How to Eat Well for Under $200 a Month for 2 adults plus “Fried” Asian Takeout Chicken

Hi everyone! I thought I’d do a blog post on how I eat well without using coupons since I’ve had so many requests the last few weeks. I hope you can find a tip or two that help you eat well while spending less! At the end of the post I’ve included my “Fried” Asian Takeout Chicken recipe. Enjoy!

Basics for reducing your food budget

  • Plan your meals so you have less stress, don’t throw stuff away, & save money by not running to the grocery store for a last minute trip. You don’t have to assign a specific day, just do 7 meals for each week. Plan on using leftover dinners for lunches.
  • Buy your basics in bulk. Rice, beans, meat (aim for 30-50% off, B1G1 free sales), onions, instant mashed potatoes, gluten free flours (try Asian markets for rice & tapioca flours), gf soy sauce, spices, raw sugar, honey, etc.
  • Always serve meat with veggies and/or sauce. It helps trick your eyes so you don’t eat too much. This is very important! When the hubby and I were first married I had him dish up our meal. He put 3 servings on each of our plates!
  • Eat fresh! Base your meals on veggies instead of easy to make carbs. Stir fries are fast and easy. Check out local farms, farmer’s markets, and Asian grocery stores for great deals.
  • If you eat dairy use it sparingly and reduce the meat. No need to overload on protein and overspend.
  • Eat meat free at least once a week. Try breakfast for dinner, Savory Asian Style Pancakes, beans & rice, sandwiches, soups & bread, stir fry with eggs, etc.
  • Have a price list so you know when an item is a good deal and when to pass.
  • Have last minute minimal prep meals on hand. I used to keep healthy-ish frozen pizzas to avoid eat more unhealthy (and more expensive) restaurant meals. Now I do stir fry bags, cooked meat, “Fried” Asian Takeout Chicken, & other easy prep meals. Planning ahead is the key. Yes you will save money if you add your own honey to a big container of yogurt, but will you? Or will you but a individual serving size or end up buying an entire breakfast?

Freezer Tips

Meat:

I personally buy meat only in bulk. I try to go as natural as possible when I can. When there’s a great sale on beef round steak I nicely ask the butcher to slice the meat into 1/4″ slices. I divide the beef into 3/4 pound and 1 pound freezer bags and pour in a few tablespoons of marinade (1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1/3 gf soy sauce, 1 tablespoon powdered mustard, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, and a few grinds of black pepper), press out all air, and distribute the meat so the bags will freeze flat. The meat will tenderize a bit from the marinade, and be sure to cut across the grain before or after cooking. The 3/4 pound bags go into a recipe that includes dairy, eggs, or nuts. While the 1 pound bags can be used on there own. Each bag has 4 servings of beef.

Chicken gets a similar treatment but I like to cut chicken into bite sized pieces. If you do so don’t even need to thaw for a stir fry, just dump into a hot pan. The marinade will thaw first separating the chicken pieces. Also you can make “Fried” Asian Takeout Chicken before adding the sauce, cool to refrigerator temperature, freeze until solid on a baking sheet with parchment, store in a freezer bag.

Make meatballs, cool to refrigerator temperature, freeze until solid on a baking sheet with parchment, store in a freezer bag.

Dairy:

Cheese can be bought in bulk, be divide,d and frozen into recipe sized portions. Extra pudding can be frozen into popsicles.

Stir Fry bags:

Chop up veggies such as onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, blanched broccoli, freeze in a gallon sized ziplock. . No need to thaw, just add to a hot skillet with a bit of oil. This will keep for about a month

Baked goods:

For quick breakfasts bake extra muffins, waffles, & pancakes, let cool, & freeze.

Sauces, stocks, & soups:

Many sauces, stocks, & soups can be frozen if there isn’t dairy or thickeners. Use minimal oil, & salt (the freezing process takes out some of the salt flavor). I use freezer safe pint canning jars, or quart sized freezer ziplock (freezer flat, & then you can store them easily) for the liquids after they are refrigerator temperature.

 Grains:

Freeze cooked grains as the same manner as sauces, stocks, & soups for quick sides or for fried rice. It’s so nice when you are short on time to have whole grains in minutes!

Casseroles, & baked dishes:

You can make wholesome freezer dishes like the ones from Once a Month Mom, my Pinterest page, or make an extra pan of enchiladas (freeze sauce separately), or lasagna to eat later.

Wrap up

Be sure to have plenty of resources to be on your team! Check out websites like: LemonMint (healthy, low-sugar), Healthful Pursuit (healthy, free of many allergens), 100 Days of Real Food (healthy), Budget Bytes (gourmet, fast, & many times healthy), and of course my blog!

In closing I just wanted to say that once you get the hang of it, you can make a game out of it! Thanks to my mom it’s almost like second nature to me. Thank you mom 🙂

"Fried" Asian Takeout Chicken. Gluten and dairy free!

“Fried” Asian Takeout Chicken w/ Orange Sauce

Notes: This recipe serves 6 but is easily doubled. The sauce has a nice orange flavor without being overly sweet. I top mine with siracha 🙂 Try the chicken with different sauces and veggies, be creative!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Combine 1 cup of tapioca flour, 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (or ground almonds), 1/2 teaspoon each of baking powder & salt in a medium bowl, set aside. Whisk 3 eggs together in a medium bowl, set aside. Cut 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken into bite sized pieces (Tip: cut the breasts of off a whole chicken before you roast it to save even more money). Dip chicken in flour, then egg, brown in medium hot skillet with 1 tablespoon coconut oil. When chicken is browned transfer into a large baking pan. Repeat for all of the chicken pieces. Bake for 20 minutes, flip chicken pieces over, baked for another 20 minutes or until cooked through. Meanwhile prepare sauce & veggies, cook rice separately.

Sauce & veggies: Add 1 peeled orange, 1 2″x2″ /5cm x 5cm piece of orange peel (no white pith), 2 cloves of garlic, 1/3 cup each of gf soy sauce & rice vinegar, 2-3 tablespoons of raw sugar to taste to blender. Blend until smooth.

Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil to a medium hot skillet. Add 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped bell peppers, stir fry for 2 minutes. Pour in sauce, after 1 minute add chicken to pan, heat through. Serve over rice.

Cranberry Walnut Variation

Add 1/4 cup of raw cranberries to blender, increase sugar to 1/4 cup. Add 1/3 toasted walnut pieces to stir fry.

Tropical Thai Variation

Replace orange sauce with following sauce: Blend 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste (seeds removed from paste) with 1/4 cup of fish sauce,1/2 cup of lime juice, and 1/2 cup of raw sugar. Top with chopped cilantro, and diced fresh tomatoes.

Tapioca with Coconut and Mango

Tapioca w/ Coconut & Mango

It may not feel like Summer in the North West but I have been making Summer food anyway! Iced teas, hamburgers, lots of veggies, fresh pickles, and refreshing desserts have been returned to their rightful place on my menu. This is one of my favorites and if you get everything at the Asian store you can probably do it for under $5!

Tapioca w/ Coconut & Mango

Bring 1/2 cup of pearl tapioca (I used large pearl) and 6 cups or more of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Continue to boil until tapioca is clear except for a small opaque center. Try one for texture and continue boiling if necessary. The large pearl took me about 40 minutes to get to desired doneness. The tiny ones only take a few minutes. When tapioca is ready transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water.

Meanwhile, peel, pit, and chop 1 ripe mango. Combine in a medium bowl 1/2 cup of macapuno (click here for a picture of the jar and a yummy looking recipe), 1/2 cup of full fat canned coconut milk, and the mango. Refrigerate.

Add rinsed and drained tapioca to the coconut mango mixture. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until ready to serve. Serve in fun glasses. I got the Irish Coffee glass above at the dollar store!

A bit about Macapuno

Macapuno goes by  few different names: gelatinous mutant coconut, coconut sport, coconut strings. How I understand it coconut trees will sometime produce a coconut without water inside and so the resulting flesh is soft and jelly-like. Once that tree makes a “mutant” coconut thats the only type they will continue to make. It has a great texture and is a fun treat. Find it at Asian and Filipino stores.

Savory Asian Style Pancakes

Savory Asian Pancakes

My grandma used to make a variation of these pancakes for the grandkids. Usually they were served with a ketchup/mayo mixture and we ate them faster than she could cook them! I decided that I needed a gluten free version with my own twist. These pancakes are delicious, versatile, fast, cheap, and chock-full of veggies!

You can add in or substitute veggies for what you have but be sure to have an assortment of colors, flavors, and textures.

Other mix-in ideas: Shredded cabbage and carrots, cooked chicken, cooked shrimp, or fresh mushrooms.

For the pancakes:

Heat a nonstick skillet to medium heat. Combine 6 eggs, 3/4 cup of canned coconut milk, 1 cup of gluten free flour of choice (I used brown rice, and Bob’s Red Mill), 1/2 tsp of xanthum or guar gum, 1/4 softened dried mushrooms, 1 bunch of minced  green onions, 1/2 cup of chopped water chestnuts, 4 cups of bean sprouts, and a pinch of salt. Scoop up 1/2 cup of the mixture, add to pan, and spread to an even thickness  Cook until mostly set and golden brown on bottom, flip and cook until set. Repeat for all pancakes, keep warm in oven until ready to serve. Makes 4-6 servings.

For the sauce:

Combine 1 cup cold water, 1 T of tapioca starch, 1/4 tsp of garlic chili paste, 1/2 tsp of minced ginger, 1 tsp of sesame seeds,  2 T each gf soy sauce, rice vinegar and raw sugar in a small saucepan. Bring sauce to a boil, stirring constantly until thickened, about 1 minute. Refrigerate until needed.

Eating

Serve with a platter of fresh crunchy lettuce such as romaine. Wrap pancakes in lettuce, dip in sauce before taking a bite.

Accompaniment ideas:

Pickled daikon radish and carrots, Cheap Korean beef, Yellow jasmine rice, and cucumber slices.

Sauce ideas:

Nouc Cham, Yum yum, and Sweet chili.

Fuurin-Oka Futon & Breakfast

The husband and I decided to visit Fuurin-Oka this summer and had a wonderful time. I wish we booked more than 1 night, we won’t make that same mistake next time we come! This post is very picture heavy.

There were many sliding wooden doors throughout the whole unit. So different and fun!

Tea drinking sitting area. We loved having tea while playing a card game.

The husband being a Samurai with an invisible sword

  The husband sitting on the floor mats.

The husband being thoughtful in the front room. There’s a beautiful garden outside.

The kitchen with such cute dishes! There was a microwave, a mini fridge, a hot water maker for tea, and quite the assortment of teas.

More cute dishes!

The special bath tub. The wooden walls smelled so good when we drew the bath. There are candles to light around the edge.

There are such beautiful touches and surprises everywhere! Like this paper crane mobile.

Our wonderful host helped us out by taking a picture of us before went on our sushi date.

We are so happy to be together!

Two of our sushi rolls from SuBi. It was really good, I can’t wait until next time we are on the island so we can eat there again!

One of our breakfast trays. It was a lot of food! 2 different vegetarian sushi rolls(the eggs in the omelette came from the hosts chickens!), 2 types of rice balls, miso soup, and grape juice. Hubby also made green tea to go with our breakfast.

Close up of the cucumber & beet rice balls. So refreshing 🙂

BBQ pork rice balls. These were great!

Miso soup with wakamae & tofu. A nice contrast to the sushi.

I’ll leave you with a picture of one of the vases of flowers that were in the house. No doubt picked from the gardens.

If you’d like to book a night please visit their website. It is hard to get in since it’s such an amazing place to stay!

Note: I was not paid or compensated in anyway for this blog post, I just loved the Furrin-Oka!

Beef Kabobs with Mushrooms and Pineapple

The beef round steak strips were marinated in soy sauce, cooking white wine, garlic powder, fresh ginger, sugar and olive oil for several hours. Hubby helped skewed the beef strips on the kabobs alternating with mushrooms and gold pineapple. They cooked quickly on the grill and I served them over rice with chopped chives.

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News from my garden:

I have 2 strawberries that are close to being ripe, the raspberries are fruiting, the mints and bee balms are growing like weeds in your favorite garden bed, my tomato and bell pepper starts are eager to come outside, the irises are blooming(soon to be taken to a plant swap), transplanted carrots, mixed salad greens and peas to the garden boxes and we started prepping the side of the house for some tomatoes. Whew, it’s time for a break 🙂

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Thai Chicken Noodle and Kitchen Essentials

I love Thai food. Pad Thai, Phat Si Lo, yellow curry, and green curry are a few that come to mind. I also am partial to Saigon style Pho.

Imagine my joy with a soup combine elements of both into a slurpable bowl of delight. Grilled chicken, carrots, celery, thin rice noodles and cilantro swimming in a flavorful bath of caramelized onion, chicken broth, curry paste, coconut milk and lime juice. Drooling yet? This soup cost me less than $5 (prorated and buying at a local Asian grocery store).

Here is my list of essential ingredients for Asian cooking (first 3 you will need for the soup):

Coconut milk- use regular coconut milk, lite coconut milk is watery and not as creamy. I use Mae Ploy, Chaokah and Aroy-D.

Curry paste- I use Mae Ploy’s yellow & green curry paste in the large containers.

Fish sauce- it’s dark and smells weird but adds wonderful depth of flavor to dishes when applied gingerly

Shiracha hot sauce- thin, vinegary and spicy. Condiment.

Garlic chili hot sauce- paste like texture, you taste the garlic and sugar than the heat.

Roasted chilies in oil- toasted, aromatic taste that is hard to describe with lots of spicy chilies. Condiment.

Toasted sesame oil- finishing oil, does not hold up well with heat, use in small amounts.

Hoisin sauce- a thick, rich, sweet sauce that has many uses.

Soy sauce- a classic, I use Kikkoman Light.

Rice vinegar- unseasoned, for sushi rice, salad dressing, sauces and marinates.