This post may be a little late considering the kids have already returned to school…
but I needed the time to test-run fast and economical meals and drinks that will be well-received by both adults and the children in the family.
Just a couple of things for the family cook to note before reading the rest of this blog article:
1) I already have a pantry stocked with essential herbs and spices, condiments and sauces as well as the rice and noodle staples. Hence, they have not been included in the costs breakdown of each meal: I already have these at hand and there is no need for purchase.
2) I use certain kitchen appliances like a slow cooker because I have two of these (that might change by the next cooking blog article if I decide to streamline my appliances into purchasing the multi-cooker.
3) I break down the costs of each meal as I need to total up the costs of all items purchased as I adhere to a grocery shopping budget during meal planning.
4) I always shop from my pantry first!
5) Cooking healthy food is a top priority but including a family member’s favourite foods (which may not be so healthy ) is important too as it makes their day!
Adjusting their tastebuds to milder-tasting foods can always be changed over time…
6) I take utmost care in scrutinising the Ingredients list on any food item label to decide its selection (usually the first 2 or 3 items should contain wholegrain or not consist of saturated fats, salt or refined sugar)
7) Special dietary concerns like lactose intolerance or lesser salt intake are taken into consideration when choosing certain recipes.
Hence in keeping meals interesting, healthy and budget-friendly, I have come up with a sample menu which I did use during this recent school holidays in June.
I have elaborated more on the menu under these categories:
1)BREAKFASTS AND SNACKS
3)LUNCHES AND DINNERS
Please refer to the above menu whilst checking out the meal ideas below 🙂
1)BREAKFASTS and SNACKS
Egs. Nutella, peanut butter, jam with wholemeal bread
(There are healthier peanut butter spreads recommended by another blogger that is easily purchased from the Organic section at FairPrice Finest but I believe the cost is double that of the ordinary Skippy Chunky Peanut Butter..)
b) Hard-boiled eggs
Boil about 6 to 8 of these every week and ziplocked bagged it. They go especially fast as a quick protein source accompanying noodles or eaten for brekkie or as a snack.
c) Home-made sandwiches
Containers are full of these every week!
(i) Costs breakdown for Ham and Egg sandwich (10 sandwiches )
ham (350g) = S$3.01 ; wholemeal bread (extra large)=S$1.65 ; carton of 10 eggs =S$1.55 /10 = S$0.16 each x 4 eggs =S$0.62 ; leftover spinach (40g)=S$1.56 Total Cost: S$6.84
(ii) Cost breakdown for a tuna sandwich (10 sandwiches)
two cans of tuna =S$1.95×2=S$3.90 ; Wild Rocket leaves (85g) = S$2.50 ; 2 hardboiled eggs =S$0.32; wholemeal bread(extra large)=S$1.65 Total Cost:S$8.37
#Each Sandwich: S$0.84
I ALWAYS slap greens in the sandwiches for fibre and extra goodness. Cost effective and interesting ones include the alfalfa sprouts, spinach or rocket leaves. Good lettuce leaves too (especially if they go on offer) I usually obtain these from FairPrice Xtra (Ang Mo Kio Hub)
Whilst there, I conveniently obtain the Tesco brand of Light Mayonnaise. I have unsuccessfully tried to replace the mayonnaise with natural yoghurt but the family poo-pooed it as it does not have that ‘creamy texture’ which makes each sandwich ‘yummy’. For now, the light mayonnaise seems to be a happy compromise 🙂
d) Soy milk-based oatmeal and cereal drink
e) Cereal (eaten with abandonment on its own or with low-fat milk)
So far, the brand of Post cereals “Great Grain” brand wins hands down!
f) Fresh fruit (lots of it, cut and stored in lunch containers in the refrigerator)
g) A bunch of bananas on the dinner table at consecutive weeks (as a ‘sweet’ or just to satisfactorily ‘fill up’ after the main dinner)
a) Flavoured water ( adding slices of lemon, cucumber, any leftover fruit to plain water and chilling it helped to quench thirst daily)
b) Iced green tea with mint(mint acts as a natural sweetener)
The teenagers in my house believe that drinking 5 cups or more of green tea daily helps them lose weight. So yes, the iced green tea goes really fast 🙂
I stopped buying fresh mint leaves because it is hard to find good fresh ones in my neighbourhood supermarket. I decided to buy mint tea bags instead from the 24-hour supermarket at Mohamed Mustafa Department Store. As a result, the children just need to pop a mint tea bag and a green tea bag in a litre of boiling water, let it cool before keeping it in the refrigerator to chill.
c) Other ‘special‘ drinks to make
d) Orange juice
On days when anyone simply needed orange juice and nothing else would do, we simply stretched our dollar of the orange juice we bought by a carton by mixing it with an equivalent amount of water (it tastes about the same except I think it is less sweet).
3) MAIN MEALS
Noodle soup in homemade stock or quick noodles with side dishes are the mainstay of the holidays.
Side dishes regularly prepared were the spinach and the baked Soybean Tau Kwa. They were economical, tasty and healthy too. I boiled the spinach and baked the soybean curd cake (tau kwa) using these seasonings. Easy to prepare and minimal wash up too!
I recommend making a Huge batch because they go pretty fast as they are sometimes eaten as snacks.
b) Dinners (all served with brown rice)
i) Crockpot recipes
Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup and the Sweet Potato Stew is a godsend. It’s pretty hard to find crockpot recipes that the whole family loves but these two above are favourites and they are easy to whip up too.
yields 6 servings and costs per serving is S$2.13(note that the red curry paste by Dancing Chef selling at NTUC is – at publication of blog article -selling at $2.52 per pack and it will yield 3 times’ use).
And only recently, I learnt how beneficial herbs are for a person’s good health.
At home, we practise the eating of ‘as many different coloured foods a day’ advice and this one has carrots and sweet potatoes which have, all along, been family favourites!
The Chicken Sweet Potato Stew recipe yields 10 servings. I usually cook half and freeze the other half, so this works out to about S$1.65 a serving. This stew can be eaten on its own or as a side dish for lunch – quite versatile.
Then there is also the Sweet and Sour Country Ribs
You can follow the recipe as it is or if you can’t find ribs you can cook it with pork tenderloin and ‘pull’ (means shred the pork with a fork once the pork is cooked). If the recipe is halved, then it’s for 4 to 6 servings – each serving is (granted that you already have all the condiments) S$1.62
I prepare these on a weekend. I never do any cooking at the end of a weekday because I need that remaining energy to interact with my family without having my nerves frazzled when I have to rush out any meal to the dinner table.
The chicken broccoli is easy to prepare once you set aside time to cut – no seasoning of the chicken is required – and if you are too lazy to cut garlic or ginger you can substitute it with garlic* and ginger powder** (though I think this recipe was chosen for its comforting ‘gingerish’ taste for a weekday dinner so do use fresh ginger if you can:) )
*1 garlic clove is 1/8 tsp garlic powder and **1 tbsp of fresh ginger is 1/8 tsp of ground ginger
The chicken broccoli recipe yields 4 servings and is served with a fried egg (fried with a knob of butter) This meal per serving is S$2.50.
Our Pineapple Fried Rice recipe is adapted from Rasa Malaysia
(each serving if one does not include shrimp meat would be S$1.62 )
We served pineapple fried rice with Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Country Ribs ( per serving is S$1.62) Therefore, the total cost is S$3.24
(the cost is still less than food rice packs purchased from economical rice stalls located at local coffee shops. 1 serving is at least S$4 if you want to be satisfactorily full)
Furthermore, if you cook your own meal, you get to customise the amount of vegetables or meat to go with your rice!
For the Supreme Soy Sauce Fried Noodles, I bought the noodle brand of Koka non-fried noodles (1 packet serves 4) I love the sesame seeds garnished over the noodles. Cost of this per serving (we added local vegetable ‘cai xin’ ) is S$1.67. I served this with fish ( leftover spring onion and ginger slices ) steamed in little foil pockets in the slow cooker for 2 hours ( I think this can be done in the rice cooker for much lesser time..)
I used frozen fish fillet which yields 4 servings – each serving is S$0.90.
Hence the total cost of this dish (fried noodles with fish and greens) per serving is S$2.57
3) Meatballs and Spaghetti
I also prepare this ahead on a weekend although I think it is a much better idea to spend one weekend a month to prepare as many meatballs as you want and freeze them together with your make-ahead slow cooker meals. Once a month cooking! Now that’s a thought!
I realised spaghetti and cooked rice can be frozen too – they just need to be reheated in the microwave oven.
The beauty of this meatball recipe is it requires no browning (if you do want to brown it bake it on wax paper at 200 degrees Celsius and then freeze it). I try not to fry anything in this hot weather now. Moreover, too much grease to clean up!
Then when you want to eat the meatballs, whether it is still in a raw frozen or cooked frozen state, just dump the sauce (which can also be prepped ahead and frozen) into the rice cooker with the required number of medium-sized meatballs and press ‘cook’ once (you can also cook this in the slow cooker).
I prepared this during the school holidays during a weekend – so all was needed was to splay the mozzarella cheese topping over the spaghetti and reheat the meal in the microwave oven.
(Go to this link for information on how to freeze and reheat meatballs
Cost per serving (the marinara sauce recipe above yields 4 to 5 servings) and 900 grams of any minced meat of the above meatball recipe will yield 50 medium-sized balls (about S$0.20 per ball), therefore including shredded mozzarella (one 250g packet will yield about 5 servings hence $1.00 a serving)each serving of Meatball Spaghetti is about S$3.50. (If you eat this outside, it’s often times no cheese and lesser mince)
So…that’s a wrap y’all 🙂
Please comment below if you have tried-and-tested ideas to share with other family cooks who will be extra busy during the school holidays!!