Monday, February 3, 2014

Combat Price Hike with Packed Lunches.

With the price hike this year, I think it's about time that we start with a little change from home. Don't you think?

I've been doing packed lunch for work since 2006. Safe to say, I'm no longer a rookie at this.
However, this year, it's going to be a bit different. I've set a challenge for myself. I've decided to save up at least RM 50 a week and accumulating that to RM 200 by the end of the month. Why? Simply to prove to myself that I can save and I should save. To achieve this goal, I must first manage my pack lunches. 

STEP 1: Identify meals that I can make in batches. Quick. Should taste good. Doesn't burst my pockets. 

Keeping staples in the pantry and refrigerator helps. Such as peanut butter, chickpeas or all sorts of beans, sardines in tomato sauce, eggs, pita bread and variety of fruits. All this comes in handy. I must say, fruits and pita bread - are life savers. In situations when you just don't know what to make, you just pick up a handful of fruits and you're set. 

Pita breads are great to have around - it is an ingenious creation. Its portion is perfect for light eaters, keeps all your sandwich ingredients neatly tucked and very easy to pack. Goes well with anything and everything. 

I can precook many things in batches, rice, soups, roast chicken, meat dishes and sometimes just something simple like Potato Marsala

If you haven't any idea what to pack and what to make. There are numerous blogs and recipes that you can find online. Thekitchn has a list of easy-quick to make lunches. is great for portion packed lunches, although it's all cute and sometimes I think it's perfect for kids, but hey, I think adults can benefit from a bit of fun packed lunches for work. Simply Recipes also comes with numerous recipe that are healthy and on-budget! And who says packed lunch is a mummies job only, check out Lunch Box Blues, he creates meals for his son and himself. Literally quick and easy.

No doubt that some of the recipes found on the blogs or websites, calls for foreign ingredients as the recipes are from western cook books. The point here, is for you to read through and be inspired by their ideas and come up with options that would be suitable for your taste. See how they make use of their local ingredients to keep on a budget. If you are adventurous and you can afford the ingredients on their list, well then, make the recipes and pack them for the week.

STEP 2: Pack them - ready-to-go!
After planning your meals and cooking them. The next logical thing to do is to portion! Set aside enough for yourself, the kids and husband. Put them in containers that are easy to pick up and reheat. 

What have I made for myself this week?

For this weeks challenge, I've made myself Banana+Peanut Butter Muffins. Yields: 10 muffins

Recipe calls for 
1 medium banana - mashed
1/4 c of peanut butter - smooth
1 egg
1/4 buttermilk (or yogurt/milk)
1/4 olive oil
1/4 honey
1/4 brown sugar
dash of vanilla essence
handful of chocolate chips *optional
1 c wholewheat flour
1/2 c buckwheat flour *optional
1 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda

*Preheat oven to 180 C. Then place all the dry ingredients in one bowl. Set aside.
*Mix all the wet ingredients together. 
*Mix the dry to the wet. Ensure that you get all the flour incorporated.
*Prepare muffin tins and scoop the mixture into each muffin cups. About 3/4 full.
*Bake for 20 minutes or till center of muffin is dry when you pierce it with a tester.

Additional to this, I made a batch of pizza dough and over shot my measurements. I had to figure out what to do with all that dough. Remembering that I had some frozen minced lamb already marinated with spices. I figured, I'd make some bread rolls filled with all sorts of fillings. Spiced Minced Lamb as well as Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Basil. 

OK, for the dough, you can practically use any recipe you can find. Quick ones, overnight fermentation ones, with polish starters or even store bought pizza dough. It doesn't matter. You can even just use Pita bread or wraps if you want to. No problem. The idea is to make it ready-to-go. This is my rendition. I just had a lot of spare time over the weekend, thought best I pack in some hours to prepare for the week.

For the filling, the Spiced Minced Lamb was left over from lunch. This recipe you can use it for fillings, kebabs, pizza toppings, turn them into meatballs for pasta, or a chill day for tapas at home.
Recipe calls for about

400g of minced lamb (or any other meat you prefer)
To this you add 2tsp of everything on this list:
Cumin powder
Fennel powder
Smoked Paprika *optional
Thyme powder form (you can buy this from Arab Sundry Shops)
Chili powder *optional
Salt and Pepper

Mix it all up and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
I've done this a few days back and froze it. Took out from the freezer and defrost it.

Right. So, now we will just wait and see. To be honest, I made so much of my bread filled with lamb. I think I'll overdose on it by the end of this week. Keep yourself posted to the blog. I'll update my lunch and see how I've switched it up so I don't get bored of the same thing. Challenge ON!

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