VEGETARIAN JOURNAL



Vegetarian Journal 2006 Issue 2

Low-Cost Vegan Meal Plans

by Melissa Wong

Can someone follow a vegan diet and stay within a strict financial budget? The answer is yes! The following meal plans were devised for three specific populations: young adults, older adults, and a family of four. If you do not fit into one of these categories, you may still use the ideas in this article to develop a meal plan that is just right for you. Each plan features an array of meal ideas that are quick and easy to prepare, that contain the nutrients your body needs, and that won’t put a huge dent in your wallet.

The cost and calorie levels for each meal plan can be found in Table 1 below. Calorie levels were based on the recommendations of the USDA MyPyramid, 1 an online tool that can help you choose the foods and amounts that are right for you. Since this serves as an estimate of calorie needs, you must factor in your own physical activity level. If you are very active, you will require more calories than the amounts that are listed. To increase your caloric intake, you may either consume larger portions of the foods already in the meal plan, or you may add your own favorite foods to the meal plan. Conversely, if you are not very active or would like to lose excess weight, you will require fewer calories than the amounts that are listed. To reduce calories, you may cut down on vegan margarine and snacks, or you can reduce your portion sizes.

The USDA Thrifty Food Plan 2 serves as a national standard for a low-cost, nutritious diet. The costs per day shown in Table 1 were based on the Thrifty Food Plan for each population. All meal plans are within 10 percent of this cost. Whenever possible, store brands were chosen over name brands. Not only were they lower in cost, but compared side-by-side, products had similar ingredients. In addition, frozen vegetables and canned fruits in their own juices were chosen over their fresh counterparts because they were lower in cost but provided the same nutrients. Other money-saving ideas include buying items when they are on sale, buying in larger quantities when possible, and choosing beans over meat analogues. All meals were prepared at home.

These meal plans provide room for substitutions. You should feel free to eat fruits and vegetables other than the ones that are mentioned, but you should make sure that you are consuming adequate nutrients when you make these substitutions. An easy way to do this is to model the colors of the rainbow on your plate. You should make sure you include dark leafy greens in your diet every day and eat fruits and vegetables that are red, orange or yellow, white, and blue or purple regularly. If you are trying to lower your sodium intake, you may need to choose some low sodium products. For example, 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter has 140 milligrams of sodium, while no-salt-added peanut butter doesn’t have any sodium. If you buy high-sodium products, such as canned beans, rinse them under running water before using to reduce their sodium content. Lastly, if you can spend a little more than the Thrifty Food Plan figures, you may want to choose more whole grain products, fresh produce, meat analogues, and/or favorte foods that are not listed here.


Table, Chart, and Recipe Index

Table 1: Calorie Levels and Cost for Budgeted Meal Plans

  Young Adult Female Young Adult Male Older Adult Female Older Adult Male Family of Four
Calorie Level 2,200 2,700 1,900 2,300 2,050
(average per person)
Cost Per Day
(Based on Massachusetts prices in June 2005)
$4.30 $4.74 $4.24 $4.33 16.67
( $4.17 per person)

Chart 1: Low-Cost Vegan Meal Plan for Young Adults - Day 1

Breakfast:

  • ½ frozen bagel (whole for males)
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter (2 Tablespoons for males)
  • ½ medium banana
  • Fruit smoothie made with:
    • ½ frozen banana
    • 4 ounces thawed frozen calcium-fortified orange juice
    • 1 cup frozen strawberries

Lunch:

  • Mock 'Tuna' Salad wrap in large tortilla with:
    • 1 cup lettuce
    • ¼ cup tomatoes
    • ¼ cup grated carrots
  • 4 ounces applesauce
  • 1 cup fortified soymilk
  • 3 ginger snaps (6 ginger snaps for males)

Snack:

  • 10 saltines (20 saltines for males)

Dinner:

  • Tofu and veggie Thai noodles made with:
    • 1/5-block tofu
    • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
    • ¼ cup chunky peanut butter
    • 1 cup pasta
  • 1 cup frozen mustard greens, cooked

Dessert:

  • ½ cup canned peaches (1 cup peaches for males)
  • 1 crushed ginger snap (2 crushed ginger snaps for males) to sprinkle over peaches
  • (Add 4 ounces soymilk for males.)
  Goal Price Actual Price +/- Target Price
Females $4.30 $4.16 -$0.14
Males $4.74 $5.05 +$0.31

Mock 'Tuna' Salad

(Serves 3)

1 cup canned chickpeas
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash chickpeas in a small bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Total calories per serving: 166 Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 21 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 305 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

From Wasserman, Debra, and Charles Stahler. Meatless Meals for Working People, 4th ed. Baltimore: VRG, 2004. Page 118.

Chart 2: Low-Cost Vegan Meal Plan for Young Adults - Day 2

Breakfast:

  • 1 cup store-brand 'Total' cereal
  • 1 cup fortified soymilk
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ½ medium banana
  • One vegan English muffin with:
    • 2 Tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
  • 1 cup thawed frozen calcium-fortified orange juice

Lunch:

  • Baked potato - medium for females, large for males
    • (with 2 Tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine for males)
  • 1 cup frozen broccoli, cooked
  • 4 ounces canned pears
  • 3 ginger snaps

Snack:

  • Rice cake with:
    • 2 Tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 cup fortified soymilk

Dinner:

  • Bean burrito (2 bean burritos for males) made with:
    • 1 cup canned beans and rice
    • ½ cup canned beans, mashed and cooked to make refried beans
    • 1 cup frozen spinach, cooked
    • 1 tortilla
  • 10 tortilla chips
  • ½ cup salsa
  Goal Price Actual Price +/- Target Price Two-Day Total +/- Target Price
Females $4.30 $3.95 -$0.35 $8.11 -$0.49
Males $4.74 $4.21 -$0.53 $9.26 -$0.22

Chart 3: Low-Cost Vegan Meal Plan for Seniors - Day 1

Breakfast:

  • 1 cup prepared quick oatmeal
  • ½ cup fortified soymilk
  • One medium banana
  • 1 cup thawed frozen calcium-fortified orange juice
  • (Add 2 slices of toast and 2 Tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine for males.)

Lunch:

  • 1 cup pasta
  • 4 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1 cup frozen broccoli, cooked
  • 1 slice bread (2 slices for males) with:
    • 1 teaspoon nonhydrogenated vegan margarine (2 teaspoons for males)
  • 3 ginger snaps
  • (Add 4 ounces applesauce for males.)

Snack:

  • 9 Ritz-type crackers with:
    • 2 Tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 cup fortified soymilk

Dinner:

  • Baked potato (small for females, large for males) with:
    • 2 teaspoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine (4 teaspoons for males)
  • ½ cup vegetarian baked beans
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots, cooked
  • 1 cup canned peaches
  Goal Price Actual Price +/- Target Price
Females $4.24 $3.39 -$0.85
Males $4.33 $3.88 -$0.45

Chart 4: Low-Cost Vegan Meal Plan for Seniors - Day 2

Breakfast:

  • 1 cup store-brand 'Total' cereal
  • ½ cup fortified soymilk
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 1 slice toast (2 slices for males) with:
    • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter (2 Tablespoons for males)
  • (Add 1 cup thawed frozen calcium-fortified orange juice for males.)

Lunch:

  • Veggie Pizza
  • 1 cup frozen turnips, cooked
  • 1 cup thawed frozen strawberries
  • 2 crushed ginger snaps (3 crushed ginger snaps for males) to sprinkle over strawberries

Snack:

  • 10 saltine crackers with:
    • ½ cup hummus
  • ½ cup fortified soymilk

Dinner:

  • 1 cup red beans and rice
  • Stir-fry made with:
    • 1 cup frozen kale
    • 1/5-block tofu
  • 1 cup canned pears

Additional Snack:

  • (One rice cake with 2 Tablespoons peanut butter for males)
  Goal Price Actual Price +/- Target Price Two-Day Total +/- Target Price
Females $4.24 $4.27 +$0.03 $7.66 -$0.82
Males $4.33 $4.86 +$0.53 $8.74 +$0.08

Veggie Pizza

(Serves 1)

1 cup frozen sliced mixed bell peppers, thawed
4 ounces marinara sauce
1 large tortilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread marinara sauce evenly on large tortilla. Top with mixed bell peppers. Bake for 5 minutes or until tortilla is crisp.

Total calories per serving: 317 Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 53 grams Protein: 9 grams
Sodium: 816 milligrams Fiber: 6 grams

Chart 5: Low-Cost Vegan Meal Plan for a Family of Four - Day 1

Breakfast:

  • ¾ cup fortified cold cereal (1 cup for adult males)
  • 1 cup fortified soymilk
  • ½ banana (whole for adult males)
  • 6 ounces calcium-fortified orange juice (8 ounces for adults)
  • (Add 2 slices of toast with 2 teaspoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine for adult males.)

Morning Snack:

  • Celery sticks with:
    • 2 Tablespoons peanut butter
  • (Add 2 Tablespoons raisins for adults.)

Lunch:

  • Hummus sandwich with:
    • 2 slices bread
    • 2 Tablespoons hummus
    • Lettuce and tomato
  • 4 ounces applesauce
  • 3 ginger snap cookies (6 cookies for children and for adult males)
  • (8 ounces fortified soymilk for children)

Afternoon Snack:

  • 1½ cups air-popped popcorn (2 cups for adult males)

Dinner:

  • Lentil Soup with:
    • 1 slice of toast
  • ½ cup frozen mustard greens, cooked (1 cup for adult males)
  • (4 ounces fortified soymilk for children)

Dessert:

  Goal Price Actual Price +/- Target Price
Family of Four
(Two adults and two children)
$16.67 $16.69 + $0.02

Lentil Soup

(Serves 4)

2 shallots, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups water
1 cup dry green lentils, rinsed
1 red potato, peeled and finely diced
1 large tomato, peeled and diced
1 small stalk celery, diced
1 small carrot, slivered
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

In a deep soup pot, sauté shallots and onions in heated oil. Add water and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, adding more water if needed to keep the 3-cup level of liquid. Cook lentils until barely tender. Add all other vegetables and seasonings. Continue to cook for at least 20 minutes. Fork-mash or purée mixture. Serve warm.

Total calories per serving: 225 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 39 grams Protein: 13 grams
Sodium: 45 milligrams Fiber: 9 grams

From Wasserman, Debra, and Reed Mangels, eds. Vegan Handbook. Baltimore: VRG, 2005. Page 26.


Karen's Creamy Rice Pudding

(Serves 4)

1 cup precooked rice
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups soymilk

Mix all ingredients in a pot. Simmer until mixture begins to thicken, stirring occasionally. Remove from stove and serve.

Total calories per serving: 168 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 32 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 21 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

From Wasserman, Debra, and Reed Mangels. Simply Vegan, 4th ed. Baltimore: VRG, 2006. Page 115.

Chart 6: Low-Cost Vegan Meal Plan for a Family of Four - Day 2

Breakfast:

  • Eggless French Toast (See recipe in Meatless Meals or at vrg.org.) with:
    • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup for each slice of French Toast
    • ¼ cup thawed frozen strawberries
  • 6 ounces calcium-fortified orange juice (8 ounces for adults)
  • 8 ounces fortified soymilk

Lunch:

  • Eggplant-Rice Burger (See recipe in Vegan Handbook or at vrg.org.) with:
    • 2 slices of bread (4 slices for adult males)
    • 1 Tablespoon vegan mayonnaise (2 Tablespoons for adult males)
  • ½ cup frozen carrots, cooked
  • (Add ½ cup frozen kale, cooked, for adults.)
  • ½ cup pineapple chunks (1 cup for adults)
  • (8 ounces fortified soymilk for children)

Snack:

  • 5 saltines (10 for adult males) with:
    • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter (2 for adult males)
  • 6-ounce frozen apple juice bar with added vitamin C

Dinner:

  • 1 cup Vegetarian Chili (See below.)
  • Baked potato with:
    • 1 teaspoon nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
    • ½ cup broccoli (1 cup for adults)
  • (Add a slice of bread with 1 teaspoon vegan margarine for adult males.)
  • (8 ounces fortified soymilk for children)
  Goal Price Actual Price +/- Target Price
Family of Four (Two adults and two children) $16.67 16.85 +$0.18

Vegetarian Chili

(Serves 4)

1 package chili seasoning
One 16-ounce can kidney beans
One 16-ounce can chickpeas
16 ounces tomato sauce

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Total calories per serving: 273 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 52 grams Protein: 13 grams
Sodium: 1,612 milligrams Fiber: 10 grams

Chart 7: Low-Cost Vegan Meal Plan for a Family of Four - Day 3

Breakfast:

  • ½ frozen bagel (whole bagel for adults) with:
    • 2 Tablespoons peanut butter (4 Tablespoons for adults)
  • ½ medium banana (whole banana for adult males)
  • (Add 2 Tablespoons raisins for boys and for adults.)
  • 6 ounces calcium-fortified orange juice (8 ounces for adults)
  • 8 ounces fortified soymilk

Lunch:

  • Veggie Pizza (2 pizzas for adult males)
  • ½ cup canned peaches (1 cup for adults)
  • 3 ginger snaps (6 for adult males)
  • (Add 2 Tablespoons peanut butter for children.)
  • (8 ounces fortified soymilk for children)

Dinner:

  • 1 cup spaghetti and marinara sauce
  • ½ cup frozen peas and corn, cooked
  • ½ cup spinach (1 cup for adult males)
  • 1 slice bread for boys (2 slices for adults) with:
    • 1 teaspoon nonhydrogenated vegan margarine for boys (2 teaspoons for adults)
  • (8 ounces soymilk for children)

Dessert:

  • Apple crisp made with:
    • ½ cup baked apples with cinnamon
    • ¼ cup store-brand 'Total' cereal, crushed
  Goal Price Actual Price +/- Target Price
Family of Four
(Two adults and two children)
$16.67 $14.22 - $2.45
For Total Three Days $50.01 $47.76 - $2.25

Veggie Pizza

(Serves 1)

1/4 cup stewed tomatoes
1 large tortilla
1/8 cup olives
1/8 cup mushrooms
1/4 cup thawed frozen spinach

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Crush stewed tomatoes with a fork and spread evenly onto the large tortilla. Top with olives, mushrooms, and spinach. Bake for 5 minutes or until tortilla is crisp.

Total calories per serving: 285 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 48 grams Protein: 8 grams
Sodium: 712 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams



References

  1. MyPyramid: Food Intake Patterns. Accessed on June 22, 2005.
  2. USDA Food Plans. Accessed on June 22, 2005.
  3. Official USDA food plans: Cost of food at home at four levels, U.S. average, April 2005. Accessed on June 22, 2005.

Note: The content of this article is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.


Melissa Wong wrote this article while doing a rotation for her dietetic internship with The Vegetarian Resource Group.




Excerpts from the 2006 Issue 2:
Low-Cost Vegan Meal Plans
Dietetic intern Melissa Wong helps young adults, seniors, and families of four eat healthfully without emptying their wallets.
Fiery Vegan Dishes From Around the World
Habeeb Salloum adapts spicy-hot recipes from Latin America, North Africa, Southern Asia, and beyond.
Perchlorate Controversy Calls for Improving Iodine Nutrition
David M. Crohn, PhD, examines the risks of perchlorate consumption and how vegetarians and vegans can improve their iodine health.
Nutrition Hotline
What is tempeh, where can you buy it, and what do you do with it?
Note from the Coordinators
Letters to the Editors
Notes from the VRG Scientific Department
Interviews that our dietitians granted.
Vegan Cooking Tips
How to Use Leftover Rice, by Chef Nancy Berkoff.
Scientific Update
Veggie Bits
Book Reviews
Catalog
Vegetarian Action
Vegetarianism and Tennis: An Interview with Peter Burwash by Heather Gorn.
Look for These Products in Your Local Market

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone who wishes to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

Thanks to volunteer Stephanie Schueler for converting this article to HTML.



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Last Updated
May 5, 2006

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