It's Fish Friday! This is a super healthy, budget friendly, quick and easy dinner. You can have dinner on the table in about 1/2 hour, so I think we can call it quick week night dinner. Fish for the win!
Okay, so I 'm going to talk a bit about the money side of food today. Yes, budgeting!
I just want to talk a bit about food budgeting and food waste while I got your attention for a mini second. Okay, I know most of you are here for the fish, just skip to the recipe here for the dish to avoid my babble.
Anyway, I'm always curious who runs a food budget or do you just wing it from day to day without thinking about the cost? Well, we're a family of four and the food budget is pretty much always top of my list. I cut corners when I can, I meal plan, use what's in my fridge, seasonally shop, etc. I do it all, but it's still costs lots of money to feed a family. Feeding teenagers and a husband that sucks food in like a garbage disposal just doesn't come cheap. However, there are ways to cut cost and keep a lid on an already expensive habit. Eating being the habit!
In my opening statement I called this a budget friendly dinner. I know for many of you, fish may be expensive in your area. For us here on the the south coast of Spain it's generally affordable. Okay, it can be hit and miss. Sometimes it costs a fortune and other times we are lucky enough to get great fish at great prices. This piece of fish that made four servings cost just under 3 euros! That's cheap by pretty much anybody's standards for sure. And I can never ever pass up a great bargain.
When I made this a few weeks back, I had no clue what was going on the dinner table. All I knew was that I was buying whatever fish was on sale at the fish counter. Perch it was that day. Other days this piece could have been easily double that price. So, I keep my eyes peeled for the deals.
If you're new to cooking and trying to budget, take a look below to see five handy tips to help you out.
1. Meal plan
So back to sticking to a budget. If you are tying to stick to a budget, the biggest thing I would say to do is a make a meal plan! I know it might seem daunting, too much work, etc, but it works. I've been meal planning for a long time now and it just works. Sure there are weeks when I fall off track and we just eat whatever and I ending up making dinner on a whim. And I can tell you that those are the weeks I usually spend the most money.
Meal planning not only saves money, but it saves time and worry as to what you are going to have for dinner. Not to mention waste. When you organize your dinners in advance, you are more likely to have the ingredients on hand that you are planning to use. Which means they are less likely to rot away in your fridge and end up in the garbage.
I know we can all only do our best and nobody is perfect. I mean, I hate throwing food away. It's the one thing that really bothers me in a huge way. Okay, I have other stuff but I won't get into that...ha! But like everyone, some days there are things that just didn't get cooked and leftovers that didn't get eaten. Sadly, they made their way to the trash. But I try my very best to avoid this at all cost.
It all makes a difference.
2. Seasonally eat.
If you're that person that buys the pineapple out of season shipped half way around the world, well you'll be spending more money that the person who gets apples in season locally grown. It's just the way it is. So, I focus my meals around what's available and in season rather than sourcing ingredients that are difficult to get your hands on too expensive to even think about.
Okay, of course, it's still nice to indulge in fruits and vegetables from far away land on occasion. But if you stick to things you can get your hands on around where you are, you should see a difference on that grocery bill.
3. Use up leftovers.
Yes, do it! This might come as a shock to some of you, but I've heard there are people that never eat leftovers!!! What? Well, maybe they are smart enough to cook just what they need. But I'm talking about people that just toss what's not eaten after dinner. Well, I like to think of leftovers as a no cook day in my near future. Well, unless the garbage disposal gets to it first. Yes, I am talking about the hungry husband.
Sometimes leftovers are great reheated just as they are and that's a bonus. But other times they are great used in other dishes and become a whole new thing of their own. Potatoes are a great example. Ever cook way too many potatoes and don't know what to do. Slice them up, fry them up, double bake them, and the list goes on. Potatoes are super versatile left over.
So, eat your leftovers!
4. Shop smart.
This is the one thing that I know can be a huge challenge for many of us. Believe it or not, I love supermarkets. I really do. I guess I need to get out more...haha! But there's something about an empty shopping cart and a sea of food that just makes me happy. Yes, I'm weird.
But despite my love for supermarkets, I try to do most of my shopping once a week. I pick a day, well Tuesday is my day and it's got to be 9:00 am and don't even get me started on my own parking space! No the store hasn't dedicated one to me, I just like the same parking spot. OCD...mmmm.
Anyway, if you have a list, a meal plan and a shopping day, you are bound to save money. Again, not perfection. I mean, we all have to nip to the store from time to time for some thing we need. But if you have a plan and get all your groceries at one time, you generally save money. Oh, and time.
Again, you'll generally save waste as well. Because I meal plan and weekly shop, come Monday evening, there's not much left in my fridge.
So, if you are looking to cut costs with the food bill, think about how you shop and try to stick to what you went in for...hahaha! Now, that's the real challenge.
5. Batch cook
Okay, I fail on this front most of the time because I don't have much freezer space. But in the fall and winter I do try to keep some things on hand in the freezer. There are a lot of foods that are easy to double up on, they stretch a dollar or two, and you can freeze them easily. Soups, stews, casseroles, lasagnas, just to name a few. If you've got the time, try to make a big batch of something time to time and portion off the rest for your freezer. Then you have a freezer meal all ready to go. You don't have to cook and it's already been in the budget. Bonus!
Well, that just about sums up my few little ways to attempt to keep the lid on food costs. It's not perfect and there are weeks when I spend more than I should but it's a way to attempt to make great dinners affordable.
And speaking of great dinners, let's take a look at the fish.
Notes about the fish:
First of all, you don't need to use perch. You can use any kind of white fish fillet. If you have cod, halibut, or hake, use that instead. Many things can be used interchangeably in cooking.
This is such an easy dish to make for a midday supper or even to serve to guests. The prep time is quick as well. As for timing this dish, once the fish was in the oven, I got the spinach ready. That only took minutes.
You can even do all the prep work before hand and keep it in the the fridge until baking time to make life easy around busy evenings. Okay, that's if your organized. I know most of us struggle on that front.....haha!
A quick an easy dish to come together.
Happy cooking friends and start looking at that food budget!
Lemon & Parmesan Perch with Sauteed Spinach
Serves 4 / Prep time: 10 minutes / Cook time: 25 minutes
For the fish:
1 Perch fillet, approximately 1 lb/500 grams
1 Cup/110 grams fine bread crumbs, (from dry bread)
1/2 Cup/75 grams parmesan cheese, finely grated
Small bunch fresh chopped parsley
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest of 1/2 lemon
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
Extra lemon wedges for serving
For the spinach:
1 Large bag of fresh spinach
1/2 Leek, ends trimmed and roughly diced up
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl combine the bread crumbs, parmesan, parsley, lemon zest, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Place the fish on your baking tray and spoon over the bread crumb mixture. Evenly spread it out and firmly press it down with your hands. Pour over melted butter and squeeze over the lemon juice. Bake for 25 - 25 minutes or until fish is completely cooked.
In a large skillet set over medium heat, add the olive oil and garlic and stir. Cook for about one minute. Add the leeks and cook for a further 5 - 8 minutes or until the leeks are soft but not browned. Add the spinach and stir well until wilted, about 2 -3 minutes.
Season with salt and pour over balsamic vinegar. Stir well and remove from heat.
Cut the fish into pieces and serve over the spinach. Serve with extra lemon wedges if desired.
Click the downloadable link below to print recipe!
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