Have you ever looked in your fridge and pantry and thought, “I have nothing to make for lunch or dinner!” It’s easy to see a spare fridge or bare pantry and freak a little … especially if you’re food obsessed like most of us proud, plant-powered eaters. Those of us who like to make our meals at home, whether cooked, raw, or something in between, we like to have a well-stocked kitchen. An empty crisper drawer and empty pantry just won’t do. But, when you’re trying to make the most of your money and not let a pinch of food go to waste, sometimes you’ve got to work with the bare bones of the kitchen and get creative.
That’s where these 10 different healthy meals come into play. Not only are they delicious, but also frugal and only made with the same 5 ingredients each, with different spins and combinations used to make them unique. They’re also free of soy, gluten, dairy, added sugars, and nuts (if you’re allergic).
All you need are some staple herbs and spices (oregano, black pepper, salt—if you use it, all-purpose seasoning, etc.) and condiments to put a flavor spin on these recipe ideas below that are made with just the following five ingredients:
- Rice (any and all kinds)
- Fresh spinach (or sub kale if you don’t like spinach or don’t have it)
- Frozen berries (last longer than fresh)
- Sweet potatoes (or red or white potatoes if you don’t like sweet potatoes)
Make a batch of rice and some lentils, seasoned with some black pepper, curry powder, hot sauce, and some oregano. Plate the rice, add the cooked lentils and stir in some fresh spinach to make a spicy, mash-up meal that tastes incredible! It’s also full of fiber, protein, magnesium, potassium, iron, vitamins A, B3, B5, B6, C, E, and K!
For a nice breakfast, make this quick and easy meal. Make some rice in a slow cooker or a rice cooker overnight so it cooks long and slow to preserve the moist flavor. Add a little extra water for cooking so it doesn’t dry out, or cook it with almond milk if you happen to have some on hand. In the morning, stir in some berries of choice, just a few minutes before serving and put the lid back on. Serve warm, and top with cinnamon, add some sweetener if needed, and if you have any on hand, some chia or flax would be nice here too.
Need recipes? Try this Pressure Cooker Rice Pudding With Stewed Strawberries, add some berries to this Syrian Rice Pudding, or check out these 3 Flavor-Filled Porridge Bowl Recipes to Spice Up Your Breakfast for more flavor combo inspiration.
To make a sweet treat for a snack or even as a side to a batch of cooked rice at breakfast, have a simple green smoothie. Blend a cup of water, 1/2 cup frozen berries, and 1 cup fresh spinach. Add sweetener of choice if neeeded (or a brown banana if you have one lying around), some cinnamon, a touch of cocoa powder (counts as a spice/seasoning here), and blend. Cheers!
Bake a sweet potato and fill it with some cooked lentils. Season with hot sauce, curry, pepper, mustard, or whatever spicy ingredients you have on hand. This meal has protein, healthy carbs, and a nice sweet and savory flavor to satisfy! Feel free to add some spinach in your sweet potato if you’d like more greens and nutrients.
Try these Lentil and Sweet Potato Stuffed Zucchini for a fun take on this dish. Want variations? Swap the rice for lentils in these Buffalo Sweet Potato and Black Rice Wraps or swap the quinoa for lentils in these Mushroom and Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.
Here, you’ll need to make sure you have some chopped and roasted sweet potato on hand. This is easier if you chop a couple potatoes up and pan-roast them early in the week. It’s also quicker, taste better, and as they sit in the fridge, the sweet potatoes sweeten up a bit and develop a lovely caramelized texture. You can also keep cooked lentils on hand if you prefer completely cooled salads. To make the salad: spread a couple cups of spinach in a large salad bowl, top with 2 cups chopped sweet potato cubes (about 1 medium baked sweet potato) and 1/4 cup freshly cooked or chilled lentils. This dish packs sweet, savory, and a little of everything in between!
Prepare a batch of rice or use some you already have cooked on hand. Saute 2 cups of spinach (10 grams of protein!) with some garlic and onion powder (or seasoning of choice), and stir in 1/3 cup of the prepared rice (wild, brown, or black are best here since they’re more nutrient-dense). Season with nutritional yeast if you have any on hand, along with some fresh pepper for a final flavor boost.
Try swapping the cauliflower rice for brown rice in this Cauliflower Rice With Mushrooms and Spinach.
Use a couple cups of spinach, add 1/3 cup cooked rice on hand (red and wild rice are great on salads!), and top with a cup of cooked sweet potato cubes. This dish is heavier in carbohydrates, but light on the stomach, so enjoy it before an active day!
Or, try this Sweet Potato and Spinach Salad With Almond Dijon with a side of rice.
For a simple, yet filling and healthy dinner … make soup! This soup requires just water, some salt, pepper, all-purpose seasoning or garlic powder for seasoning. To make the soup: boil some hot water, stir in red lentils, add a dash of black pepper and all-purpose seasoning, and reduce the heat to medium. Put the lid on and let them cook for 10-15 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in 2 cups of fresh spinach. Cook 2-3 minutes until the spinach wilts, remove from the heat, add additional seasonings if you like, and serve.
Give this Miso Soup With Garlicky Lentils, Kale, and Mushrooms a try!
Let’s not forget dessert, which is simple enough to make with just frozen berries. While a bowl of frozen berries is actually a fun little snack, it doesn’t seem very exciting for dessert—so make it that way yourself! All you do is place 2 cups of frozen berries in a blender with 1/8 cup of cold water or almond milk if you have any on hand. (If you have nut butter lurking around, feel free to add that too!) Process until you get a thick sorbet and serve like ice cream. If you do not have a high-speed blender, you can use your food processor.
This makes a really nice spin on oatmeal in the mornings for a grain-free, still cozy, yet more nutritious option. Bake a sweet potato when you first get up or let it cook (whole) in the slow cooker overnight with a little water on low. In the morning, it’s perfectly baked and ready to go. In the morning, all you need to do is stew your berries on the stove. In a skillet or saucepan, add a touch of water and place the frozen berries in the pan. Cook on medium heat or until they start to warm up and melt. Reduce the heat to low and let them stew for just a few minutes until they’re thick, gooey, and warm. Top your sweet potato with these and enjoy for something totally new for breakfast you’ll definitely want more of later!
For more breakfast sweet potato ideas, try this Simple Stuffed Breakfast Sweet Potatoes With Granola and Nut Butter (just add berries!), this Blueberry Banana Stuffed Breakfast Sweet Potato, or this Breakfast Stuffed Sweet Potato With Coconut Date Crunch.
Don’t have spinach? Use kale! Have some nuts lurking around? Toss those in too! There are so many more combinations you could make with these ingredients. Using hot sauce, mustard, vegan BBQ sauce, tamari, tahini, nutritional yeast, and herbs and spices of all kinds, the possibilities are endless.
See These 10 Frugal Vegan Meals You Can Make With Pantry Goods for more ideas on how to eat on a humble, yet hungry plant-based budget!
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Lead image source: Sweet Potato and Spinach Salad With Almond Dijon