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How to Make a Week's Worth of Vegan Lunches and Dinners for $20

Spoon University logo Spoon University 10/2/2017 Shyanne Symons

Veganism is often associated with one word: expensive. From organic veggies to pricey meat replacements, eating vegan can definitely be a stressor on the wallet. While this (sometimes) may be true, it's so easy to eat plant-based for a low cost when you stretch your ingredients and use each one to its fullest potential. To prove this, I challenged myself to create a vegan grocery list with just 20 dollars.

Seems impossible, right? WRONG. I was able to come up with 12 delicious, nutritious, and satisfying meals that were not only super cost efficient, but time conscious as well. If you're anything like me, you roll out of bed 15 minutes before your 8 a.m. and snag a granola bar on the way out for breakfast. Therefore, I didn't leave room for vegan breakfasts in my budget. If you start your day in the kitchen, these awesome high-protein vegan breakfasts are inexpensive ways to plan ahead and please any plant-based morning person.

The Vegan Grocery List

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-Black Beans (canned): $0.85 (Opt for low-sodium)

-Chickpeas (canned): $0.85 (Opt for low-sodium)

-3-4 sweet potatoes: $1.51

-Spinach: $3.20

-1 red bell pepper: $1.67

-1 package mushrooms: $2.29

-1 can corn: $0.69

-1 jar salsa: $2.00

-1 package corn tortillas: $1.19

-1 small bag rice: $1.99

-1 small bag lentils: $1.29

-1 box pasta: $1.59

-1 jar marinara sauce: $1.67

TOTAL: $20.79

#SpoonTip: Items such as salt, pepper, oil, and flour were not included since most people already have them on hand.

DAY 1

Black Bean Tostada ($0.76 per serving)

vegan © Shyanne Symons vegan

This requires so few ingredients and less than five minutes of your time. Simply toast your tortilla (in a dry skillet or pop it in the oven for a minute), top it with a smear of mashed black beans, some salsa, and greens! This tostada definitely gives Taco Bell a run for its money.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi ($1.47 per serving)

vegan © Shyanne Symons vegan

I won't lie: I was a little nervous about whipping these bad boys up. The word "gnocchi" itself is intimidating AF and I didn't know if I had it in me, but I tried it and I am so glad I did. Simply poke a few holes in your sweet potato with a fork (carefully!) and place it in the microwave wrapped with a damp paper towel for about seven minutes (around eight if your tater is on the larger side). Let it cool until it's ready to handle, and scoop out the deliciousness into a bowl.

Mash the potato finely with a fork until it's begging for mercy (or until it's smooth), and gradually add 1/4 cup flour along with a teaspoon of salt. Once a dough ball forms, split it into two, and roll out each section into a long tube. Cut off 1/2-inch sections and let them cool completely. Bring a pot of water to a boil, season it with some salt, and dunk these little guys in for about 2 to 3 minutes. You'll know they're ready when they float to the top.

Transfer it to a sauce pan locked and loaded with your sauce of choice, and pop it onto a plate! It's so dang good; I was at a loss for words.

#SpoonTip: Wilt down some greens and add them to your sauce for a nutritional boost.

DAY 2

Grilled Veggie Pasta ($2.59 per serving)

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Pasta is a vegan staple that should not be underestimated. Easily spice up a basic recipe by grilling up some vegetables and add them to your sauce. I sautéed red bell pepper, mushrooms, corn, and greens, then finished it all off by combining this delicious combo with my sauce. Opt for any noodles you'd like (I used gluten-free penne, but the choice is yours). To spare yourself a little oil intake (and even a few bucks), use water to cook your veggies. It is just as delicious, and it gives the same result.

Stuffed Sweet Potato ($0.69 per serving)

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This is, by far, one of the easiest and most satisfying meals I have made. Pop the potato in the microwave, slit it down the middle, and stuff it with whatever your heart desires. Within my budget, I used black beans and salsa. It was oh-so yummy, and a quick bite to make when you're in a hurry.

DAY 3

Roasted Vegetable "Buddha" Bowl ($1.80 per serving)

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If you're up-to-date on all the foodie trends, you'll know that Buddha bowls are taking stomachs around the world by storm. It's a customizable bowl containing some sort of grain, greens, veggies, and a sauce to top it all off. I roasted off some red bell pepper, chickpeas (the way to my heart, TBH), and sweet potatoes, and put them on top of brown rice and a bed of spinach. My "sauce" was salsa, but if your budget permits, go ahead and use any type of dressing you'd like. This is an awesome meal for those vegans focusing on a macro-based lifestyle through fitness and food.

Black Bean and Mushroom Fajitas ($1.19 per serving)

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My life is a constant battle between wanting Mexican food 24/7 and having to settle for something not crave-worthy. This meal really proved that you don't need that queso to be loco about comida Méxicana! Simply sauté some sliced mushrooms with salt and pep, and add in black beans and corn at the end. Pile the mixture high in some corn tortillas and top 'em with salsa and greens. Talk about a fiesta!

DAY 4

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Hash ($1.33 per serving)

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I'm using the term "hash" loosely here, but no one cares about the name when it's this good. Chop up some sweet potato, sauté 'em up for a hot sec, throw in your black beans and corn, and season it with good ol' salsa. I put mine on a bed of greens, but you could top off some brown rice with this delicious mixture and cut down the price!

Chickpea and Black Bean Salad ($1.02 per serving)

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For the times you don't feel like cooking, this chickpea and black bean salad is for you. Straight forward, refreshing, and light, for this meal all you need to do is toss some chickpeas and black beans together with salt and pepper. Totally optional, but I added in some liquid aminos to mine. This is a great way to add a savory taste along with a nutritional boost. I seriously recommend this (#NotSponsed) if you're looking for an easy way to add great flavor to practically anything. For a protein punch, opt for this salad full of goodness.

DAY 5

Lentil Bolognese ($0.76 per serving)

vegan © Shyanne Symons vegan

How can I get through a week without at least two meals containing pasta? The answer: I cannot. Sometimes I feel like my pasta can lack a little pizzaz, and veggies just don't exactly fill the void. That's when I turn to my secret weapon: lentils. These powerhouses of protein pack a plethora of positive perks (say that five times fast) and are the PERFECT substitute for meaty meals. They are on the more time consuming side, taking about 20 minutes to fully cook, so I boil up a big batch and keep it in my fridge for the week, using them whenever I'm craving it.

My favorite thing to do is throw it into some marinara sauce, and top my pasta with it. I mash them up a little bit to give it a more "ground beef-y" texture. If you don't make any other recipe from this article, make sure you cook this bad boy up. SERIOUSLY. SO. GOOD.

Chickpea Stir Fry ($1.14 per serving)

vegan © Shyanne Symons vegan

Towards the end of the week when I have a fridge full of perishables, my go-to meal is a stir fry. A combination of pretty much all vegetables on top of delish brown rice makes the tummy happy. Ensuring I get some needed protein, I threw some chickpeas in, making it a seriously well-rounded meal.

DAY 6

Rice and Lentil Bowl ($0.82 per serving) 

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As the temps get cooler, I start to crave something with a little more substance. The addition of lentils provide a bit more bulk than your standard rice bowl. Again, I'm using liquid aminos to flavor the rice and lentil mixture and add another element of flavor, but feel free to use any dressing that can fit within your budget!

Corn and Lentil Taquitos ($0.75 per serving) 

vegan © Shyanne Symons vegan

I finished this week with a bang from my favorite cuisine: Mexican. Adapted from these delish black bean and cauliflower taquitos, I decided to use my leftover lentils and corn to make a just-as-good version. I mashed my lentils, added in some whole ones for texture, and mixed in corn and a touch of salsa for some flavor. The rest is super easy: Just fill your tortillas with the mix, wrap 'em up, and put them on a baking sheet to bake at 325ºF for 20 minutes.

Since the corn tortillas can be a little finicky to mess with and tend to break, microwave each one for about 10 seconds before filling. Tedious, I know, but it makes for an easier process. Please, try these. You won't regret it.

#SpoonTip: Want to save some tortillas for dinner next week? These freeze fantastically, so throw them into a Ziplock bag, toss it in the freezer, and have a taquito party for up to a month.

There you have it! 12 meals. 6 days. $20. Herbivores and carnivores alike will all love these stupidly simple, ridiculously delicious recipes. With this vegan grocery list, you're able to create so many flavorful meals throughout the week.

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