Favorite Frugal Vegetarian Meals

In honor of the Nine Days, I wanted to share three of my family’s favorite, frugal vegetarian meals.

Photo Credit: stock.xchng


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.

2. Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito

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.

3. Quick-n-Easy Tofu, Cauliflower & Quinoa

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!


  1. The 369 brand of tofu is more like $1.69 and kosher. And I happen to like that one the best anyway

    • @Rivkah – is that the 365 brand at WF? Is it in their refrigerator section? Good to know! (How are you?? We miss you !!!!)

  2. dana horesh says

    Our family loves pumpkin – pumpkin soup, pumpkin roulade, pumpkin bread. We grow a few each year in our garden, but that is never enough. I have taken to showing up at the store on Oct 31st and getting them for free or very low price. I used to go into the first days of Nov, but they were all gone. Last year I missed the ‘free’ pumpkin give away so I resorted to driving around my neighborhood on trash night and grabbing all the ones that were not carved. I chunk them into cubes and boil the flesh. The peel comes away easily and I pack in ziploc for the winter. Yum!!!

    • @Dana – great tip! My kids went pumpkin picking with their safta last year, the day after Halloween. They got ginormous pumpkins for $1. I cut them up, cooked them and blended them in the food processor, then frozen in 2 cup portions (= 1 can, more or less). I’m still using it to this day. Reminds me I should share my favorite pumpkin & chocolate chip muffin recipe! I want your pumpkin roulade recipe!!! Wanna write a guest post 😉

  3. Just discovered your blog on a tip and I’m really enjoying looking around. I don’t know where you currently live, so I’m not certain if this information is relevant. We buy Goya brand black beans in the aisle where Ethnic/Hispanic foods are. Their canned beans are inexpensive and all have a heksher.

    • I need to check again, but the last time I checked, Goya didn’t have a hechsher here 🙁 (We’re in Kansas City.) I love your blog and am honored that you stopped by!

  4. I love your blog. I’m definitely going to give the burritos a try. My son likes to take burritos for school, so I’m inspired by the freezing idea.

    Hope you can find Goya brand. A lot of store brands are kosher too, but I’ve lived a lot of different places and some are easier than others. Goodluck.

  5. I’m Gonna have to try that pizza dough!!

  6. I don’t know if you have a trader joes near you but then also sell tofu for a 1.49. I asked the Star-K about tofu and they said it doesnt need a hasgacha if just plain tofu (which the trader joes is, although i think trader joes does have some kinds of hasgacha, like just a K or the california K
    Also, where do you find cauliflower so cheap. I can never find it less than $2.

    • I hadn’t heard that about tofu, but it makes sense. I have been buying the 365 brand at Whole Foods, which is $1.69. We do have a TJs opening here this spring… and I am SO excited!

      Cauliflower – every now and again it goes on sale for $1 or $1.50/head. Pricing can be regional, but keep an eye out in your grocery circulars to see what your “rock bottom” price is. When they are super cheap, I buy 5+, lightly steam and freeze, so it’s ready to go for later. I’ve also had good luck at Target, when they have their $1/1 produce coupon. Last year, I actually bought about 10 heads of cauliflower for FREE (on sale for $1, had the $1/1 coupon = free). That was a happy shopping trip :).

  7. Great suggestioms! Homemade bread with eggs and salad(plus a soup if i’m feeling ambitious) is a low cost vegetarian dinner that the kids and adults in our family enjoy. I make it at least once a week.

    • That’s like the classic Israeli dinner. We do it a lot – especially when despite all my menu planning, the day still goes to heck and I have nothing left in me come 5 o’clock! Too bad we can’t get g’vina levana – the bread seems to need it.

      • Shoshana Helmus says

        I’m loving all of these inexpensive recipes. I also like that they are vegetarian because during the week, we often do not eat meat. Thanks for all of your suggestions.

  8. Just came across this post, dont know if you read things 2 years later, but regarding tofu: 1-Whole Foods often has Nasoya coupons in their coupon book that you can use there on tofu and 2-are you near an asian market like h-mart or lotte plaza? They have tofu usually for like $1.09, and they are larger sized than the grocery store (like 19-20 oz). I have also found tofu at similar pricing at my fruit store, but not as consistently.

  9. Hi Mara,
    I am enjoying reading your blog-I’ve been working on trying to meal plan & I have two questions for you. 1. How do you do the actual ‘writing’ of the meal plan-on a blank calendar w/ or w/o other things going on that week? Or do you just grab a piece of paper & do it line by line? 2. In our community, we are advised not to use fresh cauliflower, instead using frozen with a hechsher. do you think that the tofu recipe above would work without the difference in textures & that crunch that you get from the cauliflower? Thanks.

    • I do a combination of both. When I monthly menu plan – I print out a blank calendar, pencil in any major events, and then add in our meals. For weekly menu planning, I tend to just write it out on a piece of paper.

      If you use bodek cauliflower, it will be less crispy, but I don’t think it will be horrible. You may want to cook the tofu a bit ahead of time and then add the cauliflower so it doesn’t cook as long.

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