I have been eating quite frugally. This is a little experiment I am trying just to see how easy or difficult it is to cook and pack lunch to work. Of course I have the occasional urge to eat out, just to be served, or to eat something that I cannot prepare myself. It takes a considerable amount of will power to work out this little eating project for the week but once I got into the momentum, it is not much effort at all.

I shall describe how I sustain this habit. The key is to have a good pantry, and these are my staples that I cannot do without.


  • Cargo rice: I have opted out of white rice, only when eating out or when the family cooks it. It is nutty and chewy.
  • Couscous: This is too easy. Just hot water, stock cube, cover and fluff. I keep some of this at work in case I need it for an emergency meal or when I do not time to prepare it the night before.
  • Quinoa: I opt for this when I have already had too much carbs in the week. This is a good source of proteins that taste just like rice or couscous. It is crunchy too, so it adds a lot of fun to eating it.
  • Buckwheat noodles: Daiso (a Japanese $2 shop) sells 4 servings of this in a packet. I always pick this over cha soba which is wheat noodles with green tea because there is more fibre in buckwheat. This is good cold or boiled and then stir fried.
  • Buckwheat noodles sauce: Daiso sells this for $2 a pop and it is one of the best tasting soba sauce at this price. I use this for flavouring couscous and quinoa too.
  • Oats: Not just for breakfast and not just sweet. I use oats to make savoury chinese congee.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Good for light frying and flavouring salads. I pour some of this into the buckwheat noodles when I refrigerate it for lunchbox the next day so they do not clump together.
  • Coconut oil: This is gold. It is good for cooking and flavouring food. You can use it for desserts and savoury dishes. It makes everything so much more tasty that you do not need much else.
  • Stock cubes: Guilty. But stock cubes are not so bad. They add a lot of flavour to anything and helps to make quick soups too.
  • Herbs and spices: I cannot do without these. I am a junkie and I have almost everything. Cinnamon, cardamon, coriander seeds, fennel, cumin...etc. A few of these tossed with root vegetables and coconut oil in the oven is awesome. They are easy to flavour simple put together dishes with any of the above staples.
  • Plain flour: For the odd onion bread that I love with olive oil and turmeric. Yummy. (need yeast of course)
  • Vinegar and other dressings: Some simple dressings from Daiso again, onion and perilla dressings. Lime juice for thai inspired salads and soups.


  • Miso: This makes a quick dip for vegetables, marinate for meats, soup base and even a quick salad dressing.
  • Kimchi: This is quick for putting into a lunchbox or tossing with dry cabinet staples with you do not have vegetables. It can be added to a miso based soup too.
  • Pickles: Works the same as kimchi.
  • Tofu: I like to make scrambled tofu 'fried rice' when I get bored of dry cabinet staples. You can marinate tofu in spiced soy sauce too and have it as is, pan fried or roasted.


  • Onion and garlic: This is a no brainer. They flavour everything. Make a batch of caramelised onions for the week and you can toss it into anything, or top it onto soups. I like thinly sliced onions with my cold noodles too.
  • Sweet potatoes: I seldom have this but if I do have to have potatoes, I would pick sweet potatoes. It is just so much better for you than regular potatoes. I always like to foil wrap a few of these and pop them into the oven while roasting or baking something else.
  • Cauliflower: I am in love with this. This is so good roasted or made into a soup.
  • Broccoli: This has to be one of the most nutritious vegetable you can have.
  • Kai Lan: This is a chinese vegetable and it is a species of broccoli just like broccolinis. They are a bit bitter but tasty nonetheless. Loads of nutrition in here like broccoli.
  • Carrots: This root will keep for a while.


  • Batch cooking: I usually roast a whole batch of vegetable like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and whatever looks good in the market. This batch of vegetable goes into most things like couscous, quinoa, noodles or just by themselves.
  • Instant: It doesn't need to be unhealthy. Miso paste into soup with buckwheat noodles, seaweed and chilli oil is very very yummy. You can add a lot of other things like ginger and garlic to flavour the soup, and just add meat or veg to top it off. Oh yes, and if you have instant oats, how can that be unhealthy in any way?
  • Just add water: I sometimes cook more savoury oats than I need and I just heat what I need in the pot and then add whatever I have in the fridge to top it off.
I hope this will give you some ideas for healthy frugal cooking. Let us know if you have any good tips that you cannot live without.

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