Our Epically Frugal Lunch Recipe
You’ve asked for it, we’ve promised it. We forgot about it, and then you asked for it again. I’ve actually received so many emails and comments requesting our epically thrifty recipes that I’m literally shamed into posting them. Thank you for your persistence readers, I finally got the clue!
Since we never (yes, never) buy lunch out, we needed a reliable, healthy, cheap, tasty, fast solution. Rice and beans to the rescue! Our resident chef Mr. Frugalwoods whips a gigantic batch up every Sunday and we enjoy it all week long. The recipe below is recorded as accurately as possible; apologies for any omissions–this is not from a recipe book and we are not recipe-writers.
As I’ve shared before, Mr. FW usually doesn’t cook from recipes and this lunch is no exception–he tweaks and refines his technique nearly every week. The man sort of tinkers around in the kitchen and out pops a meal. In order to translate Mr. FW’s anarchist cooking style into words on a page, we’ve started a technique whereby he calls out his ingredients and measurements while he’s cooking and I write them down.
However, it’s still a work in progress because he keeps saying things like “a dollop” or “a few drops” or “you know, enough” instead of actual measurements. Rest assured, I think we’ve got the correct measurements reflected below. And so, without further frugal ado, I present you with the Frugalwoods lunch recipe.
The Frugalwoods Rice-n-Beans Lunch Recipe
- 25 minutes of active work
- 35 minutes total cook time
- The key is to order your operations such that you’re not waiting for anything to cook. Everything happens simultaneously and thus, you’re able to maximize your work flow. Hence, the below cooking instructions are meant to be followed in the order they’re presented. It’s as much a system of efficiency as it is a recipe.
- Olive oil
- 2 cups Basmati rice
- 4 medium shallots
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 1/2 lb Mushrooms
- 4 tablespoons of Korean or Chinese chili paste
- 3 15.5 oz cans of black beans
Cooking Utensils Needed:
- 2 quart sauce pan (or similar)
- 8 quart pan (or similar)
- Fine mesh strainer
- Cutting board
- Measuring cups
- Mixing spoon
- Put 4 cups of water into a 2 quart sauce pan over high heat.
- Add a dash of salt to the water and a blob of olive oil.
- While that heats up, measure 2 cups of Basmati rice into a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water for a minute, or until the water runs mostly clear.
- Let the rice drain completely and then add it to the sauce pan of water heating on the stove. Cover and keep a wary ear out–the moment it hits the boil, you need to turn it down. It’ll take a few minutes depending on your range.
- Meanwhile, add a dollop of olive oil to a second large pot (ours is approximately 8 quarts) and put on medium high to warm the olive oil. Note that this is a second pot–you now have two pots on the stove.
Begin to break down the shallots. A cheaper option is red onion, but we prefer shallots and they’re not much more expensive. I use 4 medium shallots. Cut them into a rough dice (not a French dice).
- Add shallots to the pot with olive oil and stir to coat them. Begin to sauté.
- While the shallots sauté, prep your garlic cloves. We use 4 large garlic cloves (or more). I do a rough mince of the garlic–again, not particularly French–just chopped up into tiny bits.
- Add minced garlic to the shallots. Pro tip: store garlic and shallots at room temperature. Keeping them in the refrigerator will cause them to rot prematurely.
- Right about now, your rice should be boiling–turn it on low and set a kitchen timer for 20 minutes (after it has come to a boil).
- Stir shallots and garlic together. The shallots should begin to turn a slight golden color.
- Add 4 tablespoons of Korean or Chinese chili paste to the garlic/shallot/olive oil mixture. Keep on a medium/high heat.
- While that cooks, prep 8 oz of baby portobello mushrooms. I give them a quick wash off before beginning to dice. Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to wash your mushrooms in water–the idea that you can’t wash your mushrooms is a culinary myth propagated by the French. Seriously, it’s OK to wash them.
- I’m not delicate about slicing the mushrooms. I slice them stem and all since the stems actually have great flavor. They’re going to reduce down anyway, so the stems will soften. Plus, if you don’t use the stems, you’ll need to use more mushrooms, which is both more expensive and wasteful.
Once your mushrooms are sliced, stir them into your shallot/garlic/olive oil pot. Add salt to help them reduce down.
- Open and drain 3 15.5 oz cans of black beans (don’t worry about draining them too thoroughly).
- You should now have approximately 15 minutes remaining on your 20 minute rice timer. No need to stir the rice, just let it sit. Pro tip: the steam is what cooks the rice, so don’t open the lid and look at it before time is up–you’ll release the steam!
- Make sure to occasionally stir your shallot/garlic/mushroom/chili paste mixture so that it evenly sautés together. FYI, this mixture is basically an umami bomb of awesomeness.
When you have 10 minutes left on your rice timer, add the black beans to the shallot/garlic/mushroom/chili paste pot.
- Turn up the heat and stir those beans! Bring the mixture up to a simmer and keep it there until the rice timer is done. Stir occasionally. Leave it on medium/low to simmer. Pro tip: I use this time to clean up the kitchen.
- When the rice’s 20 minutes are up, turn off both burners and dump the rice into the shallot/garlic/mushroom/chili paste pot. Stir together. Yum.
- We then portion the rice-n-beans into our lunch-size glass tupperware for the week.
- This recipe typically yields 12 servings.
- And now, what you frugal weirdos have all been waiting for, the cost per serving is: $0.39.
- This means that Mr. FW and I eat lunch all week long for a scant $1.95. That’s $1.95 per person ($3.90 for both of us) for 5 warm, healthy, tasty meals.
- Coupled with our $0.10 breakfasts, you can see how we easily manage our $330/month grocery bill (which, as you know, accounts for every drop of food and drip of drink we consume all month long)
- Keeping our food costs low is a crucial element of how we save 71% of our incomes every year.
- In case you’re wondering, yes we really did calculate the exact cost per serving by combing through receipts and calculating the costs per unit and per recipe:
|Ingredient||Cost||Size of Package||Amount Used in Recipe||Cost Per Unit||Cost Per Recipe|
|Basmati rice||$19.79||20 lbs||2 cups (0.8 lbs)||$0.99||$0.79|
|Black beans||$0.49||1 can||3 cans||$0.49||$1.47|
|Olive oil||$13.99||2L||3 tablespoons||$0.21||$0.62|
|Shallots||$0.99||1 lb||4 (1/3 of lb)||$0.99||$0.33|
|Garlic cloves||$1.29||6 heads (60 cloves)||4 cloves||$0.02||$0.09|
|Korean chili paste||$14.00||8.5 lbs||4 tablespoons (104 grams)||$0.09||$0.36|
|Mushrooms||$2.00||1 lb||1/2 lb||$2.00||$1.00|
|Total (12 Servings):||$4.68|
Voila! Lunch Monday-Friday for two adults at $0.39 cents per serving! It’s hard to get cheaper, healthier, tastier, or faster than this.