Salmon Burgers On a Budget


Please, step up to my table and stay awhile! I have free food and handouts that are sure to pique your interest. You say those are veggies on the table? Why yes, they’re good for you. Oh, don’t say that like it’s a bad thing! “Healthy” is not a evil word. In fact, “healthy” can mean both “delicious” and “fulfilling”, as in: “This healthy food is delicious and fulfills all my body’s needs!” Yes, I know healthy food like fruits and veggies can be expensive, but let me tell you some ways to fit them into your budget.

… so, Jessie, what have you been doing for the past couple of weeks?

As part of my education to become a Registered Dietitian, my Coordinated Program incorporates supervised practice out in the community, in hospitals, and in food service settings. My current rotation is in community nutrition, which means my classmate (hey, Bri!) and I drive all over the state, setting up education tables and giving nutrition lessons. The picture above is from a table we womanned at a Farmers’ Market.

Because our community nutrition program is funded by SNAP-Ed (SNAP = Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formally known as Food Stamps), we work in many low-income and disadvantaged communities in the state. Many of these communities don’t have the resources or knowledge to buy and prepare healthy foods – and that’s where some organizations in the community come in!

Our first placement was at Freshplace, an innovative food pantry that, instead of handing out bags of food to participants, has them choose their own foods from a warehouse set up like a grocery store. People are able to choose the foods they like (from what is available), and so will be more likely to eat it.

Our education table:

Something I learned from Freshplace’s food source, Foodshare, is that food pantries find donations of money MUCH more useful to them than food donations, because they can buy more nutritious food in greater quantity than the food that’s donated. So, the food drives around the holidays are great, but money donations are more useful. Besides, if you didn’t want that can of sauerkraut, I don’t think the food pantry patrons will either 😉

A few more pictures from community nutrition:

If you drank two 12-oz regular sodas every day for a month, this oversize “can” is how much soda you would drink.  The sack next to the can is the FIVE POUNDS of sugar you would have consumed during that time.

A display showing how much sugar is in different foods (people get a kick out of this one).  The two test tubes on the right show how much sugar is in a 12-oz fruit punch.  Those test tubes are heavy.

Teaching elementary school kids about healthy eating and physical activity:

How about a little MyPyramid action?

Many of the people we encountered have to do without as many fresh foods as we’re accustomed to, instead relying on canned and packaged foods (which can be notoriously high in calories and low in nutrients).  They may not know what to do with them.  For instance, they might pick up a can of salmon at the food pantry and wonder: “What now?”

I'm not sure why I decided to take a picture of the BACK of the can ...

While canned salmon is not as visually or texturally satisfying as fresh salmon, it does offer a much needed hit of nutrients to low-income families, including healthy fats, calcium, and protein. I decided to try making the easiest, cheapest, and tastiest recipe I could, and I hope I can share this recipe with other families I meet in community nutrition. I’ve included the prices so that I can see how much this recipe costs (assuming items like mayo and yogurt are bought in large quantities).

Salmon Burgers on a Budget
Serves 4

1 14.5 oz. canned salmon (tuna and other canned meat would work as well, and probably lower the cost) – $4 (on sale)
1 egg – $0.25
1/4 cup bread crumbs – $0.13
4 whole grain hamburger buns or 8 slices whole grain bread – $1.50
1 tsp mayo – $0.02
1/4 cup nonfat yogurt – $0.11
1 clove garlic – $0.06
Pinch salt – $0.01

My sis Courtney grew this garlic herself. Nice.

I started by mashing the garlic in our molcajete with the salt, then added the mayo and yogurt and mixed.  Let sit in the fridge while making the burgers to allow the flavors to meld.

For the burgers: mix salmon, egg, and breadcrumbs and form into four patties.  Cook in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes per side, or until egg is cooked and outside is crispy.  Add sauce and enjoy.

Total cost = $6.08, cost per serving = $1.52. The cost of this recipe is a little higher than most of the recipes that we give out in the community, but the burgers provide whole grains, healthy fats, calcium, and many vitamins and micronutrients in the accompanying salad (56 cents per serving).

Q: What’s your favorite “budget” meal? Do you have a local food pantry?


  1. i think i need to take a class from you. i’d be right along with the kids sitting in awe and amazement! mmm salmon burgers!! love mine with lots of onion 🙂

    thankfully we have quite a few local food pantries here! they make a fabulous resource to have around, plus the prices are usually unbeatable.

    hmm my budget meals are always tortilla bean wraps or stir-fries <3


  2. Oh Jessie I love you! “Womanning the table” got me from the beginning and the little piggy molcajete sealed the deal!

    We have MANY MANY MANY food pantries in our area, which is disheartening. Last Christmas I did a drive on my blog to donate to one. I called ahead of time to find out what they needed and she said they were all out of proteins and gave me a list of a few ideas, such as canned meats and beans. We went to Aldi and got cases of canned chicken, canned tuna, canned and dried beans, and a few other goods.

    I love your salmon burgers on a budget recipe! You’re right – I’d have no clue what to do w/ canned salmon. Love the idea to turn it into a healthy burger!

    My favorite budget meal is a one pot rice, beans, and corn meal. You cook the rice halfway, then stir in salsa, black beans, and rice. Cook the rest of the way and viola – a yummy bowl full of protein! I also like to use roasted half of squashes a lot as a big part of a meal, or to “stuff” on sans-meat nights. Whenever you cook w/o meat it always ends up cheaper!

  3. What you are doing right now brings me back to my college and internship days.
    I love the fruit punch sugar tube. Patients never seem to realize how much sugar fruit punch and juice have in them.
    I love using beans and tofu in cooking. Both good sources of protein and both inexpensive.

  4. My mom used to make us salmon patties all the time growing up! I LOVED them!! I need to make a gf version for Andrew and me.

    I love how passionate you are about healthy living! You are really changing lives and that must be such a great feeling!! 🙂 So proud of you!!

  5. It would be so cool if you guys made up recipe sheets to hand out to the people who you’re educating! This salad would definitely be a winner. I actually really like canned salmon (or I tell myself I do because I can’t afford fresh wild salmon either!). This so makes me kind of wish I were being an RD! You rock Jessie!

  6. Jessie,

    Solid information. It is amazing how little some people know about nutrition. You are really doing important work. Best of luck in your endeavor. Look forward to more of these educational posts.

    Be well.

  7. teehee…how cute are you there womanning that table :-D. i’ve said this before and i’ll say it again and again, i love that you’re making every effort possible to educate your cummunity and going into classrooms (that can be a bit scary at first huh?) to educate children about healthy eating. i’ve never met you in real life, but i can tell my kiddies would love you. keep doing what you’re doing girl, you rock!

    most people know how bad soda is for them, but sometimes it doesn’t really hit them until they see it represented using actual pop cans/containers and sugar bags. it’s almost like “words and numbers” just go in one ear and out the other, but a visual representation gets the point across so much faster. can you believe i used to drink a can or more of pop a day? on a really bad day i’d drink 3 cans! :-O. pop truly was my kryptonite. i’m so glad those days are over with.

    thank you for those my pyramid links. i checked out a few of them on their site and they gave really great tips and suggestions. i loved the ones for preschoolers and suggestions on how to include them in the kitchen.

    umm, i’ve actually never had canned salmon before, so totally wouldn’t know what to do with it other than make a sandwich. great looking recipe you shared with us there Jessie! i think my fave budget meal would be some kind of veggie stir fry, like zucchini with eggs or even a simple bean sprouts and chives stir fry. i love my Chinese food. haha. is it really bad that i’ve never heard of a food pantry until now? i know we have a few food banks (if that’s the same as a food pantry). hope you have a great weekend, Jessie! keep doing what you’re doing! Hugs!!!!!!

  8. Hey, that looks like a lot of fun! you’re also doing an important job, Jessie.

    And huh, luckily I’m not a big soda drinker.. that’s A LOT of sugar 🙁

    I’ve never see canned salmon before (yes, it’s true!) but I’d like to try your recipe 🙂

  9. These rotations were my favorite. Teaching kids about the pyramid, and how to choose healthy foods, and working in the community…I loved it!

    My favorite budget meal is a bean burrito with lots of veggies. That or stir-fry with brown rice.

    Regarding the soy nut butter, it does have a soy taste, and I really didn’t like it by itself. I think you should stick to what you said and try it at someone’s house or something, before you buy it 🙂

  10. Wow, you’re doing such fantastic, inspiring things! It’s great to share your knowledge and enthusiasm with others, especially when they haven’t really been exposed to it very much. It’s an amazing way to empower people. Being able to make informed choices yourself is incredibly important and you’re teaching people how to fish instead of handing them a fish here and there 🙂 Anywhooo, that recipe looks really good, I looove all things salmon. We had a record breaking salmon run this year in British Columbia so I got to eat some delicious fresh salmon, yum yum! I really like salmon burgers too. Somehow, I haven’t eaten any burgers this Summer so maybe I should have one of these before it’s too late 🙂

    Oh, as for meals on a budget, I think mine would be something like a giant pot of soup using whatever veggies you have available and frozen peas and maybe some beans. Beans are so cheap and so awesome, I love using them in my cooking.

  11. How cool is that food pantry!? I think it’s awesome when community programs start thinking outside the box and doing really cool things to accomplish their mandate. Props to you for being a part of grass roots change. And um, how delicious does that salmon burger look?

  12. It’s so awesome you ran one of those stands 🙂 There’s so much to learn!! It’s interesting seeing demonstrations that relate nutrition to the real world..or make it seem more real, you know? Like actually *seeing* the sugar content in the foods. I’d love to do what you do someday- going to schools and teaching about nutrition to young kids. It must be very rewarding 🙂

    Love the salmon burgers, too!! I love salmon and I definitely love saving money..sounds like a winning combo to me!

  13. I am not a sugar person anymore and so the statistic about drinking sodas really shocked me! I can’t believe I used to consume 5 lbs a sugar just through my Coke consumption!

    I love that you do these presentations for kids especially – I could have benefitted from such a thing when I used to be at school.

  14. Girl, look at you, owning the table with a warm, inviting smile. I’ll bet you attract lots of people! And I love that you guys are putting out concrete visuals to really hit the message home.

    Those salmon burgers look terrific!! My budget meal is really just matcha oats, which is boring so I never feature it. Hee.

  15. Wow! That is the nicest looking food pantry I’ve ever seen! And you’re right – it’s so much better (for everyone!) when participants choose what they want. When I volunteered at a food pantry in high school, it always seemed silly to give people things they didn’t want.

    The salmon patties look wonderful and yes, very cost-effective!! YUM!!!

  16. I am loving your posts…. I do a Sugar Shocker kit with my students similar to concept on your table. They are out of their skin shocked! Great salmon recipe, and I love the economics. YUMMM!

  17. Jessie you’re doing an amazing job there!! I don’t know how these communities work (not being American) but I can see that this must be great help to these people! Salmon, egg, mayonnaise and garlic? I’m sold!! 🙂

    Hmmm low budget food… I think it’s amazing how many things that are good and very nutricious are so cheap. My first thought is eggs. 2 boiled eggs with a little bread would cost less than a dollar! And if you add a side of some chopped tomato and cucumber seasoned with a little olive oil and oregano, well the cost goes a bit higher but you have a nutricious dinner then and there for 2 dollars or something. 🙂

  18. That is so cool that you get to go around and educate like that! (Can I just say that the 5lb bag of sugar is scary! Wow.) And I think it’s really great that Freshplace lets people pick their own food so they’re more likely to eat it…brilliant! Speaking of brilliant, love your salmon burgers!

  19. So much of important information Jessie! Thanks for sharing. It is shocking how little people know about the stuff they put into their bodies! I was never much into soda but well, as you know, I was quite misinformed about many other aspects of nutrition. I’m still learning and it’s good to know I can always come here and learn important things 🙂

    I wish pestle and mortars over here were as cute as your piggy one LOL Love the look of your salmon burgers and I’m glad to know that canned fatty fish can be beneficial, especially for those on tight budgets!

  20. Looks like a fun rotation. I love community nutrition, which is one reason I did my grad work in public health. Good work! I love salmon burgers. My friend (and fellow RD) and I once made the salmon cake recipe from the Boost cookbook. We were sitting in the diet office and just flipping through the books that were always there (the rep dropped them off) and it just looked good, so we made it.

  21. this is really great! what a neat program and a great way to educate people and kids!

    The canned-salmon burgers are a great idea. Kudos to you and your program! I’m so impressed 🙂

  22. I LOVE the first paragraph of this post! So funny!

    Your table looks like it’s full of some really great visuals (that soda can and bag of sugar are definitely eye opening!). I think it’d be a lot of fun to be able to go into the community and teach people about nutrition. I also admire the fact that you tried to find a cheap, practical, tasty and nutritious recipe to share with people you’re educating. I think it’s so much more meaningful when you have personal experiences to share.

  23. Dude… I was looking at the can and I was recognizing that it was clearly over-sized, but I definitely thought that the sack of sugar was a 1-lb bag! :O That’s such an eye-opener! I used to drink soda every day and I’ve been soda free for well over a year now. 😀 But I probably consumed that much when I did drink it… eww.

    I’ll remember this recipe, though. My dad eats salmon right out the can (And he thinks I’m gross for eating peanut butter out of the jar! Pshh) so I know he’d adore these. 🙂

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