On a vegan meal plan, foods that are off-limits include fish, dairy, eggs, honey and anything derived from animal fats such as gelatin. Many people believe that consuming a diet free of meat or dairy products comes with a steep price tag. Contrary to what many believe, however, it is possible to follow a vegan diet on a budget with proper planning.
One of the most important factors to creating a healthy vegan meal plan on a budget is planning. Waiting until the last minute to decide what to eat can cause a headache and rack up costs. Spend one to two hours each week writing down your daily meal ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Next, go through your refrigerator and pantry and determine what ingredients you are missing and compile a grocery list. When possible, purchase your fresh produce at a farmers market in your area, as both nonorganic and organic farmers market products are considerably cheaper than their grocery store counterparts.
A Healthy Breakfast
It's often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is no different on a vegan meal plan. Complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats are all components of a healthy breakfast. Examples of affordable vegan breakfasts include cereal served with almond/or soy milk; steel cut oatmeal topped with fresh fruit and served with a glass of almond/or soy milk; and tofu scrambled with chopped vegetables and served with a side of whole wheat toast. If you are in a hurry, a piece of toast with 2 tablespoons of a nut butter will do the trick. One additional way to save money is to repeat the same breakfast for the entire week, then switch it up the next week.
Lunch on a budget vegan meal plan can be simple. Have a baked sweet potato and top it with 1/2 cup of black beans, a small chopped tomato, 1 tablespoon of cilantro and 1 clove of minced garlic. This ranchero-style sweet potato will keep you full and costs less than $2 per serving. If the sweet potato isn't enough, serve with a hearty side salad (topped with 1 tablespoon of oil and a squeeze of lemon). Another cheap vegan lunch idea is buying -- or making -- one week's worth of black bean veggie burgers. Buy a package of whole wheat buns from the grocery store. Top burgers with slices of tomatoes, lettuce and onions.
For dinner, saute an 8-ounce can of red beans with one-quarter of a chopped onion and one-quarter of a chopped bell pepper. To thicken beans, add one 4-ounce can of tomato sauce or paste. Season with oregano and garlic powder for flavor. (This usually makes three servings.) Serve beans over cooked brown rice with a side of roasted cauliflower or broccoli. Tacos are another vegan dinner option on a budget. Most grocery stores sell a stack of 20 corn tortillas for about $1, as of 2013. Heat tortillas in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for a few minutes, then add black beans, spinach, tomatoes and green onions.