Cost: Less than a dollar per serving
So I thought it would be pretty easy to rip off a recipe from a package of store-bought instant noodles.
For some weeks now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to dry soy sauce. I’ve tried baking it at a low heat to evaporate the moisture (fail), mixing it with flour and drying it (big cakey fail), mixing it with cane sugar and putting it in the oven to dry (molasses!) and finally I just mixed it with some packets of cane sugar (thank you, Starbucks!) and let it air dry. It sort of worked, I guess. I added some quick dissolve flour to keep it from being a big sticky mess.
I also roasted my own peanuts, with fairly unsuccessful results. I burnt them more than I roasted them.
I had most of the ingredients that are used in the Thai Kitchen noodle mix, minus the yeast and silicon dioxide. (Isn’t silicon dioxide the stuff that comes in packets that say ‘do not eat’?? ) I guessed the quantities. I was a little heavy on the cinnamon and cumin, and low on the soysauce. It was quite bland.
I’ll give it another try one day.
Cost: Well under $1 per serving
I promised I would share recipes for instant lunch mixes if I came up with a good one. And I have!
This is similar to the Kraft Dinner instant noodle cups, but with a fuller taste and no unnecessary ingredients.
Cheesy pasta sauce
- 2 Tbsp powdered cheddar
- 1 Tbsp powdered parmesan
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried leek
- 1 tsp sundried tomatoes
- ½ tsp tomato powder (I find this rounds out the flavour)
- salt and pepper
Mix the ingredients together and store in an air-tight container. This makes about 2 servings.
To prepare, cook and drain the instant noodles. Put in about 4 spoonfuls of seasoning, or as much as it takes to taste right. Put the lid on your container and shake things around, then float off to cheesy heaven.
I’m into my fourth week of homemade lunches. For the most part, it’s been a success! It can get a little boring, so it’s important that I buy lunch once in a while so I don’t start to begrudge my instant lunches.
So far I’ve made a general rice seasoning, dried tomato pesto, coconut curry, and a soup mix vaguely comparable to minestrone. Vaguely.
Once I get the recipes down, I will start posting them.
- Add nuts, cheese, seeds, and dried bean flakes for protein
- Round out the flavour with vegetables. Look in bulk bins for carrots, potato and onion flakes
- Herbs will also liven things up, especially if you aren’t able to find dried vegetables
- You could probably add dried fruit if you’re into that kind of thing
- Mercilessly rip off ideas from store-bought instant lunch packages. If you don’t know what an ingredient is, you probably don’t need it
- Use instant rice or couscous if you have access to hot water but no microwave
- Microwave vermicelli, egg noodles, and other noodles that cook quickly
- Drain egg noodles before you eat them
- Buy a couple resealable containers for the seasoning mixes, and a glassware bowl for heating the noodles or rice, with a clamp-on lid for easy draining
- Give yourself a variety of mixes to choose from during the week
- Write down your recipe and note what needs improvement
- Put the noodles/rice and the mix together. Sometimes you’ll need to cook the noodles/rice first and drain extra water, and you also may want to add the seasoning by the spoonful to make sure it’s the right strength
- Use too much salt or soup stock
- Use noodles that take more than a couple minutes to cook
Success rating: 4/5 so far…
I used to spend quite a bit on instant lunches – noodles mixes and soups and things like that. Some soup bowls were as cheap as 99 cents, but I figured I could do things even cheaper. And better.
I went to Famous Foods in Vancouver, which has a good selection of freeze-dried, dehydrated and powdered ingredients like backpackers would use. I also used powdered soup stock, garlic, herbs, parmesan cheese and other things from around my kitchen.
Minute rice and couscous work perfectly. Vermicelli noodles work well too. Egg noodles need to be rinsed first to get rid of that egg-noodley taste. It’s best to cook and drain the pasta before putting on the seasoning. I do this in the microwave and in a glassware container with a lid that clamps on. I undo a couple of the clamps to drain the water.
I’ve had mixed success with my recipes. I’ll post some as I refine them.