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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


TodaysAGoodDay Sun 28-Jul-13 20:57:13

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

sorry, I did that link wrong:

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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