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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


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.

MadameDefarge Mon 29-Jul-13 20:59:28

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?

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