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.
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.
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.
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!
This fast, easy dinner costs around $4 and feeds 4-6 people. It’s flavorful, filling, a little spicy, and you probably have most of the ingredients in your cupboards. Leave out the sausage for a meatless option.
If you’re a frugal cook, you need a Hamburger Vegetable Soup recipe. Easy to adapt to any eating-style: vegetarian, paleo, Whole30, gluten-free, dairy-free. And it’s loaded with inexpensive but flavorful ingredients. Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, Stovetop, and Freezer instructions included!
Need a hearty, flavorful, meatless dinner? Lentil Shepherds Pie is simple to make (one hour start to finish!), made with real food, and you can make it vegan or add some meat and use the lentils to stretch it!
This delicious recipe is gluten-free and taught my family to love a bowl of beans. Cumin beans are easy to make on the stove top, in the slow cooker, or with your Instant Pot. You can feed 6 people real food for around $3 and 5 minutes of work. This recipe is a great vegetarian meal option!
These stuffed tomatoes are an easy, beautiful, budget-friendly summertime dish made with melty cheese, whole-grain bread, and summer produce! Use this recipe for a frugal side dish or even more frugal main dish! Includes a dairy-free and vegan option.
It’s just a Caesar salad. But the dressing makes all the difference. It takes about 3 minutes to shake together. If it makes my brothers and dad will eat a mixing bowl of salad, it’s worth the extra effort to me. I think it’ll be the same for you.
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!