Friday's Frugal $5 Meals at Trader Joe's : Tuna Curry

The notion of "Frugal Meals" often conjures up images of Top Ramen and cheap hot dogs. Granted, it's easy to to default to rice and beans or pasta for a low-cost meal. What about those of us, who for health reasons, can't tolerate such foods? Is it possible to create a delicious, nourishing, grain-free and low carb frugal meal?

Kimi over at The Nourishing Gourmet is hosting Frugal Nourishing Meals Carnival. Since my regular Thursday post is thrifty meals for under $5, I thought I'd delay it a day to join the carnival. This week, I'm putting together a $5 meal from Trader Joe's. Erin, over at $5 Dinners, has agreed to me splitting my time (every other week) doing bargain meals for both New Seasons and Trader Joe's. Hopefully TJ's has more relevance to readers outside the Portland Metro Area! As I said in my first post about Trader Joe's, TJ's is a favorite organic, specialty grocery store, and there are definitely good deals to be found there for some amazing $5 dinners.

A few months ago, I happened upon a box of books labeled "Free". They belonged to our Weston A Price Foundation Chapter Leader, so I figured there were some good books worth checking out. I happened upon a nondescript Indian Cookbook entitled "Great Curries". I grabbed it because Indian Food is my favorite, and in all my years as a cook I'd never found an Indian Cookbook that was straightforward and easy to follow. This one was, and I still can't believe it was in the discard pile!

One of the first recipes I found in the book was a simple tuna curry, calling for 1 can of tuna, an onion, and some sliced bell peppers, among other things. The notion of transforming an ordinary can of tuna into an amazing curry was too good to be true, so I had to try it. It has now become one of our family's favorite suppers for it's ease of preparation, nutrition, and for its superb taste. My kids even devour it, thinking it's chicken!

The ingredients are simple, but using high-quality canned tuna is important. Most commercial tuna (such as Chicken of the Sea brand) contains soy (just read the label!) and a bunch of other stuff that's not tuna. The reason I love to shop at Trader Joe's for this meal is that Trader Joe's sells all the components for this meal (with the exception of the spices, which I'll mention later) at a great price. Their tongol tuna is very reasonably priced, and it contains only one thing: tongol tuna! Although bell peppers can be expensive, Trader Joe's sells a colorful assortment of red, yellow and green sliced bell peppers that can be found in the frozen section for $1.69, and I usually only use about 1/3 of the bag for this meal.

If you're not an Indian Food lover, don't be shy here. This curry has a unique taste all of its own; almost more like fajitas than a curry. If you are still skeptical, the spices can be easily modified to make more of a Mexican dish without adding much cost.

Now, about the spices. As you'll see below, it's ridiculous how cheap spices are, especially when purchased at Mt. Rose Herbs (a local, Eugene-based company that is awesome!). Now, I really did the math on these spices below, based on the prices at Mt. Rose Herbs. I always have this assortment of herbs on hand, no matter what, so I hardly factor spices into the cost of this dish! If you opt for a Mexican-only theme, just use a basic blend of cumin, oregano, and chili powder to make this into fajitas, and swap the lemon juice for lime juice.

It goes without saying that quarter's worth of spices can turn a very ordinary, thrifty meal into a feast! Think of all of the cuisine that comes from third-world countries; it's spicy and full of flavor where it may lack meat and fat. Herbs and spices not only add flavor, but can introduce many medicinal benefits as well!

Tuna fish Curry (from Great Curries by Manisha Kanani)
Serves 4

1 onion,thinly sliced ($0.25, I get these in bulk from Costco)

1/3 bag (or more, if desired) "Melange A Trois" frozen pepper blend ($0.56)

3 T coconut oil (from Mt. Rose Herbs, it's $0.39)

1/4 tsp cumin seeds ($0.03 from Mt. Rose Herbs)

1/2 tsp ground cumin ($0.05 from Mt. Rose Herbs)

1/2 tsp coriander ($0.01 from Mt. Rose Herbs)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper ($0.004 from Mt. Rose Herbs)

1/4 tsp salt ($0.001 from Mt. Rose Herbs)

2 garlic cloves, crushed ($0.10)

12 oz can TJ's tongol tuna, drained ($1.39)

1 green chili, finely chopped ($0.10)

1-inch piece ginger root, grated ($0.15)

1/4 tsp garam masala (est. cost $0.25 using bulk herbs)

1 tsp lemon juice ($0.20)

2 T chopped cilantro ($0.15)


1)Heat coconut oil in the frying pan and fry the cumin seeds for two minutes, until they begin to sputter.

2)Add the powdered cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, onion, and peppers.

3)Fry the vegetables, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes or until the onions have browned.

4)Stir in the tuna, chili, and ginger and cook for 5 minutes.

5) Add the garam masala, lemon juice, and cilantro and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Serve atop brown rice or, for a grain-free accompaniment, try my Grain-Free Indian flatbread.

For more nourishing, frugal meals, check out The Nourishing Gourmet. And for more Bargain Meals from Trader Joe's and New Seasons, check back every Thursday for our regularly-scheduled "Thrifty Thursdays"!

Update: This recipe is also being "swapped" on the awesome blog "Grocery Cart Challenge"! Go check out the other frugal recipes here!


Marfa said...

Too bad we can't have fish during Great Lent except on Annunciation and Palm Sunday! Maybe I'll try it then...

LeeAnn said...

As I sit down to eat my own plate of tuna curry, just wanted to say thanks for your blog. It's been a sanity saver! I've been eating gf for a little more than a year (I have celiac) and started to notice that I was reacting to gf grains too. Got the idea that I maybe should cut all grains out of the diet, but wasn't sure how to do that without eating steak or chicken or eggs every single meal. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!
Also, can't wait to hear your presentation at the Northwest Catholic Home Educators Conference in May. Woo-hoo!

Meliss said...

How many ounces is the bag of peppers that you buy at TJ's, or how many ounces of peppers do you use in this dish?


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