Food can cost a lot, cutting a big chunk out of your spending budget, especially when you buy fresh meat. But you don’t have to eat meat at all to keep fit and healthy. Vegetarian alternatives can be just as wholesome and satisfying – and much cheaper. Here are some handy tips for a trolley-load of cheap veggie food, with a few serving suggestions thrown in.
Invest in vegetables
When you’re at your local fruit and veg shop, focus on vegetables. There will be a range to choose from, and although some may be costly, others will be wonderfully cheap, so check the prices before choosing. For a rounded diet, take a mixture of root vegetables – like potatoes, carrots and onions – and leafy ones – such as red and green cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Look out for other sorts of vegetable, too, like beans, corn, mushrooms and peppers, and now pick some salad items – tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce, say. Now you have a tasty range for your week’s meals.
Choose vegetables carefully
The prices of fresh vegetables tend to vary with the seasons, being cheapest at their natural harvest time. Imported ones tend to be more expensive than those produced nationally, and organic versions will cost more again, so avoid those if possible by shopping at your local fruit and veg shop. Items that have been washed, chopped or individually packaged will probably be dearer than whole, uncleaned or loose ones, but that’s not always the case, so compare prices for a given weight or number and keep an eye out for special offers. It may seem fiddly checking these details, but when you’ve done it once, you’ll know what to look for next time around.
Other cheap vegetarian foods
You need plenty of protein in your diet, and if you’re not eating meat, you’ll need to get it from other foods, such as the following. Lentils are cheap and nutritious, as are most canned beans, including baked beans. Eggs are also excellent value, while cheeses come in a wide range of types and prices, including budget-friendly ones. Peanuts are inexpensive and nutritious, and some other nut varieties are also good value. Tofu and soya are high in protein, as are yoghurts and other milk products, but check the prices before you buy, as they will vary. For more protein sources, browse online lists and vegetarian recipes.
Chop vegetables while you chill out
The idea of preparing a pile of vegetables for cooking may not appeal to you, but you may find the process surprisingly therapeutic, particularly if you have something to occupy your mind, like relaxing music, a radio show or a chat with the kids. On a fine day, you can take your chopping board outside and soak up the sun as you chop and peel.
Simple serving suggestions
Make a stir-fry or stew with chosen vegetables and some beans or lentils, adding flavourings or a sauce, then serve with pasta, rice or couscous, or another type of carbohydrate. Vegetarian bolognese can be as tasty as the meat version, as can a vegetable lasagne, curry or cottage pie. You could use your eggs for a savoury flan, blending them with milk and cheese and pouring the mixture into a pastry case to bake. Eggs also go well with chips and peas, on toast, scrambled or fried, or with mushrooms and tomatoes. Dip into the countless vegetarian recipes available for more ideas.
With these low-cost alternatives to meat, you’ll save money with every meal. Cook your vegetables lightly and they’ll be delicious!