15 Homemade Vegan Meals Under $4

VEGAN DELIGHTS

media:text>With heightened awareness about obesity and weight-related illness and the sourcing and production of animal products for human use, veganism is attracting a growing horde of adherents. Being vegan means eliminating all animal products from your diet and lifestyle. And with so many alternatives to forbidden foods like milk, bacon, and eggs, it's possible to be vegan without feeling deprived. The problem: Meat and dairy substitutes can be quite costly. Cheapism.com pulled together 15 meal ideas that make veganism easy, tasty and incredibly cost effective.

APPLE CINNAMON OATMEAL: $1.75/SERVING

This fiber-packed breakfast is tasty and filling, and plenty to keep you brimming with energy for hours into the day. Cook half a cup of steel cut oats (50 cents) in as much almond or other nondairy milk (25 cents); stir in a chopped apple and a touch of cinnamon and sugar ($1). For less than $2, you can enjoy a completely vegan and delicious morning wake-up.

AVOCADO TOAST: $2/SERVING

For those who prefer a savory breakfast, avocado toast is an excellent way to load up on whole grains and heart-healthy fats. Toast two slices of whole grain bread (25 cents), top with a sliced avocado ($1.25) and tomato (50 cents), and sprinkle with salt and, if you like spicy, a dash of chili powder. The creamy richness of the avocado replaces butter for a healthier and more colorful meal.

BANANA BREAD: $2.60/LOAF

A hit at any time of day, banana bread is a particularly sweet match for a morning cup o' Joe. Using three old and overripe bananas (75 cents) ensures that this homemade quick bread comes out soft and moist without the help of butter. There are plenty of recipes online, or use your favorite and omit the eggs, replace butter with oil, and use nondairy milk instead of regular milk. A few cups of flour (50 cents), sugar and cinnamon (35 cents), oil (50 cents), baking powder, and almond milk (50 cents) yield a loaf that's large enough to share.

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY: 85 cents/SANDWICH

This nostalgic favorite is one of those recipes that is perfect and vegan just the way it is. Layer up one slice of whole grain bread (12.5 cents) with your favorite natural peanut butter (40 cents), another with fruit jam or jelly (20 cents), and marry them together. This sandwich is so inexpensive you could indulge in two.

BERRY PANCAKES: $2.95/BATCH

Turn pancakes into a vegan delight by cutting out the butter, a gambit that lowers the cost and the cholesterol in this classic American breakfast. Combine flour (25 cents), baking powder, salt, and sugar (20 cents); and add oil and nondairy milk (50 cents) and a handful of your favorite frozen berries ($2) for deliciously fluffy vegan pancakes.
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TAMALES: $1.86/SERVING

These Latin American treats can be time consuming to prepare but are so worth the effort. Nixtamalized corn traditionally is mixed with pork lard, salt, and broth to make a dough, or masa, which is then steamed inside corn husks or banana leaves. Substituting vegetable oils for the lard and using a filling of sauteed onions, chilis, and tomatoes make a tasty vegan tamale. One batch requires about $1 of the specialty ground corn, $4 of vegetables, 40 cents of oil/fat, 75 cents of broth, and $1 of fresh coriander plus a few dashes of dried thyme and oregano, and $4 of corn husks. The total cost comes to $11.25, but you've got enough for 12 people.

VEGETABLE STIR FRY: $2.70/SERVING

Pan-Asian cuisine is a great place to sneak in a vegan meal, even for omnivores. Load up a hot pan with onion and garlic (25 cents), broccoli (90 cents), celery (25 cents), a handful of frozen corn kernels and peas (50 cents), and a little soy sauce and sriracha (20 cents), and serve over a bowl of soft rice noodles (60 cents). This is one filling meal. Tip: Cut the cost by using leftover veggies or buying whatever is on sale at the market.

CHICKPEA 'TUNA' SALAD: $1.05-$2.05/SERVING

This vegan favorite satisfies cravings for the classic tuna sandwich. Start with half a cup of cooked chickpeas (25 cents) and add your favorite tuna salad ingredients, such as chopped onion and celery (20 cents), pickle (15 cents), and eggless mayo and mustard (20 cents), and pile onto toasted bread of your choice (25 cents) or atop mixed greens ($1). This salad keeps well in the refrigerator for several days as the flavors meld even more.

STUFFED PEPPER: $2.75/SERVING

A hearty meal in and of itself, this nutrient-dense dish is a classic that you can adjust with seasonings to your liking. Start by coring a large bell pepper ($1.50), then fill with precooked rice and beans (25 cents) and sauteed onion, tomato, and chili peppers ($1). Spice things up with a hit of smoked paprika and ground cumin for a rich and earthy flavor. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

TOFU CLUB SANDWICH: $2.75/SANDWICH

A good club sandwich is an American standby, and there's no reason vegans can't partake. Spread vegan mayo over two slices of toasted bread (55 cents) and layer on lettuce and tomato (75 cents), veggie bacon (45 cents), and thinly cut smoked tofu ($1). Tip: Flash saute the tofu slices in a hot pan for extra flavor, although it satisfies even if left in its original state.

TVP BURRITOS: $2.70/SERVING

Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a low-cost soy-based food. Adding TVP to ground meat means more for all, or use it to replace ground meat entirely. Once the seasonings are added, it's hard to tell the difference between TVP and meat. For a faux meat-filled burrito, add the usual flavorings to a half cup of TVP (50 cents), roll up in a lard-free flour tortilla (30 cents) along with rice and beans (25 cents), lettuce, tomato, and jalapeno (85 cents), and top with vegan sour cream (45 cents) and salsa (35 cents).
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POZOLE: $3.31/SERVING

This heart-warming, money-saving staple is basically the chicken soup equivalent in Latin American comfort food. To make four servings, add a can of hominy ($1.25), chopped onion, jalapeno, and tomatillos ($5), and salt and oregano to a slow cooker; cover with water and let simmer until the flavors blend and the broth thickens. Serve with crispy tostadas ($3.50), minced onion ($1 cents) and avocado ($2.50).

ROASTED VEGETABLE COUSCOUS: $2.85/SERVING

Couscous, which looks like tiny grains of pale yellow rice but is actually pasta, boasts many virtues, one of them being its low price. Couscous nearly triples in size after seeping in boiled water, and one serving of couscous costs about 35 cents. Combined with roasted vegetables such as onion, carrots, and cauliflower ($2.50), and generously spiced with garam masala and salt, couscous with mix-ins makes a flavorful and filling meal.

GREEK SALAD: $4/SERVING

This filling salad is perfect for the warm months. Atop a bed of crunchy romaine hearts ($1), pile on cut-up green bell pepper (75 cents), red onion (25 cents), tomato (50 cents), and a handful of cooked/canned white beans or chickpeas (50 cents); dress generously with red wine vinegar and olive oil (25 cents), salt and oregano. Serve with toasted crusty bread rubbed with fresh garlic (75 cents).

TORTILLA CASSEROLE: $2.83/SERVING

This family favorite is the perfect way to use up leftover corn tortillas. To make four servings, layer salsa ($1.50), corn tortillas ($2), vegetarian refried beans ($2.80), sauteed veggies of your choice ($4), and pickled jalapenos ($1) in a casserole; finish with tortillas and salsa. Bake for 40 minutes in a hot oven.