In honor of the Nine Days, I wanted to share three of my family’s favorite, frugal vegetarian meals.
1. Homemade Pizza
I make up the dough ahead of time using this yummy honey pizza dough recipe. It takes all of five minutes in my KitchenAid and it really does freeze well, so I triple the recipe and freeze 2/3 of it. If I’m really organized*, I freeze the balls of dough along with pre-portioned baggies of homemade sauce and enough cheese and veggie toppings to make up the pies. For the toppings, I chop up some of whatever veggies I have on hand, and then I let my boys “design” their own pizza. They love making “faces” out of peppers, broccoli, tomatoes and olives. And with the grown-up pizza, I love throwing on some fresh basil leaves from my garden and a bit of ricotta cheese for a mostly “white” pizza.
*By the way, when I’m not feeling organized, I just buy a jar of pasta sauce and that’s okay, too!
Notes on cost: If I’m making my own sauce, I cook up a batch in the crock pot using canned tomatoes as my base. I can often get Muir Glen organic tomatoes for free, or close to it, by combining a sale with coupons — especially at my one grocery store that doubles coupons up to $.50 (Hen House, for you local folk). If I’m going the unorganized route, I love Newman’s Own tomato sauce and I’ve found that Target has the best price. By me, it’s around $1.28/jar, but I always use a $.50 off coupon, bringing it down to $.78/jar. Every three or four months, the jars go on sale to just over $1, so that’s the perfect time to stock up! One jar is more than enough for two pies, with plenty left over for the next pizza night.
This is one of my all-time favorite meals. I make up a huge batch and individually freeze some for quick-and-easy lunches. For dinner, I serve up a big pan of burritos along with a pot of brown rice and some fresh pico de gallo (if you need a recipe, check out the Pioneer Woman’s). I’ve also made these burritos with pumpkin instead of sweet potato and they are equally good, if not better. Even my 7- and 5-year old sons love them!
Notes on cost: I get my flour tortillas at Costco for around $3 for 36 of them. Canned pumpkin goes on sale for Thanksgiving, when, with a coupon, you can pick up a can for 30-50¢. That’s a great price and the perfect time to stock up! Canned black beans are reasonably priced, but I have found that many brands don’t carry a hechsher. My favorite brand is Eden Organics, which are admittedly pricey, so I’ve done my trick of writing to the company to get coupons. Then I combine the coupons with a sale at Whole Foods and buy a case (to save an extra 10%).
Of course, even more frugal are dry black beans, which you cook yourself. If you can set aside one night to cook the beans in a crock pot, you can divvy them up in the morning into individual serving size ziploc bags, which you freeze for later use. One 15-ounce can is just shy of 2 cups of cooked beans.
Believe it or not, this is one of my kids’ favorite meals. And it’s super easy to make, too. You just need one package of extra firm tofu (or two if you have big eaters like I do!), one or two heads of cauliflower, and some quinoa. I clean and check the cauliflower and then chop it into bite-size pieces, setting it aside. I cube the tofu and place it in a 9×13 glass pyrex. Then I mix up a sauce with equal parts canola oil and soy sauce plus a few drops of dark sesame oil and I dump it over the tofu. I cook the tofu on 350° for 10 minutes, then remove it from the oven, add in the cauliflower and mix well. If I’m feeling fancy, I will toss in a few sesame seeds. I cook it for another, oh, 20 minutes until tender but not mushy. Meanwhile, I saute a finely chopped small onion and one or two carrots. When the onion is translucent, I add 1 cup of dry quinoa and mix it to season with some salt and pepper. Then I add 2 cups of water and cook it just like I would a pot of rice. Be careful not to disturb the quinoa while it’s cooking or it will get mushy. When it’s done, I turn off the heat and let it sit (still covered) for 10 minutes. If I’m lucky, it all finishes cooking around the same time! To serve, place a mound of quinoa topped with the tofu/cauliflower mixture. I kid you not, my kids (and husband and I) gobble this up! It’s so simple, but so good.
Notes on cost: Cauliflower has a very low pesticide count, so I almost never buy it organic. On sale, I aim to pay no more than $1.50 per head, but ideally, I can get it for less than $1. (At that price, I might buy extra, and just lightly steam it and then freeze it for later use.) Fresh tofu in the refrigerator section is usually around $2.50. I’ve never seen coupons for tofu, but now that I think of it, I should try writing the company. Quinoa is not cheap, but as far as side dishes go, this one is well worth the cost. It’s chock-full of protein and not a grain at all. It’s actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like Swiss chard! If you haven’t tried it, I really recommend it. Red Mills sells a hechshered bag of organic quinoa, which I’ve found at Whole Foods, Walmart and Target. I have also found very reasonably priced organic quinoa at Costco with an O-U, I believe.
So, now you know three of our favorite, kid-friendly, frugal vegetarian meals. What meatless marvels are you cooking up in your home during these nine days? Share your favorites in the comments section!