If you’re looking to eat well on a budget, then international cuisines are a secret weapon you should start using to stock your recipe arsenal. A large number of countries in the world are financially marginalized. That means whatever the people living there feed their families better be cheap. Here are four frugal international cuisines that are fully-loaded with flavor.
The tropical beaches and clear waters of this part of the world may spell luxury for travelers, but the financial truth for the local residents lies closer to the other end of the continuum. The end result? Traditional Caribbean food is extremely affordable. Ingredients like sweet potatoes and black beans reign supreme, and affordable spices blended for the traditional jerk seasoning can be used for anything from veggie spreads to barbecue basting. Plantains are another affordable ingredient that can be turned into fritters or sautéed as a side dish.
Full of exotic flavor and affordable ingredients, Indian food is one of those international cuisines that is both delicious and cheap. Penny-pinching pantry items like lentils, pigeon peas, rice and turmeric pop up constantly in Indian recipes, and the aromatic Basmati rice that Indian dishes are so frequently paired with is truly delish. One recipe we enjoy quite often is black-eyed peas in a spicy Goan curry sauce.
While you can purchase the necessary ingredients affordably at any Indian grocery store, if you are lucky enough to have a Patel Brothers grocery store nearby you’re really in luck. The only one in Florida recently opened just down the highway from where I live, and I have to say I am truly impressed with their selection. Rows and rows of cheap produce, bulk spices and budget-priced beans by the boatload. If you have access to one, it’s definitely worth the drive to stock your pantry.
In a country where so many people struggle to make financial ends meet, it only makes sense that Mexican food is extremely economical to prepare. It’s also one of the most popular international cuisines on the planet, offering tasty options for vegetarians, meat eaters and vegans alike. Three cheapies to try include this bulk dry tortilla mix to store in your pantry, fat-free refried beans for the freezer made in your crock pot and traditional tamales with a black bean filling. Sangria, salsa and guacamole are also fun menu additions that are inexpensive to make.
With a street food scene second only to perhaps Thailand, the Middle East is a great place to travel and eat affordably. The cuisine translates easily for home cooking, and is extremely affordable, particularly if you have at least occasional access to an Arab food market. Falafel is a frugal and tasty meal option, and a Lebanese black-eyed pea salad pairs nicely in the summer with a variety of grilled items and a side of rice. Other affordable food items from the region include motabal, stuffed grape leaves, fatoush and fava beans.
Clearly, enjoying international cuisines on the home front doesn’t have to cost a mint. If you are having to tighten your financial belt a bit more than normal and still want to put quality meals on the table for your family, consider expanding your recipe repertoire with ethnic food menus. They are tasty, affordable, guest-worthy and stylish.