

Beans and legumes.

Beans, legumes, rice, grains and seeds are absolute must haves in the vegetarian kitchen. 

Most vegetarians are aware that once they cease to eat meat, they need to think about alternative ways of obtaining protein. Beans and legumes are a great source of protein, in addition to dietary fibre, iron and calcium. When combined with buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, barley and other whole grains, beans and legumes can provide the complete range of amino acids needed for optimal health. They are also very cheap!

Wherever possible, avoid using canned beans. They are more expensive and also contain more sodium and less nutrients. Opt for dried beans, they are very cheap and far more nutritious. Once cooked they can be frozen and used at a later date. If you do use canned beans, at least rinse them before using, this will help to reduce the amount of sodium that you eventually consume.

Nuts and seeds are also a great source of protein, although nuts have become increasingly expensive in recent years. Seeds, on the other hand, such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds are relatively inexpensive, contain a range of other nutrients, and are not only ideal for inclusion in many recipes, but when roasted or fried with a little garlic, mixed herbs and black pepper, make tasty nutritious snacks, too. 

I always have a supply of dried beans, grains and legumes available.
I always have a supply of dried beans...
Hollie Thomas

Green bean and corn barley risotto for only .86 cents per person. suitable for vegans.

Filling, nutritious and very, very tasty. If you prefer your risottos to have a bit of a kick, add a couple of shots of Tobasco, cayenne pepper or fresh chili. Proceed with caution, however, because the inclusion of spice could add up to a whopping five cents to the cost your meal!
Breakdown of cost

                            Uk.          USA.

Greenbeans:      30 pence   48 cents

Barley:                7 pence     11 cents

Onion:                7 pence     11 cents

Misc:                  10 pence    16 cents

Total:             £0 .59 pence  $0 .86 cents

Other costs, such as marg/oil, thyme, stock, parlsey are so small that I've added them together.

My aim in providing the following recipes is to demonstrate that you can make healthy, tasty vegetarian meals for less than two dollars per person,one dollar in some cases. Clearly, I'm from the UK, and as such have based my calculations on current cost of groceries in England. It is worth noting, however, that at the time of writing, the cost of fruit, vegetables and other groceries has risen quite dramatically over recent months due to the amount of rainfall we have experienced. Nevertheless, you may find that you can obtain groceries far cheaper in your own locality, cutting the cost even further.

In each recipe, I have provided quantities per person. So, if you're a student, single person or pensioner living alone, you'll find that the quantities I have given will provide a very generous serving. Similarly, if you're feeding a family, just multiply the quantities for each additional diner.

Prep time 3 min  -  Total time 55 min
Ingredients for 1 serving
30 grams of pearl barley  • 30 grams of green beans, halved  • 50 grams of canned or frozen sweet corn  • 1/4 medium onion, chopped.  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped  • 1 pint of vegetable stock  • 1 tsp of dried (or fresh) thyme  • 1 tbsp of margarine or oil  • Chopped, fresh parsley to garnish (optional)

1. Melt the margarine/oil in a suitably sized frying pan.
2. Add the garlic and thyme.
3. When the garlic starts to change colour, add the onions, green beans and barley. Saute for 3-4 minutes over a moderate heat.
4. Add half of the stock (1/2 pint) bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.
5. When the barley has absorbed most of the liquid, add the corn and some more stock. Season to taste and simmer uncovered for approximately another 10-15 minutes. Stir periodically to prevent the barley from sticking to the pan.
6. Add more stock, a little at a time depending on whether you prefer your risotto to have more sauce. Simmer, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the barley is tender.
7. Serve and garnish with chopped parsley.

Recipe  5.0/5 Stars (1 Votes)
Add the barley, beans and saute for 3-4 minutes, then add half of the stock.
Add the barley, beans and saute for 3...
H. Thomas
When the margarine has melted, add the thyme and the onions
When the margarine has melted, add th...
H. Thomas
When most of the stock has been absorbed, and the barley is tender, the risotto is ready for serving.
When most of the stock has been absor...
H. Thomas
When the barley has started to swell, add more stock and the corn.
When the barley has started to swell,...

Meat free Spanish eggs for $1.23 per person.

I love Spanish eggs and they'r not just a breakfast dish. Again, this is a cheap, filling dish which will cost just over one dollar per person. Crumble stale bread into your frying pan, for big, chunky breadcrumbs which are more like croutons and very tasty. A new take on Migas.

                                         UK.                USA.

Egg:                              20 pence.    32 cents.

Pepper:                        30 pence.    48 cents.

Onion:                            7 pence.    11 cents

Tomato:                          7 pence     11 cents.

Bread:                            8 pence.    13 cents

Misc:                              5 pence        8 cents.

Total:                             £0.77            $1.23

Spanish Eggs.

Spanish Eggs.

Prep time 5 min  -  Total time 20 min
Ingredients for 1 serving
I egg.  • 3 cherry tomatoes or /2 a regular tomato, halved or sliced  • 1/4 onion, chopped.  • 1/2 red or green pepper, sliced.  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper  • 2 tsp of paprika  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped  • 1 stale crust of bread.  • 1/4 cup of vegetable stock  • 1 tsp of oil.

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and place an ovenproof dish into the oven to heat.

2. Heat the oil in a suitably sized frying pan. Add one clove of chopped garlic.

3. When the garlic starts to change colour, add the tomatoes, peppers and onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes.

4. Add the stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables have softened.

5. Remove from the heat.

6. In a jug, break the egg, add the cayenne and 1 tsp of paprika. Stir. It doesn't matter if the yolk breaks, but stir gently, do not beat the mixture, as far as possible the yolk and white should remain separate. Season.

7. Remove the dish from the oven, add the vegetable mixture, pour the egg mixture over the top and then place the dish back into the oven. for 8-10 minutes or until the egg has set.

8. Heat some oil in a frying pan. When heated add the paprika, and one clove of garlic. When the garlic begins to change colour, break the stale bread into pieces. (you can blitz the bread if you prefer for evenly sized breadcrumbs, but I prefer big chunk pieces) saute they breadcrumbs for a minute or two, until they have browned. Remove from the heat.

9. Check the egg mixture in the oven. By now the egg should have set. If so, remove from the oven. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs around the egg. Serve.

Recipe  5.0/5 Stars (1 Votes)
Fry the onion, pepper, and tomatoes, then add the stock.
Fry the onion, pepper, and tomatoes, ...
H. Thomas
Transfer the vegetables to a dish, mix the egg and cayenne, then pour over the vegetable mixture. Transfer to the oven.
Transfer the vegetables to a dish, mi...
H. Thomas
When the eggs have set, sprinkle the chunky  bread crumbs around the egg, and serve.
When the eggs have set, sprinkle the ...
H. Thomas
Saute the breadcrumbs in oil, garlic and paprika.
Saute the breadcrumbs in oil, garlic ...
H. Thomas

Mushroom curry for $1.72. Suitable for vegans.

                                           UK              USA.

Mushrooms:                   35 pence    56 cents

coconut milk:                 30 pence    48 cents.

Vegetables:                    20  pence   32 cents

Rice:                                15 pence    24 cents

Misc:                                  8 pence   12 cents

Total:                              £1.08           $1.72

Many recipes for mushroom curry suggest that you should use the more expensive variety of mushrooms such as chesnut and shitake. Don't get me wrong, I love both varieties, but if you have a small budget you can make a tasty mushroom curry with just good, old, closed cup, everyday value mushrooms. For this recipe that's exactly what I've used. I've used leeks, mange tout and baby corn, because I found them in the reduced section. Nevertheless, if you find they are too expensive and increase the cost of the meal, you can replace them with onion, green beans and frozen sweet corn.

Prep time 5 min  -  Total time 15 min
Ingredients for 1 serving
1 cup of sliced mushrooms.  • 1/2 leek, chopped.  • 2 ears of baby corn, halved.  • 2 pods of mange tout, halved.  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed.  • 1/4 cup of coconut milk.  • 1/4 cup of vegetable stock.  • 1/2 tsp of garam masala.  • 1 tsp of curry powder/ or curry paste.

1. Saute the vegetables, garlic and spices in a little oil. Until they become soft. if using curry paste instead of powder, heat though before adding the other ingredients.

2. Add the mushrooms and saute until they have also softened.

3. Add the stock, turn up the heat and bring to the boil.

4. Add the coconut milk and turn down the heat. Simmer gently for 6- 8 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Serve on a bed of brown rice.

Recipe  5.0/5 Stars (1 Votes)
Updated: 11/11/2012, HollieT
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Mira on 01/17/2014

Yes, one can eat cheap yet tasty veggie meals. Love that spice rack, too!

cmoneyspinner on 01/17/2014

Those Spanish Eggs look really good!

HollieT on 02/05/2013

Thanks 2uesday. I think when you have the basics in the store cupboard it's easy to come up with wholesome meals without having to spend extra or buying one off ingredients. I have a new recipe to post next time I make it (for the pictures) all you need is two tins of tomatoes, a bit of cheese and garlic and some stale bread. It's gorgeous!

2uesday on 02/05/2013

I enjoy looking at your recipes that are suitable for vegetarians as I can get ideas for when I am cooking for vegetarians. Many of your recipe ideas are especially useful as they use stock cupboard ingredients, so they can be made without having to dash out to the shop.

HollieT on 10/30/2012

Hi lauryallan,

I love Spanish eggs, and you're absolutely right they're really versatile and you can eat them at any time of the day. The combination of paprika, peppers, egg and garlic breadcrumbs always ensures that I clear my plate.:)

lauryallan on 10/30/2012

Although I am not a vegetarian I can see the appeal in becoming one if meals are as tasty as the ones you describe in this article.
I will really have to try the spanish eggs you made. It seems like such a versatile dish and could be for a weekend breakfast, a lunch or dinner.

HollieT on 10/29/2012

Hi Thomo85,

I think some meat eaters would be really quite shocked if they knew how much money they'd save by cutting out meat products!

thomo85 on 10/29/2012

I have noticed the same It is so much cheaper

HollieT on 10/28/2012

Hi katie,

I agree completely. Providing I have spices, grains etc to hand, I can feed myself and my two kids, when I say kids, they are 15 and 20 years and eat like small horses, for less that £17 per week. Of course, that's not taking into account the cost of herbs, pulses etc, but when you buy those ingredients in bulk the cost per person is negligible. Thanks Katie, the green bean and corn barley risotto is one of my favourites at the moment. :)

katiem2 on 10/28/2012

I spend much less on my grocery bill cooking vegetarian meals for three people than my friends who cook with meat for their families of three. Great tips and recipes for vegetarian meals. :)K

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