Saturday, April 8, 2017

Meals Below RM20

Being an all-in-one stay at home mother, I am pretty much handling everything in the house, the kids' matters, planning the menu, doing the market runs, and well, everything. The same time I have to keep aside time for my work, especially on days I have urgent matters to settle, it is not easy giving attention to prepping and cooking for meals on time.

The kids have their extra activities after school hours. It is usually like prepping a quick dinner, down it, and then get ready to rush for their activities. Put this on repeat, 3 times a week. And no, they are not attending tuition as yet. This itself is quite a busy schedule.

As we are eating at home mostly, I try to incorporate balanced meals as much as possible, also cater to the picky eater who almost just finds excuse every time not to eat. However, to give him the benefit of the doubt, he has improved tremendously in recent times. Yet, being the smart kid he is, he always finds some excuse, stories, or just random chatters to delay the process of eating.

Being pressed for time, and usually limited planned trips to the market, I have to get creative in using available ingredients to produce dishes that take up least amount of cooking dish time. If I were as smart as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, I could come up with direct correlation between recipes and their cooking time, or something to that effect.

Usually I plan the meals to have at least one protein, either dhal, chicken/fish or egg. With a side of stir fried vegetables and cucumber raita. This is one way of planning menu, while keeping within a budget. And if I look back, the average budget for my meals is RM20 per meal, that is for 2 adults and 2 kids.

One such mean is as below, I made egg curry, with some bean sprout stir fried with broccoli, and some butter corn with bacon. Simple, yet unique. And really, it hardly costs RM20 for this one.

I got the recipe for egg curry from Masala Hut youtube as below, in case you are wondering to try.

Next is oven steamed fish, with brinjal sambal and some gravy with chicken broth base. I also used the same chicken broth base to marinate the fish and steam it in. Having some gravy for every meal is necessary as the fussy eater needs some liquid for his rice dishes.

On some days when we go meatless, I just make some dhal loaded with generous amounts of vegetables. I have potatoes, brinjal, tomatoes, cauliflower and radish in this one, apart from garlic and onion of course. And yes, it works easier when made in the pressure cooker. I temper the spices and pour them all back into the pressure cooker again. 

Usually when I make dhal, it would last for more than 1 meal. Having some papadam crisps and spicy Indian acar really make the kids excited for their meals, no matter how simple. And since this dhal stretches way till dinner, I beef up the meal with some omelettes. 

To perk up the regular fried eggs, I try to do different types of omelettes. This one here is the Indian spiced omelette, which is hubby's current favourite that he tried in India recently. All you gotta do is sautee some onion, garlic, vegetables like celery and pepper, and then add in some coriander/cumin/curry powder, little water, and let it braise and cook a little before adding in the beaten eggs, and then lastly some cherry tomatoes that just need a slight sizzle, and voila!

This one is a one pot (or rather pan) dish. It is the typical sizzling claypot tofu style, and for the family I am using chicken broth as the gravy base, added some additional vegetables, and we are done for the meal. This one, probably costs less than RM15.

Here's my secret weapon for a hearty but simple meal. The oven steamed fish. I buy the biggest one available so that it can feed the 4 of us. You may wonder how does oven steaming work. Well I have a deep baking disk that fits the length of the fish. Clean and marinate the fish as per your desired recipe. Cover with aluminium foil, and bake at 200C for 20 to 30mins. Minimal effort with the best results!

Who says cooking and eating at home is expensive? If you plan, there are ways to stretch the value of your money further, plan meals that are simpler in prep and cooking time, so that you can optimise your time at home meeting your other KPIs, like coaching the kids' homeworks and completing this blog entry. Who said SAHM life is easy? But it sure is rewarding!

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