Frugal Food - Cheap But Exciting Meals

Living in a hugely desirable city like Vancouver comes at a high price - it's not just land values that are high here, it's food, too! So when more than half of your income goes towards rent, being able to cut down your monthly food bill, creatively, suddenly becomes a priority!

What's for dinner that's cheap and doesn't suck?

One of the biggest perks about living in Vancouver is the ethnic diversity. And my favourite way to celebrate multi-culturalism is via FOOD!

So on this page, I'd like to condense previous posts (like "7 Super Suppers", though I think you should read it!) and add a few other options that may not be familiar to you, which are cheap, healthy, and a good way to stretch your food dollar. Many of these options are naturally gluten-free, for those of you who suffer.

Easy Frugal Dishes that Your Mama Didn't Ruin for You

1. Okonomiyaki - Japanese "pizza"; a floury, savoury omelette you can add almost anything to.

Kewpie mayo, Otafuku okonomiyaki sauce - OISHII! (YUMMY)!

2. Congee - Chinese porridge from long grain white rice, typically savoury. Gluten-free comfort food.

Plain congee topped with scallion

3. Dal & Sambar - Indian lentil soups. Fast, easy with dried dal & spices. Sambar requires vegetables.

Sambar (Vij's style). We eat this every week - just awesome

4. Rajma Chawal - Indian kidney bean stew/soup. Like chili, but much more interesting and meat-free.

Indian comfort food. Startlingly delicious. Good for you & vegan, too!

5. Tagine - Moroccan stew, the flavours of which are so delicious and unique. Chickpeas are central.

6. Chickpea Flour Pudding - grab a bag of Chana Flour from No Frills, sugar and butter (or ghee)! Mmm!

Get the cookbook (Vij's @ Home) - I can't find a close free recipe anywhere!

7. Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Wasabi - Wasabi powder isn't initially cheap, but a little goes a long way!

8. Valle d'Aosta Cabbage and Fontina Soup - okay, the cheese isn't cheap - catch a sale, 'cause the rest is!

Valle d'Aosta soup (recipe from Moosewood New Classics)

9. Orzo Salad - (Mom made it with chicken). Olive oil, orzo, asparagus, lemon juice, feta, +/- chicken.

Orzo (L) and Stelline star-shaped pasta (R). Espelette makes this extra nice!

10. Polenta - soft or firm! Buy finely ground cornmeal and make it yourself; it's super cheap!

11. Chili & Cornbread - try an unusual chili recipe (see; something different and new!

Both recipes (modified) came from Moosewood: New Classics. So good.

12. Palak (or Saag) Paneer - spicy Indian spinach and homemade cheese. Can use cheap frozen spinach!

Making paneer. A good way to use up about-to-expire milk.

13. Latkes with Apple Sauce - you don't have to wait 'til Hannukah to make these! Great for brunch.

14. Kosherie - we love this one! Egyptian street-food of rice, lentils, pasta, hot sauce and fried onions!

Kosherie (Moosewood: New Classics under "Middle Eastern Lentils & Pasta")

15. Boston Baked Beans - still not happy about the Stanley Cup loss, but I love proper baked beans.

16. Banana Bread - buy the black, on-sale ugly bananas and whip up some yummy cake or muffins!

Banana Muffins - delicious treats from banana squeezed out of a black peel

17. Thai Curries - green, red or yellow curry paste for under $1, cheap veggies, coconut milk, rice. Done!

Green Curry with Red Cargo and Jasmine Rice

18. Aloo Gobi - cauliflower, potato, canned diced tomato, cilantro and some spice = delicious Indian food!

This is just what was left in the pan - we ate it too quick to snap a shot! Mmm!

19. Homemade Hummus - food processor, chickpeas, tahini, garlic. lemon and olive oil! Dip for veg or pita.

Requires tahini which keeps a long while, like peanut butter (in the fridge)

20. Greek Red Lentil soup - ReBar's recipe is what I go by, but this one is almost identical. Get feta on sale.

Greek Red Lentil Soup (recipe in ReBar Cookbook)

Recently, I've posted an article on "7 Super Suppers" for using up bits and pieces you might stumble across in your fridge. The whole motivation was to share frugal meal ideas that weren't the typical "Kraft Dinner and Wieners" or "Meatloaf" or "Mystery Casserole" or "Mr Noodles with ____". We have likely all had these, and just as likely hated them, too. (One of my least favourites was "Stir Fry", which was, apparently, "Chinese Food", but didn't taste even 1/4 as good as actual Chinese food that came in those little foil take-away containers!).

Don't forget - eating locally and growing your own vegetables is a very smart and frugal move! If you have a balcony, there's food you can grow (even if only herbs and greens like lettuce and spinach!). Or join a neighbourhood garden co-op and plant those beans and tomatoes!

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