A mixed lunch is like a miniature picnic: pita rolls, cheese cubes, hummus, small tomatoes, or even a homemade muffin, Greek yogurt, fruit, pumpkin seeds… L The advantage is that you can easily spend your leftovers there. “Like yesterday’s pork tenderloin in pieces,” suggests Hélène Hétu, a consultant at ACEF Rive-Sud in Montreal, an organization that offers budgeting services.
Small leftovers, nutritionist Julie DesGroseilliers loves them. For what ? She also uses it to make salads to slip into the lunch box the next day. She keeps portions of pre-cooked pasta and rice in the freezer. “If you have leftovers, like an egg or a piece of chicken, run the pasta under hot water to thaw it, add vegetables, cheese cubes, dressing, and you’re ready!” she exclaims.
Oh! busy mornings! Those who push us to go to the office empty-handed (and to spend too much money at lunchtime). In anticipation of these inevitable moments, Vicky Payeur, author of Cooking more with less, advises stocking up on fast food at the grocery store. “It can be as simple as canned soups, crackers and cans of tuna, tortillas to wraps,” she enumerates.
Mother of two children, Julie DesGroseilliers now manages lunch box returns to prevent everything from ending up in the trash. Kids hungry on the way home from school? Look at what’s left in your lunch box. “If there’s any raw vegetables left, I’ll serve them on the table in the evening, or cook them for supper,” she says. The contents of the lunch stay fresh because she puts several ice packs in it.
Pre-packaged snacks are convenient, but they are expensive. Petit Québec cheese costs more than twice as much when sold in individual portions. There are also savings to be made with nuts, yogurt, juice, chocolate milk, cookies… You can freeze portions of yogurt and compote in reusable pouches that will keep the lunch fresh.
“What’s really worth cooking is all the granola bars, muffins and energy balls, because it’s so expensive,” notes Julie DesGroseilliers, who points out that these products, when purchased ready-made, often have a lot of sugar and little fiber. You can make large batches at a time and freeze them.
Every year, Canadian households throw an average of $1,300 worth of food in the trash. There are plenty of other tips to limit food waste: include the child in the preparation of the lunch box to ensure that their appetite is respected; rotate through the fridge; store fruits and vegetables properly… Vicky Payeur gives herself themes in her meals of the week (Asian, Mexican, etc.) to maximize the use of ingredients.
Eggs are an inexpensive and easy-to-prepare protein that can be served boiled, in a sandwich or in salads, lists Hélène Hétu. Vegetable proteins also save money. Oven-roasted chickpeas, for example, can be eaten in salads as well as snacks. Co-author of the book Beau, bon, pas cher, Marie-Michelle Garon advises drawing inspiration from international cuisine: Indian dahl, Brazilian black bean stew, North African couscous…
Speaking of couscous, here is a very inexpensive starch that can be cooked in two steps, three movements. “A cup of semolina for a cup of boiling water, cover, and it’s ready in five minutes”, summarizes Marie-Michelle Garon. Couscous can be used as a base for a salad and can be served as a side dish.
When the naan breads are on the market, Julie DesGroseilliers makes a small supply of them, which she keeps in the freezer. Some evenings, when the leftovers in the fridge lend themselves to it, the family makes their pizzas for lunch the next day: spaghetti sauce, chicken, red beans, vegetables, etc. Julie’s children eat the cold pizza the next day (and no one complains).
Hélène Hétu is categorical: “Discounts are the sinews of war to save. » If you are a good planner, you can plan a menu – dinners AND dinners – according to the discounts in the flyer. Be careful, some discounts are not really discounts. The ideal is to know the price of the food, but you can also rely on the price per 100 g or 100 ml. House brands are often worth a look, and the closeouts shelf is worth a look. In terms of vegetables, cabbage, root vegetables and squash, “it’s still cheaper all year round,” notes Marie-Michelle Garon.
There are several apps and websites that make saving money easy. Exploit them!
The Reebee and Flip apps combine flyer discounts.
The Frigo Magic application offers recipes that adapt to the contents of the fridge.
The Glouton.ca site offers recipes connected to flyers.
The FoodHero and Too Good To Go applications bring together merchants who want to sell food at low prices.