Friday, June 22, 2012

Cheaper than Chinese

When we lived in New York City, husband and I used to go out every Friday night for a date. A typical Friday found us at Ollie's (a Chinese food restaurant) then a movie. This type of evening averaged around $50.

I giggle now thinking that this used to be a small sum of money.

Now that we are older, with a mortgage, car payments, kids, retirement savings, and a thousand other things, 50 bucks seems enormous. No more dates like this.

For a while after the whole parenting thing took hold we would order Chinese food pretty regularly. I'm a vegetarian, and my very favorite dish to order is tofu and vegetable stir fry. At the local take out place, one order of that is $7.50.

I can do this cheaper. I'll prove it.

Here's all I need:

Frozen stir fry veggies = $1.50
Sauce = $3.00
Tofu = $4.00

"But, Amy Sarah!", you exclaim to your computer screen. "That equals $8.50, which is actually a dollar MORE than the take out!"
Have no fear, friends. I know what I am doing. The power of unabashed cheapness will not fail me.

First, drain the tofu and cut it into 1/2 inch cubes. Heat a frying pan on the stove over medium-high heat, with just a spray or two of cooking spray (or olive oil). Cook the cubes until just starting to brown. (While they cook, keep them moving with a wooden spoon or spatula so they don't stick).

Transfer the tofu to a bowl, then dump the veggies into a frying pan. You don't need any oil. There is plenty of water in the frozen veggies to keep them from sticking to the pan. Cook them until they are tender and most of the water has evaporated.

Next, pour in about a third of the sauce. Mix until everything is coated. Cook about a minute more, then remove from heat.

Serve over some rice.

Beautiful, right? It's also better for you than the oil-filled take out version. But is it cheaper? Let's break this down.

The total that we bought was $8.50, but the ingredients make much more than we get from the Chinese food restaurant.

The entire bag of veggies ($1.50), one third of the sauce ($1.00) and about half of the tofu ($2.00) make about twice as much as I get in the take out container.

So that's $4.50 for twice as much food as is in the $7.50 take out.


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  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! I forgot to mention that for those folks who hate the idea of tofu (i.e. my husband), cutting up some left over chicken or steak is a great substitute!

  2. Isn't it so funny what we used to consider a "cheap splurge"? Ah, life before kids...

    Have you ever fried your tofu in the oven? That is how I love mine because it gets super crispy just like I prefer it.

    1. OO! How do you fry tofu in the oven? The way I showed here is actually the only way I have ever successfully cooked tofu, so any more info will be greatly appreciated!

      And yes, my definition of 'cheap' has totally been changed by the kids...and I can hardly remember this 'splurge' of which you speak. :)