The Ghetto Vegetarian

By Holly Green

Since I became a vegetarian in 2003, I've been creating and inventing cheap and easy-to-make vegetarian recipes. First living on an average middle-class budget and then on a college student budget, I've found it very difficult to maintain a healthful diet while only having a very small amount of money. Living in Detroit, many grocery stores don't even carry vegetarian-friendly foods. On top of that, most recipes call for expensive ingredients, are difficult to make, or just take too long!

That's why I've developed a collection of recipes for the budget-conscious vegetarian. My unique blog, The Ghetto Vegetarian, has inexpensive, easy-to-make, and healthful meal ideas that you can eat everyday. One key to healthful and inexpensive vegetarian eating is to find products that are combined when packaged. For example, you will see ingredients like broc-slaw (a mixture of shredded broccoli, carrots, and cabbage) in my recipes. Not only can you use this combo to make broccoli coleslaw, but it's a great filler for eggrolls—and much cheaper than buying all the ingredients separately! Search around your grocery store for unique and inexpensive items that you can reinvent!

I'm sharing five of my favorite recipes here with you. Feel free to change them up, add new ingredients, substitute cheaper ingredients, or anything you'd like! Healthful eating doesn't have to be expensive.

Vegetarian Chili

(Serves 3)

The total cost for this recipe is $5 (or $1.67 per serving).

  • One 14-ounce can petite diced tomatoes with onions
  • One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with hot or mild green chilies
  • One 14-ounce can black beans
  • One 14-ounce can kidney beans
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • ¼ cup frozen corn

In a large soup pot, combine both cans of tomatoes and simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse both cans of beans and then add them to the tomatoes. Simmer for approximately 5 more minutes.

Add the chili powder and corn to the pot and simmer for at least 30 minutes. The longer you simmer the chili, the more flavor it will have. Suggested time would be approximately an hour, if you have the time!

Total calories per serving: 335 Fat: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 64 grams Protein: 19 grams
Sodium: 1,513 milligrams Fiber: 20 grams

Spring Rolls

(Makes 10-12 spring rolls)

The total cost for this recipe is $5 (or $.50 per spring roll).

  • Spring Roll Filling
  • 2 Tablespoons oil of your choice
  • One 12-ounce package broc-slaw (a mixture of shredded broccoli, cabbage, and carrots usually found near the packaged salad kits in grocery stores)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

Add oil to a frying pan or wok and heat. Once hot, add in the broc-slaw mixture and cook for approximately 1 minute. Add the ginger and soy sauce and cook over high heat for approximately 7 minutes or until the mixture reaches the desired softness. If the pan or wok seems too dry, add a little water rather than more oil. Do a taste test and add more soy sauce, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the desired taste is reached.

Making and Serving Spring Rolls
Ten to twelve 7-inch spring roll wrappers
Vegetable oil to fill your deep-sided frying pan or wok approximately 1/2-1 inch
Duck sauce or other dipping sauce of your choice (optional)

Once the mixture is cooked, you are ready to wrap. Place a spring roll wrapper on a clean working surface. Have the wrapper in a diamond shape towards your body. Start by adding approximately 1 Tablespoon filling to the middle of the wrapper. Fold the top and bottom corners of the wrapper over the filling. Then, fold in the left corner while rolling the spring roll all the way over to the right side. Dip your fingers in water and wet the end to ‘paste' the wrapper shut.

Pour oil into a frying pan or wok and heat over medium-high heat. When bubbles rise or the oil begins to form lines across the bottom of the pan, the oil should be hot enough. To test, carefully dip one corner of a spring roll into the oil. If it sizzles and cooks, the oil is ready. If not, wait another 30 seconds and try again.

Using tongs or a spatula, place the spring rolls into the oil, allowing them to fry for approximately 1 minute on each side. The spring rolls are done when they turn light to medium golden-brown. Place spring rolls on paper towels (or a clean dish towel) to drain while you finish frying the rest. Serve hot with dipping sauce of your choice.

Total calories per serving: 169 Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 21 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 313 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Vegetarian Chickpea Curry

(Serves 3)

The total cost for this recipe is $5 (or $1.67 per serving).

  • Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • One 14-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, not drained
  • One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with hot or mild green chilies, not drained

In a medium-sized skillet, sauté the chickpeas in oil for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Cover and cook for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Note: This recipe goes well with instant or regular brown rice that has had 2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice added for flavor.

Total calories per serving: 458 Fat: 12 grams
Carbohydrates: 74 grams Protein: 16 grams
Sodium: 1,046 milligrams Fiber: 14 grams

Vegetarian Lasagna Rolls

(Serves 8)

The total cost for this recipe is $13 (or $1.60 per serving).

  • One 24-ounce jar marinara sauce
  • One 14-ounce box egg-free lasagna noodles
  • One 12-ounce bag shredded vegan mozzarella cheese
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into thin slices
  • 1 small yellow squash, cut into thin slices
  • 1 cup finely chopped broccoli

Pour a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom of an 11 x 7-inch oven-safe baking pan. Set aside.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and lay flat on a plate. Spread a thin layer of cheese on top of each noodle. Top cheese with squash and zucchini slices, followed by the broccoli. Carefully roll the noodles from one end to the other.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place each roll in the baking pan with the end of the roll on the bottom. Cover the rolls with additional sauce. Cover the pan with foil and cook for 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle rolls with additional cheese, and allow to cook another 5 minutes until melted.

Total calories per serving: 392 Fat: 12 grams
Carbohydrates: 59 grams Protein: 10 grams
Sodium: 840 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Mexican-Style Stuffed Peppers

(Makes 4 large peppers)

The total cost for this recipe is $10 (or $2.50 per serving).

  • 4 bell peppers (any color)
  • Water to steam peppers
  • ¾ cup water
  • One 1.25-ounce low-sodium taco seasoning packet (available in the Mexican foods section or possibly the spices section in many grocery stores)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • One 14-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
  • One 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¾ cup shredded vegan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut off the tops of the peppers and scoop out the seeds. Steam peppers in a shallow pan of water for approximately 5 minutes.

While the peppers steam, place 3/4 cup water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add three-quarters of the taco seasoning and all of the cumin to the water and allow to dissolve. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Stand the peppers up in a baking dish with a lip on it (to catch drips). Fill each pepper with layers of rice, tomatoes, beans, and cheese. Repeat until full. Once the peppers are filled, pour a quarter of the taco seasoning liquid over the filling in each of them. Cover the dish and bake for 25 minutes or until the peppers are medium soft.

Total calories per serving: 339 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 60 grams Protein: 11 grams
Sodium: 852 milligrams Fiber: 13 grams