Dining & Wine

Meal Hacks For Staying On A Budget

June 23, 2022

With the current price of groceries, it can feel impossible to get big flavours on a budget. But we say it’s more than possible: in fact, it’s easy! Adding volume to your meal with inexpensive pantry items, and spicing things up with a few key seasonings, can take a meal to the next level. We chatted with Coach Emily for more ideas on how to get the biggest flavour for less. —Noa Nichol

Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.

I am a mom of four who grew up struggling with my weight. After having my fourth baby in five years I joined WW and lost 50 pounds. I was able to work on my “all or nothing” mindset around wellness and in the process became a WW Coach! I currently balance working full time and raising my young children all while taking care of me.

With the current price of groceries, it can feel impossible to get big flavours on a budget. But you say it’s more than possible—and, in fact, it’s easy! Let’s start with “volume”; what does it mean to add volume to a meal, and what inexpensive pantry items can help do so?

My favourite way to add volume to a meal is frozen veggies! We all have our own feelings on using frozen vegetables, but for me they are the perfect way to bulk up any plate! Frozen Broccoli or Riced Cauliflower is full of fibre, which is a great nutrient to keep us fuller longer.

Seasonings wise, what are some of your faves to use, to take meals to the next level (without leaving a saffron-sized hole in our wallet)?

Leaning on your favourite flavours makes it easier to enjoy your home cooked meals. I recently found truffle salt which makes my eggs taste just like they are from my favourite cafe! Finding a combination of seasonings that you like can take that bargain chicken breast from boring to mouthwatering.

How can going veggie-forward keep our food costs down? Top tips?

I was finding that I was adding meat to my meals “just because.” I started swapping my ground beef for grated zucchini in my pasta sauce. My family had no idea, and to be honest, I loved it more. Grated or spiralized zucchini is perfect to freeze when it is in season, and a great addition to so many dishes. Not only are veggies, easier on our budget but adding non starchy vegetables to our meals is a great way to invest in your health.

You say beans are magic; how so, and what are some of your fave ways to consume them?

Beans really are magic! My pantry is always stocked with kidney and black beans. I buy canned beans when they are around $1 and then I am just an easy rinse away from a source of protein that keeps me and my kids satisfied. My kids like black beans in their quesadillas with a bit of sour cream and cheese. I also make a veggie chilli that is full of black beans, kidney beans and chickpeas. I am always looking for new ways to use beans, and the WW app has so many great recipes to explore.

Where does meal prep come in? What’s your advice around avoiding food spoilage? Best meals to make ahead of time?

Having a plan for what you are going to use your groceries for is key in reducing food waste. How many times have you thrown out a full container of spring mix simply because you forgot it was in the fridge drawer? Having a plan for the food you are putting in your grocery cart is the first step in saving money. When you get home, take a few minutes to wash and prep your fruits and vegetables so they are ready to go and easy to use!

We really don’t want to give up our favourite foods. If they’re pricey, what do you suggest?

Make a plan to enjoy your favourite food! I love fresh mangoes, but they are pretty expensive. I plan to have one on Sundays, and then other fruit during the week. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices, but it will be worth it if it is a food you love, and it’s worth it for you!

Final question: what grocery bill-busting meal are you making today?

This recipe, for sure!



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