A brown paper bag overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables against a white background

3 Easy Meals for Broke Vegan Students

Being vegan is hard. Being broke, vegan, and busy is even harder. Before coming to uni, I used to laugh at the idea of cooking vegan meals to save money. Surely all those fake meat products are far more expensive than real meat. But then I went on my first grocery shopping trip to Asda, saw the price tag on a kilo of beef and realised I was going to have to make some changes if I wanted to cook within budget.

I soon realised that some of my easiest, cheapest meals came out vegan without me even trying!

I soon realised that some of my easiest, cheapest meals came out vegan without me even trying, and not a single fake-meat product has been used in the process. So here they are: three foolproof, quick, cheap and delicious dinners for the broke, the vegan, or both.

Butter Bean Tomato Pasta

A mixture of ripe and unripe cherry tomatoes cling to a vine supported by sticks on a green background

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Spices: dried basil, dried oregano, chilli flakes (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • One onion
  • Tomato paste
  • A packet of fresh cherry tomatoes or a can of tinned tomatoes (cherry or plum recommended because they taste nicer than normal tinned tomatoes)
  • A can of butter beans
  • Half a big bag of spinach
  • Salt
  • Pasta of your choice (I recommend linguine)
  • Fresh basil (optional)

Method:

  1. Take a big shallow saucepan and cover the bottom of it with olive oil. Add a generous shake of dried basil, oregano and chilli flakes to it. Then add the garlic (crushed) and the onion (diced very small). Once that is sizzling and smelly add a squeeze of tomato paste and stir it in.
  2. Once the onions have cooked down a bit, strain the butter beans and add them to the pan. Stir it all up and let the beans sit in the garlic for a minute or two.
  3. Add your tomatoes to the saucepan and stir it all up. Add as much salt as you like.
  4. Turn the heat down to low. If you’re using fresh cherry tomatoes, cover the pan and let it simmer till the cherry tomatoes are completely squishy. If you’re using tinned tomatoes, just let it sit for fifteen minutes and then taste it. Wash your tomato can with water and pour that water into the mixture.
  5. Take out a pot and bring water to a boil. Once it has boiled, add lots of salt and your pasta. Save a cup of the pasta water when it’s cooked.
  6. Add the pasta water to the saucepan and the spinach. Once the spinach has wilted add the pasta to the pan as well and stir it up. Tear in fresh basil and you’re done!

Hearty Vegetable Chilli

A spice rack is set up with jars of several different spices next to wooden spoons and utensils in pots

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 3/4 cloves garlic
  • 2 onions
  • Spices: cumin, coriander, paprika, chilli flakes (optional), dried basil, 7-spice (if you can get it)
  • Salt
  • Tomato paste
  • 4 fresh tomatoes
  • 2 small courgettes
  • 2 small aubergines
  • 3 medium carrots
  • A can of tinned tomatoes
  • A can of kidney beans
  • A can of black beans
  • Rice (1 cup should do)

Method:

  1. Take a large saucepan and coat the bottom of it with a very generous amount of olive oil. Add in the garlic (crushed), onions (diced), and dump generous amounts of each spice in as well. Let them all fry together gently till they become lovely and aromatic.
  2. Add a big squeeze of tomato paste to the spicey onion mixture once the onions have cooked down a bit and stir it in. Then add the courgette, aubergine and carrots, all chopped in small chunks. Let them fry with the spices for a while.
  3. Add in the fresh tomatoes, also chopped. Keep stirring until the vegetables soften a bit.
  4. Add the tinned tomatoes, strained kidney beans and strained black beans. Wash your tomato can with water and pour that water into the mixture. Pour in salt to your liking and turn the heat on low. Cover the saucepan and let everything simmer for as long as possible (the longer you leave it the better it tastes).
  5. Take out another pot and cook the rice your preferred way. Because I was raised in an Arab household, I take rice cooking very seriously. It starts with washed basmati rice fried in the bottom of the pot with olive oil till golden. Then add 1.5x the amount of water to the amount of rice and let it boil dry. Once it’s boiled, turn on the lowest heat and steam with the lid on for at least ten minutes.
  6. Once the rice is ready and all the veggies are cooked in the chilli, turn your oven off and enjoy the two together.

Lazy Chickpea Curry

A small wooden bowl is filled with chickpeas, a spoon blurred in the background

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 3/4 cloves garlic
  • 2 onions
  • Spices: curry powder (I use medium), turmeric, cumin, chilli flakes (optional), ginger, coriander
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • Half a big bag of spinach
  • Four fresh tomatoes
  • Can of chickpeas
  • Can of tinned tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Rice

Method:

  1. If you’re noticing a trend here, all my cooking starts with olive oil, onion and garlic. In your saucepan, dump a very generous amount of oil to the bottom and fry the garlic (crushed) and the onions (diced). Dump in very generous amounts of each spice and fry gently till the onions have softened a bit.
  2. Add in carrots (chopped small) and let cook. Then add sweet potatoes (also chopped small) and let cook for a few minutes.
  3. Add fresh tomatoes (chopped small), strained can of chickpeas, can of tinned tomatoes and salt. Again, wash your tomato can with water and pour that water into the mixture.
  4. Turn the heat down to low and let the curry simmer while you cook your rice. Use the same method mentioned for the vegetable chilli.
  5. Once the curry has been simmering and bubbling (like the chilli, the longer you leave it the better it tastes), add in the spinach and let it wilt.
  6. Serve over rice and enjoy!

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