10 Tasty Meat Substitutions That Won't Break the Bank
Those exploring healthy eating alternatives such as a plant-based diet or people wanting to save money on meat expenses often stumble in their efforts when it comes to meat substitutions. While replacing meat in your diet can feel overwhelming at first, there are numerous ways to go. You just have to take your time with menu and realize that meat substitutions won’t always be incorporated on the plate in the same way as a chicken breast. Here are some frugal, tasty suggestions for replacing meat. (See also: Money-Saving Tips for Carnivores)
One great use for eggplant is eggplant lasagna; it’s one of the most popular eggplant recipes around. Eggplant is quite lush and meaty tasting when prepared properly, and it can be grown inexpensively in your yard.
2. Brown Lentils
After having spent a fair amount of time researching how to cook with brown lentils, I’ve come to appreciate just what a great substitute they can be for ground beef. I use them for everything from sloppy joes and tacos to a pilaf enhancer to savory pastry filling.
As far as meaty flavor is concerned, mushroom recipes are a sure bet for things like pizza toppings, salad add-ins, cracker spreads, and more. My personal favorite mushroom is portobello, because I think it has the deepest flavor.
Shelf stable and suitable for buying in bulk, TVP can be extremely helpful to those who are beginning to explore their options. Creating your own meatless burger crumbles, chili, and even taco filling for your tortilla meals is a breeze once you are familiar with using this product.
Even some long-time vegetarians and vegans admit that tackling tofu can feel a bit strange in the beginning. There are, however, a number of ways it can be used with confidence, including crispy stir fry dishes and as a crumbled scrambled egg replacement in pad thai. For hard-core frugal foodies, it is possible to make your own tofu if you’re so inclined.
One nut that was particularly helpful in my plant-based transition was cashews. They work fantastically in a pepper stir fry and can be used to create a variety of cheese substitutes as well. If you are trying to eat vegan on the cheap, consider stocking your pantry with some dry-roasted peanuts, walnut pieces, and cashew halves to get started.
Even less expensive than nuts, seeds are some of the best meat substitutions around. They work well on salads, can be turned into spreads, and really amp up the protein in homemade breads. What’s more, they are even affordable to purchase organically, making them a highly affordable addition to your organic vegan grocery list.
When discussing meat substitutions, budget foodies are usually the first to chime in about the affordability of beans. You can create your own sandwich spreads, toss some beans in your curry instead of chopped chicken, and even serve beans as a pork chop replacement to round out a basic dinner of baked potatoes and veggies. I typically keep a case or two of vegetarian baked beans on my pantry shelves for nights I don’t want to put that much effort into dinner. They can be emptied from the can directly onto the dinner plates and microwaved along with the frozen broccoli while I’m waiting for the potatoes to come out of the oven. Easy peasy.
9. Peanut Butter
Available in giant containers when shopping at Costco or similar stores, peanut butter is an inexpensive protein substitute you can use to create dipping sauces, peanut lo mein, and much more. It’s shelf stable, which means you don’t have to take up room in your fridge or freezer to store it, and it’s one of those rare foods that children — at least those without allergies — universally enjoy. This makes a great secret weapon for those that find themselves cooking for kids on a regular basis.
While I try not to rely on them too heavily, I’m not above keeping a few packages of reproduction meat knock-offs in my freezer. Gardein is a fave when I can get my hands on it, and their meatless beef tips help me mix up my selection of vegetarian crock pot recipes with a hearty stew that I can serve carnivorous eaters when they come to visit. Their chicken cutlets can also be sliced to use in fajitas or other international dishes. When I shop at Aldi, I also like to purchase Boca chicken patties and burgers as an easy way to serve chicken Parmesan and salisbury steak, respectively.
Meat substitutions don’t have to be flavorless or expensive. Researching various ways to enjoy some of your favorites from this list will help you keep your menus diverse and on budget.