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Several weeks ago a few of you asked how I was able to add seafood into our diets without raising our budget. Good question. We have not always eaten seafood consistently for various reasons (I didn’t realize I liked seafood until recently and because of the cost). But the health benefits of seafood made me realize that I really wanted to be able to fit it in (my next post on seafood will be about those benefits). How to fit it in our budget was the tricky part.
Seafood is one of those foods that’s pretty important not to skimp on quality. No farmed salmon here! Yes, it is a lot cheaper, but they are fed wild fish, overcrowded and diseased, dyed to hide it’s unnatural gray flesh, and antibiotics routinely were used to treat them. They aren’t as nutritious, they aren’t good for the environment and probably are not going to taste as good either. In my next post on seafood, I will go over what to buy, but meanwhile, let me give you six tips on how to eat quality seafood on a budget.
Here’s what helped me.
Tip Number One: Figure Out Your Daily Budget
First, figure out how much you have to spend per day on food. For me, I had to first subtract how much I spend on my bulk orders (oils, grains, etc). Then I took the remaining amount left in our budget and divided it by weeks, then by days. This helped put my spending in perspective. (If we go out to eat and spend 20 dollars on dinner or on seafood at the store that takes up the money for X amount of days). I realized that the cost of seafood could sometimes take up most of a day’s worth of our budget.
So then, on seafood night, I make sure that we eat leftovers for lunch and super cheap oatmeal for breakfast. That enables me to spend all of my day’s budget on dinner. I also try to do a very frugal dinner the night before. It was really that simple for us. When I had a whole day’s budget for our dinner, I was able to “splurge” on seafood much more easily.
Tip Number Two: Don’t Give Large Portions
My philosophy is that some seafood is better than none. We can’t afford to have large portions of seafood, generally (though sometimes we do). But instead of just nixing the idea of eating seafood at all, we eat smaller portions of it. A serving size of seafood is 3 ounces and if that’s all you can afford, that’s so much better than none.
Tip Number Three: Stretch the Seafood With Hearty Dishes
But obviously you don’t want seafood night to become “skimpy night”. I try to make our seafood meals satisfying, and filling, even if everyone doesn’t have large portions of wild salmon. Here are a few ways I stretch out the seafood in ways that doesn’t make the meal seem skimpy.
* Pasta is always a special treat around here, so sometimes I make a seafood sauce to go over pasta for a filling meal that also effectively stretches seafood. (two examples of this is my fresh clam and herb sauce and this recipe for a simple creme freshe and canned salmon sauce.
*Soups are my personal favorite. They are so nourishing and filling. I adore soups, so I like to make seafood soups and it’s really easy to stretch out your seafood a bit in soups. I haven’t been able to find a source for proper bones and heads to make my own, so I use homemade chicken broth. (Though I’ve bought some bonito flakes to try to make an Asian style fish stock ).
* Salads work equally as well. A favorite simple dinner is to cook up a fillet of fish (or open a can), add some celery and nuts, and serve it over lettuce with homemade dressing poured over it all. Love this.
*And finally sandwiches work as well. Most of us grew up on tuna salad sandwiches, so we know how this works.
Tip Number Four: Shopping Tips
I truthfully generally shop at a store where I am not going to find steals on seafood (though I do try to catch their sales), but watching for sales at various stores in your area can enable you to find some steals. The only downside to this is that sometimes the “on sale” seafood can be a little old. Getting fresh seafood is pretty mandatory for good taste.
Asian stores can be a real boon because, like most of their items, their seafood is often significantly cheaper. Some are better than others, however. Many will have signs with not only the names of the fish, but also whether it’s wild or farmed, but mine doesn’t and most of the employees don’t speak English. This makes it very hard to be able to quality ensure anything I buy. However, I will buy dried sardines or anchovies there, which I discuss here. You may or may not like these, but they certainly are very nutrient dense and cheap too!
Tip Number Five: Wild Salmon Isn’t Your Only Option
There are other good options of seafood that aren’t as expensive as wild salmon can be. Utilize these. One example is black cod, which I can often buy locally. It’s omega three content is just as high as salmon, and it’s also low in toxins. And what about fresh mussels, clams, and oysters? In my area, oysters are pretty expensive as you buy per shell, but I can make a dish with manila clams spending about six dollars on them and mussels are even cheaper. Those are just a few examples. Just don’t get stuck with thinking that wild salmon is your only choice. It’s good stuff, but it can be pretty expensive too.
Tip Number Six: Frozen and Canned
Frozen wild salmon is very convenient to have on hand, since you need to make sure you cook seafood right away when you buy it fresh. In fact, I have some defrosting today for dinner tonight! And you can often buy it cheaper per pound frozen too.
And if you must, you could consider buying canned seafood. It’s certainly not ideal since not only do you have nutrient loss but you also deal with the BPA issue. (Food Renegade had an excellent update on that issue here). But you can buy wild canned salmon for $2.75 a can at Trader Joes. I personally only occasionally use canned seafood, but it’s certainly the cheapest choice!
So there are six tips that have worked for me. What about you? Does anyone else have any suggestions?
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