I love meat. It tastes good, has easy to digest proteins, B vitamins and iron.
But it can be a killer to my grocery budget – even when I use all my tips to save on meat.
To offset this, I serve a meatless main dish to help stretch our budget, like this slow cooker meatless lasagna. That doesn’t mean we don’t get protein though!
One of the biggest responses to eating less meat is a concern of eating less protein, but selecting lower cost protein means slashing your grocery bill without sacrificing nutrition. Eggs, beans, Edamame and Greek yogurt are all high in protein, but low in cost. Cottage cheese is another item that’s frugal yet high in protein, and that’s why we love this slow cooker meatless lasagna so much.
This recipe is a slight variation of my meat version, where I add ground turkey to the sauce, but my family likes this one just the same and they don’t even miss the meat! In fact, one serving of this slow cooker meatless lasagna (1/8 of the recipe) boasts 31g protein!
We’re relying on cheese for the protein in this dish, but to keep the cost of cheese down, I buy cheese in 5 lb bags at Costco for $2-$2.50 a pound because it’s easier with my family of 8. On the other hand, block cheese is usually less expensive than shredded and it’s not dusted with anti-caking fiber.
Whether you choose pre-shredded or block cheese is up to you, but you can still save buy buying in bulk, dividing it into smaller portions when you get home and freezing it.
This slow cooker meatless lasagna is my personal favorite because it’s incredibly easy to throw together and since it cooks in the slow cooker, it’s virtually hands-off. Plus it works with two different cooking times, so if I happen to forget to prepare it in the morning, I can take care of it at lunch and dinner will still be ready on time.
In addition to slow cooker meatless lasagna, we also include these inexpensive meatless main dishes in our meal plan rotation:
Frittata. Starting with a cast iron skillet makes it easy to take a frittata from the stove top to the oven. This recipe uses 2-4 cups of vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, or bell peppers. We usually eat this towards the end of the week and let it be a dumping ground of sorts from the leftover vegetables from meals earlier in the week. My go-to frittata recipe makes 8 servings with 12 g protein each.
Black Bean Burgers. This simple recipe tastes like a burrito on a bun and is easily adaptable to whatever vegetables you have on hand. The original recipe just has green onion and carrots, but bell pepper, olives, corn, and tomatoes are nice too. My black bean burger recipe makes 14 burgers, each with 10g protein.
Calico Bean Soup with Cornbread. Calico bean soup is essentially a mix of different beans. You can get a bag premixed in most grocery stores, and both the 5 bean or 9 bean mixes work great. However, creating your own mix is likely the more frugal option, especially since you can choose beans that your family likes. This dish is delicious on its own, but it’s great with leftover ham or sausage too. We like to add homemade cornbread, and with calico bean soup, each serving is about 14g protein.
Flautas. Flautas are little rolls made with flour tortillas and filled with just about anything you want. Traditionally they are deep fried, but we like them just as well baked (plus it saves a money in oil). Sweet potato black bean flautas are my family’s favorite, but we sometimes will substitute 2 cups homemade refried beans for the sweet potatoes when they’re not in season. We also like to dip them in a sauce made with 2 teaspoons of taco seasoning mix with ½ cup each of plain Greek Yogurt and homemade salsa. Each flauta contains 12g protein.
- 24 oz jar marinara sauce
- ½ cup water
- 24 oz cottage cheese
- 12 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 9 uncooked lasagna noodles
- Mix marinara sauce and water. Place a small amount of sauce in the bottom of a greased oval slow cooker. Place 3 noodles on top, breaking the outer ones in half to fit.
- Sprinkle with 1 cup of cottage cheese; ⅔ cup of mozzarella and ⅓ cup of parmesan. Top with 1 ¼ cups of sauce. Repeat layers 2 more times. Top with the last cup of mozzarella cheese.
- Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. Let stand for 15 minutes with the lid off before serving.