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Friday, 3 February 2017

Cheaper than Chips!

I am pretty much permanently hangry. I love food. I also love working out, so I'm that person you see constantly eating but skinnier than a rake. Sorry not sorry, because I'm also that person doing 60+ push-ups / crunches and over an hour of cardio each day. You just don't see that part. But all this exercise and my young-person metabolism means I'm always hungry. And a quick trip to the vending machine every day could easily cost more $20+ a week.


The chips in the vending machine are $2. The chocolates are $2.20. Pricey, and not going to hit the cravings, I would generally want chips and chocolate and still have the munchies. So instead I went hunting for snacks that were cheaper than vending machine chips. Here's what I found...

Roast Peas

Defrost frozen peas or grab a can and drain them. Use a papertowel to pat off the excess moisture. Dump the peas in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder and a bit of salt. Bake at 180C for about 45minutes.

2 cups of peas cost me about 65c and makes 2-3 days worth of snacks. They're delicious, but also fiddly enough to stop mindless snacking.

Roast Chickpeas

Drain and dry a 400g can (or cook your own). Dump them in a bowl with olive oil, 1 tablespoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon of chilli powder (more if you like them hot, I don't) a little salt and pepper, and a pinch of chilli flakes (optional).

$1.25 - you get about the same amount as 2cups of roast peas, but they're much easier to eat so these disappeared much faster.

Fruit

I work near the markets, so I can generally get apples, bananas, mandarins, peaches, etc for under $2 a kilo. If I'm lucky I hit on 99c specials. No list of budget desk snacks is complete without mentioning fruit.

I'm not recommending dried fruit though. I don't find it very filling, it can give you a sugar spike/crash and it's pretty pricey. Eat the whole fruit.

Homemade veggie chips

Kale chips - $2 for a bunch of Kale, sprinkle with oil, salt and parmesan, bake until crunchy.
Zuchinni chips - dip thin slices of Zuchinni in eggwhite, then breadcrumbs, parmesan and salt n pepper. Bake until crunchy.
Potato / sweet potato - thin slices, oil and salt. Bake till crispy. Consider a sprinkle of paprika on the sweet potato!

Honestly, just jump on google. The delicious things you can do with veggie chips!

Porridge

Especially in winter. I can get whole oats for $3 a kilo, add a sprinkle of dried fruit ($15 - $20 a kilo, depending on what you get) and you can have second breakfast for under a dollar. Especially great when work provides free milk for tea and coffee (and my breakfast, muhahaha!)

Another great porridge option is stewed apples. When apples are on super special at the markets, but they don't look nice enough to just munch on I dice them roughly and toss them in a pot with just enough water to cover them and simmer (lid off) until they're soft and squishy. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to the resulting apple goo and you have a delicious addition to porridge, or the base for a quick and simple apple pie.

Cheese

Cheese isn't generally cheap cheap, but if you keep an eye out for special you can do quite well. I picked up a 300g wedge of edam cheese for $2. It's the same stuff that's in Babybel cheeses, but for a fraction of the cost. Did you know those things sell for $46 a kilo in the supermarket! Holy hell no! For that price I want something from France, aged five years and blessed by the Pope!

Protein balls

Depending on your recipe these can be bland or decadent, frugal or overwhelmingly pricey. Keep an eye out for special on nuts and keep the pantry stocked up.

Here's a delicious one: 1 cup of nuts (I used almonds and walnuts generally), 1/3 cup of cocoa powder, 9-10 Medjool dates (soak in water first to soften) 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint essence. Toss in a blender and slowly add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. When it starts to look like tar you're good to go. Sometimes you'll need a little more or less maple syrup. Top tip, grab a bowl of water an damp down your hands. It will keep your hands cleaner when you roll balls. Or just roll the dough out between two pieces of baking paper and cut into protein 'bars'. 

Depending on your ingredient costs this batch can cost $5 - $7, but you generally only need 2-3 to make a snack, so they work out around 50c a serve.

Muffins

Bake yourself something! Flour and sugar are all stupidly cheap. Milk, butter and eggs are a little pricier but still not breaking the bank. Add a little vanilla essence, some sultanas or choc chips and you've got muffins. For roughly $3.50 worth of ingredients I can make 24 small muffins, making them about 15cents each.

Tupperware!

Wait, what? LadyFIRE you can't eat tupperware. Nope, you really can't. But you also can't eat your delicious snack if they're at home in the fridge. Get yourself some decent containers so you can pack up your snacks and take them to work.

Bonus points, we buy jam in glass jars. I've been washing and keeping those jars for two years now. They hold a serve of soup, homemade quince paste, chicken stock, desk snacks, salad... everything. I saw the same jars for sale for $3 each in a second hand store. I buy them full of jam for $4 each. Someone is making a killing there.

Pro-tips

Try and do a bulk cook. The roast peas and chickpeas are super easy but they take a long time in the oven. With my 20 year old oven, I suspect I'm paying more to run the oven than I am for the ingredients. To counteract that, last time I made peas I cooked peas, chickpeas, muffins and chicken (for lunches) all at the same time. It went something like this:

  • Prep peas and toss them in the oven with a 15 minute timer.
  • Prep chickpeas. When the timer goes off for the peas, stir the peas and chuck the tray of chickpeas in, reset time for another 15 minutes.
  • Prep chicken. When the timer goes off, stir the peas and chickpeas and chuck the chicken in, reset time for another 15 minutes.
  • Start making muffins! When the timer goes off next it's time to pull the peas out, stir the chickpeas and throw the muffins in. Set the timer again.
  • Cook rice (to go with the chicken) and start cleaning. Keep an eye on the timer, next time it goes off pull out the chickpeas and the muffins. Set the timer once more.
  • Clean up! You should be doing it as you go, otherwise it's like a kitchen explosion. In 15 minutes the rice and chicken should be done.
Ta-dah! Four items, three with 45 minute cooking times, all done and dusted in 2 hours. The rice and chicken get portioned out with frozen veg for lunches and the peas, chickpeas and muffins make snacks. 2 hours work, roughly $20 and you a full week of snacks and lunches.

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