How Much Money Can You Save on Meatless Meals?

The new Planetary Health Diet is getting a lot of attention. It’s more of a lifestyle change than a diet. Scientists argue that by reducing our consumption of meat and sugar by 50% and eating more plant-based foods, we may extend our lives and the life of the planet. I recently switched to a plant-centered diet, and I’ve saved money in the process. Even if you aren’t vegetarian, you may be thinking about eating more fruits and vegetables. Today, we compare costs to see how much money you can save on meatless versions of 6 of our favorite dishes.

Today’s post was inspired by my dear friend Stephanie, who recently contributed a guest post about her no-spend month. She is vegetarian, and is able to save lots of money by not eating meat. How much can one save by choosing meatless meals? Let’s do the math!

1. Taco Baked Potato

  • Ground Beef $5.24 per pound
  • Vegetarian Ground Crumbles (by Morning Star) $4.98 per pound
    • Savings: $0.26 per pound less with vegetarian ground crumbles

Prepare baked potatoes and set aside to cool. In large skillet brown ground beef (or crumble), diced onion, and minced garlic over medium heat. Add taco seasoning, water, and salsa. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Slice potatoes and squeeze to open. Divide “taco” among potatoes and add your favorite toppings.

2. Parmesan* Sandwich

  • Chicken $5.39 per pound
  • Portobello mushrooms $3.78 per pound
    • Savings: $1.61 per pound less for mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 hero rolls
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup homemade marinara

Preheat broiler. Line baking sheet with nonstick foil. In a small bowl combine bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and set aside. Place mushrooms on prepared baking sheet and brush with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil for 6-8 minutes or until mushrooms begin to release their juices. Transfer to a cutting board and slice 1/2 inch thick.

Portobello parmesan sandwich

While the mushrooms are cooking split and toast the rolls, slice the mozzarella, and grate 1/4 cup parmesan. Divide cooked mushrooms among the rolls. Top with 2 tablespoons marinara, mozzarella slices, and 1 tablespoon parmesan.

Broil until cheese begins to melt. Top with bread crumb mixture and broil until golden brown and delicious. Serve with a side of homemade marinara.

3. Burgers

  • Organic, grass-fed beef ($5.98 for 1 lb, which makes 4 burgers) $1.50 per burger
  • Boca veggie burger ($3.22 per package of 4 patties) $0.81 per burger
    • Savings: $0.69 per serving less for Veggie burgers

4. Broccoli Cheddar Soup

  • Chicken broth $0.99 and cheese with animal rennet $2.15   Total $3.14
  • Vegetable scraps FREE and vegetarian cheese $2.22   Total $2.22
    • Savings: $0.92 less for vegetarian version – and I can’t taste the difference!
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 medium onion (chopped)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 cups broth or stock (recipe for free stock from veggie scraps here)
  • 1/2 pound broccoli
  • 1 cup carrot (shredded on box grater)
  • 8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese (we use Cabot brand, which uses plant rennet)
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
Broccoli cheddar soup

Melt butter and sautee the onions until soft. Add flour and whisk for 1-2 minutes over medium heat. Add in the half-and-half and broth. Add broccoli and carrots. Cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes until the broccoli and carrots are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cheese and nutmeg if desired.

5. Quesadillas

  • Chicken $5.39
  • Black beans $0.72, corn $1.00, rice $0.09   Total $1.81
    • Savings: $3.58 less for black bean and corn quesadillas
Black bean and corn quesadillas with rice and pico de gallo

6. Lasagna

  • Ground Beef $5.98
  • Spinach $1.48, extra ricotta $2.77   Total $4.25
    • Savings: $1.73 less for veggie lasagna

Meat Lasagna

  • Lasagna noodles
  • 1lb lean ground beef
  • 1 Jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2lb mozzarella cheese
  • 15oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs

Cook lasagna noodles according to package and set aside. Brown ground beef and add sauce. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Mix ricotta, parmesan, and half of the mozzarella with 2 slightly beaten eggs. Start to build your lasagna by spreading sauce in a 13×9 pan just enough to cover the bottom. Layer noodles, cheese mixture, and sauce — repeat until you have 3 layers. Top the last layer of noodles with sauce and the other half of the mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes.

TIP: If you don’t like the top layer of cheese browned and delicious, cover with foil for the first 30 minutes of cook time. Remove for the final 10 minutes.


Veggie Lasagna

Veggie lasagna is cooked the same way with a few modifications. Obviously omit the ground beef. Up the amount of ricotta cheese to 32 ounces and add a package of frozen chopped spinach (cooked according to directions and drained as much as possible). Add spinach into cheese mixture and layer as above (sauce, noodles, cheese and spinach mixture, sauce).

TIP: Add about 1 cup sauce into the cheese and spinach mixture to keep the layers from drying out.

Final Thoughts

My diet is far from perfect, but I am doing my best to feed my family more fruits and vegetables. These are just a few of the veggie-substitutions we made to our favorite dishes. In each case, the meatless version was less expensive. The cheddar cheese we buy tastes better and is slightly more expensive than the brands that are made with animal rennet. But paying $0.07 more is worth it to spend my money in a way that’s consistent with my values. Besides, I’m frugal not cheap!

*While many imported Parmesan cheeses are not vegetarian, Kraft claims their grated Parmesan uses vegetarian enzymes. See here for a list of cheeses without animal rennet, updated in 2018.


What are your favorite meatless meals? 


You May Also Like:

‘Planetary Health Diet’ Grocery Haul

How to Spend $100 Per Person Per Month on Food

Is Your Diet Eating at You?


2 thoughts on “How Much Money Can You Save on Meatless Meals?”

  1. We are a pescatarian household, but as fish is quite expensive we eat a lot of vegetarian food. Many of our meals are curried as spices add so much flavour to food. We also eat a lot of dahl, made from lentils, which are dried, so store for a long time and very cheap. We buy varies types of lentils to make different sorts of dahls and you can add tomatoes or spinach. Some dishes include yogurt and we make the occasional Indian cheese dish, but otherwise most of our meals are vegan.

    1. Hi Sam! I’ve been hearing great things about lentils and dahl, but haven’t made it yet. This is an excellent suggestion and next on my list to try. Thanks for the comment!

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