Stretching My Food Budget with Instant Noodles!

Stretching My Food Budget with Instant Noodles!

I love instant noodles. But not in the cheap staple college food sort of way. Back then it was definitely out of necessity but also pretty plain with the only added ingredients besides the flavoring pack being some chopped green onions and, if I was getting really fancy, a hard boiled egg.

Now, let me preface everything I’m about to say by making it clear that instant noodles are not the best thing for you diet-wise. No one got ripped eating a diet of ramen. But moderation is the key to everything in life and a couple meals per week with instant noodles as a base ingredient is definitely a tasty way to stretch your food budget.

Quick, cheap meals

Let’s first look at the economics of it: very cheap instant noodles are like $.25 a pack at most grocery or Asian food stores. While ok, I prefer to spend a bit more and get the more “premium” $1.00 - $1.25 (ha!) noodles. My favorite brand is Sapparo Ichiban noodles. Using noodles as a base, it’s very simple to create great recipes that cost just a few dollars per meal. Do this a couple meals per week and you have some serious cost savings vs. eating out.

But tasty too!

Most people like the basic instant noodles with the seasoning packet, but how about getting a little creative with these added ingredients?:

These simple sauces and condiments can put a whole new spin on your instant noodles:

  • Chili bean sauce
  • Thai curry paste
  • Curry powder
  • Ponzu
  • Fish sauce
  • Miso paste

As a general rule, a little bit goes a long way with these sauces, so use sparingly and then maybe complement it with things like pepper, chili flakes, peanuts, cilantro, and lemon or lime juice.

Make it healthy

As you know, instant noodles aren’t health food. But by adding the following vegetables, you can definitely make it a much more balanced and sensible meal. Some vegetables I like to add are:

  • Baby spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Bean sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Watercress
  • Scallions
  • Carrots
  • Peas

Finally, bring on the meat!

If you’re doing a soup, then thinly sliced meats can be cooked in a matter of seconds directly in the pot. If you’re doing a straight noodle dish without broth, then you can easily grill sliced meats and add to the rest of your dish. Here’s some meats that I like to use:

  • Chicken breast
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Flank steak
  • Bacon

And that’s about all you need to know to start saving money with some pretty tasty (and cheap!) meals. The great thing is there are so many different combinations that you can make that you will never get tired of experimenting and saving!


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