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How to cook cheap meals on a budget, from personal chef Karen Dar Woon

06/11/2015 03:19 EDT | Updated 06/11/2016 05:59 EDT
With B.C. food prices rising due to the California drought and dry weather affecting Lower Mainland crop yields, it's getting harder for many British Columbians to cook affordable, nutritious and delicious meals.

To get some tips, we spoke to personal chef Karen Dar Woon, who shared her strategies for how you can eat well without breaking the bank.

1. Get a week's local salad for $3

Lettuce makes excellent taco and tofu wraps and is a great alternative to bread for people trying to be low-carb or gluten-free. 

Mixed greens for salad are so beautiful and so fresh, and have not spent a week in a truck getting here from somewhere else.

For $3 you can buy enough arugula and watercress to make salad for a week for two people.

2. Make your own strawberry vinaigrette

Strawberries are in season and there are lots of farms where you can pick your own. If you see a slightly soft strawberry, you can turn that into a very flavourful vinaigrette.

Get some ordinary balsamic vinegar, crush some strawberries, mix them and let them sit for a week in a cool place and then strain it out and you've got yourself some flavoured vinegar.

3. Buy seasonal and frozen fish for less

Halibut as well as white and red spring salmon are currently in season. Throughout the year, frozen-at-sea fish is going to be the best option both for price and for overall quality.  

4. Eat less steak, more pork

For me a good strategy to optimize my steak budget is to eat a little less steak. I still feel satisfied with a smaller steak.

There are great local pork producers so if you are looking for a tender cut of meat and easy to cook, try pork tenderloin. Something I also do is try and visit a real butcher. 

5. Form a cheese buying club

In some of the workshops I'm doing around cooking skills and staying on budget, we talk about creating informal buying clubs. Certainly meat is a big part of people's food budget, but also things like cheese, flour and sugar.

6. Become a whiz in the kitchen

Knowing how to cook and store your food can improve and increase your enjoyment of the dishes you create, even when there are outside pressures of budget, weather and time that can affect what we can afford.

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To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled Eating well on a budget.

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