When it comes to turning the tides of climate change, food waste is a really important area to tackle. Not only does it have a significant impact on the environment, but it’s also something many of us can take an active role in the fighting. As a bonus, reducing food waste at home can also reduce your family’s grocery bill! Who wouldn’t want to save money while also saving the planet?
On top of all that, we want to eat well too. There’s a lot of information out there about how to eat healthily. Much of it is contradictory and way too much of it requires you to buy expensive foods. That’s why we prefer to use the word “nutritious” over “healthy”. When feeding ourselves and our families, focusing on nutritious foods - foods packed with nutrients to keep us going - can make eating well feel a lot less fussy and a lot more accessible.
So, to hit that trifecta of reducing food waste, saving money and eating well, here are some of our favourite recipes:
What we love about this recipe is that it doesn’t call for specific types of meat, veggies, cheese or herbs. Just set quantities of whatever you have! This makes it really easy to improvise because even if you aren’t a very confident cook, you have exact measurements and step-by-step instructions to guide you along.
A hearty frittata is a great way to use up small amounts of leftover roast or grilled meats, steamed veggies, tofu, veggies that are starting to wilt, restaurant leftovers and more.
Zucchini and carrots are two of the most inexpensive vegetables and also ones that we tend to buy too much of. These vegetable fritters put those extra veggies to good use in one of the most budget-friendly recipes we know!
If you don’t have scallions, you can use whatever onion you have on hand, or even chives or leeks. You can also swap the carrot for grated sweet potato or squash, beets are good but will make your fritters kind of pinkish, and grated potato can stand in for either carrot or zucchini. Top these fritters with poached or fried eggs and serve with steamed veggies, peas, salad or even sliced fruit and you have a nutrient-packed, filling meal that won’t break the bank.
Panzanella is a salad that uses big chunks of hearty bread. Unlike the croutons most of us are used to, theses bread chunks are a feature, rather than a garnish. This is a great way to use up a leftover baguette, ciabatta, french bread, sourdough rolls or even hamburger buns!
You can also make plenty of veggie substitutions to use up what you have. If you have large tomatoes, you can use those, although you might want to remove the pulp to reduce the moisture. You can also swap in yellow or red peppers, add a handful of leafy greens, some sliced radishes, chopped parsley, artichoke hearts, grated carrot or thinly sliced zucchini. Top it with kidney beans, chickpeas, canned tuna or leftover chicken and you have a full meal!
We think it’s high time the common casserole came back into the spotlight. These unsung heroes of your grandma’s cookbook were specifically designed to stretch food as far as it could go - and in really delicious ways! Who doesn’t love a fragrant, savoury baked dish with a crispy, buttery (or even cheesy) topping?This amazing recipe from the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources is not really even a recipe. It’s guidelines for making a delicious casserole out of practically anything! Like the frittata recipe above, it provides set quantities and step-by-step instructions, so you don’t have to be a chef to make magic happen.
This recipe calls for goat cheese which, in many places, can be pretty expensive. But, you can swap in full-fat cream cheese and this recipe still works great. 3 to 5 ounces of cream cheese is about ½ to ¾ cup. You don’t have to get that spot on though. Both frozen puff pastry or filo dough will work for this and is usually pretty inexpensive.
We love that this recipe uses both the beetroot and the beet greens to reduce waste, save money and amp up your nutritious leafy green intake. At the same time, while it’s a fairly easy recipe if you use frozen dough, the end results looks pretty fancy, and there’s no rule that says budget meals can’t be fancy!
Canned and instant soups aren’t usually synonymous with “nutritious”, but they’re often budget-friendly. By using extras that you already have on hand, you can really boost the nutrients and flavour of a simple soup and reduce food waste in your kitchen. As a bonus, if you have absolutely no experience with preparing anything other than toast on your own, playing around with soup upgrades is a great way to dip your toe in culinary waters and start learning!
Some of our favourite upgrades are adding:
Chopped or sliced hard-boiled eggs
Thinly sliced raw veggies like carrots, peppers, zucchini or celery
Frozen veggies like peas, corn, green beans or broccoli florets
Canned beans or lentils
Bean or other sprouts
Fresh or frozen leafy greens like spinach or kale
Toasted chunks of stale bread topped with grated cheese
Chunks of roasted tofu or tempeh
Leftover cooked pasta or grains
Leftover pasta sauce to add a creamy or tomato-y goodness
Cajun cabbage and noodles
Cabbage is another budget-friendly vegetable that’s jam-packed with nutrients. It also has a long shelf life and since this recipe requires cooking the cabbage, even wilted cabbage will work.
This is a recipe where you can make a LOT of substitutions and still get a delicious meal. For example, if you don’t have all the spice mix ingredients, you can just buy a cajun spice mix and use that. You can also use leftover chicken, pork, ground beef or another type of sausage instead of the called-for smoked sausage, or even roasted tofu or tempeh to make a vegan version. Although the egg noodles really do add something special to this recipe, if regular pasta is what you have on hand, that will work too! And feel free to add in peppers, green beans, corn, chopped tomatoes, or any other extra veggies you have on hand.
White bean soup with bacon and herbs
This hearty soup calls for fresh herbs, but you can use dried if that’s what you have. You can also swap the rosemary and/or thyme for other herbs like oregano, basil, marjoram or tarragon, rather than buying new herbs.
To use up extra vegetables you have on hand, you can also add more to this soup like chunks of potato, a handful of leafy greens, frozen or fresh peas or green beans, diced red peppers, sliced leeks or scallions, extra carrot, grated zucchini and more. This recipe makes a lot, but you can easily cut it in half.
Grown-up grilled cheese
The sauteed onion and garlic in these sandwiches really adds something special. If you don’t have red onion, regular yellow onion or virtually any other type of onion will work. You can also make plenty of other substitutions! Use roasted or sauteed red pepper instead of tomato, leftover chicken or deli meats instead of bacon, whatever cheese you have on hand, leave out the spinach altogether, or add marinated eggplant slices or portobello mushrooms. You can even swap the veggies for thinly sliced pear or apple and use brie or camembert for the cheese.
We love using eggs for adding protein to budget meals, so if you’re an egg fan, you can top these sandwiches with fried or poached eggs (although if you’re going with the apple and brie combo, an egg probably wouldn’t work with that).
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