21 budget meatless meals to save money

If you want meatless meals on a budget, look no further! I’ve got 21 delicious and varied dirt cheap vegetarian meals the whole family are sure to love.

You do not need to be vegetarian to eat meatless meals. Many meat eaters have Meatless Mondays, often as a way to use up the meat left over from the weekend. But you never need be restricted to just Mondays.

Meatless meals on a budget are perfect for everyone, vegetarian or not, who need to keep a close eye on how much they spend on food.

Having a cheap vegetarian meal plan you can turn to, to get you through a very lean week is a very helpful thing to have in your back pocket.

You might want 30 minute or less meals, or recipes that require only one pot, create a cheap vegetarian meal plan that fits right into your schedule and your budget.

Eating a vegetarian diet is an excellent way to reduce your overall grocery budget. Meat is often the most expensive item in a recipe so cutting that out completely is going to help you reap the savings.

But there are always ways to shave a few more dollars off your spending.

collage of 3 meatless meals on a budget
Meatless meals on a budget do not have to be boring!

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Pay less for your Meat-free Meal ingredients

Some vegetarian products can actually work out pretty expensive, especially those fake meat products.

Thankfully though most ingredients used in vegetarian recipes are pretty cheap. Just because they are cheap though doesn’t mean there aren’t a few tricks to buy them a little cheaper still.

When it comes to beans and pulses, you have 2 ways you can buy them. The easy, slightly more expensive option is to buy them in cans, you just open the can and throw them into a recipe for a quick meal.

The cheaper option is to buy dried beans, lentils and pulses, but these do require a little more preparation in order to use them in meals.

I usually buy dried beans and prep the entire packet in advance. I will soak all the beans for the required time, usually 8-12 hours, then cook them so they are almost ready to eat.

Once cooled I portion them out and freeze them for future use. I can then pull them out and use in any recipe that requires a can of beans, no added cooking time.

I do the same for pulses like barley and green lentils. Soak them, cook them and then freeze. You do not need to do this prep work for red lentils as they cook up quickly and require no soaking.

Pro tip – check the drained weight of a can of beans or lentils and use this weight as your portion size. E.g. a standard UK can is 400g and 227g drained weight. So I store my homemade ready beans in bags of either 230g or 460g.

While buying canned beans and lentils might be slightly more expensive than their dried equivalents, the whole recipe is still going to be cheaper than a meat based meal.

So don’t stress if prepping dried beans seems like too much faff, buy the canned version and enjoy your vegan meals just as much.

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Storing Beans and Pulses For Quick inexpensive vegetarian Meals

Beans, pulses and lentils can be stored for a long time. In fact they are some of the best foods to stockpile due to their long shelf lives.

It is best to store them in a cool, dark place in their original packets. For added protection you can store them inside containers like these.

I also like to keep a few meals worth of prepared beans and pulses in my freezer because sometimes the idea of prepping the beans, soaking, rinsing and cooking doesn’t appeal.

If you are like me then get into the habit of prepping a whole packet of beans at a time and storing in your freezer. That way you’ll always have beans, at the cheapest price, ready to add to your recipe.

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Use A Shopping App

Shopping apps can save you money and give you cash back. There are many different ones around but these are the 2 FREE ones I recommend.

Ibotta is an easy to use app for both your grocery shop and many others like Amazon, Target and Dollar Tree.

Fetch – is a receipt-snapping app. Do your grocery shop as normal, take a photo of your receipt, and upload it to Fetch to earn cash back and reward cards.

collage of 2 cheap vegetarian meals
Make a big batch of your favorite cheap vegetarian recipes

Make A Big Batch

I like recipes that can be doubled or tripled depending on how many people you are feeding. You can increase the size of your recipe in order for you to double up on your meals. Cook once and eat twice makes sense for our busy lives.

The term batch cooking makes it sound like you are cooking great vats of each recipe, but really you decide on the batch size. I often cook a double batch of a recipe so we can eat it that day and have it again another day.

Most meals can be frozen, if not then it will last in the fridge for a few days. Perfect for getting a meal on the table within 15 minutes of arriving home late.

inexpensive vegetarian Meal Questions

You don’t have to be a fully fledged vegetarian to enjoy these cheap vegetarian meals. I’m not vegetarian and may never be but I appreciate good recipes that make the most of the vegetables that I grow and buy.

Are meatless meals cheaper?

Almost always because meat is expensive in comparison to many vegetarian proteins like beans and pulses. Even if you aren’t vegetarian, you can still enjoy a yummy black bean soup with sweet potatoes, taco salad or a pasta salad recipe as part of your regular meal plan.

Does vegetarian food cost more?

Vegetarian food in it’s natural form is not more expensive than a meat eaters diet. Vegetables, pulses, beans, pasta are all pretty cheap.

Where vegetarian food can get expensive, and I mean more expensive per unit cost/kg, than meat is the meat replacement products. Fake bacon, vegetarian chicken for instance cost much more than their meat equivalent.

What is a good meal without meat?

Take your pick! The best meal to have without meat is the one you enjoy cooking and enjoy eating. For me that’s lemon linguine or fried rice with extra veggies. Both are so simple and easy to make.

What can you eat without meat or dairy?

There are plenty of meals you can make without meat or dairy. Beans and pulses are wonderful protein replacements and they don’t need cheese to pep them up.

What is the cheapest thing to eat for dinner?

Pasta dishes and bean soup are among the cheapest meals to eat for dinner too. Pasta, tomatoes, tuna, a few herbs and spices and you’ve got a meal. Add cheese for extra tastiness.

What are the cheapest vegan meals?

The cheapest vegan meals are going to be things like pasta salad, fried rice or other pasta dishes with canned tomatoes, spices and maybe pinto beans for added protein.

What’s the cheapest meal to make?

The cheapest meal you can make is one that requires you to spend no money. Look through your pantry and see how many meals you could make without spending anything. Think of it as a challenge!

What can I cook for $5?

You don’t need to limit yourself to fried rice and beans when you are on a tight budget. For $5 you can cook many of the recipes below, not just one portion either.

Budget vegetarian meals can be some of the cheapest recipes around, especially if you don’t buy specialist fake meat protein and use beans and pulses instead.

Collage of a vegetarian pizza and a veggie bowl meal
Meatless meals can be tasty and colorful

6 one pot meatless meals on a budget

In my humble opinion, one pot meals should be at the center of every vegetarian family meal plan. One pot cheap vegetarian recipes can invariably be doubled up so you can cook once and eat twice.

One pot meals are my favorite meals. Why? Because I can throw everything into the pot and walk away. Even better, there is less clearing away afterwards!

One Pot Mushroom Spinach Artichoke Pasta

A one pot 30 minute meal with pasta, Parmesan and mushrooms, what more could we want? Everyone has a can of artichokes at the back of their pantry, now you know which meal to use it in.

One Pot Cheesy Broccoli Chickpea Rice Casserole

This is a hearty casserole made in just one pot. Very filling and pretty quick to make. If you are trying to be a vegetarian on a budget then make this recipe a staple of your meal plan. Yum!

Broccoli Cheese Chowder

This is comfort food at it’s best, cheese, cream and potatoes, all in a soup. And of course only one pot – my favorite type of meatless meal.

Slow Cooker Three Bean Chili – serve with a tomato salad?

Who doesn’t love a chili? If you are trying to create a vegetarian family meal plan on a budget then you definitely need a bean chili in it. Super cheap and super filling. You can cook once and eat twice, it’s that good.

Black Bean and Rice Casserole

This is such a versatile and helpful recipe. It’s a side or a main dish. Can be frozen and reheated. Uses leftover rice. Cooks in one pan and takes around 30 minutes. You cannot help but love this recipe.

Crock Pot Baked Ziti

I always substitute penne when ziti is suggested. Until this recipe I had never tried cooking pasta in a slow cooker but this has opened my eyes. Add the extra veggies she suggests to make this a really filling, comforting meal.

Best Slow Cookers/Crock Pots For One Pot Meals

Slow Cookers (or Crock Pots) are the perfect tool for many of the tastiest one pot meals. Dump your ingredients in, go to work and come back to a tasty dinner.

These are some of the best slow cookers you can get. Choose the one that suits your family best.

7 cheap vegetarian meals for a week

If you want cheap vegetarian meals for a week then here they are, all 7 of them. These are the perfect budget vegetarian meals to suit all the family. You’ve got pizza and pasta and of course your slow cooker will be put to good use.

Classic Veggie Pizza

Only 40 minutes from start to table for this delicious veggie pizza. Roasted vegetables are one of my favorite dishes so adding these to a pizza is taste heaven!

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili Mac

This recipe isn’t quite a one pot meal as you cook the onions and garlic first (unless you’re lazy like me and ignore this step and just bung everything in!). If you want cheap vegetarian meals for a week, fill your slow cooker with this and have it a second time or for lunches.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

There is something about cheese and pasta that just makes me want to eat it all the time. The reviews on this recipe speak for themselves – it’s delicious!

Melted Feta and Veggie Bake

No cheap vegetarian meal plan would be complete without a veggie bake. I love roasted veggies and melted cheese and this gorgeous recipe combines the two together – heaven. Add brown rice and you have a delicious and nutritious meal in only 40 minutes.

Mexican Quinoa Enchilada Casserole

This is an inspired recipe with the quinoa replacing the traditional tortillas to make it that bit healthier. And of course you’ve got all the beautiful Mexican flavors.

Veggie Lover’s Baked Rigatoni

I love big pasta shapes like rigatoni and penne. And pasta with 2 cheeses? I’m right in there! There are lots of fresh veggies in this recipe and it is probably one of my favorite super cheap vegetarian meals.

Poor Man’s Burrito Bowls

The perfect meatless meals on a budget that are also quick and tasty! Less than 30 minutes to table and this includes cooking the rice. We definitely like to add a jalapeno or two to spice them up.

Kid friendly Side

Easy Roasted Baby Potatoes

These are kid made, kid approved and written by the self same kid! Perfect as a side to a veggie bake or a curry if you want a change from rice. Love the different spice suggestions for a taste sensation.

Collage of a plate of black bean tacos and a toasted cheese sandwich
Quick meals can still be tasty meals

8 quick and healthy meatless meals on a budget recipes for busy nights

Time is precious, on busy nights you don’t want to be slaving over a hot stove for an hour or more. Nor does your budget stretch to regular takeaways.

That’s where cheap vegetarian meals that are quick to make yet still delicious tasting come in.

All of these recipes are ready in less than 30 minutes. You’ll spend more time driving to and walking around the grocery store to buy something ready made than you will to make these delicious meals.

20 Minute Taco Soup

I love fast dinners, less fuss, less prep and less standing around in the kitchen. This taco soup recipe is packed full of ideas to tweak it, especially in the comments.

Pasta With Peas

Just 15 minutes and way less than $1 a portion. This is a dirt cheap vegetarian meal, super quick but full of taste. Did I mention it only has 5 ingredients too? This is my perfect lazy meal.

Quick & Easy Vegetarian Curry

Just 15 minutes to cook this delicious curry with chickpeas and spinach. If you want rice, you better choose white rice because brown is going to take too long. Choose the added toppings to make your curry unique – we love it with parsley and lime juice.

Garlicky Swiss Chard and Chickpeas

This is the perfect quick meal to make use of a garden glut of Swiss chard which we seem to have every year. I love recipes that use red pepper flakes or have lemon juice drizzled over, this one has them both, nom, nom!

Breakfast Egg Muffins

Vegetarians can still have breakfast for dinner with these gorgeous egg muffins (low carb too). Only 25 minutes to make, you can rustle up a batch for dinner in no time at all.

Black Bean, Rice & Vegetable Tacos

Taco Tuesday just went vegetarian! A super quick meal, just 15 minutes, it’ll take the family longer to add their toppings then it does to cook!

White Pizza Cheese Sandwiches

Cheap vegetarian meals do not have to be all about veggies all the time. Sometimes you want carbs and cheese and quickly. These grilled cheese sandwiches have 3 different cheeses in them and are the perfect comfort food.

Easy Creamy Taco Bake

This is one of those cheap vegetarian meals that is perfect for fussy vegetarians aka teenagers, who don’t seem to like veggies! You can of course sneak some veggies into this recipe, mushrooms, corn and thinly sliced carrots always work well.

Collage of 2 meatless meals on a budget
Meatless meals are tasty meals

winning with meatless meals for families on a budget

Your grocery spending will drop right down when you use these budget meatless meal recipes. Perfect for any day or every day of the week.

You can create a whole vegetarian family meal plan on a budget with these 21 simple yet yummy recipes. Fussy eaters will no longer be fussy, there is a meal here for everyone.

You cannot help but win with these budget vegetarian recipes. Full of goodness and deliciousness, the only problem you will have is deciding which one to make again, and again!

For more help in tackling your grocery spending join the grocery spending challenge.

Come and follow me on Pinterest for more money saving hints and frugal tips!

Pinterest image for meatless meals on a budget
Pinterest image for cheap vegetarian meals

Last Updated on 29th August 2023 by Emma

About Emma

I'm here to help you become confident in making the best money decisions for you and your family. Frugal living has changed my life, let me help you change yours.

2 thoughts on “21 budget meatless meals to save money”

  1. This all sounds great. Where do I get the recipes? Is it expensive? I hope not, don’t want to save on food and spend all the savings on how to recipes.

    • I totally understand getting good recipes can be expensive. I linked the recipes I liked to the names of each dish. If you click on the name it should take you to the recipe. Let me know if it doesn’t work.


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