Priscilla shows how you can easily prepare restaurant-grade meals, right in your own kitchen. At half of what it would have cost.
The last time I ate out at a restaurant (last Friday), my bill came up to over $40 for two. I don’t know about you, but this is the typical average amount that I pay when I dine for two at restaurants.
I want to indulge in luscious, gourmet food – at least on Fridays and some, if not all weekends. After all, food is more than sustenance, its about celebration and being social. Issue is, this will cost – $300 to $400 a month to eat at restaurants twice a week.
So I put myself up on a challenge. Half my bill for restaurant meals – by rolling up my sleeves and cooking.
2-course menu for 2:
Mussels with Lemon and Garlic Butter
Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Lemon Couscous
Based on a check on various restaurant menus in Singapore, it costs approximately $42 for these two dishes at a restaurant, excluding 10% service charge and 7% GST. I am going to do it with $20 for serving size 2.
Above: Planning ingredients needed and cost for 2-course menu for 2
Below: Starter of Mussels with Lemon and Garlic Butter
I managed to keep within my budget of $20, but having said that, I was using some ingredients that were already available in my kitchen, which were not costed into the $20. These include: olive oil, salt, grounded spices: black pepper, paprika, cumin, cinnamon and ginger.
"Separate my shopping – go to supermarkets that gives you more value for your money for everyday, common items and to higher end supermarkets for the specialty stuff"
How I managed:
1) Do your homework when choosing where to get your ingredients
Not all supermarkets / markets are equal when it comes to prices. In fact, my own experience tells me that the price differential can be quite significant. My trick is to separate my shopping – go to supermarkets that gives you more value for your money for everyday, common items and to higher end supermarkets for the specialty stuff that cannot be found everywhere. Good news is, you’ll only need to do this once or twice, as you will quickly figure out which are the two types.
2) Choose supermarkets that allow you to buy items in loose pieces
A lot of supermarkets prepack ingredients. That is not a problem for larger families but the pre-packed portions are often too large for a small family. For me, this is a problem, especially with perishable goods as I just cannot consume all of it and have to throw them away. What a waste!
This brings to mind a scene from the movie, “The Father of the Bride”, where actor Steve Martin’s character (George Banks) goes all crazy at a supermarket for pre-packing 12 buns when he only needed 8. Click here to watch the video
Sometimes I wish I could do the same. :)
About a year back, I stumbled on a chain of supermarket that allows consumers to buy by weight what they need for some of the fresh groceries. Plus you wouldn’t get charged more if you buy a smaller quantity. I like that! :)
This helps me to keep cost down and reduce wastage when I have to throw away spoilt items I could not finish consuming.
"Reuse the ingredient
in more dishes than one"
3) Plan your menu such that you can reuse the same ingredients
When selecting the menu, choose dishes that allow you to use the same type of ingredients across dishes. This comes in useful where you are forced to buy larger pre-packed quantities. Being able to reuse the ingredient in more dishes than one allowed me to reduce money spent and wastage. For example, the ingredients I used across both dishes were lemon, garlic, shallots, olive oil, parsley.
4) Make adjustments: substitute ingredients that are more pricey
Generally, the less common the ingredient, the more you’re going to pay for it. You can also find substitutes for pricey ingredients. Google to find cheaper substitutes.
Voila! Two-course dinner for two for $20. Easy peasy! Now what is left is to enjoy the process of cooking (and washing up).
Those of you wondering about the recipes, here they are. I did not follow the ingredient list entirely, but did some adaptation.
January 1, 2015
About Priscilla Yong
Priscilla’s mantra in life is always see the cup as half full (rather than half empty), because life is too short.