Recipes to stretch your grocery budget

The pressure to serve up fancy dishes to family over the holidays can be made even more stressful when the cost of groceries is weighing on you.

The food bank wants to empower people to make dishes with less familiar affordable ingredients

When life gives you persimmons, make cookies! (Regina Food Bank)

The pressure to serve up fancy dishes to family over the holidays can be made even more stressful when the cost of groceries is weighing on you.

It's a concern the Regina Food Bank sees among its clients every day, regardless of the time of year.

Still, Laura Murray, the food bank's senior manager of community development, said the organization has been noticing some products get overlooked on the shelves, largely because clients simply aren't confident cooking with them.

The overlooked items include protein alternatives for meat, such as lentils and beans, as well as less common types of produce that get donated. 

Murray said the food bank, inspired by changes earlier this year to Canada's Food Guide, has been working to change the narrative around using alternatives to meat. Instead of teaching people how to use pulses to stretch a meat recipe, the food bank is focusing on teaching people how to make meatless dishes, period. 

She said the organization wants to empower people to learn how to whip up interesting meals for less, opposed to feeling like they have to find a use for an ingredient simply because it's available or free.

Whether or not you're a food bank client, being open to creative cooking can help keep your holidays on budget.

Here are two recipes provided by the food bank that are designed to entice everyone from kids to visiting cousins.

Lentil tacos

At first glance, these tacos might look familiar, but they're actually made with lentils in place of beef. (Regina Food Bank)


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, for cooking
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 14 oz. (398 ml) can diced tomatoes (or salsa)
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Hot sauce (optional)
  • Hard taco shells or tortillas


  1. Splash the vegetable oil into a large skillet or pan over medium high heat.  
  2. Toss in onions and garlic; sauté until the textures soften and flavours brighten – two to three minutes.  
  3. Add the chili powder and cumin, stir and continue cooking for another minute or two. 
  4. Add the lentils and tomatoes/salsa. 
  5. Cook until lentils are heated through, stirring occasionally. Add hot sauce, if desired. 
  6. Spoon lentil filling into taco shell or tortillas, topping with additional ingredients, such as shredded lettuce, grated cheese or chopped tomatoes.
The Regina Food Bank shows us how to make lentil tacos with a short list of ingredients. 0:57

Black bean brownies

This treat hides protein — black beans — in the delicious vessel of a classic dessert: brownies. (Regina Food Bank)


  • 1 15.5 oz. (458 ml) can black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons oil 
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup chocolate chips or nuts (optional)


  1. Mix first seven ingredients together in a blender or food processor until pureed.
  2. Stir in some chocolate chips and nuts or leave plain. 
  3. Pour into a greased 8-by-8-inch cake pan.
  4. Bake at 350 F (175 C) for approximately 30 minutes. 
  5. Let cool completely before cutting. 

Persimmon cookies

If someone gifts you an unfamiliar ingredient or you come across cheap products at the grocery store, try to find a recipe that can make use of them. The food bank whipped up these persimmon cookies after a large donation of the fruit. (Regina Food Bank)

Source: P. Tindall,


  • 1 cup ripe persimmons, pureed.
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour.
  • 1.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice or ½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
  • ½ teaspoon salt.
  • 1 egg.
  • 1 cup white sugar.
  • ½ cup butter, margarine or shortening.
  • Optional: 1 cup raisins and/or 1 cup chopped walnuts.

How to prepare persimmons

Eat a persimmon like you would a kiwi or a tomato. Cut off the green or brown step, remove the peel and you can eat what's left. Some people eat the skin, too, but other people find it tough and bitter. Add persimmons to a fruit salad or smoothie, add it to baking or just eat it on its own.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine persimmon puree and baking soda.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift flour, spices and salt together. Set aside.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, cream together butter or margarine and sugar until fluffy.
  5. Beat in egg and persimmons.
  6. Gently stir in dry ingredients.
  7. Add optional raisins or walnuts.
  8. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning and host Jennifer Quesnel will be broadcasting live-on-location at Citizen Cafe & Bakery (18 23rd St. E.) in Saskatoon on Thursday, Dec. 12 from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Join us!

About the Author

Natascia Lypny is the features producer for CBC Saskatchewan based out of Regina, where she's worked since 2016. Over the course of her career, she has worked as a reporter and editor in six provinces — online, for newspapers, magazines and radio.


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