If you’re looking for a way to cut food costs and still eat well, going vegetarian could be the solution — especially if you know what to cook.
Fortunately, we’ve come up with some tasty budget-friendly meatless recipes that you can find by shopping at Trader Joe’s.
It’s not as if being a vegetarian is a new concept — or a fringe idea. Nearly one in four Americans reported eating less meat in the previous year, according to a 2019 Gallup Poll.
And with food prices rising 3.9% over the past 12 months, cutting food costs could offer a major way to save. (Also check out this article on additional ways to save on food costs.)
Beyond cutting costs by buying less meat, plant-based diets offer potential health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart attack, certain types of cancer and type 2 diabetes.
By incorporating simple ingredients you can find at Trader Joe’s, these vegetarian recipes can help prevent you from getting bored with your food — or from breaking the bank.
7 Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Recipes for The Budget Foodie
We’ve found some delicious ways to make simple meatless dishes, whether you’re a committed vegetarian or are simply trying to eat less meat than you usually do.
Budgeting for meals doesn’t have to mean going all-in organic (though you can check out these seven ways to save on organic food) or spending a bundle on fancy meat substitutes.
To make meals healthy but still delicious, simply include a protein-rich food and look for ways to incorporate vegetables or fruit in every meal.
Here are seven of our favorite meals to make after a shopping trip to Trader Joe’s.
Note: The approximate cost per serving assumes you already own some kitchen items, like butter, oil, spices and basic condiments. Also, we give the total cost and the number of servings you can get out of the ingredients listed, but plenty of the items come in larger quantities — use the leftovers in other dishes.
1. Cauliflower Fried “Rice”
Trader Joe’s does the hard part for you — it sells cauliflower that is already “riced” in the frozen vegetable section. Cook the riced cauliflower with minced garlic, ginger, turmeric and salt and pepper.
From there, add your favorite vegetables — or whatever you have in my fridge (think: carrot, celery and onion). You can toss in a scrambled egg for extra protein.
Cauliflower fried rice is surprisingly filling, especially when served with tofu for a protein boost. You’ll get several servings of vegetables with this meal and lots of vitamin C from the cauliflower.
- Trader Joe’s Organic Riced Cauliflower: $1.99
- Organic eggs: $4.29
- Organic celery hearts: $2.49
- Organic carrots: $1.49
- Yellow onion: 79 cents
- Trader Joe’s Sriracha Baked Tofu: $3.69
Total Cost: $14.74 for 3 servings
2. Kale and Chickpea Salad
Even if you’re a vegetarian, salads can get a bit boring — and some veggies get a bad rap, like kale. The key is in how you prepare it. Before dressing the salad, go through the leaves to remove hard stems. After rinsing, add a small spoonful of olive oil and gently massage the kale to break it down and remove bitterness. Start with more kale than you want to end up with, because after you’re done massaging it, it shrinks to nearly half its size.
Now, the best part. Pour Trader Joe’s Goddess Dressing, a creamy Greek dressing, over the greens (not too much!). Stir to combine. Then top with chickpeas and shredded parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Now, enjoy the best salad you’ve ever had.
- Organic kale: $2.49
- Trader Joe’s Goddess Dressing: $2.29
- Organic chickpeas: 99 cents
- Shredded parmesan: $5.49
Total Cost: $11.26 for 4 servings
3. Greek Yogurt Parfait
Greek yogurt has an unbelievable amount of protein. The 2% fat version has 20 grams in one serving — that goes a long way toward your daily intake. Buy the unflavored Greek yogurt to avoid too much added sugar, then add honey to sweeten to taste. From there, add your favorite toppings; we recommended blueberries and granola.
This Greek yogurt parfait is perfect for breakfast, lunch, snacks — whenever. It resembles a dessert but is seriously protein-packed, and it even has a serving of fruit.
- Trader Joe’s 2% Fat Greek Yogurt: $2.99
- 3/4 cup Trader Joe’s Ancient Grains and Nut Granola: $3.49
- 1/2 cup fresh blueberries: $3.69
Total Cost: $10.17 for 2 servings
4. Vegetable Masala Burgers With Fries
Although the Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burgers don’t pretend to taste like meat, they’re a pretty good substitute when you’re having a burger craving.
The patties are filled with potatoes, carrots, green beans, corn, peppers and Indian spices. Serve on a whole wheat bun for a boost of fiber, and skip the fries in favor of veggies (or veggie fries!) to make the meal healthier.
You can load up the burger with a tomato, sauteed onion, mayonnaise and cheese — or whatever toppings you’re craving.
This burger is low in protein (it only has 2 grams on its own; the bun has 5 grams), but it takes care of a vegetable serving or two. It’s naturally high in vitamin A — you’ll get 50% of your daily value from one patty!
- Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burgers: $2.69
- Whole wheat buns: $1.99
- Organic tomatoes on the vine: $3.29
- Yellow onion: 79 cents
- Cheddar cheese slices: $3.99
- Fries: $2.49
Total Cost: $15.24 for 4 servings
5. Tofu and Gyoza
This is an easy meal to make, but it still packs protein and vegetable servings. It’s the ultimate lazy dinner meal — you can make it in the microwave in under four minutes.
If you’re wondering, “What’s gyoza?” It’s like a thin ravioli stuffed with shredded vegetables. This one has cabbage, carrots, radish and onions.
Combine it with Trader Joe’s Sriracha Baked Tofu for protein and to make it a full meal. Once cooked, you can top the gyoza with a little minced garlic.
Beware of the gyoza’s high sodium content — especially if you’re adding soy sauce. But because it has carrots inside, it’s a good source of vitamin A. This meal will give you 15 grams of protein per serving.
- Trader Joe’s Sriracha Baked Tofu: $3.69
- Trader Joe’s Thai Vegetable Gyoza: $3.99
Total Cost: $7.68 for 2 servings
6. Brussels Sprouts With Sweet Potato
For this recipe, pour maple syrup and soy sauce over the brussels sprouts and then oven-bake until they’re crispy (about 25 minutes at 400 degrees).
Once they’re done, add a sprinkling of goat cheese. The creaminess of the cheese complements the crunchy, sweet flavor of the glazed brussel sprouts perfectly.
This meal is surprisingly filling, so just add a baked sweet potato to enhance the sweet flavor and add some diversity — and a huge dose of vitamins — to your plate. If sweet potatoes aren’t your thing, cook these brussel sprouts as a side and add to your other favorite meals.
- Brussels sprouts: $3.99
- Goat cheese: $3.29
- Sweet potato: 79 cents
Total Cost: $8.07 for 4 servings
7. Honorable Mention: Paneer Tikka Masala and Naan Bread
OK, this isn’t the healthiest lunch in the world, but it is quite delicious. Whenever it’s cooking, someone is bound to note how good it smells.
Watch your sodium on days you make these — like most frozen foods, Trader Joe’s Paneer Tikka Masala contains an unhealthy amount. But it’s a nice treat packed with health-benefiting spices, spinach and 10 grams of protein from the paneer.
It heats up quickly in the microwave and is good to have on hand for emergency lunch situations. If the paneer tikka masala alone isn’t usually enough to keep you full through dinner, crisp up garlic naan bread in the oven (another 7 grams of protein, and a good source of fiber!). This meal is fast and comes in under $5.
- Trader Joe’s Paneer Tikka Masala: $2.99
- Trader Joe’s Garlic Naan Bread: $1.99 for a package (you get four, so divide that for about 50 cents per serving)
Total Cost: $3.49 per single serving
Joline Buscemi is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Staff writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors updated prices for 2020.