Inspiration for cheap dinners please?

(119 Posts)
MrsKoala Sun 28-Jul-13 20:48:56

I have recently moved somewhere eye wateringly expensive (think $4 for a tin of kidney beans shock ) so am searching for some nice cheap dinner ideas.

There are no cheap things here so veggies, meat, pasta, bread (oh god the bread! $4 for a cheap sliced loaf) flour, everything is extortionate and i can't bulk out with 'filler' as the filler costs just as much as everything else!

Out of meat, mince beef is cheapest (so i am living off chilli/bolognese. A whole small chicken is $28 so not able to roast and stretch out either. I have actually cried in the supermarket blush


Red lentils are good, make lentil curry, bolognese, soup etc, they can't be too expensive? Where are you <nosy>?

MrsKoala Sun 28-Jul-13 21:17:57

I'm in Vancouver. I kid you not it is shock they have no deals in supermarkets here. No BOGOFs nothing on offer. Everything is just buttock clenching.

I only buy fruit, juice and yogurt for the baby.

I made a chicken and veg curry, which i managed to cook for about $10 (with filler of chickpeas and carrots, pots and celery) and DH picked out the chicken and left the rest and asked for more chicken. I was furious. I am trying to get our food cost to $200 per week. But it's hard. The first week i spent $400 on basics, nappies and cleaning stuff - nothing extravagant at all. sad

The place is lovely tho smile

sashh Mon 29-Jul-13 00:45:15

Isn't there a large Indian community there? Would an Indian grocer be cheaper?

OK cheap

Soup - can eek veggis out.

Meatloaf with cornflakes (they can't be $4 surely?) to bulk it out.

I tried an Italian recipe yesterday, it was basically bacon chopped with chopped onion and thin chip like potatoes. Then you put it in an oven dish and pour two beaten eggs over it. Bake for 45 mins.

How expensive is it to eat out? Would it help to eat out a couple of times?

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 01:56:47

Cornflakes are 750g for $5.80

Eggs are about 60c an egg.

I get 2 buses to a place called Commercial Drive for grocery stores with 'on the turn' fruit and veg. But it's store cupboard stuff which i have to get from the supermarket. I have also been getting a couple of buses to a 'no frills' supermarket. But it's difficult shopping with the buggy and if i can't carry much back the savings are eaten on the bus fare.

Eating out at cheapest places is about $35-40 so, still cheaper to eat at home.

your potato thing sounds nice. i might try that. thanks. smile

altostratus Mon 29-Jul-13 02:02:23

Make a lentil cottage pie. Super cheap

Vegetarian shepherd’s pie

Even the most meat-mad kids will love this dish; it’s packed with goodness – lentils are a great source of iron – and the potatoes are deliciously creamy! This should feed eight hungry children…


4 large potatoes
250g of washed red split lentils
500ml vegetable stock
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 onions
3 carrots
50g of butter
3 tablespoons of whole milk
2 cloves of garlic
Pepper to taste and salt if you wish

altostratus Mon 29-Jul-13 02:03:19

Oops, forgot to quote that. I didn't compose the blurb about 8 hungry kids blush

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 02:25:03

Do you mean to say you don't have 8 hungry kids at home! grin

Thanks. I'm not sure how veggie will go down with DH but i am going to try. I just about get away with a mixed bean chilli once a month!

He moans if i bulk meat dishes out saying he'd rather have all veggie or all meat because half and half just tastes wrong to him. So i'm going to take him at his word!

I know he often orders veggie burritos when we go out so i may try those. But once you start adding guacamole, salsa and cheese (OMG cheese is awful here. bland, tasteless and extortionate. I always thought canadian cheddar was lovely and sharp, but maybe that's just the stuff they export and save the really wangy rubbery stuff for themselves confused

StupidFlanders Mon 29-Jul-13 02:29:16

I make spaghetti bolognaise and use the left overs the next day spread thinly over pizza bases with cheese and it's my family's favourite dinner.
Mini meatloaf cooked in muffin tins used with salad and bread rolls to make burgers.
The next day use left overs with cheap pasta sauce to make a pasta bake.
Soup served over mashed potatoes.
I make a cheats tabouli (parsley, chopped toms, pearl cous cous, lemon and olive oil- dont like onions) and serve with chicken or steak and bread rolls, lettuce and yoghurt.
Skewers of whatever with rice.
Roast veggies with oil and a sprinkle of sugar, mix with feta and serve with grilled chicken.
Make desserts like tapaioca (sp), bread and butter pudding on nights where the dinner seems small.
Buy bulk yoghurt and Steve with Muslie, smoothies with a weetbix blended in, carrot sticks and dip for snacks.

StupidFlanders Mon 29-Jul-13 02:36:11

If you're that worried about costs, look at the food online to get an idea about what's cheap (if they have online shopping) and then see what you can do instead of thinking on your feet at the shops.

Also thought is of stews made with cheap cuts, carrots, celery, potatoes and onions.

Baked bean toasted sandwiches.

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 02:44:01

Wow thanks that all sounds lovely. Irritatingly the apartment we rent doesn't have a lot of cookware i need and all mine is packed up at home - so no muffin or quiche tins and no processor (i don't know how to cope without my processor). And i have a really demanding 10mo. So altho i was thinking of puddings i never quite get round to it. I did buy some tapioca the other day but no fecking idea what to do with it!

Sadly things like the feta veggies and grilled chicken would be about $20 at least i think tho sad

Most people here drive over the border to the US once a month to do their shopping. But we can't as no car and i can't leave the country till my visa is sorted. The bolognaise pizza sound good. cheers smile

sashh Mon 29-Jul-13 02:44:39

Have you got a garden? Even a window sil? Grow your own herbs and possibly some veg - tomatoes can grow on a balcony.

Have you got a slow cooker? You can make yoghurt in one, depending on how much milk is. You can obviously make a lot more things.

Pancakes? make savory ones with cheese / tomatoes / leeks.


Sorry not much help.

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 02:48:28


(well there are, but are about $5 a tin)

No food prices online either.

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 02:56:25

no slow cooker. If we decide to stay i shall invest in these things but at the moment i'm trying to live with the basic 4 saucepans, 2 frying pans, 1 baking tray, 2 oven dishes and few utensils i have (no masher - wtf!! i will have to buy one from the dollarama).

I'm thinking toad in the hole and soups/stews when the weather gets cooler but atm it's a bit too hot for that type of thing.

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 02:58:36

Oh sorry, no garden or window sil - we're in a basement apartment.

i'm just going to have to lump it really. It's awful but i usually care about animal welfare but the meat is so expensive i dread to think what free range chicken costs.

Dirtymistress Mon 29-Jul-13 03:06:44

I have no suggestions but your post is fascinatinggrini am lying in bed feeding the baby googling 'why is Vancouver so expensive?' . It's nuts. Least you don't live in Tokyo, that's the most expensive city in the world apparently. Who knew mumsnet would be so educational?!

garlicagain Mon 29-Jul-13 03:12:56

I've just been looking around the interweb for advice - as I'm sure you have already - and found an article about costs of living, where the food budget for a couple with one child is $825 a month, plus $300 eating out.

If DH isn't satisfied with the diet of a skinny vegetarian student, he's going to have to suck up the cost of groceries.

Are these "buy-low" stores the ones you mentioned, two bus rides away?

It looks like you should go to cheap restaurants for a proper breakfast in the mornings! At $3 each, it's cheaper than buying & cooking it.

garlicagain Mon 29-Jul-13 03:13:47
MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 03:14:46

grin glad to be a source of inspiration for random googling.

It is nuts tho. You would'nt believe it till you were stood in Safeways weeping. even the check out woman was embarassed and kept apologising when giving me my change after i spent $150 on 3 days of food.

there are no value brands or 'high end' brands really. so a tin of kidney beans is $4 and there is no alternative. not like tescos value 18p jobbies.

apple juice is $6

StupidFlanders Mon 29-Jul-13 03:15:42

Tapioca: swells to way more than you think.
Add about 3 cups of milk with sugar to 3/4 cup of tapioca and stir constantly! You can also add some vanilla. Add more milk as necessary. The next day the leftovers will set and I have it with custard.
You'll have to experiment with the milk:tapioca ratio.
My friend stirs it into celery soup as well (not the pudding-just tapioca).
Cook the mini meatloaf on a flat pan if no muffin tin.

Notafoodbabyanymore Mon 29-Jul-13 03:17:37

Can you get cheap sausages? I chop sausages up into bite sized pieces (like mini meatballs) and fry up with onion, tinned tomatos and some herbs and seasoning, and serve with pasta.

Also do a chicken spaghetti with chicken (2 chicken breasts usually does enough for 2 meals in this recipe and my dh eats a lot!) bacon, onion, tinned tomato soup, a bit of ketchup and worcestershire sauce all cooked up and mixed through pasta.

Tinned tuna, chopped toms, frozen peas and sweetcorn, red onion and mayo mixed with rice.

Don't know if any of these are helpful...

StupidFlanders Mon 29-Jul-13 03:20:36

I agree though, food costs are what they are and your DH has to suck that up. I'd assume pay reflects these costs to a degree.

Secretswitch Mon 29-Jul-13 03:22:24

MrsKoala, are there any dollar stores in your vicinity? You can often find grocery items there on the cheap.
Congratulations on your move! Are their neighbours you could ask for other inexpensive shopping markets?

garlicagain Mon 29-Jul-13 03:24:55

Ooh, have a look at this!

The products seem quite nice & designery, but prices far lower than the normal stores I looked at, especially for larger quantities. Any help?

NatashaBee Mon 29-Jul-13 03:33:36

$28 for a chicken blush

AdoraBell Mon 29-Jul-13 03:38:10

shock I think Mr Koala needs to do shopping and cooking for a year or two, just until he understands the cost of everything.

My geography is appalling, I admit that up front, but I've heard of Canadians going over the boarder for groceries from the USA, would that be an option?

Can't think of anything more constructive to add, sorry.

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 03:38:14

Cheers Garlic - Where we live there are no cheap cafes. The cheapest you may get would be about $8 and then remember tax and 20% tip shock . The low supermarket if way too far for me to get to but the one i go to is no frills

Secrets - We have a dollarama where i managed to spend $50 the other day on cleaning stuff and tins like tuna and toms - Altho nothing actually seems to be a dollar. Usually $2 or tinned toms $1.25.

Notafood - Chicken seems to be the most expensive so about $7 per breast (depends where you go). Sausages are 5 for $5 so we have them about once a week and i buy a massive gammon steak for $3 which i cut in half for us and serve with egg fried rice once a week. i usually avoid pork products but it's what we are no living on. That and minced beef which i get for about $8 a kilo.

Also i have to make the babies food which is probably where a lot of my budget goes.

Stupid - Pay probably does reflect this but neither of us are working so it isn't balancing out at the mo.

scripsi Mon 29-Jul-13 03:39:35

mrskoala relatives of ours were in Vancouver and they did much of their shopping in the US (as you mentioned). Can DH go over the border without you to bulk buy essentials while your visa is being sorted out? Otherwise is there any way you could order some essentials from the US for delivery in Vancouver? Even with postage it might be economical (depending on customs charges). Or get friendly with neighbours/co-worker who are travelling over to the US for shopping? If your DH is working can any of his colleagues advise him?

Feel annoyed on your behalf about your DH's comments about the chicken and veg curry/meat etc: seriously suggest that he has to get real!

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 03:44:17

oooh thanks Garlic - i'll have a squinkle. We may need to hire a car and do a bulk shop somewhere.

I can't go over the border till my visa app is approved so it will be an option, but not for a few months yet.

The other night i spent hours trawling stores and calculating costs and lugging the stuff back, then i made what i considered a decent chicken and veg and chickpea curry and rice for about $10 and DH asked if there was any naan (no! 1 costs $5) and then sat and picked out the chicken and went to throw the rest away. I told him i would eat his left overs for my lunch. I was also so furious and frustrated at how much effort had been wasted. angry I stormed off to bed and just felt like crying blush

garlicagain Mon 29-Jul-13 03:44:36

Ah, that No Frills is more encouraging! You can't do all your shopping on a two-bus hike, though, can you? Not unless the buses are door-to-door and you can take a bloody big wheely bag with you hmm

AdoraBell Mon 29-Jul-13 03:49:04

Oopsblush missed the fact you can't boarder hop yet, sorry.

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 03:49:43

No garlic so i go twice a week. which is a right pita.

garlicagain Mon 29-Jul-13 03:51:50

It sure sounds like a pita sad I'm rather annoyed with your DH, too! Best of luck with getting him real ... Does he not cook or shop? Time he started, innit grin

Secretswitch Mon 29-Jul-13 03:52:14

Dang, Mrs.Koala! Food seems exorbitant in Canada! how are eggs? If there are no allergies in your family could you do many egg based meals? Often when I am low on $$, I make a nice chilled pasta salad with hard cooked eggs, tuna, onion, and celery. You could certainly adapt to suit your family. (oh and mayo to taste)
Could you make some heart soups? I know you are missing your processor, but what about chilli type things?
I am indignant on your behalf.

Secretswitch Mon 29-Jul-13 03:53:28

Oh dear..not heart soups..ick! HEARTY soups...

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 04:01:50

eggs work out about 60c each i think so i was thinking of a fritata with bacon/chorizo type thing.

I get things like 2 frozen fatty oven pizzas for $5 but both of us are a bit podgy and could do with shedding a few pounds, however, maybe one night a week it wont hurt. It's so annoying healthy food and lean meats cost so much. sad

I have a hand blender for baby food so i can use that for soups when it's colder.

Secretswitch Mon 29-Jul-13 04:12:45

Oh yes, lovely frittatas, quiches, omlettes..all filling..maybe a fry up?
It is terrible when the quality food is out of reach. I only buy what is in season here (Massachusetts) so we are doing blueberries and cucumbers right now..
I feel for you. I struggle with this ..I want to give my children the best food I can afford, but the budget does not seem to stretch very far sad

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 04:19:19

Oh yes Blueberries are in season here too. There was a blueberry fair the other day and we went along, they were promoting the versatility etc. They had punnets for sale and i went to buy one and they were $5 shock (i know i keep using that emoticon but it really isn't doing the expression on my face justice). I said no thank you and walked off trying to look dignified...but part of my soul dying inside.

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 04:28:52

Secret - We were all set to move to DC in April for DH's work but he suddenly realised he hated his job and we moved here instead for him to set up a consultancy - hence no income as yet. I know, i know, we are bonkers.

I did loads of research about costs but DH (who lived here as a pot noodle eating student) and my dad (who has a friend in portland hmm ) insisted i was talking out of my arse and it couldn't possibly more than the UK which is surely the most expensive. Everyone even kept saying to us 'ooh you'll save money on food' and i kept being the voice of reason but was shouted down as being a negative nancy angry

Secretswitch Mon 29-Jul-13 04:28:56

<hugs> $5 for blueberries! I am shock also. Perhaps some kind Vancouverite will be along to let us know where the real food at decent prices are to be found..
It really is hard on the heart when you want to feed your family well, but the cheap things are often processed junk.
I can only think of simple things like eggs, jacket potatoes with fillings that suit your family, perhaps an easy stir fry?

Secretswitch Mon 29-Jul-13 04:36:42

Well, ofcourse! Why would anyone listen to your careful research? I happen to love my husband, and don't generally do the man bashing thing, but he can be a stubborn arse when it comes to doing things he wants..iykwim?
You should immediately pack your family up and move to Asschusetts. We shall drink tea, have long chats, and I will take you to all the cheap markets...(once your visa is all set of course)

Secretswitch Mon 29-Jul-13 04:37:49

That would be MASSACHUSETTS! I think I must be off to bed...I seem to be losing my cognitive skills...cheers smile

AdoraBell Mon 29-Jul-13 04:43:45

MrsKoala I know there are some other MNers in Canada, maybe it would be worth asking in Living Oversea?

I know what you mean about family etc back home disbelieving, OH keeps trying to get across to PILs about living costs here and MIL poo-pooed him by asking how 'ordinary' people cope. I told her they get left behind, which is what's happening in the countries where real food is out if reach but processed rubbish is cheapsad

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 05:00:33

Where are you Adora?

DH is the opposite and insists i don't tell PIL the truth in case they worry.

I do find it so frustrating. I just want to feed my family on healthy food. DS is 10mo and needs to have a varied diet which is going to make him love new foods and textures. Not a load of old crap. I just wont have it. I will go without, but he MUST have fresh fruit,veg, decent meat, fish and yogurt. (he is a milk refuser so i have to make sure he gets all his essentials in his daily food). If he still drank milk i wouldn't worry so much.

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 05:01:12

Oh and i'll pop to overseas now, thanks.

AdoraBell Mon 29-Jul-13 05:10:04

We're in Chile. Luckily I can get veg etc cheaply locally but I can't use a butcher because they don't refrigerate the meat cobsistantly and I have to be picky which supermarket I use for dairy, meat or fish. The things my MIL will not accept is us paying to see the Dr and for things like DD's vaccinations. Utilities are hugely expensive here so poor people simply don't heat their houses in winter, and the very poor don't send DCs to school etc etc.

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 05:16:18

Oh god it's heartbreaking isn't it.

I don't understand why parents and pils don't believe me. Is it some kind of generational selective knowledge? A kind of naivety that wont accept the world has a lot of countries (probably most outside north america and europe) worse off than them.

My parents are the same with tipping too. They don't understand why we would tip 15-20% surely a dollar is sufficient. <sigh>

WhatSheSaid Mon 29-Jul-13 05:16:40

Woah at these prices. I'm in NZ and expats here complain about the price of food but looking at your prices (and doing a quick Canadian $- NZ $ conversion). I think we've got it quite good.

The longer you are there the more you will discover the cheaper places (hopefully). People who've been there longer may be able to point you in the right direction.

Notafoodbabyanymore Mon 29-Jul-13 05:43:49

Let me have another think. We're in Perth, Australia, which is soooo expensive these days too (though doesn't sound in the league of Vancouver - yikes!) so I understand your frustration. Hope you manage to get through this tough bit quickly, and your DH wakes up!

pollywollydoodle Mon 29-Jul-13 05:58:55

if neither of you are working why is your ungrateful husband not doing some shopping?

oh and proper shock s at those prices...have you had a look at the lonely planet/other backpackers guide ? might have some ideas

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 06:21:40

He is working (all day everyday), just not earning anything yet. He is submitting tenders and proposals atm.

Will look at those guides - cheers.

Lizzabadger Mon 29-Jul-13 06:29:27

So your husband (a) didn't listen to you when you had researched the area (b) leaves you to grocery shop with a buggy on buses alone and (c) moans about your efforts and tries to throw them in the bin. What a charmer.

Chopstheduck Mon 29-Jul-13 06:46:17

Surely flour would work out cheaper than buying bread?

If you can get some light wholewheat flour, you only need to add salt and water to make chapatis. Naans aren't difficult to make neither, but need oil and yoghurt too. Wraps are made with flour, water and milk.

Is pasta cheap? Then you can get tinned tuna etc from dollarama and make pasta bakes. I'd be looking at getting a pasta machine too - if you can make your own it is a lot cheaper.

Buying lentils dry is cheaper than buying canned. Oats for breakfast rather than packed cereal? You can microwave a cup with milk for breakfast rather than faff around on the hob. My kids do this for themselves in the mornings.

Frozen veg may be cheaper than fresh too.

Eggs - fritata, omelette, souffle, quiche, pancakes, huevos ranchos,

I really didn't realise Canada was so expensive. I noticed that wine was pricey when we went, but the prices for meat you are quoting are eyewatering sad We've been eating on a budget for a while though, so these things work for me!

One other thought, what about costco? We didn't make it to costco in the end so nto sure of their prices in Canada, but they might be cheaper for stocking up on some things in bulk if you can get membership.

yegodsandlittlefishes Mon 29-Jul-13 08:39:07

MrsKoala, look up how to make your own natural, live yogurt. It is cheap once you get going.

Look up community fruit trees in Vancouver. I was excited about it when I first read about it, but had no idea food in the shops was so expensive! There is a map of which fruits etc can be found where, and I think there is also a park of dedicated community fruit trees there. Read the rules and only take what you can use. You will need to find out about the various plants and when they will produce fruit, and how to use it. You or your DH might not like the idea of forraging, but as you don't have an income between you, it seems like a good time to start liking it! Your dc might enjoy seeing how his food grows and helping to pick it. I make nettle soup when things get desparate.
I suggest you preserve some fruit and make juices, jams and fruits in syrups to go with the yogurt through winter (I can only imagine fruit and vegetables will only getore expensive and harder to find in just a few months).
If you can make a saving on this area, and try to cut down on food to lose weight (I have coffee for lunch) it should help.

How much does flour cost? You can make your own breads, naans, rolls etc. And freeze them. You can make a pizza base with potatoes and flour.

If eggs are cheap, great! You can do a lot with them, so you can base your dinners on eggs 3 nights a week, with frittata, omelettes, toad in the hole, eggy bread, scrambled eggs, etc.

Or, as you and your DH want to lose weight, have a look at the idea of low carbing and doing without high carb foods like breads, pasta and potatoes.

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 18:22:13

Thanks all - great tips. My bread efforts have never been successful in the past so i don't want to waste any ingredients - i'll look for foolproof recipes and have a look at flour in the shops (i did think of soda bread tho). DS only eats the really full fat greek yogurt - is it possible to make that? i'll do some research because atm we are spending $4 a day on yogurt and numerous trips back and forth to the shop (at home i shopped monthly so all this shopping is really pissing me off).

Things like jam is really pricey here and there were LOADS of blackberry bushes with lots of fruit on along the edge of a park i walk so was anticipating going picking and making some. Then a couple of days ago they chopped them all down confused angry . I will look for the community fruit trees tho - never heard of that.

I think bulk buying is probably the way to go as atm i am buying small, easily carried packets of cereal and pulses etc, which are going to be more than bigger packs.

Also DH is such a big eater and he wants bacon and eggs every morning so wouldn't be satisfied with oats/cereal. I also need to buy things for sandwiches/lunches as eating out at lunch time if he goes into the office is going to add up. DH is also a bit fussy. Wont eat tuna. Will only eat cheese melted. He is also contrary, will eat something fine for weeks then when i serve it say he doesn't fancy it today. Usually not a problem (other than pissing me off) because there is an alternative. But not anymore!

I think the basic dinners will be

Jacket potato and filling
Chorizo fritata
Sausage tray bake/toad in the hole
Chilli & Rice
Gammon and Egg fried rice
Meatballs/bolognese and pasta
Pizza and salad
Tuna pasta bake (if i can convert DH)
Soups and rolls/soda bread

babbi Mon 29-Jul-13 20:30:12


We are very regular visitors to Canada (over 25 years) and just got back again yesterday and have to tell you we were appalled at how much the food prices have shot up there.
I can imagine how hard this is for you. I pride myself on being a very economical shopper but struggled to feed the three of us on my usual budget.
To be honest on average my food expenses were treble what I spend in the UK. Walmart ( Asda by another name !) was extortionate .. and Dollarama had most food way over a dollar ! ? !
Please try No Frills - store with the yellow signage ..
Good luck .. I hope things get better for you...

scripsi Mon 29-Jul-13 20:41:34

For bulk buying, considering the amount of bus rides etc you are doing, do any of the cheaper supermarkets do home deliveries? Even if there's a charge it might be a saving.

think about cheaper meats, like turkey or pork mince. you can make lovely meat ball recipes and as most of these include some form of breadcrumbs it makes the meat stretch a long way.

Think about pork shoulder, neck of lamb. Also its good to know that a rasher of bacon chopped finely in a dish will add the meat mouthfeel you can crave.

You can make your own soft cheese with thick greek style yoghurt. flavour it with garlic/herbs/pepper.

See if there is a farmers cooperative operating anywhere nearby. Buying things like tats and onions etc in bulk (they keep for ages if stored properly)

Baby doesn't need juice, its just sugar and is bad for their teeth. water and milk should be fine.

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 21:16:02

Thanks all

Madame - Baby doesn't drink any milk confused . i mean none. no bottle or formula or anything. he is often constipated which is why he has juice.

greek yogurt is more expensive than soft cheese (which DH doesn't eat anyway) so not really an option.

haven't seen any pork mince, cheaper cuts like shoulder (other than at extortionate farmers market places) and no lamb in any supermarkets whatsoever (no idea why).

DH hates the flavour of meat without there being enough meat to satisfy iykwim. so small amounts of bacon in things drive him mad as he searches under all the other food for more. Completely veggie is a better option for a meal rather than a teasing taste of meat he can't have more of.

Babbi - i already shop at no frills, but haven't seen a Walmart near enough to get to on my own steam.

Scripsi - i think Walmart may do deliveries. i'll check it out.


Queenmarigold Mon 29-Jul-13 21:48:19

Pasta, pesto, bulked out with fried onions and bacon bits?
Jacket potatoes and cottage cheese?
Is fish cheap there- chowder?
I guess you need to eat what the locals eat.

MrsKoala Mon 29-Jul-13 21:52:43

Oddly fish is extortionate despite being on the coast.

The locals eat the expensive food! There isn't any alternative for anyone unfortunately. Everyone i've spoken to shrugs and says that's just how much it costs. I suppose they are used to it.

I find the no deals in the shops very odd tho. All our shops are full of deals and bargains. But here everything just costs the same week in week out.

AdoraBell Tue 30-Jul-13 01:51:53

Your DH is being a bit of a toddler, I seriously would make him do the catering for you for at least 6 months, if not the year or two I previously suggested, but them I'm bolshie like that. Why did they chop down the blackberries shock? Unless there's a very good health reason the I'd go out armed with plastic bags in case you see some more.

Does DH ever go to the supermarket? Could you drag him along on the weekends and make him buy a week's worth of food? Could be it's easy for him to just not see how much it costs because he isn't physically handing over the dollars?

Allalonenow Tue 30-Jul-13 02:16:04

You can make yoghurt in the airing cupboard, or anywhere warm. To turn it into Greek style yoghurt put it in a muslin or similar bag and drain it overnight, Greek yoghurt used to be called "drained" yoghurt years ago!

MrsKoala Tue 30-Jul-13 02:25:52

Adora - apart from oven pizza or super noodles he's never bought or cooked anything before. He comes with me to the supermarket sometimes so sees how much it is for how little i have. I don't think it bothers him at all. If he went to a shop for milk and they charged him £10 he wouldn't even question it. He doesn't understand money in any way, till he's got none of course! He used to spend £30 a day at work on breakfast, lunch and coffees. He would keep saying but it's only £3 and i would say yes but 3 times a day, plus an only £4 bacon roll and an only £10 lunch and an only £3 pasty it adds up confused

We don't have an airing cupboard. the utility room is quite warm but it's shared with upstairs so it can't be weird or whiffy!

Secretswitch Tue 30-Jul-13 02:26:53

MrsKoala, I think your list of meal sounds great. If you could manage some fruit and veg it would really keep things healthy. I buy my fruit and veg very sparingly, but often. I can't stand to see go bad so I buy just enough for 3 or 4 days. If anything looks as if it is turning, I make it into bread or soup.
Yegods and Madame contribute some tips I am going to steal.

MrsKoala Tue 30-Jul-13 07:14:37

Right now i'm irrationally furious at walmart. They do do deliveries but there selection is so limited it wouldn't be worth it. Bag of oats - not available for order online. Kidney beans - only in tins. Red lentils - only a tin of red lentil soup. Chickpeas - no results found angry

All other delivery places are local expensive organic type ones.

I just can't spend such a massive portion of my day grocery shopping. It seems to be all i do here - Traipse back and forth to shops and markets with a grizzly teething baby desperate to get out and explore.

AdoraBell Tue 30-Jul-13 18:36:46

I agree, you can't be running back and worth between home and the store. Would it work to tell DH, I know he doesn't seem to get it though, that you need to do one weekly shop with him so at least you make less trips and get what you need. Do it at the weekends and insist he goes with.

Secretswitch Tue 30-Jul-13 18:45:36

MrsKoala, Walmart can give anyone the rage! If you buy any fresh veg or fruit from Wally, check it over carefully. I came home with some really nasty veg last week. Was not worth the cost of petrol to return, but I was grrrrrrrrrrrrrr...

MrsKoala Tue 30-Jul-13 18:47:37

I'm going to have to Adora. He will huff and puff and say he's too busy but i'm fucked if i'm running round like this anymore. I just can't believe buying food is so frigging hard here. Even if i did have unlimited money, the shops are so limited you need to go to 2 or 3 to get everything you want. They have such a small range of things in each. I thought it would be the opposite, too much choice and over flowing options. But it's very bland and one dimensional.

JenaiMorris Tue 30-Jul-13 18:52:03

God, why is it so dear? And what's the exchange rate?

I posted a shepherdess pie recipe on here ages ago but even that would be $$$.

Risotto maybe?

Parmarella Tue 30-Jul-13 18:54:07

Your DZh sounds like a pain in the arse toddler, keep hammering the point home ffs!

This thread reminds me of having to live in Sweden for a year on very little money.

I ate mainly microwave popcorn, yoghurt and crackers. no fruit and veg for a year! I ended up with scurvy pneumonia as I could not afford a proper wintercoat either.

Anyway, my advice is to not ask on MN as it is very Britain focussed. What s cheap and easy here, is not cheap and easy in Canada! There must be local, Canadian stuff that poorer Canadians eat.

In Sweden I had a few unexected feasts inluing moose and crayfish, which would have been unthinkable in the U K.

So buy or borrow a Canadian cookbook, and after slapping your H with it, read it for ideas!

MrsKoala Tue 30-Jul-13 18:58:25

I don't know why. Taxes i think. (they also add tax at the end so advertised price is not the final price at checkout which drives me bonkers - i haven't worked out which taxes get charged when yet - so you seem to pay more for 'services' than just buying food etc).

Booze is also soberingly expensive. We bought 15 half cans of light beer and the cheapest bottle of white wine in the shop and it was $40 sad So each half can works out about $2.50. So $5 for a 'full can' of fosters type lager. And it's Canadian, so not fancy european imported stuff ($60 for a bottle of cava!!)

MrsKoala Tue 30-Jul-13 19:01:05

Cheers Parmarella - but sadly the canadians eat what we eat, there is no hidden bargains i just don't know about. The cook books and local food is the same as ours and just very very expensive. They all just accept this. It's quite normal for 50% of your pay to go on groceries apparently. <weeps>

takeaway2 Tue 30-Jul-13 19:01:17

That sounds scarily expensive. Have you thought about the Asian shops? Like the Chinese or Vietnamese, Thai shops? There's a huge Asian community there so id imagine there'll be plenty of such shops??

Parmarella Tue 30-Jul-13 19:02:40

Yes, do they have an immigrant population that needs to live cheaper?

JenaiMorris Tue 30-Jul-13 19:07:20

A quick Google reveals that $40 is just over £25.

£25 for the cheapest bottle of wine!!!! shock <faints>

MrsKoala Tue 30-Jul-13 19:11:46

takeaway - there is a market called Sunrise which apparently has slightly on the turn produce near the chinatown district. So one morning i roped DH in and we got the bus there (with the buggy) and while lookin gat the map on the bus a woman interrupted us and said 'you aren't going there are you' horrified. Then proceeded to tell us it was a really rough area and we were unlikely to leave with our jewellery/wallets. We thanked her but dismissed her a bit and when she got off the bus we said to each other 'how bad can it be...' HA! the bus turned on the road it was on and. Oh. EMM. Geee. Seriously i have only seen this kind of place on TV. It was awful skid row, prossies, people laying all over the streets, half clothed drunk people just pissing in a puddle where they lay. The bus filled with the locals and they circled us. I looked at DH and clutched the buggy and said, i'm staying on the bus to the depot, and he nodded vigorously.

So while there may be somewhere cheaper. Sadly it is not a risk i'm willing to take!

MrsKoala Tue 30-Jul-13 19:13:05

No sorry Jenai - it was $40 for beer AND wine. Wine was about $12. I wouldn't live here if i couldn't have wine!

lucamom Tue 30-Jul-13 19:18:54

Oil+garlic+ chilli flakes/or parsley/or basil heated gently for few mins, stirred through hot pasta.

Oil+ garlic heated gently. Add dried herbs and tin toms. Another cheap pasta sauce.

MrsKoala Tue 30-Jul-13 19:24:27

Cheers luca. I'd eat that but there's no way DH would. Maybe for lunch (with a roll) but not for dinner.

I'm just going to spend what it costs and that's that. I reckon i could just about do it for $10 each a day.

takeaway2 Tue 30-Jul-13 20:07:23

Erm their immigrant population are pretty well to do. Surely there are other Asian supermarkets not located in the dodgy area???

MrsKoala Tue 30-Jul-13 20:16:12

yes but then they are just as expensive. we live in a very asian area and the shops are all the same.

look MrsK, I think that while you are on a very tight budget, you both need to bite the bullet and live on what you can afford. It can be healthy and delicious even if its cheap. Your dh needs to understand the consequences of his life decisions, and accept them, if only in the short term.

You need to woman up and just tell him how it is.

You have a real baby to feed. No need to pander to an adult one. he needs to respect that there is only so much you can do. He needs to understand that until he and you are raking it in, its cheap cuts, cheats and pasta all the way.

I would just tell him its no meat until the paychecks start rolling in.

takeaway2 Tue 30-Jul-13 20:37:14

In which case I agree with the previous poster and say he will have to man up and eat within his means. No need to pander to his bacon and eggs habit. When he was in the uk did he really eat that every day? His cholesterol must have been sky high!!

If he was so insistent on moving to Vancouver even though you said it would be expensive then really he needs to do the shopping or compromise on foods.

In the meantime set up a food plan and stick to it. Dh used to be snobby about Heinz beans until I bought some own brand ones and he was fine with it. We now do lots of shopping at aldi and it's been great.

JenaiMorris Tue 30-Jul-13 20:54:43

Oh and what MadameDefarge said wink

MrsKoala Tue 30-Jul-13 21:09:11

Thanks guys. i do tell him that, but if dinner was not what he wanted i suspect he would just go out to a restaurant and buy food that he did like. And that would cost more than just cooking more expensive meals. We discuss it, he makes all the right noises then the next day asks where the bacon and eggs are confused

In which I case I am sorry to say that, however much you love him, you have a slightly bigger problem than just trying to cheap cheap meals to eat.

with all respect. If my partner indulged themselves so wilfully at the expense of myself, and more importantly, my child, I would be asking myself why he disrespected his family so much.

MrsKoala Tue 30-Jul-13 21:25:45

Well it's not really at our expense, we would never go without. We could eat the same as him, i have access to the same money. It's just impulse control really.

ok. well, we can't magic steaks out of beans for you is the base line.

AdoraBell Wed 31-Jul-13 00:01:34

Can't see if this has been said, but for chickpeas try searching for Garbanzo beans on the web sites.

AdoraBell Wed 31-Jul-13 00:15:40

Didn't see the latter posts, oops. Yes, the problem you face is bigger than the cost of living IMO, sorry.

MrsKoala Wed 31-Jul-13 01:44:45

Cheaper recipes are fine, things with mince and sausages etc. I don't want steak and neither does he. But i think we may revise the whole thing and move home if we had to live on pasta and oil for dinner grin It has to be something edible/nice. We aren't quite starving yet!

I appreciate the advice thanks all. Will defo go down the veggie route a couple of nights a week. i think veggie mexican/beans type things work best.

i think the bread is most shocking so will see about making my own . Am going to lay on the line the parameters of our budget again and just say these are thw meals i can cook on $200 per week and that's it. I'm also telling him bacon and eggs are just for weekends and there is weetabix or toast for brekkie.

MrsKoala Wed 31-Jul-13 01:54:04

And i went into a butchers to look at cheap cuts and it was bizarrely more expensive than other better cuts in the supermarket. I think it's because all independent butchers are organic artisan types so they just charge loads for everything. They had a tongue in there for $25. I thought you wouldn't be able to give tongue away!

I suppose i just wanted some ideas and to rant a bit. Going to do the bacon, potato and egg bake mentioned upthread for dinner tomo.

howcomes Wed 31-Jul-13 02:12:24

Hi, I lived in vancouver back in 2006 and found food shopping hellishly expensive! I was up at ubc campus with only public transport.
I got a members clubcard at Safeway to take advantage of offers, bought pork mince, turkey tenders, and the occasional free range whole chicken at the butcher in kitsilano as meat there was really good quality and not any dearer than supermarket. I sliced cheese with a potato peeler to eek it out, cooked with eggs a lot, bought bread from cobbs bakery as it tasted most like bloomer bread from uk, and finally shopped for basics liked tinned tomatoes at shoppers drugmart or London drugs as they often had better deals. I'll try to find out the name of the butcher and fishmonger I used as they were decently priced for Vancouver and we were on a very limited budget.

I'm in Toronto now and it is definitely cheaper than out west. Glad you have a no frills, that is the best place to pick up big sacks of rice for 8 bucks or large bags of flour. Check if you have a local farmers Market as sweetcorn should be coming in to season and that is delicious and not too dear.
Will post again as I remember other places we used. There is an English butcher over in north van but it is quite a hike, they sell uk baked beans and proper bacon.

heraqueenofheaven Wed 31-Jul-13 02:18:47

Doesn't Toronto have a very large Chinese and Indian community. I would check out if there are markets that cater for them. In my experience they often source things themselves and have much lower prices. Also in my experience of shopping in markets like this, the products are much higher quality. I find that western supermarkets are great at having lovely aisles and colourful promotions whereas markets just shove it on the shelves. Western shops make their food look more appealing, whereas the markets just put the products on the shelves as quickly as possible and sell it cheaper without pomp.

MrsKoala Wed 31-Jul-13 02:33:31

howcomes - That would be great thanks. We are in South Kits quite near UBC too. our rent alone (on 2 bed basement apt) is $2k shock

BUT it is lovely here. Been to the beach this avo smile and everyone is sooooo nice. i've already met some nice friends. And DH's work seems to be taking off too so fingers crossed we can stay and not go without too much.

MrsKoala Wed 31-Jul-13 02:39:04

Thanks heraqueen, i'm in Vancouver, but the best markets are over on Commercial Drive - which is 2 buses away. I do go there but all the stuff needs to be eaten within a day or 2. I try to batch cook and freeze some but it's hard with fruit.

Anyway, just spelled it out to DH in no uncertain terms and he is in total agreement (for once) so it's my dinners and NO complaints!

Another good thing is i spoke to my friend here who told me where a nearer No Frills is. So only 1 bus away! Hurrah.

heraqueenofheaven Wed 31-Jul-13 02:46:08

If they have hawker centres (Chinese) that sell fresh meat talk to some of the sellers. They may deliver to you if you buy in bulk and you can freeze the chicken etc. if fresh.

AdoraBell Wed 31-Jul-13 02:49:33

Glad you've discovered a closer no frills, that should make it easier.

HansieMom Wed 31-Jul-13 02:52:44

I was going to suggest Costco in Washington but you have already addressed that. But now I truly understand why there are so many Canadian cars in shopping areas in WA. I used to live there but down at southern border of state.

howcomes Wed 31-Jul-13 02:55:37

Just remembered it was Market meats on west 4th ave and vine. The fishmonger was next door but I can't remember it's name. It might be worth checking out the shops on ubc campus as they cater for students so produce is fresh and competitively priced. I used to buy my fruit and veg there where possible, the shops are right by the bus stops too.
I hope things pick up for you and you can get round to enjoying the beauty of Vancouver, it is a lovely city despite all the rain come October!

AngryBeaver Wed 31-Jul-13 02:59:58

I'll be reading this with interest later - jotting down some recipes!
We live in Nz on an island in the Hauraki gulf, closest city is Auckland ...blardy hell, it's spensive.
Cucumber = $6!!!

MrsKoala Wed 31-Jul-13 03:13:02

Oh HA! howcomes, that was the butchers i went into today with the $25 tongue!

I have been down to wreck beach and didn't realise it was clothing optional and sat behind a very old man doing naked yoga. I tell you downward facing dog has whole new meaning for me <bluerch>

howcomes Wed 31-Jul-13 04:55:08

Damn about the butchers sad
Re wreck beach, that happened to us too! Dh and I went to explore only to stumble across a dozen naked guys watching a hovercraft rescue exercise. Cue one of them rushing over to tell us not to worry it was just a drill, funnily enough it wasn't the hovercraft which had shocked us, we didn't know where to look!
Much preferred kits beach!

howcomes Wed 31-Jul-13 04:56:33

Btw often cheaper to eat out, have you tried brunch at sophies cosmic cafe yet? It's pretty tasty smile

MrsKoala Wed 31-Jul-13 05:06:31

That was the first place we ate when we arrived smile It works out about $30 with tip to eat there. So still cheaper to eat at home.

When we got to Wreck a bloke walked straight over to me (with my DH and DS) and asked if i was taking part in the Bare Buns Fun Run the coming Sunday. I said no and he tried to persuade me i really should and it was 'just good fun'. He then walked off after not even acknowledging DH confused and DH said to me 'funny how he didn't ask me if i was taking part grin

MrsKoala Wed 31-Jul-13 21:26:27

BARGAIN! went into the dollarama and got a 450g pack of Spaghettini for 69c, some tinned toms with herbs for $1.25 and 2 tins of baby clams for $1.50 each. Also got a large artisan loaf from Safeway for 99c (and some deli ham 100g for $1.99 - which will do sangers with the left over bread for lunch tomo). So Spaghetti Vongole and naice bread for dinner smile

JenaiMorris Wed 31-Jul-13 21:35:27

Yay! smile

AdoraBell Wed 31-Jul-13 21:39:39

Glad you've found some bargains todaygrin

I've just been eating Dragon Noodles, a recipe for a spicy noodle sauce from a blog/website called Budget Bytes. Strapline - my belly is full and so is my wallet. The food value came just from the noodles and an egg, but I enjoyed them.

MrsKoala Wed 31-Jul-13 21:47:17

Also 3 tins of beans for $1 <i'm irrationally happy about this. i think jacket potato, cheese and beans, quiche and beans, sausage, mash and beans are also on the menu. smile


pollywollydoodle Wed 31-Jul-13 22:24:04

step away from the windy koala house grin

MrsKoala Wed 31-Jul-13 22:38:03

oh and tinned salmon for $1 - is that okay for fishcakes?

pollywollydoodle Wed 31-Jul-13 22:39:58

perfect, we have that regularly

MrsKoala Wed 31-Jul-13 22:55:37

Fishcakes and...beans?

pollywollydoodle Thu 01-Aug-13 00:28:42


MrsKoala Thu 01-Aug-13 05:06:12

Well dinner was lovely smile But there was way too much. So in future half a tin of tomato/garlic/herb and one tin of clams would be fine. Which would make it even cheaper.

They also do tinned mussels and squid for $1.50 each, which i thought i could make a paella with and I'll see what frozen prawns are like in the supermarket to add to it.

JenaiMorris Thu 01-Aug-13 08:38:38

Fishcakes and beans grin

Actually it's quite a good recipe - I think you could adapt it easily enough.

BodminPill Fri 02-Aug-13 19:30:34

Hi Mrs Koala

I'm originally from the UK and have lived here in Vancouver for 10 years. I agree the cost of living here is extortionate - in fact it's making us reconsider living here TBH (sorry, don't mean to rain on your parade!).

Unfortunately you live in one of the more geographically isolated and expensive parts of the city, so food shopping options are limited without a car. There used to be a few more cheap veggie shops etc a few tears ago in Kits, but they have long since been replaced with yuppie shops.

Please stay away from Safeway - they are the most expensive by far of the supermarkets. No Frills is good and if you can get there in the car with DH, Real Canadian Superstore is also fab (and have some cheaper No Name own branded stuff).

Please PM me and maybe I can offer some other suggestions without outing myself too much on here.

Good luck!

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