Eating Well on a Budget

In today’s economy it can be hard to balance a budget and a well-cooked meal. Whether you have a family to feed, are a student trying to get by between classes and a part-time job, or a graduate living with six other people and waiting for a turn of good luck, it can be a struggle to keep yourself balanced and fed.
Try to plan your meals ahead of time –once a week, get together with your roommates or set aside some time to yourself where you can make a list of Eating Welleverything you’re planning to eat during the week. Remember you’re not bound to your decisions but if you match up your meal planning to your grocery shopping it will save you time and money by making sure you only purchased what you need instead of making purchases out of impulse. Make sure that you only buy the things that you are sure you will use and always remember to check your cupboards before you go shopping to save yourself from buying something you already have.

Remember vegetables are your friends. Veggies are a lot cheaper than meat –a lot cheaper –meaning it might be time to give up conventional proteins for a bit in place of plant-based ones. Shopping organic or for specialty veggies can be a bit of a challenge and can run up the bill so don’t worry too much about the organic section of the supermarket. Using ingredients like beans or chickpeas in your cooking is a great way to add protein to help keep you fuller for longer. Buying produce that’s locally grown and in season is typically cheaper and they often retain more nutrients than their transported or frozen counterparts.

If you are going to buy meat, there are plenty of cuts that are cheaper which are great for stews, chilli, and casseroles, which are great foods for leftovers. Another way you can help save yourself some money while you’re cooking is by making extra and saving some for later meals. If you find recipes that freeze well, you can separate them into meal-sized portions and keep them for longer periods of time. Leftovers make for excellent lunches or can stand in for dinner over a few nights, saving you from the hassle of making extra meals as well as some money.

Buy whole foods to save a little cash –blocks of cheese over shredded, rice, oats, etc. The less processing and packaging that goes into your groceries, the less money you have to spend on them. Furthermore, whole foods usually contain more per package and therefore you can get more servings from them. Similarly, buy in bulk when you can. Grains, flour, lentils, and other such products will all keep for a very long time so if you buy a great deal of them at once, you won’t need to restock in quite a while.

Taco Culture

One of the food trends the experts are predicting to surge this year is any sort of hyper-regionalized food, niche and specialty restaurants that focus on a particular culture. Specifically, tacos seem to be taking over, if ITacosnstagram is anything to go by, being able to intersect ingredients from multiple cultures to create some delicious fusion cooking that would appeal to almost everyone. Although the concept of the taco comes from Mexico, the traditional image is vastly different from what Americans and Canadians typically eat –a soft tortilla, never hard, and always made with corn, and rarely, if ever, made with lettuce, cheese, tomato.

The wonderful thing about tacos is that you can put almost anything in them –if you want to stay traditional, you can add fresh vegetables and Pico de Gallo, or if you want to try your hand at fusion cooking you can use sliced pork and pineapple. If meat is your thing, you can cook up some shredded pork in a slow-cooker and wrap it in a warm tortilla with radishes and cilantro, or you can try steak and plantains with some shredded cabbage if you’re feeling a bit adventurous. If shellfish is more your style, combining shrimp with chillies, cumin, oregano, and chilli powder will create a sweet and smoky flavour that will tantalize the taste buds. Something like tilapia will add a fresh, ocean spin on your tacos and pairs well with mild vegetables like cucumbers and any sort of cream-based sauce. Tacos can also make an excellent breakfast food, if that’s more your style. Eggs, bacon or cut up sausages, peppers, tomatoes, spices and some goat cheese all wrapped up in a warm tortilla make an excellent way to start the day.

Of course, tacos are nothing without the sauces. If you want to stick with the traditional, create a homemade Pico de Gallo, also called salsa Fresca, with chopped tomato, onion, coriander, fresh peppers, salt, and lime juice. You can also add things like shrimp or avocado depending on your preference. Another option if you still like the idea ‘authenticity’ but you want to be a little more adventurous, is to make a Mexican mole –pronounced mo-lay –which is a rich chocolate-based sauce with a spicy kick. If you are making anything seafood-based, a homemade Baja sauce –sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise, peppers (usually jalapeno), garlic, lime juice, and cilantro –will complement the flavours beautifully.

No matter what your preferences, taco fever seems to be catching. Whether you’ve never really tried them or are looking for a new way to enjoy an old favourite, experimenting in the kitchen with different kinds of tacos might just be a key to spicing up your meals.