A question arose during an IM conversation with my best friend: How can someone on a tight budget eat more vegetables or vegetarian meals?
Now I love fresh vegetables as much as the next person and I will go out of my way to buy fresh veggies when I want them for a dish. However, I remember the college days when I was living off of about $15 worth of groceries per week and fresh vegetables were way out of my budget. So how do you get the vitamins and fiber and all the good stuff that veggies offer without the price of buying fresh?
Answer: canned vegetables!
I don’t know if canned goods, meat or vegetable, have a stigma because of their appearance or lack of freshness or being strictly “emergency food”. All I know is that a rumbling tummy is enough of an emergency for me!
Anyhow, I decided to stop at the grocery store last night and see what deals could be had in the canned goods aisle. With a few dollars in my pocket, I decided to see how many different vegetables I could get with what I had to spend. Now I was cheating, just a little bit, because I happened to have onions, celery, and some leftover garlic that were purchased quite some time ago. I also happened to have an extensive spice collection, but I tried to keep things simple. Here is what I was able to buy with $6:
- Green beans, cut (1/2 sized can)
- Carrots, sliced (1/2 sized can)
- Yellow Squash, sliced
- Field beans & green beans
- Asparagus Spears, cut
- Vegetable broth
It should be noted that Intrepid Spoon HQ is based in the Southeast US so the cost of living is less expensive than it’s Northeast counterpart. Therefore, I was able to snag a few brand name “premium” canned goods at a reasonable price (about $1.50 or less). However, the asparagus, carrots and green beans were all generic brand. The next time I try something like this, I’d like to see what Walmart’s generics have to offer.
I had already decided that I was going to make a curry-type stew with the vegetables I purchased so I got right to work as soon as I returned home. So here’s my recipe:
- 3-5 cans of assorted vegetables, drained (your choice)
- 1 can vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 whole onion, coarsely chopped (or sub with 3 tbs dried onion flakes)
- 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (or sub with 1 tbs dried garlic flakes)
- 1 stalk of celery, chopped
- 1 tsp oil (olive, canola, or vegetable)
- 1 tbs vinegar (white, apple cider, or balsamic is fine)
- 2 tbs bbq sauce (or ketchup)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbs dried thyme
- 2 tbs curry powder
- salt, as needed
In a medium or large stew pot or high-walled skillet, sauté the onion, garlic, and celery in the oil (or butter/margarine if you have no oil) over a medium-high heat until the onion is translucent and slightly caramelized. Lower the heat to medium-low. Drain all the water from each of the cans of vegetables except for one and pour into the pot. In my variation, I drained only half of the can of field peas and added the rest of the water into the pot for a bit of flavor and to help thicken the broth. Add the can of broth and the thyme, curry, black pepper, vinegar and barbecue sauce and stir. Cover the pot and let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and add salt as you like it. Serve it up hot in a bowl or on top of some white rice. Serves 4-5 people or one college student for several days!
For those of you who truly are on a budget and you want to give this a try, please be advised that you will need to spend a bit more to buy the spices and other things I mention in my recipe , but the store brand variety of any of these items can be used and, what’s more, you’ll have these spices for use in other dishes later. I have seen shaker bottles of dried onion and garlic flakes (not garlic salt, mind you) and other generic spices sold in Big Lots for $1. The celery in this recipe can be omitted if it won’t fit into your budget. It is mostly there to soak up flavor and add a bit of crunch since canned veggies tend to be rather soft.
I served my curry over rice and it came out quite yummy! I imagine this recipe would be good with lots of beans or even frozen veggies instead of canned. Let me know if you have any other ideas for incorporating vegetables while sticking to a budget!
See you next dish!
The Head Spoon
P.S. Del Monte has a neat section of their website with $10 and under meal recipes using their canned products!
P.P.S Like most other curry dishes, it always tastes even better the next day! Just had the leftovers for dinner today. Delightfully flavorful!