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Tips To Prepare Healthier And Cheaper Meals During The School Holidays

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 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 all-in-one pressure cooker/slow cooker/rice cooker )
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FLYWNYQ/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00FLYWNYQ&linkCode=as2&tag=jusonecoo-20&linkId=WYTQN4G2ZM3Y3RRQ#immersive-view_1435590558207

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 ! (please read my previous blog articles to learn more )

http://littlereddotmum.com/uncategorized/i-now-plan-menus-to-have-peace-of-mind/

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 <3

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 or 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.

2015-06-28 13.46.10

sample holiday menu during June school holidays

I have elaborated more on the menu  under these categories:

1)BREAKFASTS AND SNACKS

2) BEVERAGES

3)LUNCHES AND DINNERS

Please refer to the above menu whilst checking out the meal ideas below 🙂

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1)BREAKFASTS

a) Spreads

egs. Nutella, peanut butter, jam with wholemeal bread

(There is a healthier peanut butter spread 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..)
http://paleorina.com/2013/07/16/alternatives-to-peanut-butter/

b) Hard-boiled eggs

Boil about 6 to 8 of these every week and ziplocked bagged it. They go  especially fast if the side dishes accompanying the instant noodle lunches finish off quickly. Can be eaten for brekkie or as a lunch protein or snack.

2015-03-31 19.56.50

c) Home-made sandwiches

Containers full of these every week!

2015-03-31 19.56.36

(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

#Each Sandwich:S$0.68

(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

http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/tuna-sandwich

I ALWAYS slap greens in the sandwiches for fibre and extra goodness.  Cost effective and interesting ones include the alfafa 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 🙂

one bottle (730ml) costs S$5.95 (special offer price)..original price S$6.95

one bottle (730ml) costs S$5.95 (special offer price)..original price S$6.95

d) Soy milk-based oatmeal and cereal drink

2015-06-16 21.42.15

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)

2) BEVERAGES

a)  Flavoured water ( adding slices of lemon, cucumber, any leftover fruit to plain water and chilling it helped to quench thirst daily)

leftover cucumbers from tuna sandwich...made into a flavoured water..can add mint leaves or mint tea bag for 'extra flavour'..

leftover cucumbers from tuna sandwich making…made into a flavoured water..can add mint leaves or mint tea bag for ‘extra flavour’..

b)  Iced green tea with mint(mint acts as a natural sweetener)

iced green tea with mint (left); lemonade (right)

iced green tea with mint (left); lemonade (right)

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.

2015-06-21 08.54.54

 

c) Other ‘special’ drinks to make
http://bargainbabe.com/10-summer-drink-recipes-to-beat-the-heat/

d) Orange juice

On days when anyone simply needed an 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)..

poured the orange juice out of its packaging and added an equivalent amount of water...

poured the orange juice out of its packaging and added an equivalent amount of water…

3) MAIN MEALS

a) Lunches

Noodle soup in homemade stock http://littlereddotmum.com/uncategorized/simple-and-tasty-chicken-soup-stock/
or instant noodles with side dishes are the mainstay of the holidays.

Side dishes regularly prepared were the spinach http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/sigumchi-namul
and the baked Soybean Tau Kwa
http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/spice-roasted-tofu-fillets-with-jade-pesto/

http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/general-tsos-tofu/
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 like the 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.

The Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup recipe http://www.foodiecrush.com/2013/10/slow-cooker-thai-chicken-soup/

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-as per recipe, it will yield 3 times’ use)

I love the taste of this Chicken Sweet Potato Stew

http://crockingirls.com/recipes/chicken-and-sweet-potato-stew/

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.

eaten with brown rice or as a side dish ..

eaten with brown rice or as a side dish ..

Then there is also the Sweet and Sour Country Ribs http://www.marthastewart.com/336477/slow-cooker-sweet-and-sour-country-ribs#Our%20Best%20Slow-Cooker%20Recipes%7C/274310/slow-cooker-recipes/@center/854190/comfort-food-recipes%7C336477

You can follow the recipe as it is or if you can’t find ribs you can cook it with pork tenderloin and ‘pull’ (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 codiments) S$1.62

ii) Stir Fries (Chicken Broccoli , Pineapple Fried Rice and Supreme Soy Sauce Fried Noodles)

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 because I have to rush out any meal to the dinner table.

The chicken broccoli http://www.marthastewart.com/924838/chicken-and-broccoli-stir-fry
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 help it 🙂 )

*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.

2015-06-17 13.27.59

Our Pineapple Fried Rice recipe is adapted from Rasa Malaysia
http://rasamalaysia.com/chicken-and-pineapple-fried-rice/2/

(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, 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 quantity of vegetables or meat to go with your rice!

For the Supreme Soy Sauce Fried Noodles,
http://en.christinesrecipes.com/2013/07/supreme-soy-sauce-fried-noodles.html?m=1
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..)

(Please refer to this link for cooking fish in a slow cooker
http://www.ayearofslowcooking.com/2010/07/orange-honey-tilapia-slow-cooker-recipe.html?m=1)

I used frozen fish fillet which yields 4 servings – each serving is S$0.90.

Hence total cost of this dish (fried noodles with fish and greens) per serving  is S$2.57

3) Meatballs and Spaghetti

This is a Family favourite and I use this recipe for making the meatball http://www.marthastewart.com/338164/meatballs-with-garlic-bread
and this recipe for the sauce http://www.chef-in-training.com/2015/03/homemade-marinara-sauce/

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!

2015-06-26 15.01.25

make a huge batch, cook some and freeze the leftovers 🙂

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)

2015-06-26 19.33.54

I prepared this during the school holidays during a weekend – so all was needed was to splay the mozerella 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

http://www.marthastewart.com/315827/mini-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 mozzerella (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 send your comments to me if you know of better ways to economise on time and food preparation in our daily lives in sunny Singapore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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