6 Ingredients, 5 Budget-Friendly Vegan Meals For Busy Weeks

April 20, 2016

Budget-Friendly Meals
Work weeks are hard. That is one sentence that will never be understated. Most of us are working a minimum of 40 hours a week, and that’s no easy feat. Especially when it comes to staying on top of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and not passing up a delicious night of lunchtime prepping since that take-out from your favorite organic cafe is “way more ” convenient. For one month too many, I fell victim to the latter, telling myself I’m still staying true to eating healthily and can cook on the weekends, yet I began to recognize the impact ordering in was having on my finances. (Read: Not pretty things).

That’s when the realization that change was needed came about, and I decided to incorporate what I coin “mix and match meals” into my busy work days–and trust me, they can get busy as I’m sure we all agree. When it comes to cooking, it’s pretty simple to find a pattern that makes sense. Much like a relationship, it is all about trial and error until you realize what works and what doesn’t. Such findings came about with my top 5 favorite recipes which I gladly share with all of you! They are the following:

1. Red Potatoes and Herbal Quinoa

2. Red Potatoes and multi-colored carrots with vegan cheese on top

3. Brown rice pasta with olive oil/salt and pepper

4. Vegan grilled cheese with mixed peppers

5. Gluten-free bread and meatless meatballs

Why I love them/ What are their benefits?

First and foremost, I love these recipes because they are quick to make and yummy to eat. I usually am able to cook them up the night before work and store them in the refrigerator until the next morning. This is a major perk when I know I’ll be running around like a crazy chick the next morning. The ease of cooking these meals, which usually take twenty minutes or less, is only one perk. There are many health benefits associated with their ingredients which make them the ultimate win-win for your inner chef:

Red Potatoes:

Red Potatoes provide a myriad of health benefits to your body even though they are a carbohydrate, which may make them fall short of the healthy trademark in people’s lexicons. Needless to say, eating these babies will not only increase your energy levels thanks to their starchy, unprocessed goodness but also provide immune support since they contain 45% of our daily Vitamin C intake.

Tempeh (Component of meatless meatballs):

The main component in tempeh is soy, which houses a large source for nutrients from magnesium to calcium. In fact, intaking some form of soybeans can lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Multi-Colored Carrots:

Carrots don’t only have to be orange to be delicious! Each variant of the traditional colored carrot has its own category of health-bolstering nutrients to make you feel energized and help you live longer. For instance, the yellow variety (personal fav) contains high levels of Xanthophylls and Lutein which is connected to cancer risk reduction and increased eye health.

While this just highlights the major meal components and their benefits, all the other ingredients such as olive oil as well as brown rice pasta have some great health benefits as well!

How do I cook them?

You can make all of these meals using the stovetop! I always boil the potatoes and carrots, which generally takes about ten minutes to make them just soft enough to my liking. I then add a little seasoning after the fact (mainly a lemon pepper mix). As for the gluten free grilled “cheese,” peppers, and meatballs, I use a non-stick frying pan and lightly cook on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes. Lastly, the pasta and quinoa are the ones that take a little longer (anywhere from 10-20 minutes), but, knowing that, I tend to them first before other ingredients!

The total cost for grocery shopping?

On average, these healthy recipes won’t set you back much at all. Think about what spending at a minimum of $12/lunch meal a day adds up to in a week: approximately $60 (that’s if you’re lucky, too). The cost of all these products combined falls way short of that mark, which makes working girl dreams come true.

Red Potatoes: a 1.5  lb bag $1.99

Assorted Peppers: $3

Gluten Free Bread: $5

Brown Rice Pasta: $2.99

Vegan Cheese: $2.49

Tofu: $2.49

Plain Quinoa: $3.49

(All of these items can be found at Trader Joe’s; elsewhere, prices may vary.)

So, what do you have to lose–except money? Try out these recipes and no longer feel a sense of insatiable hunger at work or lackluster about your lunch again. You’ll feel proud that you are cooking up delicious, healthy meals for yourself, knowing what they contain (healthy nutrients!) and that you’re saving money for your next yoga class.

What are your favorite budget-friendly for busy weeks?

Also by Alivia: How to Quit Coffee (Yes, It’s Possible!)

Related: 15 Easy Vegan Meals with Common Ingredients

Easy Weeknight Meal: Cumin Basil Soba Noodles

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Photo: Alivia Massimillo

Alivia first started writing for publications her freshman year of college. Five years later and it's still a major love of hers. She is passionate about the environment, personal well-being as well as healthy living and expresses this all on her personal blog. When she isn't writing, she can be found hanging out with her cat, or going on a road trip with her bff's.


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