Eating on a budget is simple in theory. But there will eventually come a time when you scarf down your fifth PB&J in a week, sit back, and evaluate your life choices.
Cheap eats don’t have to be boring – in fact, it’s an art form that everyone on the planet partakes in at some point or another. The great thing about living in Canada is having access to cuisine and ingredients from around the world.
So if it’s time to spice up your boring lunch life, here are a few great starting points.
Cold Salad Wrap
If you don’t feel like getting too crazy right off the bat, head over to your local Asian supermarket and grab a package of rice-paper wraps. You may recognize these as the clear, soft wrappings of a Vietnamese cold shrimp roll.
These are neutral in flavour, which means you can pretty much fill them with any ingredients you have around. Plus, they can sit for months in your pantry so you don’t have to worry about expiration dates. Wrap up some veggies and protein and you’re good to go!
If you’re familiar with Japanese programming, you may be familiar with the classic “riceball”. These are sometimes filled with some sort of meat in the centre (although there are some who prefer them plain), and are wrapped with roasted seaweed to prevent the rice grains from sticking to your fingers when you pick them up. Their triangular shape is traditionally moulded by hand, but cheap moulds can be bought for just a few dollars to make packing lunch a breeze.
As a bonus: rice is super cheap when bought in bulk, and versatile for tons of recipes. Calrose rice is our recommendation for onigiri, as it’s sticky and will hold its shape!
This probably doesn’t sound very exotic to urban late-night snackers. After all, quesadillas can be found at almost any bar in the city. However, there’s are comically easy to make at home – all you need is a tortilla, cheese, and some veggies. Five minutes with a pan later, you’ve got lunch. Hooray!
Latkes, or potato pancakes, can be found in some shape or form across many different cultures. At their most basic form, they pretty much consist of potatoes, flour, eggs, and some hot oil for frying. However, they are often flavoured by adding onion or garlic, or topping with sour cream. But we’re pretty sure we had you at “potato”.
Chili Con Carne
If you’re looking for protein, this is the place to be. Chili Con Carne is a Spanish dish chock full of beans, tomato, rice, and chili peppers. The best thing about this is that most of these ingredients can be stored in the pantry (hello, canned goods!), so you don’t have to worry about your food going bad and you can have an inexpensive and hearty meal whipped up in a flash – and made ahead for a week!
Middle Eastern cuisine boasts some amazing flavours, but if you don’t have extra spices on hand, tabbouleh is a super easy and simple option with ingredients that can be found in almost any household. Most recipes will call for parsley, tomatoes, onion, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. Looking to add some extra protein? Add some quinoa to the mix!
Introducing some new flavours to your weekly packed meals doesn’t have to be complicated. These recipes are great starting points for their low price points and common ingredients. So what are you waiting for? Break that lunch rut!