Meals on a budget

Meals on a budget

Money's tight and for many people, it's a challenge to find ways to save money on food without cutting corners on nutrition.

CBC Live Right Now asked the chefs from three community food centres and a nutritionist for budget-friendly, healthy meal ideas. Here are some of their recipe suggestions:


Community chefs

The three chefs from Stratford, Ont.'s The Local, Toronto's The Stop and Perth, Ont.'s The Table community centres tried to stick to "affordable, healthy and simple recipes that feature seasonal ingredients," says Christina Palassio, Community Food Centres Canada's communications manager.

The Nutritious Food Basket

The Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) is a tool that measures the cost and affordability of healthy eating. It is based on Health Canada's National Nutritious Food Basket and represents recommendations outlined in Canada's Food Guide. Regional health units in many provinces gather this information from local grocery stores each year. The NFB differs from region to region due to produce availability.

For example, in May 2012, the Region of Waterloo Public Health department estimated the weekly cost for a family of four (man 31 to 50 years old, woman 31 to 50 years old, boy 14 to 18 years old and girl four to eight years old) to be $176.87.

The mission of the community food centres: bring people together to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food.

"These low-cost and healthy recipes are prepared in community kitchens that increase access to healthy food, food skills and nutritional information in low-income communities," says Palassio.

Tips to create meals on a budget

Save money by eating at home, planning ahead and stocking your pantry and freezer with staples when they go on sale.

Base meals on these healthy, less expensive choices, suggests nutrition consultant Shannon Crocker:

Make more meatless meals with protein and fibre-packed legumes. Cook into stews, soups, stirfries or topped on salads. Use meat as a condiment, not the main meal item.

Homemade soups use inexpensive ingredients. You can feed a family with one meal. Plus, they are super simple to make, and you can always change them up!

Eggs are versatile and inexpensive: make a quick quiche, French toast or frittata for dinner.

Frozen vegetables and fruit are just as nutritious as fresh and can be less expensive, especially out of season. Try spinach, kale, green peas for soups and pasta dishes. Frozen fruit is a great topper for whole-grain pancakes or whirled into smoothies.

Canned light tuna or salmon (packed in water, low sodium) can be added to pastas, casseroles or sandwiches.

A jar of natural peanut butter goes a long way. Switch up peanut butter sandwiches by adding banana, thinly-sliced apple or shredded carrot.

Use oats for oatmeal, make-your-own granola bars or breakfast cereal: satisfying, nutritious and inexpensive.

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