When working to eat healthy and still feed your family for less, it’s important to get creative and work to find ways to serve meals that everyone loves and do so in a way that fits in with your family’s targeted food budget. One of the ways we do this in The Frugal Farmer home is by writing down meal items we love to have at our favorite restaurants and finding ways to make them at home. In our quest to eat well (which for us means finding a balance between eating healthy and throwing in a few of our favorite not-so-healthy restaurant foods) but still keep our grocery budget at around $400 for our family of six, we’ve found ways to make a number of popular restaurant dishes at home for cheap.
We do this not only for regular weekly meals, but for celebratory meals such as Valentine’s Day as well. By finding ways to make restaurant dishes at home, we can save the money we would have spent on a restaurant excursion, yet still eat a special and satisfying meal.
As we work to eat primarily whole foods and stick with a largely macrobiotic diet, we are continually looking for new recipes that are healthy, flavorful, cheap and easy to prepare. One of our favorites has become this homemade fried rice recipe I put together last winter. It’s healthy, delicious and easy to make too. Many times we serve it alone, or occasionally we’ll serve it with an oriental salad, as seen in the picture here.
Healthy, Delicious and Cheap
Our local Costco sells a large bag of oriental salad for $6.99. The salad is quite similar to the Oriental Chicken Salad served at popular chain restaurants, except for that it’s sans chicken. This bag can serve our family of six for two meals, which brings the price of the salad down to $3.50 per meal. Since we buy our veggies in bulk, we can easily make the veggie fried rice for less than $1.50, bringing the total price of the meal to $5 or less. Try it at home and let me know how you like it.
Recommended for your “Feeding Your Family for Less” library:
Homemade Fried Rice Recipe
4-6 cups prepared rice (we use organic brown rice but any rice will do)
1/8 to 1/4 c. toasted sesame oil
1/4 to 1/2 c. frozen peas
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 onion (yellow or green will work), diced
1 large carrot, shredded
1 egg, scrambled with milk
a sprinkling of soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste
In a large non-stick frying pan or wok, heat sesame oil on medium high. Add peas and onions and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the carrot and garlic and cook for another minute or two. Scoot the veggies over to one side and add the beaten egg/milk mixture, tossing it until the egg is fluffy and fully cooked. Mix the veggies and eggs together, add the rice, and combine until mixed well. You can add more oil if need be at this point. Add soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste, continually mixing. That’s it!
Being quite picky about my fried rice, I’ve found this recipe most similarly emulates a good old-fashioned quality Chinese restaurant tasting rice. It’s nice to be able to serve this at home, avoid the MSG (which is nothing more than a liquid sprinkled on many Chinese and Thai food dishes) and save money as well.
For more information and recipes for the frugal meals we serve at home, click here to access our Frugal Food section.
I’d be curious to hear after you try it if you find it as delicious as we do here. Also, feel free to share the restaurant meals you serve at home as well. We’d love to hear from you!
I remember the first time I made fried rice at home. I thought I was a genius, lol! I haven’t ever tried a recipe with sesame oil though. I’ll have to try it out! Thanks for sharing!
Sesame oil really makes the difference – at least for us. It has a distinct taste that just can’t be mimicked by other oils. Let me know if you try it!
Looks delicious! I was so happy when my kids started eating fried rice.
It’s SO yummy. And cheap, too. 🙂
I love sesame oil but I would be careful cooking with it. Sesame oil burns easily and the burning actually creates oxidizing properties that are not good for the human body. It’s better to cook in a high-heat oil and then add sesame oil at the end for flavor.
Thanks for the tip, Tara! We don’t use it often, so we’re okay with those effects once in a great while. 🙂
We actually recently tried a similar fried rice recipe and I loved it. I love that you use pre-cooked rice so you can make the rice in advance and then you just throw everything together. It’s a cheap and simple weeknight meal to make.
It is!! We work a lot at focusing on things that are simple to make. If we don’t, we get overwhelmed with our busy scheduled and end up eating unhealthy food or ordering out.
I love fried rice! I’m going to have to try this one out. We don’t have a good place for Chinese food here so whenever I want it I have to make my own.
I haven’t found a good one either here in the boonies. This one is a great substitute, however!
Very similar to our fried rice recipe! That stuff is awesome. My husband’s mother is Korean, so I’m always trying to learn her favorite recipes. We also love throwing cooked, diced chicken and pineapple chunks in there, too.
Oooh, I would love to have your MIL’s wisdom to glean about cooking!! Take full advantage of that, my friend. 🙂
I love getting fried rice when we get take-out, so this recipe will be great for us to test out. If it’s more affordable and tastes just as good why not make it yourself?
I love fried rice from the take-out places too. I can definitely eat that alone as a meal. 🙂
I LOVE fried rice. So, so yummy. The first time I ever made it was an epic fail unfortunately. I used just made, still-hot rice versus cold rice, which makes a huge difference. I love adding bean sprouts to mine too. One of the local grocery stores by me sells it bulk, so it’s really cheap, just to grab a handful or two.
Interesting about using the cold rice – I’ve never tried that but will do so!
my mom used to always make fried rice and it looks just like your dish!
That’s awesome, Jay! I’ve tried several recipes, and definitely like this one the best.
I love Asian food, so I will certainly give this a go. And speaking of recipes . . . I made your brussel sprouts with bacon & onion recipe. Delicioso! It went over very well with my husband and his friend. DH said that brussel sprouts were not his favourite, and then he had two helpings : ) – as did his friend – as did I. Thanks!
Yay!!! SO glad you all liked it! I am looking forward to serving it today. Happy Thanksgiving, Ruth!
I am always amazed at how much useful content you share on this website.
I’m not a great cook, but I’m gonna give this one a try.
I appreciate your kind words so much, Laura Beth! You know, this recipe is fairly easy. I think you’ll do great at it. 🙂
I love this idea. Especially without the headache-inducing MSG. I will give it a go! Thanks Laurie ~ Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂
Tell me!! That stuff doesn’t fly over here either. Yuck!
I love fried rice and it’s my go to dish to make. I like to add some meat to it too, and often times it’ll be leftover chicken I cut up and throw in there too so it doesn’t go to waste. I also add a little bit of oyster sauce but it’s probably unnecessary.
Oyster sauce sounds like a yummy addition, Andrew! Glad to hear you take advantage of this healthy, cheap and delicious meal too. 🙂
Who wants some fried rice? ME! I’d cook this homemade fried rice one of these days. Thanks for sharing Laurie.
You should try it, Jayson! Tastes great, costs less! 🙂
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