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5 Healthy Vegetarian Meals on a Budget

Vegetarian meals can be just as hearty and delicious as meals that include meat.
Vegetarian meals can be just as hearty and delicious as meals that include meat.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

People become vegetarians for all sorts of reasons, whether it's a love for animals, a general interest in eating healthier or a desire to help the environment. The American Dietetic Association says that, compared to meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans overall have lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure and are less likely to die of heart disease and cancer. They also live six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters.

But there's another benefit of vegetarianism. Your bank account will also get a little healthier if you stop buying meat. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fresh fruit costs 71 cents per pound, and fresh vegetables are 64 cents a pound. Compare that to an average of $4.15 for a pound of beef and $2.93 for a pound of pork, and it's easy to see how going meatless could save you a fair amount of cash. Things start getting pricey -- and sodium-heavy-- for vegetarians when they rely too much on prepackaged meat substitutes, so it's best to stick to the basics when cooking vegetarian.

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So, with both your health and your wallet in mind, here are five cheap, healthy (and easy!) vegetarian meals to get you started. We promise you won't miss the meat.

You'll never miss the meat in this yummy burrito!
You'll never miss the meat in this yummy burrito!
©iStockphoto.com/Burwell and Burwell Photography

Vegetarian kitchens are usually stocked with protein-rich (and cheap) beans. Burritos are one of the easiest and tastiest ways to incorporate beans into a meal, and you can make them as simple or elaborate as you'd like. Use pinto, kidney, black or any other bean you like -- or even a combination of them. Peppers and onions are the obvious choices for veggie accompaniment, but squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes and spinach are unexpected yet tasty additions to the mix. Throw in some salsa, rice and cheese, wrap it all up in a tortilla and you've got a hearty Tex-Mex meal!

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There's virtually no cooking involved with this one. Just boil some noodles (try Japanese soba noodles or even linguine or spaghetti) and then top with a sauce of sesame oil, peanut butter, honey, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Add some chopped cucumbers and scallions on top, and you can throw in some tofu or soybeans if you want to increase the protein in the dish. Here's another recipe for a similar cold noodle dish.

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Try rye, pumpernickel or sourdough bread to give your sandwich a tasty twist.
Try rye, pumpernickel or sourdough bread to give your sandwich a tasty twist.
Hemera/Thinkstock

There are infinite combinations of veggie soups and sandwiches out there, but you can't go wrong with the classic grilled cheese and tomato soup. And we're not talking about condensed soup in a can and a loaf of white bread with presliced cheese -- it's much healthier if you make them yourself.

Homemade tomato soup is a cinch to make: Simply roast some tomatoes and garlic in the oven, blend it in a food processor, add some basil and vegetable stock or water and then simmer it for about 20 minutes.

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For a tasty twist on the sandwich, top slices of crusty bread with a good-quality cheddar (or any other cheese you prefer) and broil them in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts. Spoon the soup into mugs and serve with the cheesy bread on top.

Small portobellos are also known as cremini mushrooms.
Small portobellos are also known as cremini mushrooms.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Lasagna -- along with plenty of other Italian dishes -- is always a great vegetarian dinner option, but it can be labor-intensive. Topping portobello mushrooms with a mixture of spinach and ricotta and Parmesan cheeses is a whole lot easier than making lasagna, and the mushrooms provide extra protein and fiber. Portobellos also have a hearty texture, making them a favorite among vegetarians who eat them as a substitute for meat. You can add whatever additional ingredients you like to this basic stuffed mushroom recipe.

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Meat-eaters claim that chili isn't chili without ground beef, but vegetarians know otherwise. Vegetarian chili can be just as flavor-packed and filling as the carnivore versions -- and they're cheaper to make without the meat. A great chili starts with a hearty flavor base of onions, bell peppers, garlic and tomatoes, then add in beans, other vegetables and whatever seasonings you like. Once you've found your go-to chili recipe, you can adjust it based on what you have in the pantry or what's on sale at the store, making it even more budget-friendly.

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UP NEXT

Throw It In a Salad! 5 Salad Recipes That Save You Money

Throw It In a Salad! 5 Salad Recipes That Save You Money

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Sources

  • Andrejczak, Matt. "Meat Prices Seen Going Even Higher." Marketwatch, April 25, 2011. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/meat-prices-seen-going-even-higher-2011-04-25
  • Dunn, Collin. "Save More Money by Eating More Veggies." Planet Green, Nov. 30, 2007. (Oct. 27, 2011) http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/save-money-by-eating-more-vegg.html
  • Eating Well. "Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Portobellos." March/April 2009. (Oct. 25, 2011) http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/cheese_spinach_stuffed_portobellos.html
  • Mark Bittman. "Cold Noodles with Sesame or Peanut Sauce." April 1, 2011. (Oct. 25, 2011) http://markbittman.com/cold-noodles-with-peanut-or-sesame-sauce
  • Mayo Clinic. "Vegetarian Diet: How to Get the Best Nutrition." June 10, 2010. (Oct. 25, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vegetarian-diet/HQ01596
  • PETA. "Eating for Your Health." (Oct. 27, 2011) http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/eating-for-health.aspx
  • Rossiter, Kelly. "7 Cheap and easy Vegetarian Meals." Treehugger, Oct. 30, 2008. (Oct. 25, 2011) http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/10/cheap-easy-vegetarian-meals-recipes.php
  • Smitten Kitchen. "Roasted tomato soup with broiled cheddar." Sept. 20, 2011. (Oct. 25, 2011) http://smittenkitchen.com/2011/09/roasted-tomato-soup-with-broiled-cheddar/
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture. "How Expensive are Fruits and Vegetables?" (Oct. 27, 2011) http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/aib790/aib790d.pdf
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Meat Price Spreads." (Oct. 27, 2011) http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/MeatPriceSpreads/

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