Eating on a Budget

When I was  young I was always amazed at how my dad would be able to take a simple meal and expand upon it when friends and family stopped by unexpectedly.  It wasn’t that we had extra food, it was a simple trick he would do to stretch a meal out for multiple people.  Of course he learned it from his mother and generations before who had very little access to alot of varieties of vegetables as well as meat.  A curry dish would be served with rice, cooked plantain and homemade roti…which would go along way to feeding many mouths.

Now as an adult and a nutritionist living within a big city, my access to a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat are all around me.  I shop for ingredients almost every day, but I’m a little picky about the food I buy for many reasons.  Some are for environmental reasons (eating as many sustainable and locally grown produce/meat/dairy) or health reasons (buying specific organic items).   Good food can add up, so to reduce food waste, support my health (and my families) and not break the bank I began thinking about ways I could simply stretch my meals out, which helps to keep it all on track.

With a busy schedule, cooking everyday is not an option, but making some time through my week to prep ingredients I could use in a variety of dishes makes life alot less stressful.  Here’s some of my quick tips:

  • Prep vegetables (clean, cube, dice or slice) – then roast (keeping them a bit crispy) or lightly steam and refrigerate for use over a few days.
  • Prep meat/poultry/fish – clean then roast, steam, stir fry or bake then refrigerate to add to a green salad, grain salad, pasta or to eat with veggies.
  • Prep grains (soak, rinse, cook) – once cooked you can mix it up with whatever you’d like including seasonings, fresh herbs and homemade oils and sauces.
  • Keep your fridge stocked with basics – organic butter, organic eggs, organic milk (if you eat these); tamari (wheat free soy sauce); sesame oil, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, fresh herbs, organic ketchup, grain/dijon mustard
  • Keep your freezer stocked with basics – corn, peas, carrots, beans etc.
  • Keep your pantry stocked with basics – olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, peppercorn, lemons/limes, garlic, ginger, onions/shallots, nuts/seeds, local honey, dried herbs of choice, chili or jalapeno peppers

Then its time to create and experiment!  Include a variety of textures (add seeds or some goat cheese to your meals),  a variety of colours (I try for 4-5 colours – brown not included) and a variety of tastes (sour, sweet, spicy, pungent, bitter – they all work together).

Here’s an idea of how you can use one things to make many meals:

Meal 1 – LENTIL Stew with whatever veggies are in season or in my fridge (freeze leftover or eat over a few days)
Meal 2 – Barley and LENTIL soup (freeze leftover or eat over a few days)
Meal 3 – LENTIL salad