Going vegan: Budget meals and store cupboard basics

Posted by Steph Elswood on

We all like to save money where we can, but sometimes it feels like it’s hard to save money and the environment when going vegan. The UK, and particularly London has lots of great vegan restaurants, but trying all it has to offer can really add up!

But don’t resort to instant noodles just yet! Eating healthy while vegan doesn’t have to be expensive. Aside from saving money by not buying meat, you can save a lot more still by buying basic ingredients that keep for a long time in your pantry or your freezer, and making your own spice and sauce combinations. 

Stocking up on canned and/or frozen foods and staying home to cook doesn’t have to be boring! We’ve put together a few great vegan staple food ideas that work well if:

  • You’ve gotten home from work really late to an empty fridge
  • You’re a student, between jobs or you’re trying to save money and limit your spending on groceries
  • It’s the end of the pay month
  • You don’t have much space in a fridge/freezer you share with flatmates
  • You’re avoiding the shops or social distancing
  • You want to get creative in the kitchen

Read on for our top tips!

Pick your base

Our first piece of advice is to choose your base – this will be what you create the rest of your meal around (and sometimes be a vessel to carry the rest of the yumminess!)

Bases that’ll last a while might include:

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Rice or buckwheat noodles
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa

Pick a flavour combo/theme

Once you have your base, try to pick a spice combination or theme. Check what you’ve got in your spice cupboard – don’t worry if dried herbs and spices are a little out of date – they keep a lot longer than they say! Google around to find out how to make your own blends like curry or Mexican flavours. Store-bought mixes will often have added sugar or starches, so not only will you save money but also cut out some unnecessary nasties by creating a blend yourself.

Some common blends or themes might include:

  • Asian (soy, ginger, chilli, sesame, vinegar, miso, nut butters, coriander)
  • Indian (curry spice, garam masala, turmeric)
  • Italian (olives, lemon, tomatoes, oregano)
  • Mexican (cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano, garlic, onion, chilli, chipotle)

Add a protein

We’ve talked about protein on the blog before – and there are a myriad of choices for vegan protein! Luckily, most of these are shelf-stable. You can get tempeh in a jar, tofu has a long life if kept in the fridge, and beans and lentils can be bought cheaply in bulk when dried, or save the fuss and get them in cans (just remember to recycle the cans later!).

  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Black beans
  • Nuts

Add some flavour

Some great long-life options to add zest and texture to your meals may already be in your cupboard or fridge (hands up if you have a lemon squeezy and half a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in your fridge!). Think about:

  • Lemon
  • Olives
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Miso paste
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Capers
  • Soy sauce
  • Nut butter
  • Dried fruit
  • Tahini
  • Sesame oil

Add some vegetables (frozen or fresh)

The great thing about frozen vegetables is that they are often snap frozen at their freshest – right after being picked. Steam them, fry them, throw them in a stew or curry! If they get really sad-looking, you can make them into your own vegetable stock for use in other meals. Life hack: When you chop up garlic or onion, chop a little extra and throw the spare in the freezer for next time – it makes life a lot easier for your next meal!

Vegetables that are great to cook from frozen include:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Cauliflower
  • Peppers
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Chilli

Make it go further

Turn that stew into a soup and make it last longer! Your food will go further by adding liquids like the below (and it’ll give you even more to soak up with your rice or potato)!

  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Vegetable stock (cubes)
  • Coconut milk

So you’ve checked what you’ve already got and now you’re not quite sure what to do with it… never fear, here are some ideas!

What can I make with my long-life stash?

The below combinations are not an exact science, and you may need to add water, spices or oil to get the right flavour and consistency - but this should give you a few ideas of what you might throw together to come up with a great meal! 

  • Chick peas + tahini + garlic + lemon = hummus
  • Pasta + onion + garlic + chopped tomatoes + olives + capers + nutritional yeast + chilli flakes = puttanesca 
  • Couscous + vegetable stock + chick peas + sun-dried tomatoes + olives + raisins = warm salad
  • Rice + peas + vegetable stock + nutritional yeast = risotto
  • Lemon + parsley + butter beans + onion + garlic = side dish
  • Lentils + onion + garlic + curry powder = daal
  • Noodles + tofu + frozen vegetables + soy sauce + nuts = stir fry
  • Noodles + peanut butter + soy sauce + sesame oil = nutty noodles
  • Baked potato + black beans + Mexican spices + tomato salsa = Mexican jacket potato
  • Sweet potato + beans + vegetable stock + coconut milk + curry spice = soup
  • Beans + oats + salsa = bean burgers
  • Corn + flour + onions + garlic = corn fritters


There are plenty of online resources for vegan budget and store cupboard meals – take a look around and get creative! Your next masterpiece meal may already be waiting for you in the pantry!

In case you're still looking for recipe inspiration, until April 12, you can buy both Plant to Plate and Plant to Plate: Winter Warmers recipe ebooks for £14.99 (a saving of £7.99). That's 70 plant-based recipes made with ingredients that are easy to source, easy to prepare and easy to enjoy. Simply add both books to your shopping cart and the discount will automatically apply. Visit the ebook store here.


Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

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