When searching for ways to prepare special meals at home, seafood tops the list for many people. It’s also, at least with regards to wild fish, a more sustainable protein source than factory-farmed beef and poultry. Additionally, seafood can be successfully integrated into the healthy eating programs of most families on a budget. So how do find room in your grocery budget for it reasonably? These simple savings tips will show you how.
photo credit: trackranger
The mixed bag
Mixed bags of frozen seafood are available in meal sizes at most grocery stores, and in bulk for less than $2 per pound at warehouse purchasing clubs like Sam’s and Costco. These mixed bags are a great grocery source for things like paella, seafood pad Thai and savory seafood soup in a spicy tomato broth.
While you’re likely aware that neighborhood grocery stores routinely have loss leader sales on various seafood and other items, you may not be aware that certain warehouse stores have scheduled sales on fairly pricey fresh fish items on a regular basis. Costco for example, has scheduled sales every other week on fresh, high-end seafood items like Rhode Island clams, mussels, king crab legs and jumbo shrimp.
We’ve purchased both the clams and mussels for less than $3 per pound and used them in a number of holiday meals such as mussels in white wine and steamed clams with garlic butter. I’ve also taken advantage of these sales to purchase whole king salmon for a similar price and cut them into individual salmon steaks to freeze for later use.
As versatile as they are affordable, salad shrimp offer fuss-free protein suitable for the preparation of numerous gourmet appetizers and international cuisines such as Thai shrimp toast or shrimp tacos. I’ve also used salad shrimp repeatedly as a green salad add-in, party dip ingredient, sandwich filling and to create a sophisticated shrimp bisque for a dinner party.
Otherwise known as imitation crab meat, surimi is a super-cheap resource for fitting in full-flavored seafood dishes reasonably. It can be used to create tasty dinner quiches, seafood pizzas and savory appetizer cheesecakes. It’s also a great way to stretch higher-priced crab meat. By mixing both products together, you have a great seafood salad mix for cocktail sandwiches at a fraction of the cost.
By making your seafood an accent item rather than the main focus of a meal, you can drastically reduce your price-per-portion meal cost when planning menus. Examples of this would be a bay scallop stir fry, mixed seafood Newburg or a crab and scallion bruschetta.
Selecting seafood doesn’t have to mean the end of frugal dinners. By practicing your precision purchasing skills and planning menus carefully, you can still serve seafood meals to your family on a fairly regular basis, as well as on holidays.
A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.