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

Asian, Cooking, recipe

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.

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Savory Asian Style Pancakes

Asian, Cooking, recipe

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.

Easy Pad Thai

Asian, Cooking, recipe

Pad Thai

Soak 12 ounces of rice sticks (I often get pho noodles) until softened but are still firm. Slice 1 onion, cut 2 carrots into matchsticks, thinly slice 1 bunch rainbow chard, and chop 2 cooked chicken breasts. Blend 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste (seeds removed from paste) with 1/4 cup of fish sauce, 1/2 cup of vinegar (I used apple cider), and 1/2 cup of raw sugar. Heat a large pot or wok to medium high, once pot is hot add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Add the carrots and onions, saute for 2 minutes. Meanwhile in a small fry-pan cook 4 lightly beaten eggs until set, remove from heat and chop. Add chicken, chard, and noodles to large pot, saute until noodles are almost cooked through. Add sauce, 1 cup of small mushrooms, 4 cups of beans sprouts, the cooked eggs, and water as needed. Saute until noodles are cooked through.

Swirl the noodles on the plate. Garnish as desired with 1 tablespoon of toasted sunflower seeds, 1/4 of a lime, sliced green onions, and cilantro.

Thai Chicken Noodle and Kitchen Essentials

Asian, Cooking

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.