One of my best friends from college is starting a new graduate program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. (Shout-out to Laura, the woman who first introduced me to the wonders of kimchi. You are amazing – miss you so much!) She and I were chatting recently about the big move – how a Minnesota girl like her was going to adapt to a slower, Southern pace of life in Tennessee.
As we were chatting, she posed a question to me and to my blog: How can a grad student – or, really, any young professional who’s just starting out on a somewhat limited budget – afford to feed herself semi-nutritious food, using some prepared items (frozen foodstuffs, canned and dried goods, etc.) and some fresh ingredients? Are there tasty, filling recipes that suit this kind of budget and lifestyle? What’s a food-loving girl to do?
Determined to rise to the challenge, I’ve started writing and testing a Budget Meals series. I’ll post meal ideas with average pricing based on my market research, including tips for stretching a dollar, basic nutrition advice (hey, a girl’s gotta get those vitamins) and ideas for multipurpose cooking. (I.e. how can I creatively twist one recipe into 3 or 4 different dishes?)
Today’s topic: Scrambled Eggs, an easy master recipe that we’ll be converting into 3 different budget meals: Egg Panini, DIY Fried Rice, and Breakfast Burritos. How yummy does that sound?
Grocery List (prices according to Peapod.com)
- 1 dozen eggs – $1.93
- 1 quart skim milk – $1.49
- 1 loaf of wheat bread – $2.50
- 1 pkg tortillas – $2.09
- 1 pkg sliced deli cheese – $3.59
- 1 jar salsa – $3.00
- Produce (tomatoes, frozen veggies, carrots, 1 bag spinach) – $8.20
Total Cost (excluding condiments, oil/butter and spices): $22.28
How doable is that? 3 meals and then some, using these ingredients in 4 different recipes listed below. Check ‘em out. Happy eating and happy shopping, my budget-friendly friends!
Scrambled Eggs Master Recipe – serves 1 (easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc.)
- 1 tsp oil or butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp milk
- Salt, pepper & spices to taste
Here’s what you do:
- In a small bowl, lightly beat together eggs, milk & spices. I recommend garlic powder, dill, or even some cumin.
- Heat oil or butter in a small sauté pan over medium-ish heat (4 or 5 on your stovetop). When the oil is hot, add the beaten egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, stir egg mixture constantly, folding it over onto itself and “scrambling” the contents. Cook egg mixture this way until completely cooked through, about 1-2 minutes (Max.)
- Use your rubber spatula to additional “chop up” or “scramble” the egg contents if any pieces are too large or chunky for your taste.
Variation One: Egg Panini – serves 1. This sandwich is a delicious way to use those scrambled eggs for lunch or dinner. Dried herbs – great to stock your budget pantry – really take this to the next level.
- 1 Master Scrambled Eggs Recipe
- 2 slices Swiss, Cheddar or Provolone Cheese
- 2-3 slices tomato
- 3-5 basil leaves or baby spinach leaves (optional)
- 1-2 tsp butter or margarine
- 1 tsp dried oregano or basil
- 2 slices bread (whole grain is great, but buy what you can afford)
Here’s what you do:
- Butter both slices on one side; sprinkle the buttered slices with dried herbs. On one slice’s unbuttered side, stack one slice of cheese; basil or spinach leaves; scrambled eggs (spoon gently onto bread); tomatoes; and your final slice of cheese. Top with 2nd bread slice, buttered side out.
- Heat 1 tsp oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When pan is hot, add sandwich. Cook until pan side is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip, and cook until other side is also golden brown. Remove from pan, slice along the diagonal, and serve.
Variation Two: DIY Fried Rice – This is great for using leftovers lurking in your fridge. It can also be as gourmet or as simple as you like.
- 1 Master Scrambled Eggs recipe
- 1 cup cooked rice (type and grain are totally your choice)
- ½ to 1 cup frozen or fresh veggies (I like broccoli, peas, and carrots)
- ½ cup cooked meat (chicken, pork, beef), if desired. (Leftover pork chop or steak, perhaps?)
- 1 tsp vegetable or olive oil
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- Additional spices to taste (salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes)
Here’s what you do:
- Heat 1 tsp oil in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat (7-ish on your stove dial). When hot, add the rice and frozen vegetables. (If your veggies are fresh, cook them first for 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through to your liking.) Stir the mixture frequently for 3-5 minutes, or until all frozen veggies are warm and rice is heated and starting to brown.
- Add scrambled eggs, cooked meat, and additional spices as desired. Continue stirring the fried rice frequently with rubber spatula; drizzle with 1 tbsp soy sauce, and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes. Scoop the mixture into a large bowl, and enjoy.
Variation Three: Breakfast Burritos – This is as easy as it gets. Take a tortilla; fill it with scrambled eggs, deli cheese, salsa, and anything else you feel like adding (whatever’s in the fridge). Give it a quick nuke in the microwave to melt the cheese / reheat the eggs, roll it up Chipotle-style, and you’re off!
Next time in Budget Eats, we’ll talk about making a big batch of something economical – like vegetarian or turkey chili – and storing / freezing individual portions to eat throughout the week. Nom nom nom!