4 Delicious, Cheap, & Easy Vegan Meals for you to try
When it comes to eating vegan, it can be tough to find meals that meet the elusive trifecta of criteria. You know what I mean, a meal that is all three easy, cheap, and delicious. Especially when you’re new to veganism—whether just dipping a toe in to try it or just starting out your journey to plant-based—it seems like the only options available to those without an inexhaustible budget and limitless creativity are pasta and beans. But what’s wrong with that? I know this struggle because within the last year and a half or so, I have transitioned into a partially vegan lifestyle. (You can read about why I’m only a partial vegan here.)
Introducing more plant-based fare into your diet has a slew of benefits, and I could offer you a multitude of reasons why you should start focusing more on produce and things that spring up from the ground. I could…but I won’t drag on and on about it. I’m sure through my many writings and musings I’ll hit all the points several times, and I’m sure if you clicked this post then you’ve read countless other resources already detailing the benefits of a plant-based or vegan diet.
I’m just here to show you some of my favorite vegan meals. I usually keep my veganism limited to snacks and lunches. Snacks are easy—even non-vegans enjoy a bowl of grapes or a bag of popcorn. Vegan snacks are foolproof and can be enjoyed without much money or thought. It’s when the clock strikes noon and your belly starts grumbling to remind you of lunch that vegans (or partial vegans like myself) might run into complications.
“…it seems like the only options available to those without an inexhaustible budget and limitless creativity are pasta and beans.”
Now, I’m not talking about vegan options at restaurants. First of all, I rarely would buy lunch, no matter what job I had. I have been a brown-bagger for 90% of my working adult life. If you’re looking for input as to what restaurants have decent vegan options, I can’t help you there (yet, unfortunately, maybe in the future). But I can give a few of the go-to recipes that I use constantly at home.
I like variety, but I don’t like thinking too much every single day about food. It just takes up too much time. But I also want to avoid being a mindless muncher. Conscious eating is a great practice that I have picked up to help me be more aware of what I’m putting in my body and how it makes me feel. That’s why incorporating more plant-based recipes into my diet has had such a positive, beneficial impact on my life!
It hasn’t all been sunshine and daisies, though, despite the overwhelmingly positive results. When it comes to vegan food, there is a noticeable difference in taste when you exclude or substitute animal by-products. While a lot of vegetarians and vegans have learned to ignore this, (or haven’t cared in the first place), it took some getting used to for me. I’ve learned that the golden rule of veganism is to not force yourself to eat things you don’t like. Beets and radishes may look pretty on popular vegan Instagram accounts, but if they make you retch—avoid them! Find what works for you and find different variations of foods, recipes, and preparation methods. You may well find, like I did, that repeating vegan foods is just fine when you can cook them 4 different ways to Sunday.
Another major roadblock on the path to veganism and a plant-based lifestyle is clearly price. While I have been grocery shopping, (and healthy grocery shopping), for years now, and therefore I know some of the best practices and simple tricks for healthy groceries on a tight budget, I realize that not everyone has that knowledge or skill. So when you’re seeing stunning smoothie bowls, beautiful Buddha bowls, and gorgeous green plates smattered all over the web, you may be enticed by the supposedly effortless and glamorous plant-based lifestyle. I know I was. I also know that my excitement sank—rapidly—when I would move past the photos and into the recipe, only to find complicated cooking and expensive ingredients awaited me!
“I’ve learned that the golden rule of veganism is to not force yourself to eat things you don’t like.”
While I do enjoy throwing together a batch of bliss balls or on occasion spending more time crafting a smoothie bowl than I do eating it, I realize that not everyone—myself included—is prepared to spend that much time, effort, and money on the more elaborate and fancy recipes, foods, and ingredients on a daily basis.
So between cost, difficulty, and taste, what exactly is the appeal of veganism/plant-based lifestyle? I can definitely see why it isn’t for everyone, including me, which is why I’m only a “partial”. But give it a try if you’re up for it. It takes time and practice but honestly, anyone can and should incorporate even a bit more plant-based items and whole foods into their diet. The benefits far outweigh the hassle and effort, especially if you nail down a few recipes that you truly enjoy and can afford.
“…my excitement sank—rapidly—when I would move past the photos and into the recipe, only to find complicated cooking and expensive ingredients awaited me!”
If you’re hesitant to start, or just plain bored with your own recipe repertoire, I’d love to share with you a few of the cheap, easy, and downright delicious vegan meals that are recurrent mainstays in my lunchtime routine. Best part? These meals are fully adaptable, so you can personalize, substitute, add, or subtract anything! Also, it makes leftovers. Win.
I really don’t know anyone who doesn’t love carbs and avocado
Avocado & Tomato Pasta
Pasta? Carbs? Avo?! What’s not to love? This simple, basic meal combines nutrients, healthy fats, and colorful produce into a filling meal fit for all seasons.
Assuming that you have salt, pepper, lemon or lime juice, and olive oil (for dressing), already stocked in your pantry, all you need is:
- (1) avocado (69¢)
- (2) cups whole wheat or veggie pasta ($2)
- (1) cup grape tomatoes, halved ($1.99)
Directions: Cook pasta according to directions on box. Slice avocado in cubes, squeeze with a bit of lemon or lime juice to prevent browning. Slice grape tomatoes in half. Mix avocado and grape tomatoes in a bowl with cooked pasta. Top with salt, pepper, olive oil, and whatever other seasonings you would like (I like oregano, parsley, and basil).
For less than $5 you have a delicious, simple pasta meal which will give you plenty for 2 decently portioned lunches! I’ve also seen variations of this recipe all over, a lot of people making pesto and using that as sauce. I’ve never personally done that myself, but pesto is near the top of my “To Try” list.
Easiest meal on this list—and really filling, too!
Roasted Red Potato & Cauliflower
This recipe is about as simple as it is effortless; out of all four recipes showcased here, this one requires the least amount of prep, actual cooking, and, well, work. Three ingredients is all you need, as long as you have olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano on hand.
- (2) cups fresh cauliflower ($2)
- (4-5) small red potatoes ($1)
- (1) can chick peas ($1)
Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Drain and rinse chick peas, setting aside on a paper towel on a plate to dry. Dice red potatoes in to 1in cubes. Spread cauliflower heads, chick peas, and potatoes onto baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, stir ingredients around on baking sheet a bit to make sure it is all mostly covered with a bit of the oil. Sprinkle with seasonings of choice, (I like salt, pepper, and oregano). Bake for 30-40 mins, checking back regularly to prevent cauliflower burning. Enjoy!
Suitable for any Asian food cravings
Vegan Veggie Udon
Another pasta dish! Are my fellow carb-lovers still with me? I could’ve given this dish any number of monikers, but I decided on “Vegan Veggie Udon” because it’s fun to say! I first tried udon noodles after my Japanese instructor and dear friend told me they were her favorite. I enjoy them, too! This dish is packed with filling veggies like broccoli and chick peas, and will satisfy any Asian food craving. I was skeptical at first, (yes, of my own dish! Truth!) but I was literally floored by how good and inoffensive it was. Chalk up another win for the partial veganism!
- Udon noodles ($3)
- (2) cups fresh broccoli florets ($2)
- (1) can chick peas ($1)
- (4-5) sweet peppers (red, orange, and/or yellow) ($2)
- (1) packet stir fry seasoning (79¢)
- (1) cup sugar snap peas or snow peas (because I honestly can’t tell the difference) ($2)
Boil a pot of water according to the directions on the noodle package. Drain and rinse chick peas, setting them aside on paper towel on a plate for a few minutes to dry a bit. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (or oil of your choice) in pan on medium heat. Cut peppers in to bite-sized pieces. Toss broccoli, peas, peppers, and beans in pan and cook in oil for about 5-10 mins, stirring occasionally. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package. When noodles are cooked, drained, and rinsed (optional), add to pan with cooked veggies. Add stir-fry seasoning packet and water, cook according to the directions on the stir-fry seasoning packet. Enjoy with a fork (like me!) or chop sticks.
Have your pizza and eat it, too
Fresh Garden Pizza
I’ll end on a delightful note: PIZZA! Vegans can have fun, too. I first shared this recipe and pic on Instagram and Facebook and in that picture, you can clearly see that I added mozzarella cheese. It may go without saying, but I’ll take this opportunity to say it anyway: You can exclude the cheese, or sub it for vegan cheese, to make this meal completely vegan and plant-based. I added cheese, and I always will!
- (1) vegan, pre-made pizza crust ($2-$5)
- (1) small can tomato sauce (69¢)
- (1) small tomato (50¢)
- (1/2 cup) fresh spinach (25¢)
- pizza seasoning, Italian seasoning, basil, oregano (dealer’s choice, optional; I used pizza seasoning) ($2-$5)
Pre-heat oven or toaster oven according to the directions on your pizza crust. Slice tomatoes into thin triangle shapes. Pick apart fresh spinach leaves into roughly the same size/shape. Spread about 2-4 tablespoons (depending on the size of your crust) of tomato sauce all over crust, leaving edges bare. Decorate pizza with tomato, spinach, shredded mozzarella (optional, and whatever else your mind could possibly think of! Try to be healthy though! Lean meats are good here, as well as other veggies like peppers or mushrooms. The sky’s the limit when it comes to healthier pizza!). Sprinkle your choice of herbs or seasonings. Bake according to the directions on your pizza crust. Let cool, slice, enjoy!
“Best part? These meals are fully adaptable, so you can personalize, substitute, add, or subtract anything! Also, it makes leftovers. Win.”
There you have it! Just a few of my personal favorite vegan/plant-based meals! I usually have these for lunch, and with healthy snacks, I feel fine to have meat, cheese, and other animal products with breakfast and dinner. I cannot stress enough how important it is to do what works best for you, eat foods that you enjoy, and love life, at every single meal. Don’t hate your plate! It all blends together in perfect harmony.