Eat Anything You Want, Just Cook It Yourself

Want to learn how to eat well without the need for fad diets or deprivation? This short video narrated by Michael Pollan does a nice job of explaining his simple “just cook” rule:

Found via Farnam Street. Also see my book review of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Some other thought-provoking videos on the same RSA channel as well.

It’s now been nearly a month of cooking mostly at home from scratch. With proper planning, the cooking hasn’t been too overwhelming and we are definitely spending less money on food. But I must admit I haven’t lost much weight. The food is so good and new and interesting… I’m eating too much! Hopefully I’ll adapt and perhaps I’m getting healthier in other ways (less salt, preservatives, binders, fillers, etc).

Brown Bag Lunch Idea: Simple Chinese Chicken Salad

There was some interest how to keep food costs down, so here’s another brown bag lunch idea that I use. Previously I did my Simple Custom Sandwich Edition, which probably could have been cheaper but I tried to price things at retail.

This time it’s Simple Chinese Chicken Salad, a recipe stolen from my sister. Prices are still from retail grocery store, frugal shoppers should be able to beat these prices easily. Salads from lunch joints are really expensive for some reason, at least $6.

Ingredients and Costs

$0.53 for 1/3 head of romaine at $1.60/head
$0.83 for 1/3 lb of frozen chicken breast at $2.50/lb
$0.40 for 1/3 can of mandarin oranges at $1.19/can
$0.10 for handful of crunchy noodles at $1.29/can
$0.35 for sesame ginger salad dressing at $3.50/bottle
$2.11 total for each salad

* Optional: Chopped green onion, or bit of slivered almonds. Minimal additional cost, I chop up an entire green onion and keep it in the freezer to sprinkle on stuff.

** You could probably save more money by making your own salad dressing (sample recipe).

Recipe (if you can even call it that)

  1. Rinse and cut up lettuce. One head usually makes 3 lunches.
  2. Cook the chicken however you like (boil, grill, saute) and season with salt and pepper. Rip or chop chicken into small bite-size pieces.
  3. Drain can or mandarin orange wedges (or unhealthily drink the syrup like I do), separating into 3 portions as well.
  4. Put all these dry ingredients into reusable plastic container. Keep chow mein noodles separate to preserve crunchiness. Keep salad dressing into smaller container, or keep in fridge at work.

In one session, you have made 3 Chinese chicken salads that cost ~$2 each, ready to eat and bring for lunch or eat as any other meal. You can either spread it across Mon-Wed-Fri, or if you live with a spouse/partner, it’ll be gone in no time. I put a lot of chicken in there, it prevents me from getting hungry too soon. If you need more calories, use larger portions or add some carbs with bread or toasted bagel.

I forgot to add my crunchy noodles when taking pictures this time, but here it is: