Staff Profile: The Fish on-a-Budget Challenge
“We’re sticklers about money, and fish can be expensive.” - Josh Rutledge: Age: 24, assistant production editor, Cooking Light, Birmingham, Ala.
Like many young couples, Josh and his wife, Meredith, work hard to maximize their food dollars, and when Josh sees fish, he sees dollar signs. The couple’s weekly grocery budget is just $50. At checkout, that translates to bulk quantities of skinless, boneless chicken breasts and less expensive cuts of red meat. And though Josh will occasionally pick up tilapia or shrimp if it’s on sale, fish comes to the family plate at most once a week. “I love salmon, but it’s quite a bit more money than a chicken breast.”
Budget-conscious families can eat fish. Josh and Meredith can even shop at his favorite wholesale bulk-buy emporiums and neighborhood grocery stores (no special trips to seafood stores required). The key for this couple is strategic shopping.
- Look for bargains. Grocery stores sell large packs of individually wrapped, frozen fish fillets, usually at a rate dramatically discounted from fresh varieties. In-season, fresh varieties are also a good buy; you can enjoy them now or freeze them for later. Keep an eye out for good deals on Alaskan wild salmon—it will be rounding out this year’s peak this month, as will wild-caught Spanish mackerel.
- Use a little, save a lot. Look for recipes that use less expensive varieties or smaller amounts of pricier seafood in multiple servings. Our Quick Paella recipe, for example, calls for just six mussels per serving.
- Break open a can. Canned or jarred seafood is an easy, often inexpensive way to incorporate fish into your meals when fresh selections are limited or too pricey. Use one can of red salmon (at about $4 per can) for our Mediterranean Salmon Cakes with Cucumber Sauce. While you’re comparing prices, check the labels, too. Unlike fresh, canned fish often come packed with added salt (200mg to 300mg sodium in 2 ounces), so choose the low-sodium or unsalted variety, if available, or give it a good rinse before mixing it in.
- Prepare ahead for lunch. Josh and Meredith like to reuse some of last night’s dinner for tomorrow’s lunch, but seafood may dry out when reheated. Or worse, it may leave behind odors when you reheat your food in the office break room. Fish works well in cold preparations like salads, sandwiches, and wraps. Add leftover tuna to cooked pasta mixed with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of black pepper. Or use canned tuna or salmon for a niçoise salad.