Saving money with "ethnic" cuisines

VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

The so-called "Standard American Diet", or SAD, has become common in many Western countries, but because meat is very central to SAD it can get expensive in inflationary times. Many Americans are used to putting a big chunk of meat in the middle of the plate and then adding some vegetable "sides" around it.

Vegetarian dished can be good and will usually be cheaper, but many of us really love the taste and texture of meat.

I've found that cuisines from other cultures, especially Mexican, Chinese, and Vietnamese, do a good job of using small amounts of meat to flavor a mostly-vegetarian dish. My ma po tofu is amazingly delicious, and is based on a lot of tofu flavored by a small amount of well-cooked ground pork.

Has anyone else hear found some tasty dishes that are cheap to make despite rising food inflation?


  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I'm experimenting. Will let you know if I find something considerable yummy.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,482 admin
    edited January 2022

    @VermontCathy I get what you’re saying. Down under it’s called meat & 3 veg, usually potato, peas & carrots! (Usually come out of the freezer) Still a lot of people eat like that but meat is so expensive. I’ve definitely lessened the amount of meat we eat in our household. When I do, I use mince (ground meat) usually a 50/50 mix of beef & pork. So much you can do with it, meatballs, lasagne, mousaka, spaghetti bolognaise, Mexican style bean & corn dish, Asian flavours to. Actually last night I looked in the fridge & came up with a tasty meal, no meat. Paneer cheese cut into small chunks, heaps of different veg that needed using, some chilli flakes, garam masala powder, coriander powder. Fried it all off, added a tin of tomatoes & a tin of coconut cream, threw in a handful of rice noodles & added the cheese at the end, let simmer 10 mins or so. Enough for the 2 of us for 2 nights. Really yummy & cost effective. All up I’d say $10 worth = 4 meals, gotta be happy with that!😋

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,505 admin

    I posted this recipe in another discussion on soup but its so good (and cheap) that it deserves mention here. It has meat but just a bit. Like bacon and beans. Makes a huge pot.

    CARIBOO MOUNTAIN SOUP                           

    1 Pkg Dried Pinto Beans

    8 Cups Water

    Wash beans and add to water. Bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes and turn off heat. Cover and let stand 2 hours. Then simmer till fully cooked. Drain & reserve liquid. Add enough extra water to make 8 cups of liquid.

    1 Med-Large Onion, finely diced

    1 Lb. Bacon, finely diced

    2-4 Cloves Garlic (or more to taste), finely chopped

    1 – 28 oz. Can Tomatoes

    1½ cups raw brown rice, cooked (about 3 cups after cooking)

    1 – 2 Tsp Salt (to taste)

    1 Tsp Pepper (to taste)

    1 Tsp Thyme

    1 Tsp Savory

    2 Tbsp Sweet Paprika

    Cayenne, to taste, if desired

    Fry the bacon till nearly done. Add onions and cook till softened. Add garlic and fry for another minute. Add to drained beans. Add broken up tomatoes, rice and spices. Add reserved bean liquid. Simmer till flavours are well combined. About ½ hour. More liquid may be added if necessary. 

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,505 admin

    This is a vegan recipe but you don't miss the meat at all. The mushrooms have enough umami flavour to make up for it. I've made this several times and served it on noodles.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @JodieDownUnder That's a really important point. To enjoy meals with less meat, you may need a good range of spices to keep it interesting. now that I cook these different meals, I keep a wide variety of somewhat exotic spices, like the garam masala you mentioned, as well as five spice powder (Chinese), black vinegar, Sichuan peppercorns, various sauces, and so forth.

    If I'm just eating a chicken breast or steak with gravy and 2 or 3 veggie sides, I don't feel as much need for the spicy flavor additions.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey We love mushrooms! Have you ever tried baked stuffed portobello mushrooms? You can load them up with cheese, chopped onion and garlic, a bit of bacon, and bake them in the oven. Delicious!

    Our pizzas always have mushrooms. We usually use pepperoni, too, but the mushrooms and cheese are more important than the pepperoni.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,482 admin

    @torey that mushroom ragu looks so good. I make a similar dish & have turned it into a veg lasagne. If I’ve been a bit short on mushrooms, I’ll bbq some eggplant, zucchini & capsicum and add those as a layer or 2. It makes 6 portions all up, tasty, healthy & cost effective.

  • shllnzl
    shllnzl Posts: 1,816 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I too have been experimenting with more vegetarian meals just to work more vegetables into my diet.

    I have been cooking different cuisines (or my approximation) for many years. I easily get bored with the same foods, so I mix things up.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    I made a hummus platter today for my family. I served it with seasoned ground venison (lamb would have been better!), mixed vegetable Egyptian pickles, good old dill pickles, radishes, cucumbers, olives, and fresh flatbread. I know that could easily have been a vegetarian meal, but the meat served along with it made a very economical and SUPER delicious meal. I wish I had taken a picture!

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,314 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Massaman Curry made with chickpeas instead of chicken. Also, Butter Chickpeas (instead of chicken).

    I buy small cans of Massaman Curry at an Asian Supermarket but you can make it as well. I just empty 2 cans in my instant pot, water or stock, add some coconut milk and the rinsed chickpeas. I warm it on saute while the rice is cooking in another instant pot. Sometimes I saute onions, garlic, and ginger in stock and then add everything.

    For the Butter Chickpeas I follow a recipe for Butter Chicken and substitute chickpeas for chicken.

    Bean Chili is another good dish and we always have leftovers for another dinner.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,019 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I make a dish (including for supper tonight,) with brown rice, black beans, corn, picante sauce and some form of meat. Chicken, beef, pork even sausage. Though it is great without the meat as well.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,505 admin

    @kbmbillups1 There is a lady in our community from Sri Lanka and she makes the vegetarian version of Butter Chicken with chickpeas. She often makes it when we are doing events, along with veggie samosas and pakoras. I love her pakoras.

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,314 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey That sounds good! I love samosas! I've never had pakoras.

    I love vegetables biryani too! My husband like it with chicken. I have an Indian friend who showed me how to make it but I haven't made it in a long time. Now that I thought about it I'm going to have to make it soon!!!

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 994 ✭✭✭✭

    I add tons of flavor with good quality herb and spice blends. I also make infused vinegar and add it to dishes. I'll even use my fire cider when cooking. I make a medicinal, vegetable broth then use it to cook rice or as a base for soups or stews. In my opinion many recipes rely way too much on salt &/or sugar. In my experience once you reduce the salt and sugar it allows all the other wonderful flavors to come through.

    You can make a simple, inexpensive dish from rice, beans and lots of vegetables and it could taste different every time by changing what you use to flavor it, and the veggie combo you use. You can also make a sauce by blending roasted red peppers, or making a hummus (or flavored hummus), or baba ganoush for example and thinning them to a more sauce consistency.

    Here is a recipe for a ground beef using lentils as a base. Cooking and then squeezing water from beets was more work than I was willing to do so I subbed beet powder. Once you make it you can use it anyway you'd use ground beef.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thank you, @annbeck62. I'm going to try and sneak that into a meal. Maybe in the next batch of spaghetti.

  • @RustBeltCowgirl I use to make a vegan Bolognese with red lentils.

    Some can of chopped tomatoes, broth a lot of basil, oregano and what's yilust growing and of course the lentils.

    Just letting it slowly boil or more like simmer with a lot of stirring and in the end you have a great Bolognese sauce.

    My children really love it and it's equal to the one with ground beef.

  • dipat2005
    dipat2005 Posts: 1,225 ✭✭✭✭

    I used to make Pasties and they were very good with a little beef, vegetables and potatoes. A meal in itself. This time I will use chicken and vegies in a pie crust-be sure to pierce it. At the time I had teenage boys and made the pie crust myself. It was filling and the teenagers loved it.

  • Lisa K
    Lisa K Posts: 1,839 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I love ethnic foods, not because they may use little meat but because of the flavors of all of the spices and herbs!

  • MissPatricia
    MissPatricia Posts: 318 ✭✭✭

    Sauteing vegetables, adding rice, maybe an egg, and however much or little meat is good. Dishes like spaghetti can be stretched with more vegetables than mean. You can do the same with casseroles and soups. However, I do NOT want fake meat at all.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Trying this tonight, without the vegan ingredients. Regular worstershire sauce and meat broth. Mainly because that's what I had in pantry. I'm going to use it as a side dish to try on Dad. Mom and I would eat it solo.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Well, Dad ate it and said it wasn't too bad. I was a bit surprised that he didn't say anything about it having a little "bite" to it. 2 Tbsps of ginger in the recipe. so, disguising it as a side dish worked.