Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tightening The Budget

Times are tough.  Consumer budgets aren't what they used to be and, believe it or not, when numbers have to get crunched, most of us will cut down spending on our food purchases before we do without more essential things like, say, air conditioning.  Seriously though, most will look at the money they spend on food and find ways to trim their budget, often buying less expensive ingredients and non-brand name products in order to keep a few more dimes in the bank.  This often means cutting out seafood from the diet or at least cutting back on weekly seafood consumption due to the perception that quality seafood is expensive.  This is a very unfortunate misconception because when seafood is missing from the diet so are many health benefits, including essential vitamins and minerals.

Though you may pay a little more for quality seafood as opposed to questionable seafood, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to spend more than you would on other, less healthy proteins such as beef or chicken.  Maybe you are just looking at the wrong choices.

Often customers walk into a fish market with sticker shock when looking over the prices of popular items like wild king salmon, fresh sablefish, fresh halibut, and high grade tuna.  If you are in the market for these well known choices then yes, there is a possibility you will walk out and feel as though you have to forgo healthy seafood for a lesser animal.  That doesn't have to be the case.  There are less common choices hiding in the ice that offer great flavor and considerable nutritional benefits without emptying your wallet.

If you like tuna and swordfish, try albacore, mahi mahi, cobia, king mackerel or wahoo.  These options offer great flavor and meaty texture and are often a third of the price.  And, of course, they are sustainable.  If you like snapper, try sheepshead, sea trout, tautog, corvina or trigger fish.  These fish have sweet flavors, nice white fillets, and are often more succulent than snapper.

On a tighter budget?  Try sustainably farmed tilapia or trout.  Yes, there are such things as responsibly farmed fish, you just have to shop at a reputable market that can answer all the "tough" questions, such as how and where was this farmed.  Also, don't forget shellfish as a viable option for dinner.  Mussels are one of the healthiest, most sustainable, and least expensive items in the market.  Along with clams, you can often find them for less than five dollars a pound.  Mussels and clams are easier to cook than you might think.  If you have a stove, a pot, some seasoning, and either some fat or broth, you can have a shellfish dinner in minutes, without the use of a microwave or anything else that comes out of a chemically sealed frozen box.

Though there are options I haven't mentioned in the interest of brevity, the opportunities are endless.  The ocean is a vast, living organism teeming with life and possibilities.  Don't limit your palate to just a few names you recognize.  The next time you are in a seafood market, bypass the tunas, salmons, and snappers.  Seek out some of the other species like mackerel, sardines, and merluza.  You might find a new favorite.  Bypassing the seafood counter is not the answer.  Your body deserves better.  Cutting corners doesn't mean cutting out seafood.  When watching your budget, you might find out just how delicious saving on seafood can be.                  

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