The cost of food has been rising scarily fast lately - along with the cost of, well, pretty much everything else (feels like it would be cheaper to fill my car with champagne at this point). So these cheap vegetarian meals are needed now more than ever!
These budget-friendly recipes are light on cost, but still heavy on flavour and enjoyment. They'll leave you feeling full and satisfied - so you can stretch your finances as far as possible, without having to make too many unwelcome compromises.
When you imagine what eating cheaply looks like, you might picture a lot of bowls of plain rice or dry pasta - but that's no good for anyone. Enjoyment of food is still important, even on a tight budget!
Luckily, as long as you plan things carefully, it's totally possible to make a satisfying vegetarian meal without breaking the bank. Here's how!
❤️ Why You'll Love These Recipes
If you're trying to make the most of what you've got in your store cupboard, these cheap vegetarian meals are sure to help you out.
These recipes are:
- super straightforward and easy to make, just like everything I cook
- full of flavour, so you don't have to feel like you're missing out
- seriously affordable, coming in at less than £1 / $1 per serving!
💰 Why is it Difficult to Calculate Meal Cost?
For the recipes listed below, I've calculated some rough costs using current ingredient prices from my own local supermarket (and have displayed these costs in British pounds and in US dollars) - but these prices are intended as a guide only. Your own costs may vary from those listed.
It's actually pretty tricky to work out an accurate cost for a meal, for a few reasons:
- Prices of ingredients can differ a surprisingly large amount depending on where the world you live. In the UK, for example, avocados are a fairly expensive fruit, whereas in certain parts of the world, they're an everyday essential.
- The cost of a recipe will also depend on how well-stocked your pantry already is. For example, if you already have a range of spices in the cupboard, it costs just pennies for a spoonful of each - but if you need to stock your cupboards from scratch, these costs can add up.
- If you can afford to buy in bulk (e.g. huge bags of rice or pasta), this is usually cheaper in the long run than buying in smaller quantities. However, this requires you to have the funds to buy ingredients upfront.
So please take the prices listed here as a rough guide only!
🍛 Budget-Friendly Vegetarian Recipes
Here are 11 cheap vegetarian recipes to inspire you! Starting with one of my all-time favourites...
Tarka Dal (Red Lentil Curry)
💵 Approximate cost: £0.43 ($0.50) per serving
If you already have a well-stocked spice cupboard, this easy lentil curry will cost just pennies to make! And if not, try using a pre-blended spice mix like garam masala, rather than buying spices individually, to keep costs down.
Serve it with rice for a dinner that's cheap, but still nutritious and filling - not to mention absolutely delicious!
Cheesy Lentil Pasta
💵 Approximate cost: £0.61 ($0.72) per serving
The humble lentil, to the rescue again! Together with some pasta and frozen vegetables, they make for a super hearty meal, with plenty of goodness.
The frozen veggies help to make this recipe really affordable, as well as reducing food waste. Most of the cost for this one actually comes from the cheese, so you could really easily reduce the quantity to keep costs down.
Honey Roasted Parsnip Soup
💵 Approximate cost: £0.38 ($0.44) per bowl
Homemade vegetable soup is always going to be a budget-friendly choice for dinner, as it's an easy way to stretch a few simple veg into a full meal. I love adding a handful of red lentils to most of my homemade soups, as it makes them really hearty and extra nutritious.
You can choose to use whatever vegetables you can find cheaply (even frozen veg!), but I love this honey roasted parsnip soup, which packs a lot of flavour into every bowlful.
If you only have stale bread for dipping, toast it lightly and spread it with a little butter - good as new!
💵 Approximate cost: £0.09 ($0.11) per flatbread
Homemade flatbreads are seriously cheap to make - less than half the cost of similar shop-bought ones! - and they make for a really delicious lunch. Plus, these Italian-style piadina don't need any yeast, so they're pretty much idiot-proof.
Of course, your fillings aren't included in this cost, so make sure you budget a bit more for whatever you choose to wrap up inside! The budget-friendly roasted chickpeas I've shared below would be a great option!
Cheesy Baked Tomato Rice
💵 Approximate cost: £0.50 ($0.59) per serving
I'd usually serve this baked tomato rice as a side dish, but there's no reason you couldn't upgrade it to be the star of your meal, with a few tweaks!
Try adding some tinned kidney beans, which are super cheap (33p at my local shop!) - this will add some extra protein to the rice, and upgrade it to main dish status.
Carrot and Cheddar Bites
💵 Approximate cost: £0.44 ($0.52) for 5 balls
If you're looking for an alternative lunchbox filling, these carrot and cheddar bites are a great way to use up the last carrot lingering in the fridge and the last couple of slices of stale bread.
But despite their humble ingredients, these little nibbles are far tastier than they have any right to be! These are one of my favourite affordable party food recipes (kids love them!).
Lemon and Black Pepper Chickpeas
💵 Approximate cost: £0.52 ($0.61) per serving
Not only are these lemon and black pepper chickpeas cheap to make, they're also tingling with flavour, and can be whipped up in just 10 minutes!
Tomato and Mascarpone Pasta
💵 Approximate cost: £0.79 ($0.93) per serving
This creamy tomato sauce has always been one of my favourite things to serve on pasta (it's brilliant in pasta bake too), and the fact that it's cheap to make is just the icing on the cake.
To take an extra chunk off the cost, you can even swap the mascarpone cheese for regular cream cheese. It tastes ever-so-slightly less luxurious, but could be a worthwhile change if your finances are really stretched.
💵 Approximate cost: £0.65 ($0.76) per serving
If you're looking for a comforting dinner that will fill you up cheaply, you can't do much better than a vegetarian moussaka!
Made with budget-friendly ingredients like lentils and potatoes, moussaka is a hearty dinner recipe that will leave you feeling totally satisfied.
Cheesy Veggie Fritters
💵 Approximate cost: £0.70 ($0.82) per serving (4 fritters per serving)
Vegetarian fritters are a fantastic budget meal, as you can use whatever vegetables you have in the house - there's rarely a need to buy anything new! Even frozen vegetables can work well, which cuts down on prep time as well as cost.
In this version, I used courgette (zucchini), sweetcorn and peppers, but if I'd been consciously trying, I could have opted for cheaper veg.
Creamy Vegetable Bake
💵 Approximate cost: £0.65 ($0.76) per serving
This creamy veggie bake was never designed to be particularly cheap, but if you choose the right vegetables, it can be seriously affordable!
Try using frozen vegetable mixes to bring a nice variety to the dish, without needing to buy lots of different veggies individually. You can also add an extra tin of white beans, to make the dish more filling.
🧾 Top Tips for Saving Money in the Kitchen
- Frozen vegetables are a great way to save money, as you can buy bags of vegetable mixes for far cheaper than you could buy each vegetable individually. They also help to reduce food waste, as you can just take what you need, and put the rest back in the freezer. No more old vegetables going limp in the fridge!
- Pulses like lentils and chickpeas are super budget-friendly forms of vegetarian protein. Tinned versions are the most convenient, but you can save even more money by buying them dried, and boiling them up yourself. This is especially easy to do with red lentils, which can be cooked from dried in about 15 minutes! Find out how to cook dried lentils here.
- Cheese can be expensive, so although it's a great way to add flavour to your cooking, use it sparingly! Opt for cheeses with stronger flavours (such as blue cheese or a mature cheddar), which can make a big impact in smaller quantities.
- If you have the financial means, cooking in bulk is always going to be the most cost-effective way to prepare your food. This means cooking larger quantities of food in one go, and either eating the leftovers the next day, or freezing them to use up later.