My Super Simple and Cheap Vegan Meal Plan for a Family of Four
So, you had an unexpected expense come up….again, and you’re determine to still come up with a way for your family to eat healthy. Even when you have a tiny budget to get your groceries; much less than the average amount people spend on groceries in this country!
Because, let’s face it, in the U.S. food prices are constantly creeping up; whether you eat a vegan diet or S.A.D. (Standard American Diet), and there’s no increase in pay to help even out costs.
According to the USDA, the cost of food for a family of four ranges from $130 and $300…a week! (Source can be found here, I’m not making it up!)
That price range simply blows my mind.
I knew I was a bit frugal when it came to my families grocery budget and trying to keep it around $60 to $80 a week. But, I didn’t know that wasn’t even close to the norm. It’s amazing what you find out when you do a little bit of research!
Even for families who aren’t really frugal, but are simply living paycheck to paycheck, can have difficulty keeping their grocery bill in line.
Related Post: How to Budget (when You Have No Money)
And, what about with your unexpected expense? How are you to lower your grocery bill then?
You may already feel like you’re stingy when you go to the store.
That’s where meal planning and being intentional about the food your family eats during the week comes in!
With a few tips and a super simple meal plan (with a few repeat meals) you can make it through the tough times and not have to give up eating healthy, or give in to eating non-vegan foods (that contribute to animal cruelty and the destruction of the planet).
Though, my husband thinks it’s perfectly alright to eat ramen during these times- sodium filled packets and all; I like to opt for meals that actually contain nutrients for myself and two girls.
How to Make a Healthy Meal Plan on a Budget
How to Budget (when You Have No Money)
The Benefits of Meal Prepping
8 Quick and Healthy Vegan Meal Ideas
How to Stock Healthy Snacks at Home for Kids
A Few Quick Tips for a Vegan Meal Plan on a Budget
Make sure you make a vegan meal plan for a week!
You won’t stay in your small budget for the week if you don’t write down your families meals. And, then make a grocery list from your meal plan.
Being as detailed as possible when doing this is key.
Make sure you write down EVERYTHING anyone will be consuming that week, and include EVERYTHING that you will need on the grocery list. No one likes running out to the store because they forgot something they needed.
This includes items you’ll need that you have everyday but may not think to write down, such as if you need more coffee. That is something you won’t want to forget to write down!
Meal plan around the food you already have.
If you’re already used to making healthy meal plans on a budget, then you may have some ingredients you can use during the weeks where you’re barely scraping by.
Or, if you’re planning out your budget in advance and can see that money will be tight for a week in the future, consider stocking up on some cheap and healthy food now.
Some suggestions for what to stock up on:
- dried beans
- bread (and freeze it)
- peanut butter
- oats (for oatmeal, baked goods, and more)
- baking ingredients
- bananas (to cut up and freeze for smoothies)
- avocado (to puree, freeze, and use for toast/sandwiches)
- frozen fruit
- frozen veggies
What you may want to stock up on may be slightly different than my list; what we eat tends to be a personal decision. I know many people who hate being told what they should eat. (My children included!)
Related Post: How to Stock Healthy Snacks at Home for Kids
Avoid Eating Out at All Costs
This should be relatively easy, seeing as how you may not have the extra money to do so. And, with being on a vegan diet, there aren’t as many choices for eating out. (Unless of course, if you live in or near a city with vegan restaurants. And, in that case, I’m a bit jealous!)
Never Buy Name Brand
Name brand products are almost always more expensive than store brand products. And, in some cases the ONLY difference is the outside box or container; you’re literally paying for the name.
Don’t Forget Your Cheap Vegan Meal Prep!
Once you have your meal plan (or use mine below), your grocery list, and have bought your groceries; make sure you prep your meals as much as you can.
Doing this will ensure no one will have to eat out during the week; everything will be ready for them to take to work or school. And, if you’re a stay at home parent, like me, you won’t have to spend time making food everyday. Which means more time to get things done, spend with your kids, or read that book you keep trying to get to while your kids nap!
Learn to Meal Prep for a plant based or vegan diet here!
Focus on Nutrition and Whole Foods
Ironically, many people associate a healthy or vegan diet with an expensive diet, but the opposite it true.
It’s the unhealthy, heavily processed food that is the most expensive. Plus, when you eat junk food, you have to eat more of it because your cells are starving for nutrients. So, not only are you spending more money because the processed food is more expensive to begin with; but you’re also buying more of it to try to fill yourself and family up.
(Along with increasing your chances of becoming obese, getting diabetes, and other food related chronic illnesses.)
By focusing on nutrition, you’ll be thinking of how to get healthy proteins, carbs, and fats. And, how to get them in your shopping cart as cheap as possible.
This is where your beans, legumes, rice, veggies, and fruits come in.
Dried beans and rice are ridiculously cheap and often overlooked. And, a cup of brown rice contains 5 grams of protein and 3 and a half grams of fiber. Combine that with half a cup or broccoli and your up to about 7 grams of protein and 5 and a half grams of fiber. (Who was it again that said vegans don’t get enough protein in their diets? This isn’t even a full meal calculated out.)
You can get a 5 pound bag of brown rice and 2 pounds of frozen broccoli for about $6 and it’ll last you quite awhile, seeing as how the rice doubles when cooked.
Now that you know a few of my inside secrets on how I’m able to spend so little on my families groceries every week, let’s get to My Super Simple and Cheap Vegan Meal Plan for a Family of Four!
Related Post: How to Make a Healthy Meal Plan on a Budget
My Super Simple and Cheap Vegan Meal Plan for a Family of Four!
I may meal plan differently than others, and as a fair warning I’m not a nutritionist, dietitian, or will ever claim to make a perfect meal plan (because a perfect meal plan doesn’t exist). But, I do consider myself to be fairly healthy and follow a vegan diet. I only ever want the healthier food being consumed by my children!
Instead of going day by day for meal planning; I meal plan by the meal or snack for each day. This allows me to move around different meals depending on what myself or family are in the mood for.
Like I said before, what we eat is a personal choice, and sometimes we can’t even stick to our own strict meal. Instead of driving myself crazy, I created a system to be more lenient, and that allows us more flexibility in what we eat when.
Related Post: 10 Vegan Comfort Food Recipes My Kids Go Crazy For
Super Cheap Vegan Breakfasts
The cheapest and healthiest vegan breakfast options (that are also child approved and requested) are:
- oatmeal (my 2 girls under 6 suggest apple cinnamon oatmeal- recipe coming soon!)
- crepes (depending on the filling/toppings)
- green smoothies (or peanut butter smoothies- recipe coming soon, you’ll just need to omit the cocoa)
All of these options are very cheap and the ingredients can even be bought ahead if you have some time to prepare for your low food budget week. Plus, many of the ingredients are ones you probably already have in your cupboards.
If you don’t have any the ingredients, it of course, will be a little more expensive. To give an example, let’s go over all the ingredients for my girls favorite oatmeal recipe (be advised prices may differ depending on where you live):
- oats: just under $3 for about 3 lbs
- apples: $3 for a bag of about 9 (you only need one apple per 1 cup of oats)
- brown sugar: $2
- cinnamon: $2
- (optional: raisins, but they can get a little pricey, as in almost $4 for the larger 20oz container)
- water: free (it’s getting boiled, but you can use filtered water if you prefer)
So, there you have it; $10 for breakfast that will last your whole family at least a week. Feel free to mix it up, especially if you already have ingredients in your home for other breakfasts!
Related Post: 12 deliciously healthy kid friendly breakfast recipes for easy school mornings
Morning Vegan Snack Ideas
I am a huge advocate on eating snacks during the day, for children and adults alike!
Just check out the A to Z healthy snack challenge my girls and I did when they were a little younger, you’ll find over 130 snacks we tried in a 26 week time frame!
With that being said, I also admit that making 130+ different snacks over 26 weeks wasn’t the cheapest challenge we’ve ever done. Some weeks were much cheaper than others, and we felt that hit our bank account. Luckily, it wasn’t too expensive where we couldn’t afford it, but we would’ve saved money by choosing two or 3 snacks per week instead!
Some of the cheapest snacks ended up being:
- baked goods, like muffins
- and single serving of fruit (my girls love cuties and bananas)
The cheapest way to buy smoothie ingredients is by buying the 64 oz frozen bag of fruit you find at stores, buying bananas in bulk (and cutting them up to freeze and save them), buying greens not prewashed, and using water instead of non-dairy milk. Anything else you add to the smoothie is an extra and not crucial, like flaxseeds or chia seeds; however, when bought in bulk they’re pretty cheap.
The bulk frozen bag of fruit may seem a bit pricey at first, costing almost $10. However, this bag should last you at least two weeks for smoothies everyday for your family, if not longer. It lasts my family about a month because my husband opts out of these.
You should also consider that this is much cheaper than buying fresh produce, even when bought in bulk. The frozen bag has the produce already peeled, cut up, and pits removed; all of which would be weighed and paid by pound if bought fresh.
You can also get about 10-12 bananas for around $3, which is plenty for the week, whether in smoothies, all by themselves, with peanut butter (my girls favorite), or used in baked goods. As for greens, you can get a enough kale for the week (or two weeks) for about $1 when it’s not prewashed or bagged. So, that’s less than $15 for a breakfast or snack that will last you about 2 weeks.
Related Post: 27 Healthy Smoothie Bowls and Smoothie Recipes for Kids
Cheap Vegan Lunches
Lunch can be a tricky meal for some, as many people aren’t home to eat lunch, but rather at school or work.
But, one of the cheapest ways to save money for lunches is by simply eating leftovers from dinner the night before, whatever it may have been. I know, that’s vague and not too helpful, especially when you have picky eaters.
In this case, let’s get back to basics, and our childhood favorites!
If you can’t feed your family leftovers for lunch, what about sandwiches?
My picky eater insists on eating sandwiches for lunch at school; so, why not let her! They’re not that unhealthy and they can be good on the wallet, too.
To ensure a healthier sandwich than a simple peanut butter and jelly, try peanut butter and banana sandwiches, or avocado and tomato.
You can get bread for as cheap as $2 a loaf, which will make about 12 or so sandwiches (so you’d need 2 loaves). Or, make the bread yourself. This is my go to bread recipe.
Peanut butter is a bit more expensive, but you can get a 4 lb jar for about $6; which should last you a month. (Or, at least 2 weeks, depending on if your kids eat it right out of the jar with a spoon like mine do.)
So, you could get away with spending only $10 additional on lunch for your whole family for the week. (Bananas were calculated above.)
Related Post: 12 Healthy Vegan School Lunch Ideas
Afternoon Vegan Snack ideas
You can do one of other options for afternoon snack as was listed for morning snack, or make it more fun and something your children can look forward to for after school. Such as apple donuts (apples cut with a whole in the middle and peanut butter on top), or chickpea cookies!
If you check out the chickpea cookie recipe, you’ll see that it doesn’t have many ingredients, and most of the ingredients you probably already have. The ones you may be missing are probably chocolate chips, which you can get fairly cheap or omit, and chickpeas. A one pound bag of dried chickpeas is about $1.50, and is enough to make 6 batches of those cookies! (Hint- use the same amount of brown sugar mixed with water to replace the maple syrup, since maple syrup tends to be a little pricey, and omit vanilla.)
To help even more with your budget, and to prevent the ‘Mom, I’m hungry’ rant from your kids every afternoon; make sure this afternoon snack is full of protein. This is why I don’t mind feeding my girls my protein rich chickpea cookies!
For other protein rich vegan snacks, check out 23 High Protein Vegan Snacks for Kids After School Snacks
Super Cheap Vegan Dinner Ideas
Whenever I know my families budget for food is going to be tight; I always rely on the stockpile of brown rice, beans, and pasta I have, along with frozen veggies.
A common meal my family may have is a rice, tofu, and veggie bowl. Brown rice can be as cheap as $1.50 for a 2 pound bag, tofu as cheap $1.50, and the price for veggies varies depending on the type.
Another meal we rely on when on a tight budget is homemade soup. I tend to stockpile veggie stock, dried beans, and pasta.
The soup I make will sometimes be based off of this one, with the ingredients adjusted for my families preference and to ensure savings.
For this soup you’ll basically need veggies, veggie stock or a bouillon cube, beans, and pasta.
You could easily get all your veggies, including the onion and garlic, for under $5, pasta at $1, veggie stock for $2, and the beans at $3 (dried, and will last quite awhile). And, this soup make A LOT! As in, it lasts my family of four 2 weeks if I chop and freeze the veggies and don’t cook the beans or pasta til needed.
That’s $11 for dinner for 2 weeks, though, you may want to do the rice, tofu, and veggie bowl as well. So, it could creep up to $20 for dinner for 2 weeks.
Related Post: 11 Family Friendly Quick and Easy Vegan dinner recipes for Hectic Weeknights
Other Base Ingredients or Food
If you may have noticed, everything you may consume in a week may not be noted above. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘but where’s the coffee?’
Extra items that we believe we need, we can simply go without when need be. OR, simplified to make them cheaper.
For the coffee that we, as parents, always need so badly; never buy it out, and buy the big container at the store that will last you at least a month. This way you won’t have to worry about your coffee fix when your budget is tight.
And, instead of buying non dairy coffee creamer, buy flavored soy milk instead! It’s a bit healthier and a lot cheaper, plus it’ll last you longer. If it’s not sweet enough, add some brown sugar to it; you probably already bought it for the oatmeal or cookies anyways!
So, what does this look like in a meal plan template?
Click here to download the meal plan! Feel free to print it out and use it for yourself, or use the extra adjustable meal planning template for your own cheap meal plan. (This also includes the grocery list for the meal plan, for your convenience!)
Grocery list for a super cheap vegan meal plan
To make this section as simple and as easy to digest as possibly, I’m just writing it out in lists depending on sections in a regular grocery store.
- Bananas: ~$3
- Apples: $3
- Veggies for soup: ~$5 (broken down below)
- onion: ~75 cents
- garlic: ~50 cents
- zucchini: ~$1
- yellow squash: ~75 cents
- carrots: ~$1
- kale: ~$1
- (optional) Avocados: ~$4
- (optional) Tomatoes: ~$1.50
- Broccoli: ~$2
- Mixed Fruit: ~$10 (will last at least 2-3 weeks)
- Tofu: ~$1.50
- Soy Milk: ~$2.50
- Oats: ~$3
- Cinnamon: ~$2
- Brown Sugar: ~$2
- Peanut Butter: ~$6 (will last 2-3 weeks)
- Baking Powder: ~$1
- White Beans: ~$1.50 (dried- will make equivalent to 6 cans)
- Kidney Beans: ~$1.50 (dried- will make equivalent to 6 cans)
- Chickpeas: ~$1.50 (dried- will make equivalent to 6 cans)
- Rice: ~$1.50 (should last all month)
- Veggie Stock: ~$2
- Pasta Sauce: ~$2
- Pasta: ~$1
- Olive Oil: ~$2
- Salt: ~$1
- Italian Seasoning: ~$2
- Bread: ~$4
Alright, so if you added up all of those groceries you’ll end up with a grocery bill of about $66.50.
This may seem super cheap to some people, but a little high for others (such as myself) when thinking of a super cheap vegan meal plan for a family of four.
What you need to consider is the fact that you probably already have some of these ingredients, especially if you’re used to eating vegan on a budget.
For example, this is what I usually have already in stock (and recommend you keeping in stock as well) just in case the budget gets tight:
- Mixed Fruit
- Brown Sugar
- Peanut Butter
- Baking Powder
- White Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Veggie Stock
- Pasta Sauce
- Olive Oil
- Italian Seasoning
These ingredients are non-perishables and I buy in bulk when getting them, making them cheaper to buy for the long run.
Having these items already at home brings the grocery bill down to $24.50. That’s the power of buying in bulk when you can!
And, if that is still too much; don’t make avocado and tomato sandwiches and replace that with peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It’ll bring the bill down to $19, and even if your budget is extremely tight; you should be able to spend $20 on groceries for the week.
You can’t get much cheaper than that!
A few things to remember to for a super cheap vegan meal plan
To recap, let’s go over the gist of eating healthy (and vegan) when money is tight.
- Make sure you make a meal plan
- Make your meal plan based on food you already have
- Avoid eating out at all costs
- DON’T buy name brand
- Write down your grocery list and stick to the list
- Meal Prep as much as you can
- Focus on Nutrition and whole foods
- Don’t buy pre-washed veggies
- Drink water
- Buy dried beans and rice
- Buy in bulk when you can to save money when times are tough
It’s never fun to be on a tight budget, especially with kids or when it changes what you normally eat. But, it is still possible to eat vegan on a budget; just don’t expect to be eating something different everyday of the week or buying the highly processed fake meats, or anything else like that.
The closer we get to whole unprocessed, or even local, foods; the cheaper our grocery bill gets. If you live in a place where you’re able to grow your own produce, then you’ll be able to save even more money on your grocery bill. However, that takes time and won’t help out in an immediate situation.
So, take this for what it is; use it to the t, adjust it as need be, or only use the tips I provided. Anyways, I hope it’s able to help you out in a time of need, or if you’re simply trying to cut back on expenses to pay off debt or save up for something.
Don’t forget to grab the print outs for this exact meal plan, grocery list, and blank templates to help you become organized and save money!
p.s. Also share with friends and family; they don’t have to be vegan to appreciate this cheap meal plan!