We all know that we should be eating more seafood, considering it's one of the best sources of omega 3s (think wild salmon), iron (clams) and zinc (oysters).

How to fit it into a food budget is the tricky part.

Quality and sustainability are important when it comes to seafood. For example, I don't buy farmed salmon. While it is a lot cheaper, farmed fish are sometimes fed wild fish (an unsustainable option), are often overcrowded and diseased, and are dyed to hide their unnatural gray flesh. Often antibiotics are used to treat them. Farmed salmon is generally not as nutritious, or good for the environment and doesn't taste as delicious as wild salmon. I also don’t recommend tilapia; unless you are getting tilapia from a fish farm that uses excellent methods, you are likely buying an inferior product high in omega 6s. With farmed salmon and tilapia out of the picture, you may find yourself wondering how to fit more expensive fish into your budget. One of the best ways to make seafood more affordable is to stretch it out into hearty dishes. 

I try to make our seafood meals satisfying and filling, even if everyone doesn’t have large portions of wild salmon. Here are a few ways I stretch out the seafood that doesn’t make the meal seem skimpy.

  • Pasta is always a special treat around here, so I sometimes make a seafood sauce to go over pasta for a filling meal that also effectively stretches seafood. Make a white clam sauce or a creamy salmon sauce to go over pasta, or steam clams in a bit of white wine, garlic, and basil, and serve over pasta.
  • Soups are my personal favorite as they are so nourishing and filling. I adore soups, and it’s really easy to stretch out your seafood in soups. I have recipes in my soup cookbook, "Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons," for clam chowder, salmon chowder, miso udon and salmon soup, and a simple white fish and rice soup, all of which are frugal ways to stretch out seafood. But those are just a few examples. Soups are forgiving and easily adaptable to your preferences and ingredients on hand. Have fun and experiment! 
  • Making a seafood fried rice with leftover rice, bits of leftover salmon, peas, grated carrots and fried in coconut oil or bacon grease and flavored with soy sauce and lime juice is a family favorite around here (pictured above). 
  • Salads work equally as well. For a light lunch or dinner, cook up a filet of fish (or open a can), add some celery and nuts to a bowl of lettuce greens and drizzle everything with a homemade dressing. Served with bread and butter, and perhaps a cup of wine, and you have a gourmet meal that is surprisingly frugal. 
  • Another option is to make simple salmon cakes using either canned salmon or leftover salmon bits (there are some lovely examples of this on epicurious.com) 
  • And don't forget sandwiches. Most of us grew up on tuna salad sandwiches, so we know how this works. My family enjoys Wild Planet's low-mercury tuna, which I buy at a good price at Costco. But you can think beyond tuna as well. Sardines are actually delicious when diced into small pieces, mixed with chopped cucumber, tomatoes, and tossed with a homemade dressing and served on crispy toast. Salmon burgers make an excellent sandwich "meat" as well. 
I'd love to hear your ideas for hearty, yet frugal seafood meals too! 

Related on MNN: 5 sustainable seafood recipes

6 hearty & frugal seafood meal ideas
You know seafood is good for you, but how do you make family- and budget-friendly meals? Here are a couple ideas.