Meal planning is a game-changer for anyone looking for healthy, convenient food on a budget. By planning meals in advance, you save time during the week, often lower your grocery expenses, and reduce the temptation to eat out.
The trick to meal planning is getting creative in the kitchen with a set list of ingredients. Eating the same meals every day can get mundane, so learning how to transform your groceries into several different meals will help keep things fresh and exciting throughout the week. In this article, we explore how to prepare a week’s worth of easy, satiating, vegan meals for $30.
For this week’s meal plan, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 1 can for $1-2 Old Fashioned Oats (18-ounce)
- 1 can for $2 Unsweetened Original Almond Milk (32-ounce)
- 1 for $1 Ground Cinnamon (1-ounce)
- 2 for $1-2 Crushed Tomatoes (32-ounce)
- 1 for $1 Canned Black Beans – No Sodium Added (15-ounce)
- 1 for $1 Canned Dark Red Kidney Beans (15-ounce)
- 1 for $1 100 percent Whole Grain Brown Rice (2 pounds)
- 1 for $2 Chili Powder (8-ounce)
- 1 for $1 Diced Green Chiles (7-ounce)
- 1 for $1 Green Bell Pepper
- 1 for $1 Garlic
- 2 for >$1 Jalapeños
- 1 for $2 Fresh Sweet Potatoes (2 pounds)
- 1 for $2 Frozen Mango, Papaya, and Strawberries – No Sugar Added (16-ounce)
- 3 for >$1 Gala Apples
- 1 for $1 100% Whole Wheat Elbow Pasta
- 1 for >$1 Yellow Onion
- 5 for >$1 Bananas
- 1 for $2 Spinach (9-ounce)
- 1 for $2 Soy Sauce (10-ounce)
- 1 for $2 Stir Fry Medley (12-ounce)
- 1 for $3 Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
Of course, the prices of some items may vary depending on where you live. However, buying your ingredients in bulk when you can and buying generic versions of foods will translate to major savings at the register. For more pointers on how to keep a modest grocery bill, check out Money Saving Tips for Eating Vegan on a Budget.
Breakfast Meal Choices
A mixture of fresh and frozen fruits, oats, and almond milk will build our breakfast options for the week. Our oats will provide us with carbohydrate-rich fiber and substantial portions of our daily recommended intake of magnesium, iron, thiamin, zinc, and more. Fresh and frozen fruits are full of energy in the form of the carbohydrates and natural sugars, while the vitamins and minerals that are abundant in fruit provide nutrition. Almond milk pulls everything together to provide a creaminess and extra nutrition.
1. Overnight Cinnamon Apple Oats
Prep your oatmeal the night before by combining your oats, almond milk, cinnamon, and chopped apples in a mason jar (or any other airtight container) and refrigerating overnight. You may need to add slightly more liquid than you normally would for warm oatmeal, as the oats and apples will have ample time to soak up the almond milk overnight. Overnight oats are not only easy, but make great for breakfasts on-the-go.
2. Cinnamon Granola with Almond Milk and Banana Slices
Homemade granola is incredibly simple and easy to make. Begin by tossing your oats in cinnamon and a dash of your favorite mild-flavored cooking oil (coconut works well). Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 350F degrees for 20 minutes. Enjoy your granola with banana slices and almond milk!
3. Smoothie Bowl with Rolled Oats
Smoothie bowls are thicker, creamier smoothies that mimic the texture of ice cream and are eaten from a bowl with fresh fruit and other delicious toppings. Not only are they visually appealing, but there are countless varieties of smoothie bowls which will encourage creativity in your meals. Even better, smoothie bowls are packed with nutrients and healthy sugars that will provide an energy boost first thing in the morning. For this smoothie bowl, blend 1-2 bananas with frozen fruit and a dash of almond milk until the mixture is smooth but thick. Transfer into a bowl and top with rolled oats and additional fruit (optional).
4. Cinnamon Granola With Almond Milk and Apples
Combine cinnamon granola with almond milk and diced apples for a sweet, apple-pie inspired breakfast.
5. Oatmeal with Mango, Papaya, and Strawberries
Using your oats and almond milk, cook oatmeal to your preferred texture. Towards the end of the cooking process, add in your frozen mango, papaya, and strawberries to allow the sweetness from the fruit to seep into the oats. Enjoy on its own or top oatmeal with more almond milk and fruit.
6. Banana Cinnamon Oatmeal
To spice up your normal oatmeal, add a dash of cinnamon and banana slices while the oatmeal is cooking. Ripe bananas will thicken your oats, provide natural sweetness, and add a creamy texture.
Lunch and Dinner Meal Choices
Lunch and dinner options for this meal plan are largely whole-foods based and simple. The following recipes can be mixed and matched each day depending on your preference. By recycling the same healthy ingredients in various different dishes, you can ensure meals are consistently nutritious and filling but never boring. Each dish contains plenty of veggies, whole grains, and carbohydrates to provide you with energy!
1. Chili with Brown Rice
Chili with brown rice dish is hearty and will stick to your ribs. The steamed brown rice provides a bed of healthy grains for veggie-and-legume-filled chili. Together these foods provide protein and nutrients that will leave you feeling full and satisfied. Even better? This chili is made in a very large portion and can be adapted to various recipes throughout the week.
To begin this dish, dice half of a yellow onion and 2 jalapeños (remove seeds/ribs). Sauté this mixture in a large, heavy-bottom pot with a pinch of salt until onions are fragrant and translucent. Add 4-5 cloves of minced garlic, roughly 1 cup of diced bell pepper (more or less if you want), and canned green chilis. Once bell pepper is soft, add 2 cans of crushed tomatoes and the drained cans of black beans and kidney beans. Add a handful of spinach, salt, pepper, and chili powder. Start with 3-4 tablespoons of chili powder and work your way up from there, tasting after each additional tablespoon until the chili is at your preferred level of spice. Once your chili is boiling, turn the heat down and allow it to simmer while partially covered for anywhere from 20 minutes on medium heat to a couple hours on low heat. While your chili is simmering, rinse and cook your brown rice in a separate pot or rice cooker. If you’re new to cooking brown rice, read over How to Cook the Perfect Brown Rice.
2. Veggie Fried Rice
Veggie fried rice is a meal that works with whatever you have in your fridge. This super simple dish will use brown rice, the stir-fry medley veggie pack, our remaining onion and bell pepper, soy sauce, and Sriracha to create a spicy, savory bowl of goodness. Begin by sautéing your veggies in a large pan until slightly tender, then add brown rice and cook until warmed through. Add soy sauce and Sriracha to your taste preferences and enjoy!
3. Roasted Sweet Potato and Veggie Bowl
Prepare this dish by adding roasted sweet potato to a bowl of rice and steamed veggies. You can also use pasta instead of rice to create a simple pasta salad bowl. Season with Sriracha, soy sauce, and any herbs you have in your kitchen if desired. For a step-by-step guide on roasting sweet potatoes, check out Roasted Sweet Potato Bites with Guacamole.
4. Stuffed Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are sweet, filling, and fantastic for your health given their concentration of vitamin A and antioxidants. In this meal, baked sweet potatoes will be stuffed with our delicious chili from earlier in the week to give us a low-fat meal filled with protein and carbohydrates. Prick your sweet potatoes using a fork and bake them on a foil-lined baking sheet at 425F for 45 minutes (make extras and save them for later). If you’re short on time, a microwave will still yield fluffy, steamy potatoes. Once your sweet potatoes are cooked to perfection, heat up your chili, load up your potato, and enjoy! The spice and heat of the chili combined with the sweetness of the potatoes make for a supremely tasty meal.
5. Mashed Sweet Potato with Steamed Veggies and Brown Rice
This meal is the ultimate leftover food from our grocery list. Mash up a pre-baked sweet potato with almond milk and any spices you like to create fluffy mashed potatoes. Heat up brown rice and steam the remaining stir-fry medley veggies with fresh spinach and plate together. This dish is incredibly easy and super clean – great for times when you’re craving a light, satisfying meal. If you have lemon or limes on hand, juice them and add salt to give this bowl some zest.
6. Chili Mac
While chili mac is traditionally mac ‘n’ cheese and chili combined, this chili mac will be a bit simpler. Whole wheat elbow noodles are the base for this dish. For adding creaminess to our chili, add a splash of unsweetened almond milk. This extra bit of liquid will thin the chili into a savory sauce that will coat the noodles. Once noodles are al dente, drain them and transfer them into a pot. Add chili and almond milk and continue cooking until the sauce and noodles are combined.
What are your favorite ingredients to meal prep with? Whether you’re trying to stay on track with a plant-based diet, aiming to save a few bucks on food, or just want ready-to-eat meals stocked in your fridge, meal planning‘s convenience is something that everyone can appreciate from time to time.
There are countless options for affordable, convenient meal planning! If you’re looking for plant-based recipes, cooking tips, and more, then we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day!
All image source: Shelby Ramminger