Cheap Vegetarian Meals and Healthy Dinner Ideas
Like many things in life, preparing and enjoying cheap healthy meals requires just a bit of forethought. Keep your kitchen stocked with staples like canned beans, pasta, brown rice, quinoa, nuts, and frozen veggies. Liven things up with perishables like fresh fruits and veggies from the farmer's market, lean cuts of meat, low-fat dairy, and cheap bags of baking potatoes. And make sure the spice cupboard isn't bare: seasonings are your best friend in healthy cheap recipes because they let you cut the sodium that's often added to boost flavor.
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Another fruitful source is Food.com, where amateur chefs offer their two cents on cheap healthy dinner recipes, some of which are vegetarian. Nutrition labels are provided along with many recipes so you can be sure they're cheap low-calorie and wholesome meals. By way of example, cheap vegetarian tuna salad is something of a misnomer -- it contains no fish -- but is an excellent source of fiber and protein and makes a great cheap healthy meal for summer. It contains chickpeas, which cost less than $1 a can, carrot, celery, pickle relish, onions, mayo, and mustard. It wins five stars from eaters who say it oddly, but pleasantly, tastes a bit like tuna. The bonus: meat-eating family members enjoyed it as well. For folks who do enjoy their meat but crave cheap healthy dinner recipes, crock pot southwestern chicken includes cheap ingredients like black beans, canned corn, and salsa, which together cost less $5. (Tortillas, cheese, and rice are optional.) You can find other recipes on this site in the Healthy tab or Vegetarian side bar and filter your search for your healthy cheap recipes by ingredients or cooking method, such as grilling.
Here's an out-of-the-box suggestion: Check out student websites and forums to find very cheap healthy recipes for your family. If you're looking for really cheap and healthy vegetarian meals, StudentRecipes.com provides a listing of simple meals with ratings and a brief comment. The recipes range from mushroom stroganoff to vegetarian chili to cheese pasties.
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Among the most highly-rated are the ratatouille, which includes peppers, tomatoes, onions, and other veggies; a commenter recommends adding feta to the dish. Tortilla pizza is another hit, requiring only tortilla pieces, pesto, tomato puree, and grated cheese -- a good and quick meal if you're feeding hungry kids.
Our search turned up still more sites jammed with cheap healthy and vegetarian meals. IVillage is another useful site for healthy cheap meal planning. Recipes are organized by main ingredient and vegetable-based recipes play a starring role. But if you do want to incorporate animal products into your healthy cheap meals, there's a forum that includes the question of how to save money when buying meat. The Low-Fat Cooking section of About.com offers ample ideas for cheap healthy recipes that are also meatless and the Simply Recipes site lists cheap low-calorie meals featuring vegetables.
Also check out our blogs posts on vegetarian and vegan cheap healthy meals for more recipe ideas.