Can you help me make cheap, delicious food?

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sombre

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#1  Edited By sombre

Hey gang!

So like many of us, I’m out of work at the moment! I can cover my costs pretty well, but I want to start eating a little cheaper. At the moment I’m just eating a lot of chicken and fries/rice, but I’m getting bored!

Can anyone give me some great advice for some delicious meals? Please assume I’m an absolute cooking idiot (because I am)

The only things I can’t really eat are eggs, cheese and mushrooms. I’d like to eat more veggies etc if possible, cause it’s cheaper, but I do love meat!

Thanks in advance!

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FinalDasa

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#2 FinalDasa  Moderator

Instant ramen, but remove the 'flavor' pack. Instead, you can put soy sauce, garlic, green onions, chicken stock, ginger, hot sauce, and whatever else in with it. Most of that comes in large enough quantities that you won't be constantly rebuying it.

Spaghetti is also pretty cheap and makes a ton. And I'll add garlic, onions, or some different spices to help vary the flavors each month or so I make it. That way I'm not eating the exact same meal every time I cook it.

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Charongreed

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I've been roasting chicken lately, that's just 400 degrees in out little toaster oven for a half hour, turn em over and let em cook for another half hour, with salt, pepper and oregano on it. They drip some, and you can catch it and use it for chicken stock, but it only comes to a couple cups. I buy a couple of the medium size bags of mixed fresh vegetables from Wal-Mart a couple times a week, they last a couple days each (0f use, they go bad closer to a week) and come with toppings. I also use a ton of Soy Vay's Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce, like stir frying vegetables until they're soft and turning it to low and adding the sauce and letting that cook for a few minutes.

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wollywoo

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#4  Edited By wollywoo

You can make a big hearty chicken and vegetable soup with fairly cheap ingredients and then eat leftovers throughout the week.

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Undeadpool

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Garlic salt and olive oil will liven up damn near anything you can cook in a pan. Add spices gradually, see what you like. Unfortunately they can be a big up-front investment, but most should last you a LONG time.

Frozen vegetables are handy to have around and can be prepared in either a microwave or pan (or added to packaged ramen to increase quality) and again: garlic salt.

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sparky_buzzsaw

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Crockpots are good for discount eating. Couple cans of beans, burger (turkey burger or ground pork has been fairly cheap lately in the States), some chili seasoning, bam. Stews are also easy and cheap. Throw the leftovers in a freezer safe container and you have meals for days. Same with casseroles. You can vary the taste of those up easily by swapping out your cream of... soups.

Tacos and burritos are pretty cheap too.

It seems counterintuitive but invest into a Sam's Club or Costco membership. What you save buying in bulk adds up quickly.

And shop smarter. If you like, say, Velveeta Shells and Cheese, instead, buy the Velveeta or store brand cheese packets. Then just use any old sale pasta. You save tons that way. Always shop around. Couponing sounds dumb but it adds up. Stock up on staple items in a good case lot sale. Etc. Etc.

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Brackstone

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Big vague recipe go!

Get yourself some basics for a stir fry. Boil up some cheap dried egg noodles, something like this, or just set aside some old rice from another meal. Those sorts of noodles are cheaper and imo better than instant noodle ones, and don't come with a bunch of seasoning you don't need, but fancying up instant noodle packs works just fine too. If the egg thing is a serious allergy and you can't have egg at all, any old kind of dried asian noodle will do the trick, not to worry. Even rice noodles hold up just fine. Just don't overcook the noodles, you want some chew but you want the noodle to be evenly cooked and hydrated in the centre.

Cabbage is a cheap, healthy vegetable that lasts really well, cooks easily and tastes great. Chop it up roughly but not too fine or small (1 inch wide chunks or strips), stir fry it in some neutral oil until the desired texture. I leave mine a little crunchy. For the best flavour, try to char the cabbage some, the brown bits taste better. Carrots are a great addition if you want to add in a second vegetable, but you can put anything in here. Broccoli instead of cabbage is a solid choice too, but only use fresh for the veggies.

Your soy sauce of choice and mirin is a great base for any sort of stir fry or fried rice. You don't need to get real mirin either, the cheaper fake stuff does just fine, Kikkoman sells a good one. I'd go 50% soy sauce to 50% mirin for noodles, and maybe 75/25 for fried rice, but just taste it and play around with it for whatever works. Mix it up and set it aside until later.

Then stir fry a protein in neutral oil until it's cooked how you like it. You can use almost any protein, ground beef, pork, turkey, sliced chicken. I use ground turkey. If you're doing fried rice, even stuff like ham, bacon and hotdogs can work. Fried rice is a leftovers meal, so who cares, use what you got. If you really want to get into veggie options and saving money, you can try making your own tofu and use that. Before it's done cooking, throw in some scallions and chili flakes to fry alongside it for the last little bit.

Throw it all together, cook a little bit longer until it's all nice and mingled, and you've got a decent meal. Not claiming this is authentic cuisine or anything, but it's something that's easy to throw together. You can fancy it up by adding in things like ginger (fresh or ground), sesame oil, sesame seeds, oyster sauce, different kinds of soy sauce (I like Tamari most of all), rice vinegar (for some sour if that's your thing), but this stuff isn't necessary.

When I do something like this with noodles, I'm usually cooking 2 blocks of noodles, a quarter of a cabbage, roughly 2 scallions, about 4 tablespoons of the soy/mirin combo (a little more if you go the tofu route), and then the meat you just eyeball for whatever feels right. Depending on your appetite that should give you at least 2 meals, but you can cook up a bunch all at once and use the leftovers for several days, it's still good cold or reheated. For the cost of 1 pack of ground meat, 1 cabbage, 1-2 bunches of scallions and 1 pack of noodles like the one I showed, you're generally getting 6-8 meals out of it. The stuff like soy sauce, mirin, spices and so on will last you a while once you have them.

Sorry if that was too long, but I wanted to give options since you can really just make this into your own thing.

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chaz934

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#8  Edited By chaz934

First off, I’d recommend shopping somewhere like Save a lot or Aldi if they’re available to you. Aldi especially has a really good variety and a lot of healthy and organic options for really good prices( I swear this isn’t a plug).

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Alias

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Oats are one of my turn to cheap foods. Fast to make, extremely versatile, good fibre.

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SethMode

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It's hilarious to me that I knew exactly who posted this before I clicked on it. And no offense dude, but Google exists?

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sombre

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@sethmode said:

It's hilarious to me that I knew exactly who posted this before I clicked on it. And no offense dude, but Google exists?

Just trying to bring some life to the forums for once /shrug

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isomeri

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Mackerel pasta. Throw some chopped garlic, chili or chili flakes, canned mackerel in tomato sauce, capers and wine or lemon on a pan for a couple of minutes. Mix with boiled pasta of your choice. About 50-80 cents per portion, reasonably healthy and tasty.

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AndersWarming

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@sethmode: Using that logic theres always someone shitting on a perfectly good post. And by the same logic you would never need a place like this. You know, where people talk, share and just act like normal friendly people. Lay of it.

I like mashed potatoes with a bitt of butter and horseradish cream to put some life into it. Goes with just about everything :)

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SethMode

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@anderswarming: All this dude does is lament the death of GB, both the content and the forums (he even did it in response!), so it feels a bit disingenuous to be honest but either way, sorry. I'll lay off of it.

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thebostonrag

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#15  Edited By thebostonrag

Always buy whole chickens. Best bang for the buck. There are tons of great YouTube videos on how to break them down. Save the carcasses and bones in freezer bags in the freezer. Each carcass is good for about 2-3 quarts of stock. Save carrot, celery, onion and garlic peels, roots, stems, anything that's not rotten from them in another freezer bag.

When I get to 5 carcasses and a whole bag of vegetable scraps (Give the veggie scraps a few minutes of soaking time in a big bowl of cold water to get rid of any excess dirt), I throw them in a big stock pot with about 4-5 gallons of water, enough to cover by a few inches, and simmer them for 3-4 (You can go up to 8) hours. Strain and put into containers and freeze. Makes the best stock, and you've spent nothing but a bit of water and time to make it.

Japanese curry is also very cost efficient, just a few veggies and a meat (If you want it) or tofu. The pre-made curry blocks are like $2 at the grocery, and they can make a solid 2-3 quarts of curry. Eat that with rice all the time.

Lastly, if you have an Asian market locally (And enjoy Asian cuisine), you can buy a lot of staple ingredients much less expensively than a mega mart. I get high-quality rice and tons of different types of noodles and other staple ingredients from my local Asian market for a lot less than the supermarket (And also, they are way more delicious).

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LandHawk

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Mushrooms are delicious.

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newhaap

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@sombre said:

The only things I can’t really eat are eggs, cheese and mushrooms. I’d like to eat more veggies etc

...

I recommend trying asparagus if you haven't yet. You just need to boil it for 5 mins and you get a great tasting (at least I think so) veggie.

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Giant_Gamer

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Rice is cost efficient and goes with anything, literally!

For example people eat it with raw, boiled and fried eggs!

People around the world eat it with vegetables, fruits, meat, dairy and bugs.

Buy yourself a sack and experiment XD

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ZedFlips

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#19  Edited By ZedFlips

Beans can be cheaper than meat in just about any case, especially if you're willing to buy them bagged and then soak them. My partner and I have been trying to go whole food plant based (she does better than I do), and have found some cheap meals that still feel filling. We're still relying on canned beans for the time being.

Look for what my partner and I call "pantry meals" - meals that can be made with things you can have on hand anyway that do not require fresh ingredients. Fresh ingredients are great, but require planning to make sure they don't go to waste, and you didn't mention what your food storage capabilities are or ease of food access. Throwing out fresh ingredients also adds up in terms of cost.

In terms of simple meals to cook that are cheap that this cooking idiot can make with stored ingredients

Recipe: Brian’s Quick Red Beans & Riced Veggies – Krocks In the Kitchen

You could rice your own vegetables if you have the time. Riced vegetables are a nice way to get more vegetables in your diet. You can also add garlic powder (my preference) and other spices to this dish, including salt, to taste. You could also add meat for additional protein / flavor if you wish.

EDIT: Microwaving the frozen riced veggies makes this an even easier dish to prepare

Sucks to be without a job - best wishes for you.

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ghost_cat

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Soups and stews, my dear boy. SOUPS AND STEWS.

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clagnaught

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For veggies, you can roast them in an oven or toaster oven. Just need a little bit of oil (as in enough to like a teaspoon to a tablespoon), some seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic, ginger are basically what I use, but you could use whatever), and let them cook. All you have to do is toss them halfway through.

It will make them taste better than raw, it’s easy to do (just put them and and take them out), don’t have to worry about stove tops, etc.

A basic meal I’ve done lately is roast vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and asparagus until they’re done (25-ish minutes with my toaster oven, but yours may vary depending on the oven you’re using, temperature, etc.), then I put in some shrimp to warm them up (8-ish minutes). Very little prep involved since it’s just washing vegetables and preparing the shrimp, putting something in an oven and taking it out when it’s ready. There’s some time due to the baking, but most of it you can be doing other stuff. For the veggies, I would often put them in, start watching a 30 minute show, flip them at the halfway point, and take them out when the show was over.

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FinalDasa

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#22 FinalDasa  Moderator

@sethmode said:

It's hilarious to me that I knew exactly who posted this before I clicked on it. And no offense dude, but Google exists?

Be nice.

Also as someone who recently went through several sites looking for cheap ways to make meals, the sources for cheap meals differ wildly. Most cooking sites assume you're making stuff from scratch or constantly can buy things fresh. There's not a ton of regard for cost. Even Reddit posts that have good advice also differ a ton and everyone seems to have different ideas and strategies for cooking on the cheap.

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sparky_buzzsaw

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@finaldasa: That, and food prices are fluid. More recent anecdotal stories might be more useful than looking through Google for something, say, pre-pandemic when beef prices were much lower.

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monkeyking1969

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#24  Edited By monkeyking1969

You obviously have access to the internet so I would search round for good recipes made with inexpensive ingredients. It sounds like you are on a budget too, so online there is excellent advice about freezing away meals. As for what I make.

MonkeyKing Chicken & Bean Curry

4-6 Chicken thighs skinless/boneless

1 big can (29 oz) Small Red Beans

1 Jar (15 oz) Mild Indian Curry simmer sauce (or HOT Indian Curry if you want more spice)

Chop chicken thighs into strips about 1/8 inch wide and cook in a 4 qt deep skillet, pot, or wok.(I use a wok) Flip meat occasionally so they are fully cooked- about 5min. Drain can of red beans into a strainer, use cold water to remove the goo, you just want nice clean beans. Dump the strained bean into teh pot with the chicken. Then dump a whole jar of any curry simmer sauce into the pot. If you want more spice get a Spicier brand. Let that simmer very low for at least 90 minutes (serves six)

Serve over cooked rice. Chicken and beans are good sources of protein! Need this recipe to be cheaper? Buy the beans, rice dry in bulk, and cook then ahead of time. If you don't like beans add onion or potatoes, but beans are better for the protein.

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sombre

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Thanks everyone! I'm gonna make some Kimchi next week :D

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VincentVendetta

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Few things first.

  1. Pasta. Lots and lots of pasta. Also, rice.
  2. Learn to cook more veggie recipes since, like you said, they are generally cheaper than meat. Also, lentils.
  3. Watch the flyers like a hawk. If you see a good deal for something you like or need, jump on it.
  4. Learn about the stores around you. Some may even be specialized (like a greengrocer, or a Chinese grocery store) and have better deals than your normal grocery store.
  5. Start making your own recipe book.
  6. Don't be afraid to ask your own mom for advice. She may get annoying, but it's for your own good.

Johnny Chiodini once had a cooking video series on Eurogamer which I liked very much. Here are a few that I still cook regularly: