Meatless Meals are Budget Friendly

Heather says:

One way to reduce the grocery budget is to serve a meatless meal at least once a week.  Meatless is different from vegetarian in that I don’t eschew stock or bacon grease when making these items. Vegetarians should substitute olive oil or vegetable stock as necessary. Here are some options.  Over the next few months I will be adding additional recipes to the site.

What are your favorite meatless (not necessarily vegetarian) meals?


  1. Wasabi Bratwurst on March 9, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Along with great flavors, mushroom adds meaty texture to your dish.

    At my house, we are big fans of portobello mushroom burgers. Grilled portobello, caramelized onions, blue cheese in a toasted Kaiser rolls. YUM.

    Also being that we have great warm weather all year long, we like to use the grill as often as possible. Colorful peppers, onions, squash and zucchini with a drizzle of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar make good ingredients for tasty veggie sandwiches.

  2. Albertine on March 7, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Margaret, I believe the Indonesian dish you’re thinking of is gado gado. Wonderful African groundnut stews are also made with thick peanut sauces.

  3. ScrappyQuilter on March 7, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    I’ll second Dan…we eat lots of TVP. Where we live I can buy the kind that has brown coloring added so it looks like hamburger for $2 per pound (I’d be fine with the tan kind, but the hubby and kids don’t notice so much if it’s brown), which makes the equivalent of about 3 lbs of ground beef. It has almost no fat and tons of protein and fiber. It does work best in things like tacos or spagetti, where there’s lots of flavor in the seasonings. I also use beef bullion to reconstitute it instead of water (made from beef base bought at Sam’s Club).

    Another bit of advice…don’t change all at once. Start by with mixing it half and half with cooked ground beef or the carnivores in your family will complain.

    We also eat lots of casseroles with small amounts of meat. Turkey smoked sausage (like keilbasa), turkey bacon, and boneless chicken breasts bought in a huge bag at Sam’s Club are pretty healthy options that I can use about $2 worth to feed my family (6 of us–four kids ages 14 to 19). Add a starch (potatoes, brown rice or even corn tortillas), a sauce (usually white sauce with whatever seasonings are appropriate), and whatever veggies you have on hand, top with saltine crumbs or shredded cheese, and you have a casserole for usually under 5 bucks that is much healthier than frozen pizzas or nuggets. Another benefit to this kind of cooking is that you can assemble your casserole early in the day or even the night before and throw it in the oven anywhere from 30 to 120 minutes before you want to eat (depending on the temp you set the oven on).

    We were eating eggs as a meat substitute, but now they’re almost as expensive as meat–I bought 3 dozen egg’s at Sam’s Club yesterday for $6, but at Kroger they’re $2.50 for a dozen medium.

    My family also likes split pea soup. It’s easy to make, and really cheap–about 50 cents a pound, I use 2 pounds to feed my family plus have leftovers for a few lunches. It has a bacony flavor even without adding any bacon. Potato soup is another favorite, but since I save my ham bones to make broth to cook my potatoes in, I’m not sure if this would count as meatless. I add frozen broccoli and top with shredded cheddar and sour cream.

  4. NancyB on March 7, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Spinach Pie. I started it making it years ago because it was easy for our babe to eat before she had teeeth (she was a late teether). She loved it and it’s been a family staple ever since.

  5. Mrs. Micah on March 7, 2008 at 12:43 am

    We eat meatless a fair amount of the time. I’ve had lots of luck with curries and other foods from around the world. It seems like a lot of other cultures eat less meat than we do.

    Another thing I’ve learned is to use meat almost as one would a seasoning. So a big batch of food might have meat in it, but not as much as most Americans have in a meal—not even as much as a deck of cards. It’s kind of fun. The only thing I’ve discovered is that if I don’t eat meat for a month I get queasy next time I eat it. So we have to monitor our meals.

  6. Margaret on March 6, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    I second Rachel on dahl and rice. I make a big batch of dahl and then freeze what’s left so I always have a quick meal to pull out of the freezer. If we have plain yogurt or chutney on hand, we’ll have that on the side with dahl and rice.
    Another fun dish is Indonesian (uhhhh, the name eludes me). You cook various veggies (traditionally served room temperature – how easy!), some rice, and make a peanut sauce. Then people assemble their own piles at the table. You can add other condiments similar to curry. Sometimes I add tofu or hard boiled eggs for extra protein. I’m really sorry I can’t remember the name!!

  7. Rachel on March 6, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    We eat meatless 5 or more nights out of the week.

    Some of my favorite dishes are red or green curry with tofu and veggies, dal with red lentils, saag or mattar paneer with tofu in place of the paneer. All of the above are good with rice, stir fried tofu with veggies.

    Black bean soup with lots of veggies in the Vita Mix is a favorite, as is other types of canned beans. Chana Masala with canned chickpeas. Sauteed spinach with garlic, a can of fire roasted tomatoes and cannelinni beans. Veggie lasagna, garden burgers, veggie chili with lots of types of beans and soy crumbles, refried and black bean soup. Omelettes, even, with things like spinach, goat cheese, mushrooms. Frozen cheese pizza with our own sauteed spinach and mushrooms added to the top.

    The list goes on! I am all about easy and quick, but healthy, and it is so easy to do that. We don’t miss out on meat at all, and we certainly don’t miss out on flavorful and yummy food to eat!

  8. Carol on March 6, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    A nice big bowl of cereal 🙂 Or peanut butter and jelly. Ok, so that really isn’t a good dinner for the kids, but it was my favorites before kids. Now, we love french toast, spaghetti and sauce, lasagna, and potato pancakes. We probably eat meatless one or two times a week for dinner.

  9. N. & J. on March 6, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    My fiance and I just started having a meatless meals and started by making a lentil loaf. While not quite anything like meatloaf it was still really good! You can check out the recipe here


  10. Heather on March 6, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Mrs.W I understand, I am supposed to avoid soy, which is why always overlook TVP. I know it’s a fantastic alternative, I just haven’t had much experience working with it, since it is not included in our menu. (Eventually I will have a guest poster cover some recipes for TVP)

  11. malia on March 6, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Beans and cornbread. (+rice because my daughter insists that she doesn’t like cornbread!)

    Baked potatoes. Though, it’s nice to have crumbled bacon on those, but if I’m already buying bacon for another meal, then it kinda doesn’t count as a “meat” in the meal planning sense. Or at least that’s what I tell myself!

  12. Mrs.W on March 6, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Because I have certain dietary restrictions, meatless meals have to be creative and low-carb. I like barley risotto using veg (or chicken) broth, no meat, just veg added. I limit pasta, but love to eat spaghetti squash, chick peas or other veg as pasta-replacers along with marinara or other veggie sauces. Quinoa is another favorite to load with veggies… hey, I bet that would be good as a mock fried rice! Yum!

  13. ricepuddin on March 6, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    My family loves Quesadillas! Of course we all like different stuff…cheese, beans, onions. And, for those nights that aren’t meat-free they’re a great way to use left over chicken, shrimp or beef . Super fast, super easy and super good!

  14. Amy on March 6, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    We do pancakes or waffles one night a week. While not meatless, our pizza night each week does help save us some money as well as putting meat in the dishes that really stretch…like casseroles 🙂

  15. Anita on March 6, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Meatless homemade Vegetable soup with grilled cheese sandwiches is a favorite at my house. I have a large zip loc bag in the freezer, and every night I add any leftover veggies to it. So when I make soup it’s almost free.

  16. sherry on March 6, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    If it weren’t for dh, I’d go meatless about 3 times per week! As it is, I’m trying hard to keep him happy while having one night per week without his beloved meat.

    This week we are doing a black bean soup!


  17. Diana on March 6, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Barbecue tofu! My husband is allergic to poultry, and while I’m sure he’d love to eat steak 5 days a week, we can’t afford it, and it’s not healthy. Marinating the tofu in barbecue sauce and frying it make it taste just like chicken.

  18. Dan on March 6, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Three words: Textured Vegetable Protein, better known as TVP. It’s a form of soy flour that you soak in water, bulking it up about three or four times its dry volume. Standard rehydrated TVP has the consistency of crumbled browned ground beef, and you can use it as a ground beef replacement in meals like chili, spaghetti sauce, etc. TVP has a nice texture, and like most soy products, no real flavor of its own. So you have to cook with that in mind: It will pick up the flavor around it, but you have to put the flavor IN.

    There’s another form of TVP that comes in cubes, so you can rehydrate that and use it in stews, etc. It’s not nearly as useful.

    Anyway, I think it’s less than $1.50 per pound, and you buy it in bulk. Store it in an airtight jar in your pantry and it will last basically forever (in my experience, anyway).