Eating on a Budget During COVID-19

By: Paul Born, Tamarack Team As a community we were poor, but we always ate well. We were farmers and we knew how to stretch a dollar. We had a saying - “that is as cheap as borscht” - going out of our way to make nutritious meals for as little money as possible. So, it is no surprise that during COVID-19 the recipes I most crave are the ones I grew up with and like that and are also inexpensive to make. My go to foods on a budget:

  • Soup, of course, is the go-to budget food. The key is to learn how to create a great broth using bones, vegetable peel, parmesan rind, shells from shrimp – you name it, you can create a rich flavour – bouillon cubes are cheap and can also work well. So many great recipes.

  • Lentils and beans dried are so much better than canned and very cheap. Just soak and cook. Try going to an Indian food store – they have a ton of great lentils at a fraction the price and in bulk.

  • Cabbage and carrots are inexpensive pretty much year-round and are very nutritious.

  • Frozen vegetables are inexpensive most of the year – keep looking for sales and fill the freezer.

  • Gardening is the ultimate low-cost way to eat. A $2 package of seeds can feed a family spinach for an entire year.

My favourite budget recipe: Lentils and Spinach (feeds 5-7 people for under $5) Ingredients:

  • $2 for 3 cups lentils – any kind – I prefer red (yellow split pea it also works)

  • $1 for 1 package of chopped frozen spinach (you can add two if you have them)

  • $1 for 1 – 2 Onion

  • $1 for 2 cups uncooked rice


  • Step 1: Wash the lentils. Add 6 cups water to a pot. Add the lentils, 2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon paprika or chili powder. 1 teaspoon turmeric is optional. Bring to boil, turn down to a low boil for 30 minutes – 1 hour and then add the frozen spinach directly to the pot. Simmer until lentils are done.

  • Step 2: Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a pan and add the chopped Onions until soft (I sometimes add carrot or peppers or any greens I have in the fridge). Continue to Sauté for another 15 minutes on very low heat) If you have add pepper, mustard and cumin seed (or 1 tsp each powder) and 2 tsp of garam masala (you can substitute with cinnamon and cloves) Optional – add garlic powder etc. – things you think will add flavour)

  • Serve with Rice

  • If you have extra and are feeling decadent, add a couple of extra tablespoons of butter in just before serving.

If you want to learn more get the More with Less Cookbook by Doris Longacre.  Or, search "more with less cooking" on the internet - You will be amazed by the great cooking you can do for less than a $1 per person for a meal.

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