Need some budget-friendly meatless meals? Here are 20+ plant-based dinners that you can make from your pantry!

meatless meals pingraphic

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Okay, who’s working through their pantry and avoiding the grocery store like the plague?

Like the literal plague?

For some of us, we can’t find meat at the store. Or maybe we’re just trying not to go to the store.

No matter the food situation where you are, I hope this list empowers you to save money, eat well, reduce food waste, and use what you have!

Why Go Meatless?

There is so much research out there about the benefits of eating less meat – both for our bodies and for the planet. At our house, we generally try to eat vegetarian during the day, and then half of our dinners are meatless or at least have meat as an option.

This helps keep our meals budget-friendly and plant-based.


Plant-Based Dinners

Keep in mind that plenty of food is meatless. These egg-free brownies, for example, are not only meatless, but they’re also vegan. That doesn’t mean they’re healthy! They’re still brownies.

When my family eats meatless dinners, we try to keep the word plant-based in mind. This means that while pizza is technically meatless, it’s also not loaded with plants – unless we make it one of those pizzas that only moms like.

Instead, our plant-based dinners are loaded with vegetables, with the option of adding more as needed, depending on your diet needs (and picky eaters).

Family-Friendly Meatless Meals

I found 3 ways to make meatless meals for family-friendly.

3 Ways to Rock Meatless Meals

We all know that meatless meals save our budget and the planet. Let’s embrace them and find ways to make them better.

1. Cheese It

I’m not claiming this is the healthiest idea, but if the people at your table (or maybe just you) are rebelling, try adding a little cheese. Not only does it make everything better, but it makes a meatless meal feel more filling.

2. Find Your Favorites

You don’t need a wide variety of meatless meals. Find 3-4 favorites and sprinkle them in throughout the month. No one complains when they get to eat their favorite food.

3. Make it “Mostly” Meatless

A little bit of meat goes a long way. Most of these recipes can handle a sprinkle of diced chicken, ground beef, or crumbled bacon. Make it work for you.

beans and rice

Meat-less Meals

Got someone in your family who doesn’t think dinner is dinner unless something died? (I hate that joke.)

Everyone’s diet needs are different, so most of these dinners are flexible! You can add as much or as little meat as you need.

Usually, I try to keep both make-ahead chicken and make-ahead beef in the fridge, then I’ll make dinner and add what we need to that mostly meatless meal. This helps us eat more plants and keeps our meals budget-friendly.

It’s also one of the many ways we afford quality meat on a budget.

Dairy-Free Meatless Meals

If you’re dairy-free, many of the recipes below that use cheese have dairy-free alternatives!

Obviously, meals like Macaroni & Cheese are hard to pull off (although you can find plenty of vegan recipes elsewhere online) but don’t skip a meal in the list below just because it has cheese in the title. We were dairy-free for many years, and I try to find dairy-free alternatives for many of our meatless meals!

20+ Meatless Meals

Need some budget-friendly meatless meals? Here are 20+ plant-based dinners that you can make from your pantry!

Budget-Friendly Plant Based Side Dishes

Choose one of these plant based sides to go with your meatless meals or to just add some extra veggies to your dinner!

Whether you decide to try meatless meals in order to stretch your budget, avoid the grocery store, or save the planet, these plant-based ideas will help you do that!

Vegetarian Pantry Meals pingraphic

What You Can Do Now:

What are some of your favorite meatless meals?

If you found this post helpful, let us know! Leave a comment, share it on Facebook or Pinterest, and follow us on Instagram or YouTube for more!

Slash your grocery budget and feed your family real food! Get simple, frugal, real food menu plans every month for FREE in the Cheapskate Cooks’ 1-Min Email. Get your first one here.