If you are a seafood lover you know just how expensive it can be to eat it when you dine out.  A high-end meal of seabass or shellfish for two can easily cost you $75-100.  My favorite way to enjoy seafood on a budget is to skip eating out and make your own seafood at home!  It doesn’t have to be expensive if you follow these tried and true tips for enjoying seafood on the cheap.

how to get great deals on seafood

Cooking seafood at home is the best way to save money

For the longest time it intimidated me to cook my own seafood.  I’m not sure why, maybe I was afraid I’d mess up an expensive dish.  Seafood is usually more expensive than other proteins and you know how I hate to waste food, especially expensive food.

I’ve finally gotten comfortable cooking seafood at home and now love the challenge of creating high end expensive seafood dishes on a dime. With these tips you won’t risk messing things up and wasting money.

Living on a budget doesn’t mean you have to eat beans and rice forever

Oh yes, I do love recipes that use beans and rice. Eating rice and beans during lean times is one of my favorite ways to save money.

However, I don’t buy into the idea that living on a budget means eating subpar food. When you budget you tell your money where to go. Since I value good food, we tend to spend a larger percentage of our budget on food than most frugal people. I’d rather eat well than buy fancy clothes.

Even though I love good food, I still like to get a good deal. It’s taken a few years for me to figure out how to get the finer things in life without going over budget. Buying seafood on a budget has definitely been one of my finer moments in frugal living!

Related Post: How to Budget According to Your Values

Here are my 5 favorite tips for buying seafood on a budget

5 tips for buying seafood on a tight budget

1. Compare seafood prices

Shop around for the best prices. I like to shop around at local markets, high end supermarkets such as Whole Foods, and regular stores such as Publix.  When Whole Foods has a special deal, they are usually cheaper than Publix. Definitely check them out even if you usually think they are too pricey.  Local markets will sometimes sell you seafood below market price if it is the end of the day and their food hasn’t sold yet.

Personally I like to get my seafood fresh from the docks or a farmers’ market. While I prefer that, it does take more effort so I only tend to do that a few times a year.

2. Befriend a fisherman

This is only feasible if you are in a fishing community.  We’ve had great luck getting amazing fish from friends who are fishermen and boat captains.

Read this post to see how I traded a necklace for fish once. Bartering is always fun!

3. Have the supermarket steam your shellfish for FREE

Almost all the supermarkets I’ve ever been to will steam shellfish free of charge.  Some will even add Cajun and crab boil seasoning for free.  Go to the seafood counter first, let them know you want it steamed and they will steam your seafood while you shop.

You can also have them crack your shellfish. This is huge for us during stone crab season. Why go out to eat and pay $8 a claw when you can get them for 1/4 of the price at the grocery store just as fresh?

4. Don’t be afraid to buy frozen

You’d be surprised to find that most seafood you buy has previously been flash frozen.  Frozen seafood isn’t as bad as it used to be.  These days the flash freezing method occurs on the boats and preserves freshness and flavor.  If you aren’t concerned about buying local or going zero waste, skip the “fresh” counter and head to the frozen section instead.  Check the frozen section next to the seafood counter.  You can find frozen seafood in the regular frozen aisle, but you get more selection by the seafood aisle.

5. Buy inexpensive fish

I think we would all prefer to buy fresh sushi grade tuna and seabass over tilapia and catfish.  Save the expensive fish for special date nights and buy the less expensive ones for your regular weekly menu.  Tilapia and salmon are both very affordable, especially if you buy them frozen and in bulk.  Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Publix all have very good frozen fish selections at reasonable prices.

Is seafood too expensive for your budget

BONUS: Make your own dipping sauces

Don’t waste your money on $4 bottles of cocktail sauce.  The ingredients to make all seafood sauces are so simple.

I always whip up homemade cocktail sauce because it is as easy as mixing horseradish and ketchup, both of which we keep in our fridge at all times.  I use 1/2 C. ketchup with 1 tbsp. of horseradish.  The real recipe calls for lemon and Worcestershire, but I’m always content with plain old ketchup and horseradish.


Cocktail sauce recipe

The difference between cheap seafood and seafood on a budget

There is a difference!

Don’t fall into the trap of buying cheap seafood. Please, do not start buying your seafood at The Dollar Tree. And yes, they do sell frozen seafood there. I’ve seen it! That would be an example of cheap seafood.

If seafood smells funny, is priced lower than you can believe, or looks gross, it’s best to pass on the cheap seafood.

Not only can it make you sick, you don’t know where it came from or what it was fed.

Seafood, and food in general, is not meant to be cheap. It’s okay to spend a little more on high quality food that will nourish your body. If you follow the tips above you’ll be sure to get seafood within your budget without having to buy cheap and questionable seafood!

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