Meal plans, grocery lists and weekly cooking tips to cook in Vancouver for under $150 a week.

El Camino’s Inspired/Knockoff Recipe and Grocery List April 8 to 13

Latin American street food in Vancouver? Yes, please. A cheap place to grab a carnivorous and alcoholic meal with friends? For sure! Last week, I finally tried the famous El Camino’s Vancouver, on Main Street.  I first called to see if they took reservations on Fridays – “No, we don’t. But people are usually out of here pretty quick, so you can probably just drop in.”

They weren’t kidding.

Bring your competitive hot-dog eating skills if you go, because if you stop for a breath, your dish will be picked up and your cheque will be on your lap.

We must talk about the food, first. It is incredible. Short rib tacos with carmelized onions, grilled chorizo, and amazing papos correados- kind of a saucy potato. The drinks, too, remind you that it could at one time be summer in Vancouver – the boozy Paloma is the only way to drink grapefruit.

But, the service. Big sighs. We went for girls’ night, hoping for endless appetizers and drinks. Our meals all came at varying times, mains before sides, and each one with our waitress accepting a sideways glance from her manager in the mirror, reading – “Hustle, hustle, hustle! Get them out of here, stat!” Definitely not the atmosphere you’d expect from anything on the typically casual Main Street. Four girls, four drinks, a side and a Main each, all within around an hour. “Dessert? No, thanks for coming, here’s your cheque, let me wipe the table.”

So, this week, I’m attempting some knockoffs at home.  Fresh, spicy and made with patience, and no agenda. And, friends, you’re welcome to stay and enjoy a meal as long as you want – I’m not worried about turning over tables.

Meal Plan

Monday Quinoa Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Tuesday Carne Asada Tacos (with Salsa De Arbol)

Wednesday Puerto Rican Beef Stew

Thursday Arroz con Pollo with Salsa Verde

Friday Gambas al Ajillo (Grilled Shrimp with Garlic) with Spanish Rice

Saturday Pollo Ciudad with Pickled Salsa

Grocery List

Whole Foods

  • 100g jalepeno-stuffed green olives
  • 10 fresh shrimp
  • chipotle peppers in adobo
  • 1 package stewing beef (on sale!)
  • 2 sirloin beef tips (on sale!)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 10 poblano peppers
  • 8 anaheim peppers
  • 10 jalepeno peppers
  • chicken thighs (on sale!)
  • corn tortillas

Kin’s Farm Market

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 bunch carrots
  • 4 white potatoes
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 orange
  • 3 limes
  • 3 bunches green onions
  • 3 field tomatoes
  • 4 white onions
  • 3 bunches cilantro
  • 5 to 6 mushrooms


  • Mexicana cheese (including Monteray Jack)
  • 1 package frozen green beans
  • 2 Freybe chorizos

Liquor Store

  • Cabernet Sauvingon

Tips for the Week

Quinoa Stuffed Poblano Peppers: Make more than you need, because they are addictive. I like cooking 1/2 quinoa with 1/2 red lentils, to get some extra protein in it.

Carne Asada Tacos with Salsa De Arbol: Probably the first “authentic-tasting” meal I’ve made in a while. If you have a cast iron pan, use it to char the tomatoes. Don’t skip this step. Also make sure to pulse the salsa, do you don’t end up with tomato sauce. Instead of the salt-filled pickled jalepenos, I chopped up 2 jalepenos and mixed it with 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar with some pepper to marinate the steak. You’ll also end up with a lot of salsa – enough for a couple of meals.

Puerto Rican Beef Stew: Don’t be deceived by the broth – it has flavour. The appearance seems like a murky brown, but with the wine, it’s really comforting. Make sure to use low sodium broth, as always.

Arroz con Pollo with Salsa Verde: I just used the Salsa De Arbol again, to save the work. Also marinate the meat the night before to get the flavour really in. Again, use Freybe chorizos – they’re gluten-free, and taste as good as the $34/lb. ones from the butcher shop nearby.

Gambas al Ajillo (Grilled Shrimp with Garlic): Don’t try to substitute regular chili powder for ancho chili powder – ever. They even have the ancho powder at Whole Foods now, but it’s considerably cheaper at Gourmet Warehouse and at Meinhardt’s. If we end up with sun, this one’s great on the BBQ as well. Oh, and don’t try to save money with shrimp from T&T Market. Ick.

Pollo Ciudad with Pickled Salsa: Oh, what do you know, Salsa De Arbol again. I like using a mix of anaheim, jalepeno and poblano peppers for a bit of extra flavour. This meal is definitely not low fat, so if you want to go all out, I like using a bit of cream cheese in here as well.


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