Frugal Vegetarian Meals

by Leigh Good

    Cooking a vegetarian meal once in a while or following a vegetarian diet is an effective way to reduce your family's food budget. Beef typically costs three or four dollars per pound, while you can buy a pound of dried beans and a fresh vegetable for less than a dollar. Choose filling, flavorful vegetarian dishes to help keep your family on a healthy and affordable diet.

    Soups and Stews

    Create your own economical vegetarian soup by combining vegetable stock with fresh, seasonal vegetables. Serve the soup with homemade cornbread for a filling and frugal vegetarian supper. Add spices and beans to the soup to make a vegetarian chili. Create an elegant chilled soup by simmering potatoes or butternut squash in vegetable broth. Puree the mixture, add creamy peppercorn ranch dressing and chill. Blend cooked white beans with salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Add vegetable stock until the beans reach a soup consistency and warm gently. Top the soup with crunch salad crispins. Add a green side salad tossed with garden vegetable ranch dressing.

    Pasta

    Dried pasta is affordable, easy to cook and pleasing to picky children. Toss cooked pasta with a jar of meatless spaghetti sauce and chopped summer squash. Add shredded cheese for extra protein and top with crushed croutons. Pour beaten eggs scrambled with a few tablespoons of cheesy ranch dressing over leftover pasta and cook in a saute pan to make a frugal vegetarian frittata. Layer precooked lasagna noodles with cheese and fresh spinach or eggplant slices in a baking pan. Make your own economical sauce by blending diced tomatoes with a package of seasoning mix. Serve pasta dishes warm alongside green salad dressed with your family's favorite creamy salad dressing for a cheap and easy meat-free meal.

    Stir-Fry

    Stir-frys are a vegetarian standard, but they make an economical meal loaded with fresh vegetables. A sweet sauce makes them appealing to kids. Stir-fry snow peas, shredded carrots and bean sprouts, or use whatever vegetables are in season. Add cubed or diced tofu for a protein punch. Hold the salt by making your own sauce with honey, ginger, corn starch, a dash of cayenne and red wine or water. Serve the stir-fry warm over hot rice. A crisp cucumber salad made from sliced cukes and red onion dressed with Caesar dressing is a cool accompaniment.

    Main Course Salads

    A large, hearty salad full of satisfying fresh vegetables is a quick and tasty vegetarian meal that won't break the bank. Your family probably has favorite salad add-ins -- consulting with them on ingredients increases the odds they'll enjoy the dish. Add adult elements like black olives, feta or beans you've pickled yourself in vinegar and sugar if your kids won't turn up their noses at them. Hard boiled eggs and shredded cheese add protein. Choose a salad dressing with a lot of flavor, like creamy bleu cheese. Serve the salad with homemade bread or rolls. If you're not a baker, or short on time, pick up an loaf of Italian bread at the supermarket, slice it open and warm it in the oven topped with sliced tomatoes.

    About the Author

    Leigh Good has been writing for magazines and newspapers for more than 10 years. Her work has been published in numerous print and online publications. Good has a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Georgia State University.

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