Cooking International Meals on a Budget

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Welcome back to the collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody!  I’m here to give you tips on living a healthy, happy life on a budget.

When you’re bored in the kitchen international meals can be a lifesaver. They provide unique flavor combos and transport your pallet to a new region of the world. Plus, with so many food blogs on the internet – finding international recipes is easier than ever!

The downside to international meals is that we often don’t have many of the ingredients these recipes call for. So they require us to invest in new ingredients that we may or may not ever use again. I’m here to help prevent this. There are some easy, tips and tricks I can provide that will make cooking international food budget friendly for you!

How to Make International Food Budget Friendly

#1 Start Regionally.

Don’t get international food ADD. If you invest in some unique ingredients for a Mediterranean meal, don’t make Japanese food the next night. Instead, try to find several dishes from the same region that use some of the same ingredients. Make 2 or 3 of these dishes in the course of a week. This way, you can prevent yourself from only using a new spice or sauce once and throwing away whatever money you spent on it.

#2 Build your spice cabinet.

If you only have salt and pepper in your cabinet, start by building out a solid basic spice cabinet. I suggest always having cumin, cinnamon, coriander, chili powder, paprika, turmeric, oregano and basil as a base. From there, you can add to your cabinet with each new recipe you try. I find that buying in bulk is the most cost effective way to purchase spices, although it requires a larger upfront cost. and Frontier Co-Op are my two favorite places to buy bulk spices, Mountain Rose Herbs is great for herbs and flowers, and Spicely is great for buying a small amount of a particular spice.

#3 Shop at international markets.

When looking for specialty ingredients for an international dish, shopping at an international market can save you money. You’ll be able to find ingredients for your Japanese recipe more easily at an Asian market than you will at your regular grocery store.

#4 Pick recipes with seasonal produce.

Cooking with seasonal produce will save you money. So if you’re already investing in international spices, sauces, and other ingredients, don’t waste your money by making a recipe with out of season produce.

#5 Make sauces at home.

I at least encourage you to price out what it would cost to make a sauce or marinade at home versus buying a can or jar. Usually you’ll get a higher quality, higher quantity and healthier version if you make it yourself.

#6 Don’t buy something you’ll never use again.

How many times have you bought a $7 jar of something and used 1 teaspoon of it, only to have it sit in your refrigerator for years? Don’t do that. It’s part of why I recommend making multiple recipes from a certain region. Use what you buy, by making more than one dish with the ingredient. It makes your investment worth it!

Asian Inspired Meals:

Latin Inspired Meals:

Mediterranean Inspired Meals:

Caribbean Inspired Meals:

Southern Inspired Meals:

Indian Inspired Meals:

Italian Inspired Meals:


Follow along!

Over the next few months I’ll be covering a variety of ways to be healthy on a budget. Keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!