Budget-friendly cooking doesn’t mean skipping out on the foods you love. There are many inexpensive, healthy and nutritious recipes that are simple to prepare at home. Sometimes it just takes a little guidance to get started.
So, if you’re looking for some great tips on how to make great food without breaking the bank, then look no further!
Take advantage of sales - when your favourite ingredients go on sale, stock up! Meats, like chicken freeze well and are easy to thaw, as long as you follow the proper thawing techniques (see chicken thawing techniques here). Sales are also a good time to pick up the more expensive foods that you wouldn’t usually buy.
Plan your meals - make a grocery list and stick with it. You’re more likely to buy the items you actually need. It’s easy to be tempted by the wide variety of goodies at the grocery store but if you veer off track, your wallet will pay for it. Also, don’t shop when you’re hungry.
Don’t waste food. If you have more leftovers than expected, have some for lunch the next day or freeze and enjoy at a later time.
Tip #4 -Keep these basics in your pantry:
Canned tomatoes (whole, diced or crushed) – Many recipes use canned tomatoes. So I usually keep a few extra in my pantry.
Tomato paste - a trick for tomato paste: you never use the whole can so scoop the rest out in tablespoons, wrap each portion in plastic wrap and freeze them – having them measured out makes cooking a lot easier.
Tomato sauce – Yes, another canned tomato product, but this is a real time saver when it comes to making pasta sauces and tasty dishes like chicken parmesan!
Whole wheat bread crumbs – bread crumbs are great for breading meats and binding ground meats. If you’re breading meat, you can jazz up the bread crumbs with seasonings, such as Italian, or even throw in some sesame seeds for a little crunch and added flavour.
Olive oil – if you don’t like the taste of olive oil then stick with a vegetable or canola oil.
Canned beans, such as chick peas, red kidney or black beans are very inexpensive and make a great addition to chilis. Toss them in a salad for extra fibre.
Chicken broth – chicken broth can be used in so many ways. I cook my rice in chicken broth and even add some to my mashed potatoes instead of cream to cut some of the fat out.
Check out our video on making your own stock at http://chicken.ca/media/videos/slow_comfort/. Try storing it in ice cube trays – makes those mashed potatoes even easier!
Whole wheat pasta – this is always handy to have when you’re in a rush for dinner. Toss in some chicken, vegetables and your favourite pasta sauce for a healthy meal.
Brown rice (if you prefer white then aromatic rice, like Jasmine or Basmati are the way to go). Whole wheat couscous is also a great choice.
All purpose whole wheat flour – flour is used in many recipes as a thickening agent for sauces. It’s also used to lightly coat meats or to bake your favourite breads or pastries.
Always have your favourite herbs and spices available: oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, salt, peppercorns, etc. – check your favourite recipes, this will help you determine the seasonings you use most often.
Note: make sure that the canned items you purchase are sodium reduced.
Tip #5 - Keep these basics in your freezer:
Frozen vegetables such as green peas (add a splash of color to any dish) – frozen vegetables are inexpensive and most grocery stores carry a wide variety. Frozen vegetables are flash frozen which helps them hold in their vitamins and nutrient, plus they are simple and quick to prepare.
Nuts like almonds and cashews keep longer when stored in the freezer. So if these are a must have don’t store them in your pantry.
Tip #5 - Keep these basics in your refrigerator:
Butter – I prefer unsalted butter because it allows me to season my food according to taste.
Onions are great flavour enhancers and don’t spoil easily – white onions are a great choice for cooking. For a sweeter taste, red onions are the way to go.
Garlic is a must in most recipes – look for garlic that is nicely compact. Don’t buy garlic that is sprouting green stems; you’ll just be throwing your money away.
Low fat milk – milk is used for so many recipes. If you’re lactose intolerant then lactose free milk is a good choice, although it is little more expensive.
Eggs are very handy to have around especially if you enjoy baking. Eggs are also great to make quick meals like frittatas or omelettes.
Salsa – a great choice for hot or cold meals, salsa can be poured over chicken and baked for a quick and easy meal, or even served as a dipping sauce for your favourite dippers, like bread, chicken strips and veggies!
Lemons and limes are a great way to zest up recipes and keep well in the refrigerator.
The rest of your foods, such as meats, are always better when bought fresh and used right away but they also freeze well. If you prefer fresh vegetables from frozen, then buy these when you’re ready to prepare a recipe. Fresh vegetables are better than limp or less that healthy looking ones.
Here are a few of my favourite budget friendly recipes from our web site.
Spiced Chicken with Rice and Banana Raita
Polenta Chicken Bake
Garlicky Chicken with Spinach over Pasta