-Written by Steph
One of the the biggest hurdles to overcome in getting your grocery costs down is learning to plan meals based on what you have, rather than going out and buying new ingredients. A lot of people start with a recipe they like the look of, then go out and buy the ingredients for that, and repeat this every time they want to cook. This is the wrong approach, and leads to a lot of food waste. A better way to operate is to have a number of very basic recipes that allow you to swap in whatever things you have on hand. This in turn allows you to shop based on sales a lot more, because you know that you don’t need specific ingredients for the meals you’ll be making.
Here are some of our favourite base recipes, and some of the variations we enjoy:
You need three things for calzones:
- Pizza dough (very easy and cheap to make yourself, but you can also buy it)
- Some sort of sauce
- Some sort of filling
Many different filling combinations are possible. Fry up onions, some sort of chopped up meat or vegetarian meat, and vegetables. Zucchini, broccoli, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant work well, but anything goes. Add spices like curry, paprika, oregano, or chili powder, depending what you like. Roll out pizza dough into several discs about 1/4 inch thick. Spread with sauce (thin layer so it doesn’t leak), add filling and cheese (or vegan cheese), and fold them in half. Seal them up with a dab of water, and bake them for around 20 minutes at 400F. Flip halfway through.
Example meal: Homemade pizza dough. Pesto sauce (parsley, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, lemon juice, oil, and water, blended until smooth). Vegetarian chicken, paprika, potatoes, broccoli, and Daiya vegan mozzarella as the filling.
A casserole is one of the most versatile dishes in existence. You need:
- Some sort of grain
- Some sort of filling ingredients (protein of any type, spices, and vegetables of any type)
- Some sort of sauce
- Some sort of topping (bread crumbs, fried onions and garlic, cheese, crumbled potato chips, or any combination are all great)
Cook the grains separately. Fry up the filling and spices. Mix it all up with the sauce and put it in a greased casserole dish, or whatever big baking pan you have. Put the topping on and bake for about 20 minutes at 350F.
Example meal: Pasta cooked in spices and chicken broth. Chopped up veggie burgers, broccoli, zucchini, red pepper, and carrots for the filling. Tomato sauce. Fried garlic, breadcrumbs, veggie bacon, and vegan cheese as a topping.
A great option for minimal dishes! You need:
- A big pot with a lid
Fry up the vegetables, protein, and seasonings. Add dry rice and mix it all up. Add water – about 1.5 cups per cup of rice. Cover, and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
Example meal: Chopped smoked tofu. Onion, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, for the filling.Chili powder, paprika, and powdered vegetable broth for seasonings.
A skillet meal requires three things:
- Some sort of grain (pasta is very good for this dish, but anything will work)
- A protein source
- An oven-safe skillet, such as cast iron
Cook whatever grain you’re using separately. If it’s pasta, add about 1/2 tsp each turmeric and vegetable broth to the water to make it very tasty. Fry up the protein and vegetables until cooked with spices like curry or chili powder, and add the pasta or other grain. Add a sauce if you like (we use pesto with pasta), but it doesn’t really need it. Top with cheese or vegan cheese, bread crumbs if you feel like it, and throw in the oven under the broiler for five minutes or so to bake and melt the cheese.
Example meal: Seasoned pasta. Vegetarian ground round, green pepper, cauliflower, and broccoli as the filling, and Daiya mozzarella as a topping.
Experimenting with variations of these four themes will allow you to use up ingredients that you have, lowering your grocery expenses and food waste, while giving you enough variety that you don’t feel like you’re eating the same things all the time. In addition to being completely adaptable to your tastes, they’re also fast and easy, making them excellent choices for anyone short on time, or who just doesn’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Happy cooking!