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In-Home Gourmet Meals for Pennies - Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip

In-Home Gourmet Meals for Pennies

We've talked about great restaurant meals every now and then--and you can have a great meal at home, too--far more cheaply than even the cheapest restaurant, and often without very much labor.

Consider this fabulous dish I cooked for my family of 4 last week:
half a pound of Thai rice noodles (60 cents)
a handful of dried Shitakii mushrooms (~15 cents--I buy them for about $12 a pound from Asian grocery stores)
one pound of extra-firm tofu ($1.35)
a tablespoon of all-natural peanut butter (~20 cents)
a teaspoon of Thai curry paste (~10 cents)
juice from half a fresh lime (17 cents)
perhaps a cup of soymilk (~25 cents)
dash each of soy sauce and sesame oil (~10 cents combined)

Total cost of the ingredients was approximately $2.92, or 73 cents per person.

I soaked the dried mushrooms an hour ahead, boiled water and poured it over the noodles, cut the tofu in cubes, made a sauce from the peanut butter, curry paste, soymilk, lime juice, soy sauce, and oil, drained the noodles, and combined it all. With a raw vegetable salad, it was our entire dinner (ok, I confess: I left some unflavored tofu and noodles out for my 6 year old son, who had them straight with soy sauce).

Total labor time, other than pouring water over the mushrooms and walking away for a while, ten minutes. And everybody loved it! It was as good as many meals I've had in good Thai restaurants

Pastas, grains, tofu, dried beans, fresh vegetables in season, winter squash, potatoes... the choices for cheap, healthy and flavorful main ingredients is almost endless. Combine them with inexpensive flavor bases and small amounts of specialty ingredients, and you'll never get bored. I have dozens of great dishes I can make in half an hour or less!

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