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. Here are some tips to get you started
Tip #1 – Take advantage of sales
When your favourite ingredients go on sale, stock up! Meats like chicken breasts freeze well and are easy to thaw, as long as you follow the proper thawing techniques. Sales are also a good time to pick up the more expensive foods that you wouldn’t usually buy.
Tip #2 – 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.
Tip #3 – 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. Keep a few extra in your 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 is a real time saver when it comes to making pasta sauces and dishes like chicken parmesan.
Whole wheat bread crumbs are great for breading meats and binding ground meats. If you’re breading meat, you can add flavour to 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. Add them in a salad for extra fibre.
Chicken broth can be used in many ways. Try cooking your rice in chicken broth or add some to mashed potatoes instead of cream to cut some of the fat out.
Whole wheat pasta 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 is used in many recipes as a thickening agent for sauces. It’s also used to lightly coat meats or to bake breads or pastries.
Herbs and spices like oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, salt, peppercorns, etc. – check your favourite recipes, this will help you determine the seasonings you use most often.
Tip #5 - Keep these basics in your freezer
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.
Tip #6 - Keep these basics in your refrigerator
Butter – unsalted butter allows you to season 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, try red onions.
Garlic – 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 is used in 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 vegetables.
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 than healthy looking ones.