Couple of weeks back I got a mail from one of my readers. She mentioned herself as a regular reader. she wanted to see menu planning and frugal food related posts here. I asked her to give a few of her favorite low-cost recipes. Here’s what she came up with in 3 different emails. I can see the menu serves all tastes and food habit.
I always take the left over food for my lunch. In our cafeteria I see most of my co-workers buying food. Although subsidized, their per lunch cost must be more than what I pay for my boxed lunch. This compilation is made up of ingredients that are readily available, good for almost every taste and most importantly, they cost little less money than your regular lunch. About the time these preparations take, they don’t take more than an hour!
1) Chicken Lettuce Wraps – Cooking time: 30 minutes, 5-7 servings
Ingredients1 rotisserie chicken with teriyaki flavor 1/4 cup bamboo shoots; cut into small dice 1/4 cup water chestnuts; cut into small dice 2 cloves of garlic, grinded 2 tablespoons of green onion; finely sliced 1 teaspoon diced fresh ginger 1 tablespoon of sesame oil 2 tablespoons of soy sauce 1/4 cup red pepper; cut into small dice About 10-15 lettuce leaves (depends on choice)
- Cut out the meat from your rotisserie chicken and cut into dice.
- In a large and medium-heated pan, pour in the sesame oil; add in the diced chicken and the rest of the ingredients.
- Allow the diced chicken and other ingredients to cook for 10 minutes.
- Serve your sumptuous lunch and have the lettuce leaves for wrapping.
2) Fried Rice – Cooking time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:5 cups of cold and cooked rice 2 cups of leftover chicken, cut into small cubes About 2 cups of cooked leftover vegetables 2 tablespoons of canola/vegetable//sesame oil 4 tablespoons soy sauce 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped 2 cups of diced green onion
- In a large pre-heated wok, pour in 2 tablespoons of oil. Add in the garlic and green onions and sauté in hot oil.
- Add 2 cups of chicken and 2 cups of cooked veggies. Mix well.
- Add in the cooked rice and stir it evenly. Perfectly mix it well with the rest of the ingredients.
- Pour in 4 tablespoons of soy sauce and stir it until the rice and other ingredients are properly mixed. Serve hot.
3) Chicken with Lemony Broccoli Pasta – Cooking time: 35 minutes
Ingredients13 ounces of dried pasta 500 grams of boneless and skinless chicken breasts 4 cloves of garlic, minced 2 tablespoon of olive/canola/vegetable oil 5 tablespoons of butter 1 big bunch of broccoli; stems carefully peeled and florets chopped into small Juice of one big-sized lemon Grinded black pepper and iodized salt to taste 1 cup of finely-chopped and toasted walnuts (toasted for around 4 minutes at 350ºF) About 1 cup of chicken broth 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
- In a large pot, boil some water and put some salt. Boil the chicken until it is half-cooked. Remove the chicken and then cook the pasta. Drain the pasta and put it in a pot with 3 tablespoons of butter.
- Let the chicken to dry and season both sides with grinded pepper and iodized salt. Heat the oil in a big pan and add the remaining 1 tbsp. of butter on a medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sauté it until it gets brownish in color. Set aside the chicken. Then, cut it into thin slices.
- In a large pan, turn the heat into low and sauté the garlic until it becomes brown, add the broccoli, chicken broth, 1 tsp. of iodized salt and stir carefully. Cover the pan and turn the heat into medium and cook the broccoli until it becomes tender.
- In a skillet, add the chicken together with lemon juice. Add the walnuts and the buttered pasta and stir thoroughly so that all ingredients will be mixed properly. Just add some seasonings according to your taste. Then, add the parmesan cheese and serve.
4) Smoky Veggie Quesadillas – Cooking time: 30 minutes, 4 servings
Ingredients:12 corn or flour tortillas 1 medium-sized summer squash (trimmed and sliced into about ¼ inch lengthwise) 1/4 cup of lime juice 250 grams of grated Monterey jack or Cheddar cheese 1 red bell pepper, must be cut into big strips 1 teaspoon of chipotle puree or powder/smoked or regular paprika 1 clove of garlic, minced 1 peeled and thinly sliced red onion about ¼ inch thick A few thoroughly washed and dried cilantro leaves 1/4 cup olive/canola/vegetable oil 1 teaspoon of iodized salt Salsa and sour cream which will be used for serving
- Preheat your grill on a high heat. Carefully arrange the veggies in one layer on a big edged baking sheet and put half of the dressing. Turn each of them and coat the slices smoothly. Whisk the garlic, lime juice, salt, paprika or chipotle together.
- Turn your grill into medium-low, roast the veggies, turn them and adjust the heat so that veggies can maintain their tenderness. Set aside and put them in a plate to dress them with the remaining lime juice.
- Heat a large frying pan or griddle with a medium-high heat. Lay at least half of your tortillas and do this by batch so everything will be cooked evenly. Sprinkle the cheese over each tortilla and top them with the other remaining tortilla. Cook them until their bottoms appear brownish and crispy. Toss them and allow to be cooked until the cheese melted and the tortillas become crispier.
- Open your quesadillas and distribute the roasted veggies and cilantro leaves among your quesadillas. Cut the veggies into appropriate shapes and sizes. Cut the quesadillas and serve them with salsa and sour cream.
5) Tofu with Sweet Potato Curry – Cooking time: 30 minutes, 6 servings
Ingredients450 grams of very solid tofu 2 tablespoon of olive/canola/vegetable oil 2 medium sweet potatoes; carefully peeled and diced 14-ounce can of coconut milk 1 gingerroot (peeled, pounded and minced) 3 teaspoons of curry powder 1 tablespoon of tomato paste 1 cup of green peas Roasted peanuts Finely chopped cilantro 1 clove of garlic, minced 1/2 cup water Iodized salt to taste
- Wrap the tofu in a neat dish towel and allow it to dry.
- In a large skillet with a medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and sauté the garlic and ginger for about 1 minute. Add the curry powder, coconut milk, tomato paste and water. Allow them to boil with a medium heat and stir.
- Put the sweet potatoes, and then stir. Cover the skillet and turn the heat into low. Simmer until sweet potatoes become tender.
- Add sweet potatoes and stir, then cover the pan and cook over low heat, at a gentle simmer, until the sweet potatoes are tender.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a big non-sticky saucepan with a medium-high heat. Slice the tofu into ¾ inch dices. Pan fry the tofu, turn it until it becomes brown in color.
- Add the tofu plus the green peas into the pan of sweet potatoes. Allow it to simmer and do not cover. This will help perfectly blend the flavors and other seasonings, the peas will be gently cooked and the sauce will thicken.
- Add iodized salt to taste. This may be served with rice, if you wish you may garnish it with peanuts with your finely chopped cilantro leaves.
6) Summer Squash Frittata with Basil Leaves – Cooking time: 30 minutes, 6 servings
- Slice the zucchini or summer squash into thin slices, diagonally. Pile the thin slices and then slice them again into matchsticks size.
- In a large skillet with a medium-high heat, heat I tbsp. of oil and add the squash. Put in about ½ tsp. of iodized salt. Carefully sauté the squash, stir and toss if needed until they become brownish.
- Beat the eggs in a clean bowl; beat the pine nuts, ½ tsp. of salt, parmesan cheese and the finely crushed basil leaves. Scrap the cooked summer squash into the eggs, turn the skillet into low heat and add the butter plus the remaining tablespoons of oil.
- Immediately put the eggs, cover the skillet and let it cook until the eggs are mainly firm. Slide your frittata under the broiler within 2 minutes.
- In a small-sized pan, bring the balsamic vinegar to boil over a medium-high heat. Add in ½ tsp. of salt. Let it become syrup-like in appearance. Brush this coat over the cooked frittata and then serve hot.
7) Chicken Lo Mein – Cooking time: 30 minutes, 4 servings
Ingredients:450 grams of skinless and boneless chicken breast, thinly sliced 1 3-ounce package of ramen noodle soup with a chicken flavor 1 450 grams of frozen mixed oriental vegetables 2 teaspoons of freshly minced or you may also use 1 teaspoon of ginger powder as an alternative 1 clove of garlic, preferably minced 2 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce or soy sauce 1/4 cup water
- In a large pan with a medium-high heat, heat the oil, add the chicken and cook well. Stir it as often as needed until it becomes brownish.
- Add the veggies and cover it. Allow it to be cooked thoroughly and this will be around 6 minutes.
- Cook the noodles and follow the cooking procedure which is available on its label. Do not add the flavorings packet. Carefully drain the ramen noodle.
- Add the garlic, teriyaki sauce or soy sauce, ginger and other seasoning to the water. Ensure that all ingredients are properly mixed. Add the cooked chicken, veggies and the noodles and flip to allow all ingredients to sit in and blend well.
8) Cheeseburger Pie – Cooking time: 30 minutes, 6 servings
Ingredients1 450 grams of ground beef 2 cups of stripped American cheese 1 can crescent rolls 1 teaspoon of prepared mustard 2 tablespoons of dill pickle juice 1/3 cup of finely chopped dill (pickle slices) 2 tablespoons of milk 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion or a teaspoon of onion powder 2 tablespoons of ketchup 2 tablespoons of flour
- Preheat your oven with a temperature of 375°.
- Unroll 1 can of crescent rolls. Make sure to press them into the bottom and up until the sides of your pie pan that is 8-inch in size.
- Cook the ground beef in a large skillet. Carefully cook until it becomes brownish. Drain the beef well.
- Add the onion, mustard, chopped pickle and the ketchup. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour and pour in the milk and the pickle juice. Cook and stir it continuously until it bubbles and become thicker.
- Set aside from heat and add 1 cup of the stripped cheese. Pour this into the crust and you bake it for about 15 minutes or until the crust’s edges appear to be brown enough.
- Remove it from the oven and add the remaining cup of cheese as toppings. Allow the cheese to melt. Embellish it with pickle slices, ketchup and mustard.
9) Tortellini with Edamame and Smoked Sausage – Cooking time: 30 minutes, 6 servings
Ingredients:1 450 grams of frozen cheese tortellini 1 cup shelled edamame 450 grams of smoked sausage 1/2 cup of Italian dressing 1 cup of diced red pepper
- In a large pot, set water into a boil with a salt.
- Chop the red pepper and slice the smoked sausage into ¼-inch thick.
- Then, stir-fry the smoked sausage plus the red pepper for about 5 minutes.
- Add tortellini to the boiling water and allow it to be cooked for 5 minutes.
- Add the edamame to the boiling for 2 minutes. Drain edamame and tortellini thoroughly.
- Mix all the ingredients with the Italian dressing.
10) Chili Cheese Spoon Bread with Fresh Corn – Cooking time: 35 minutes, 4 servings
Ingredients:2 cups fresh corn kernels 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal 1 1/2 cups Monterey jack or grated Cheddar cheese 4 large eggs 2 cups whole milk or low fat milk 1 tablespoon of fresh, minced or pickled jalapeno peppers 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon sugar 1 teaspoon iodized salt
- Heat the oven with a 425ºF temperature.
- In a medium-high heat skillet, allow the milk, corn kernel, salt, cornmeal, butter and sugar to boil. Stir as needed.
- Cook and stir the mixture until it becomes thicker. Set aside from heat and allow it to cool. Afterwards, add in the egg yolks, jalapenos and cheese.
- Beat the egg whites, add salt and use the electric mixer. Brush one-fourth of the whites into the cornmeal mixture to soften it and wrap in the remaining whites carefully.
- Distribute the mixture in a greased pie plate or a casserole which is shallow enough and then bake until it puffed and becomes brownish.
Readers, do let us know what you feel about them and most importantly, suggest what other way your lunch cost can be reduced.
Upwards of Twenty says
Great recipes. Having two young daughters I often find that I do not have time to make new meals for lunch so I usually reheat leftovers I brought from home as well. I also like sandwiches. I think my average lunch cost is $2.50 a day, but I definitely do not eat meals as good as these. These are more of my dinner meals. Either way great options and good advice as always. I am interested in trying the Ramen Noodle Lo Mein.