8 Cheap Meals (With Recipes) Under $4 to Make at Home During Circuit Breaker!
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8 Cheap Meals (With Recipes) Under $4 to Make at Home During Circuit Breaker!

Joel Koh
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In case you haven’t heard, the Circuit Breaker Period has been extended till 1 June 2020.

The extension also saw a tightening of the list of essential services and businesses allowed to operate.

Many of us would have had to take a pay cut, go on no-pay leave or worse, retrenched because of this.

To survive, we might need to cut back on our expenses and save more during this uncertain time.

One of the best ways to cut your expenses is to cook at home – and there are lots of tasty, easy, and cheap meals you can make at home with very few ingredients and not much time.

Here are some of the best recipes to help you and your whole family eat well for under $4 per meal.

Swapping a lunch or dinner out with one of these cheap meals a few times per week is an easy way to lower your food expenses.

*A note on prices: As cheap as these meals are, in reality, they’re probably even cheaper than what you see here.

I averaged prices found online (on sites such as FairPrice Online and Redmart), which are likely higher than what you’ll pay at the market near your home.

TL;DR: 8 Delicious and Cheap Meals (With Recipes) You Can Make at Home for Less Than $4 per Serving

DishCost Per Serving
3 Ingredient Hotcakes$0.43
Oatmeal Porridge$0.77
One-Pot Pasta$1.25
Easy Chicken Curry$1.76
Ding Tai Fung Inspired Fried Rice$1.98
Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes$2.08
Mac and Cheese$2.81
Mango Sticky Rice$3.60

That’s not all, we will be having a giveaway too, and it’ll be super easy, barely an inconvenience to take part.

Cook Shoot Win

WIN A MEAL-BUNDLE FOR 2 FROM GRAIN!

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Answer the cook-off giveaway question on the Seedly site.
    (Alternatively, you can post your picture in the comment section of this Facebook post and share the post)
  2. Tell us how much it costs to prepare the meal and share with us one useful cooking tip!
  3. Winners with the Most Upvotes or Likes win!

Giveaway period:

Upload your entries from now till Sunday, 26 April 2020.

Voting ends Monday, 27 April 2020, 2359h.

Staying at home during Circuit Breaker doesn’t have to be boring. May the best chef win!

Easy Recipes to Try at Home

Here are 8 affordable and easy to make meals you can try.

*We left out the prices of common seasonings as they can be usually found in many households.

1) 3 Ingredient Hotcakes

Ever since McDonald’s suspended its operations until 4 May 2020, I’ve had a strange craving for McDonald’s hotcakes.

You’ll be glad to know that instead of spending 5 plus dollars for a hotcake meal, you can easily make them at home!

Pancakes
Source: Unsplash

Similar to oatmeal, this meal is highly customisable and you can serve it with yoghurt, ice cream, whipped cream, maple syrup, berries, or any other toppings you like.

3 Ingredient Hotcakes Recipe (4 servings)

Ingredients:

IngredientCost per UnitCost per Servings
1 Large Egg$2.10 for 12 eggs~$0.17 per egg
250ml (~1 cup) UHT milk low fat$1.70 for 1L~$0.42 for 250ML
128g (~1 cup) White self-raising flour$2.75 for 1kg~$0.35 for 128g of flour
Maple syrup*$5.50 for one bottle (480g)* ~$0.78 for one day of use

*Assuming the maple syrup takes one week to finish with everyday use.

Cost per serving: $0.43

Preparation Time: ~30 mins

Instructions:

  1. Whisk the eggs and milk together to combine.
  2. Add in the flour, and beat until the batter is smooth and lump-free.
  3. Heat a nonstick pan over low-medium heat with cooking oil spray. Wipe over excess.
  4. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter per pancake.
  5. Cook pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes, or until bubbles appear on the surface and the bases are golden brown.
  6. Flip and cook until golden; transfer to a warmed plate; repeat with remaining batter (spraying/greasing pan between every second or third pancake if needed).
  7. Serve immediately with yoghurt, ice cream, whipped cream, maple syrup, berries, or any other toppings you like.

*Substitute with plain or all-purpose flour if you don’t have self-raising. You can also use whole wheat or wholemeal flour.

2) Oatmeal Porridge With Fruits and/or Nuts

When I was younger, my grandma used to make me these delicious bowls of oatmeal porridge with fruits, and nuts. Not only were they delicious it was healthy as well.

Oats are a gluten-free whole grain and a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.

Oatmeal
Source: Unsplash | Margarita Zueva

They are also very filling, which means that you won’t need that snack break between meals.

Plus, it is really customisable as well. You can tweak the amount of milk and water to adjust the level of creaminess. Switch things up by experimenting with different combinations of nuts, fruits and seeds.

Oatmeal Porridge Recipe (1 Serving)

Ingredients:

IngredientCost per UnitCost per Serving
40g 100% Wholegrain instant oatmeal$2.95 for 400g~$0.29 for 1 serving of 40g
100ml UHT milk low-fat milk$1.70 for 1L~$0.17 for 100ml
1 Banana
$2.20 for a bunch (1kg)~$0.31 for one banana

Cost per serving: $0.77

Preparation Time: ~10 -15 mins

Instructions:

  1. Pour 35g of oats into a bowl.
  2. Add up to 100ml cup hot milk and 100ml boiling water and stir (You can adjust the ratio)
  3. Let stand for 2 minutes.
  4. Mix in cut fruit, nuts or seeds.

*Adjust water or milk ratio for desired creaminess.

3) One-Pot Pasta

Pasta is one of the most beginner-friendly dishes to make. This one-pot variant popularised by Martha Stewart makes it even easier.

One Pot Pasta
Source: Martha Stewart

Fun fact: Martha Stewart was found guilty of insider trading and thrown into prison.

I’m simplifying it a little but the essence of this dish is to just throw all the ingredients in a pot or pan, and lunch or dinner is ready for the entire family!

One-Pot Pasta Recipe (4 Servings)

Ingredients:

IngredientCost per UnitCost per Servings
340g Linguine$2.40 for 500g~$1.63 for 340g
300g Cherry or grape tomatoes (halve tomatoes if too big)$2.95 for 500g~$1.77 for 300g
1 Onion, thinly sliced$3.10 for 1kg~$0.31 for 1 onion
4 Cloves garlic, thinly sliced$1.35 for 200g~$0.10 for 4 cloves
1/2 Teaspoon chilli flakes$4.60 for 18g~$0.10 for half a teaspoon
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving$6.45 for 125g~$0.7 cents a serving
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving$11.95 for 500ml~$0.38 per serving
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepperN.A.N.A.
4 1/2 Cups water

Cost per serving: $1.25

Preparation Time: 35 mins (prep 15 mins and cook 10 mins)

Instructions:

  1. Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated – about 9 minutes.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  5. Divide among 4 bowls
  6. Serve with oil and a generous amount of Parmesan cheese

4) Easy Chicken Curry

I would think that chicken curry is comfort food for lots of Singaporeans.

Easy Chicken Curry
Source: BBC

Since it takes about an hour from prep to serving, you can make it on a Sunday, and have leftovers during lunchtime at work or for dinner on Monday and Tuesday.

A pot of chicken curry makes 4 servings that can last for a maximum of 3 days.

Easy Chicken Curry Recipe (4 Servings)

Ingredients:

IngredientCost per UnitCost per Servings
6 Stalks of spring onion$2.15 for 200g~$2.15 for 6 stalks
3 Cloves garlic, thinly sliced$1.35 for 200g~$0.10 for 3 cloves
1 Teaspoon ground ginger$2.95 for 38g~$0.10 for 1 teaspoon
2 Tablespoons Curry Powder$1 for 100g~$0.10 for 2 tablespoons
300g Boneless skinless chicken thigh, cut into 2.5cm/1in pieces$3 for 300g~$3 for 300g
100ml Coconut Milk$0.90 for 200ml~$0.45 for 100ml
4 Cups of budget white rice – Long grain$5.80 for 5kg~$1.16 for 800g

Cost per serving: $1.76

Preparation Time: 1-hour (prep 30 mins and cook 30 mins)

Instructions:

  1. Thinly slice the spring onions, reserving a handful of the sliced green parts for garnish. Peel and chop the garlic.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the spring onions and garlic for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, curry powder and ground ginger, coconut milk and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  3. If the pan gets dry add a splash of water and make sure the spices don’t burn.
  4. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes. Make sure all the chicken is coated and is beginning to brown on the sides.
  5. Add 250ml/9fl oz water and bring to the boil. Reduce to a medium to low heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through with no sign of pink juices in the middle of the pieces.
  6. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the rice. Pour the rice into a saucepan and rinse it under the cold tap to take away any cloudy starch. Drain the cloudy water away. Add clean water for cooking the rice. You need almost twice as much water as rice. (If you use a mug of rice, add a little less than two mugs of water). Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a low simmer.
  7. Cover with a lid and cook very gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to stand with the lid on for 10 minutes. This will finish cooking the rice. Keeping the lid on is important, so none of the steam escapes.
  8. Take the curry off the heat and add salt and pepper to season.
  9. Serve the curry with the rice.

5) Din Tai Fung Inspired Fried Rice

Fried rice paradise.

Making Chinese style fried rice may seem simple on the surface, but it is a hard dish to master. This rings true for the popular Din Tai Fung (DTF) fried rice.

Fried Rice
Source: Spice N’ Pans

Although you cannot dine in at Din Tai Fung now, we can recreate some of the magic at home thanks to the folks over at Spice N’ Pans.

Din Tai Fung Inspired Fried Rice Recipe (4 Servings)

Ingredients:

IngredientCost per UnitCost per Servings
8 Pieces of fresh grey Vannamei prawns – deshelled & deveined$4.95~$4.95 for 8 pieces of prawns
2 Stalks of spring onion200g for $2.15~$0.60 for 2 stalks
6 Eggs$2.10 for 12 eggs~$1.10 for 6 eggs
4 Cups of budget white rice – Long Grain$5.80 for 5KG~$1.16 for 800g
1 1/2 Teaspoon of chicken stock powder$3.15 for 120g~$0.11
1 teaspoon of sugarN.A.N.A.
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of soya sauce
A few dashes of white pepper

Cost per serving: $1.98

Preparation Time: 35 mins (prep 15 mins and cook 10 mins)

Instructions:

  1. Cook the four cups of rice.
  2. Wash, deshell and devein the prawns.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon to a bowl of ice water.
  4. Add the prawns to this mix and place bowl into the fridge for half an hour.
  5. Rinse the prawns.
  6. Add oil to a pan and fry the prawns for 3 mins on each side.
  7. Remove the prawns and put it aside.
  8. Add more oil to the pan.
  9. Crack six eggs and fry them in the pan until 80% done (eggs have to be a bit runny)
  10. Add in the rice to the egg mixture making sure to mix well. Be careful not to break up the rice.
  11. Add in the 1 1/2 teaspoon of chicken powder.
  12. Fry over medium heat.
  13. Add in 1 tablespoon of soya sauce.
  14. Once the rice starts ‘jumping’ around in the pan the rice is almost done.
  15. Add in the 2 stalks of chopped spring onion and a bit of pepper to taste.
  16. Add in the prawns and stir fry for about 10 -15 seconds.
  17. Serve the rice.

6) Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes

The next recipe is for those who want something more savoury.

Cream Au Gratin Potatoes are an easy to make yet delicious meal.

Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes
Source: All Recipes

It comes together easily and creates a cheesy and creamy dish that is unbelievably satisfying.

You can prepare this the night before and heat it up in the oven to when you want to have it for your next meal

Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes Recipe (4 servings)

Ingredients:

IngredientCost per UnitCost per Servings
4 Russet potatoes$4.90 for 2.27kg~$1.96 for 4 potatoes
1 Onion
$3.10 for 1kg~$0.31 for 1 onion
45g (3 tablespoons) Butter$4.50 for 250g~$0.75 for 45g
45g (3 tablespoons) All-purpose flour$2.65 for 1kg~$0.13 for 45g
~500ml (2 cups) UHT low fat milk$1.70 for 1L~ $0.84 for 500ml
200g Shredded Cheddar cheese$4.35 for 200g$4.35 for 200g
1/2 Teaspoon saltN.A.N.A.

Cost per serving: $2.08

Preparation Time: 2 hours (prep 30 mins and cook 1 hr 30 mins)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter a medium casserole dish.
  2. Slice potatoes into 1/4 slices
  3. Slice onions into rings
  4. Layer half of the potatoes into bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Top with the onion slices, and add the remaining potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
  6. Mix in the flour and salt, and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute. Stir in milk.
  7. Cook until mixture has thickened.
  8. Stir in cheese all at once, and continue stirring until melted, about 30 to 60 seconds.
  9. Pour cheese over the potatoes, and cover the dish with aluminium foil.
  10. Bake 1 1/2 hours in the preheated oven.

7) Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese may seem like an easy dish to make.

But it can be tricky to get just the right amount of cheesiness or risk becoming very jelak (Malay for sick of eating).

Here’s a highly rated Mac and Cheese that is easy to make and just the right amount of cheesy.

Mac and Cheese
Source: The Kitchn

Overall, it’s a great meal to make especially if you want something other than the usual rice and three dishes.

Mac and Cheese Recipe (4 Servings)

Ingredients:

IngredientPrice per UnitPrice per Servings
250g (1 box) Elbow macaroni$2.40 500g~$1.20 for 250g
32g (1/4 cup) Butter$4.50 for 250g~$0.40 for 32g
32g (1/4 cup) All-purpose flour$2.65 for 1kg~$0.10 for 32g
500ml (2 cups) UHT low fat milk$1.70 for 1L~$0.84 for 500ml
400g (~2 cups) Shredded cheddar cheese$4.35 for 200g~$8.70 for 400g
1/2 teaspoon saltN.A.N.A.
Ground black pepper to taste

Cost per serving: $2.81

Preparation Time: 30 minutes (prep 10 minutes and cook 20 minutes)

Instructions:

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  2. Cook elbow macaroni in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm to the bite for about 8 minutes.
  3. Drain the macaroni.
  4. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat; stir in flour, salt, and pepper until smooth for about 5 minutes.
  5. Slowly pour milk into butter-flour mixture while continuously stirring until mixture is smooth for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add Cheddar cheese to milk mixture and stir until cheese is melted for about 2 to 4 minutes.
  7. Mix the macaroni with the cheese sauce until each piece is coated with cheese.

8) Mango Sticky Rice

Sawadekap!

It seems that Singaporeans love all things Thai, as seen with the many of us who visit Thailand year-round.

Part of the reason for this is the delicious Thai food, and Mango sticky rice is right up on the list.

Mango Sticky Rice Dessert
Source: The Spruce Eats

Unfortunately, with the worldwide lockdown and travel bans, we won’t be able to head there anytime soon.

But fret not as you still can get your taste of Thailand right at home in your kitchen.

Mango sticky rice is easy to make affordable and best of all just delightful to eat.

Mango Sticky Rice Recipe (1 Serving)

Ingredients 

IngredientPrice per UnitPrice per Serving
200g (1 cup) Glutinous Thailand rice
$5.95 for 2.5kg~$0.45 for 200g
Unrefined soft dark brown sugar$2.30 for 500g~$0.26 for 56.7g
200ml Coconut milk$0.9 for 200ml~$0.9 for 200ml
1 Thai HoneyBee Mango$2.00 for 1~$2 for 1 mango
350ml (1 1/2 cup) WaterN.A.N.A.
1/4 Teaspoon salt

Cost per serving: $3.60

Preparation Time: 35 mins (prep 10 mins and cook 25 mins)

Instructions:

  1. Gather the ingredients.
  2. Soak rice in 1 cup water for 20 to 30 minutes. Do not drain the rice.
  3. Add 1/2 cup more water, plus 1/2 can coconut milk, salt, and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Stir well.
  4. Bring to a gentle boil, then partially cover with a lid (leaving some room for steam to escape). Reduce heat to medium-low, or just until you get a gentle simmer.
  5. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes, or until coconut water has been absorbed by the rice. Turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the burner with the lid on tight. Allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. To make the sauce, warm (do not boil) the rest of the can of coconut milk over medium-low heat (5 minutes). Add 3 tablespoons brown sugar, stirring to dissolve.
  7. Taste-test sauce for sweetness, adding more sugar if desired. (Note that it will taste less sweet when added to the rice.)
  8. Prepare mango by cutting it open and slicing into bite-size pieces.
  9. Scoop some warm rice into each serving bowl, then drizzle lots of the sweet coconut sauce over. It should look like an English pudding with custard sauce, with the rice swimming in sauce.
  10. Arrange mango slices on the rice and drizzle over more sauce.
  11. Serve and enjoy!

About Joel Koh
History student turned writer at Seedly. Before you ask, not a teacher. My time as a history student has equipped me with the skills to evaluate the impact societal development has on financial and nonfinancial events.
You can contribute your thoughts like Joel Koh here.

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