How to Eat Cheap by Eating Vegan

October 29, 2014

Cooking on the cheap shouldn't mean minute rice and buttered pasta every night. With a little creativity and a little planning, Gabriella Paiella shows us how to make the most of a tight budget -- without sacrificing flavor or variety. 

Today: Keep costs down by ditching the meat and dairy, even if just temporarily.

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It was recently reported that Usher quit his vegan diet because he discovered that flying around a vegan personal chef to prepare all his meals was costing him too much money. (Usher, if you read this column: No shit. But I hope you fired your chef by serenading him with "Burn.") 

Veganism, more than any other way of eating, has garnered the reputation of being solely for those rolling in disposable income. I blame the $9 pints of vegan ice cream and the green juices. I blame the pre-made kale chips that cost as much as five bunches of kale. I blame Usher. 

More: Save the $9 and make vegan ice cream at home.

As a rule of thumb, I eat entirely vegan during the work week. This has allowed me to keep my food costs down without ever having to overthink it. If I'm not blowing my budget on cheese or charcuterie I have plenty leftover -- not for $9 green juices, but for $9 wine (hey, you knew what you were getting into here). 

Whether you want to save cash or are thinking about trying to abstain from animal products, here are some simple, cheap vegan dinners to get you started:

For pizza night, or every night: Asparagus and Arugula Pizza with Vegan Pesto


When you want a warm bowl of weeknight pasta: Pasta e Ceci (Make sure to use dried pasta, as fresh often contains eggs) 


For the nights you're craving takeout, but broke: Citrus Ginger Tofu Salad with Buckwheat Soba Noodles


If you desperately need something to pair with a cold one after work: Vegetarian Arepas with Avocado and Plantains


When you want something that's meaty, but not meat: Tempeh Kebabs with Homemade Barbecue Sauce


For when the weather starts to cool down and you want something that sticks to your ribs, stat: Stewed Cranberry Beans with Kale


Because you know that sandwiches always make for a good dinner: Tempeh and Hummus Sandwiches


Do you have any go-to weeknight recipes that are vegan friendly? Tell us in the comments!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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1 Comment

Kim November 5, 2015
Gabriella, this is a great article, thank you!

I've been a strict vegetarian with vegan aspirations for about 27 years, but I've been spending a fortune on delivery meals because my work schedule is insane and it's just too @#%& easy to click and order here in NYC.

Your ideas are inspiring in their delicious simplicity--I'll send you a progress report down the road!