I'll skip the pious lecture about the horrors of meat versus the virtues of vegetarianism. The truth is that I don't really care that much whether someone eats meat or not. I personally don't like the taste, and never have. But from simply a cost standpoint alone, there are some very cheap, great tasting vegetarian recipes that are worth trying whether you are a charter member of PETA or whether you prefer your beef still mooing.
This one is probably my favorite. Rice, coconut, vegetable stock, beans, butter, salsa, & sour cream are all great staples to stock up on when they are on sale, and the remaining produce ingredients--onion, cilantro, & lime--are super cheap, even when they're not on sale. It is equally delicious on its own for a simple, cost-effective meal, or paired with marinated then grilled vegetable and/or chicken skewers. I have even made a vegan version by substituting the butter for olive oil. If you prefer a milder dish, just skip the cayenne pepper.
Spicy Black Beans & Coconut Rice
1 c. sweetened flaked coconut
3 1/2-4 cups vegetable broth, divided
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 Tbsp. butter, divided (or olive oil, for vegan version)
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (skip if desired)
3 green onions, sliced
approximately 3/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro (I usually use 1 whole bunch)
sour cream or greek yogurt (skip for vegan version)
fruit salsa, any brand
(I usually use mango salsa, but pineapple would be good too)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread out coconut on baking sheet and bake until toasted, 5-10 minutes.
2. Bring 2 1/2 cups of the broth, salt, pepper, and 2 Tbsp. butter to a boil in large saucepan. Stir in rice. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook about 20 minutes until water is absorbed.
3. Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onions 5-7 minutes, or until tender. Stir in black beans, spices, and 1 cup of broth. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. If bean mixture begins to look too dry, add a little more broth.
4. Roll the lime around on the counter, pressing down with your palm as you roll to loosen the juices. Remove rice from heat. Cut lime in half, then squeeze in juice from both halves. Stir in toasted coconut and cilantro.
5. To serve, spoon rice onto plate. Top with beans, and then garnish with sour cream and salsa.