Frugal Food
Blogging about feeding my family of six without spending a fortune. You won't find fancy foods like beef wellington or chicken carbonara (most of the time), but you will find really good food eaten by an actual real family, with real activities and really picky children.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Homemade "Fast" Food
One of the biggest chunks out of the American family's budget is eating out. Families eat out for a variety of reasons. I know when my family succumbs to take-out it's usually for one of three reasons:

1. Lack of planning. I forgot to take something out or didn't shop properly and forgot an ingredient.
2. Too tired to cook. There are some days when chasing four kids (three dogs, three cats, & one husband) wear me out!! I just do not feel like standing in front of the stove and cooking for the heathens too lol. And let's not forget the days when mom is sick. There are no sick days for mom!
3. Not enough time. Activities have run longer than expected or something extra has popped up to keep me from the kitchen at dinner time.

I try plan for these unplanned issues. I know I can't plan for something if I don't know it's going to happen, but I try to plan a few "just in case" or quickie meals to have on hand for days where it's so tempting to just eat out or order deliver.

I try to keep in my freezer or pantry things like chicken nuggets, boxed macaroni & cheese, frozen pizzas, etc. While these are not "frugal" per se, they are MUCH cheaper than going to a restaurant or ordering delivery. Plus, if you find these quickie meals on sale or cheap with a coupon...even better.

Sometimes we just want take-out. It's not always a matter of time or energy. Sometimes we just WANT IT. For times like that, I try to make it at home as much as possible. Pizza, I try to make homemade or at the very least frozen. My family LOVES asian foods. Stir fry, fried rice, egg rolls. The first two are easy because they can be made with leftovers. The egg rolls require a little more planning before hand but they can still be made LOTS cheaper than you can get them at the Chinese restaurant (and you know what kind of environment they were made in...a CLEAN one! this goes for any restaurant, not just Chinese places).

Egg Rolls w/ Homemade Sweet & Sour Sauce
Shrimp Egg Rolls
(w/ homemade sweet & sour sauce!)

4 1/2 t cornstarch
1/2 C sugar
1 C pineapple juice
1/2 C white vinegar
2 T ketchup
1 t soy sauce
1 can (6oz) small shrimp, rinsed & drained OR 1 C frozen small cooked shrimp (salad shrimp)
1 can chopped water chestnuts, drained
1 can bamboo, drained
1 (16oz) bag cole slaw mix
1 T sesame oil
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t salt
24 egg roll wrappers
Additional oil for deep-fat frying

For sweet & sour sauce, combine cornstarch, sugar, pineapple juice, vinegar, ketchup, and soy sauce, in a saucepan until smooth (I used a wire whisk). Bring to a boil, cook and stir for 1-2 mins or until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large skillet, stir fry the shrimp, water chestnuts, bamboo,and cole slaw mix in oil until crisp-tender; cool slightly. Stir in salt & pepper. Position egg roll wrappers w/ long edge facing you. Spoon 1/4 C of shrimp mixture on the bottom third of each wrapper. Fold bottom over filling; fold sides over filling toward center. Moisten top edge w/ water to seal.
In a deep saucepan, electric skillet or deep-fat fryer, heat oil to 372*. Fry egg rolls a few at a time for 4-5 mins or until golden brown. Turning often. Drain on paper towels. Serve w/ sweet & sour sauce.
2 dozen egg rolls


Let's break it down by price. The cheapest I have seen egg rolls in a take-out place is $1 each. Let's see how much the homemade version adds up to.

Shrimp $1.50
Water chestnuts $0.65
Bamboo $0.65
Cole slaw mix $1.30
24 Egg roll wrappers $1.40
Total: $5.50
Each: $0.23

Now I didn't add in the minimal cost of the oil, salt & pepper but even adding that in and the sweet & sour sauce doesn't add up to $1 per egg roll. You can easily substitute leftover cooked chicken, pork, or beef for the shrimp and cut the cost down even more.

Don't they look yummy?
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posted by Heather @ 1:35 PM  
  • At October 09, 2006 6:51 AM, Anonymous DedleRed said…

    Heather, those look absolutely fabulously scrumptious!

    I will have to give those a try

  • At November 22, 2008 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Try using cut up green cabbage instead of coleslaw mix. Its way cheaper, makes a lot, and is what they use.

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Name: Heather
Home: New York, United States
About Me: Mom to four kiddos. Love to cook, knit, crochet, read, and playing on the computer.
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