Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Budgeting and matters...

It's hard to be frugal and mindful of health sometimes.

When you're on a budget, cheap and easy can seem to be the best way through. 

As an Australian growing up in the 1960s, I narrowly missed a life of manufactured meat sandwiches, sausages horrendously high in fat and salt, and creamy cakes and desserts, that were the fare of the day back then in many Aussie households. 

Thanks to my Mothers European heritage and Euro-specific thrifty ways, we ate pasta and vegetables, meals based on legumes seasoned with herbs and spices, and ate fruit from our own backyard trees. Scoffed at back then, but mainstream thinking now. How things change.

The trouble is, that you get to a certain stage of life, and find that 'cheap and easy', now means 'expensive health issues'. Thankfully that isn't the case here, but I know many folk who now find themselves in this predicament.

Mum taught me how to turn chicken breasts, bought in bulk, into delectable sandwich meat by poaching it in flavoured broth. I still use this method. Alternatively, when a bargain comes along like the chicken mignons pictured below, I will happily roast those, allow them to cool, and slice them up for a flavoursome sandwich filling. The very small number of bacon bits that are left behind, find their way onto the top of home made pizza. SO much healthier than deli meats.

Likewise, when the occasion calls for a roast, we are more likely to season a small fillet of pork or a rolled lamb shoulder of around the same size, and serve that with many, many vegetables, in preference to a big hunk of meat. This is a strategy that Annabel of The Bluebirds are Nesting, often mentions her Nanna employing as well, so it's not a new idea. It is a fact however, that more recent generations have the habit of viewing the meat as the main, and the vegetables as the side. Turn that thinking upside down, and you'll find that you too, will lean towards the lean, when it comes to meat.

A recent family event dictated the appearance everyones old favourite, of a pork roast. I slow roasted a couple of pork bellies, rendering most of the fat away in doing so, crisped the crackling under the grill, and served this with MANY salads. Two pork belly roasts comfortably fed fifteen of us, using the strategy of salads as the main, meat as the side.

When Hubster, who has of late, resumed playing a competitive sport at the ripe old age of 66, craves something more exotic, it's incumbent upon me to find new ways to create old favourites.

A purchase of offcuts of Snapper pieces, sent me scurrying to find a new way to serve fish, and led me to invent these Gingered Snapper Spring Rolls.

Here's the method for that recipe in a few sentences:

Gingered Snapper Spring Rolls

To make 10-12 medium sized spring rolls, you need store bought spring roll wrappers, 400gms of fish, 1/8th of a small cabbage shredded, 4 spring onions sliced thinly, minced ginger, minced garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, and a bit of chilli paste if you like it.

Pan fry the fish with two tablespoons of minced ginger, a heaped teaspoon of minced garlic, and a splash each of soy sauce and sesame oil, seasoning well with salt and pepper and the chilli paste, if required, and mince this by using an electric mixer, or by shredding with your fingers once cooled.

Wilt the cabbage and spring onions in a hot pan or wok, and add to the fish, mixing well.

Place the spring roll wrapper on your bench or cutting board, with one of the points facing you, spoon a tablespoon of the mixture onto the wrapper, and tuck the point under the filling, fold the outer corners in, and roll, forming a tight neat cigar shape, sandwiching your completed rolls between two damp cloths to keep them from drying out.

Note that you could easily double or triple the number of spring rolls you make, simply by adding soaked vermicelli or bean thread noodles to your spring rolls, or by increasing the amount of cabbage or other vegetables in the mixture.

Once upon a time, and certainly in restaurants, these would now be deep fried. I prefer to spray them liberally with olive oil spray, and bake them in a hot oven. Remember, the filling is already cooked. You're really looking to brown and crisp them. I do not have an Air Fryer, as I have an absolutely brilliant Falcon oven that precludes the need for one. However I believe these are an ideal option. 

Likewise, the 'fried' rice, that I serve these with, is really more like 'steamed' rice with stuff added to make it look authentic.

Mimis' Healthier 'fried' rice

For 4 serves, precook one cup of rice using your preferred method. Allow to dry overnight or for several hours. You can't successfully make fried rice with freshly cooked stuff. Alternatively, scoff if you will, but now that there are only two of us here, a sachet of cooked rice 'sometimes' finds it's way into my pantry, and I'll use that.

Spray your wok or pan lightly with olive oil spray, and add the rice. Add 2-3 cups of frozen of fresh vegetables and a couple of tablespoons of water, cover with a lid and allow to steam for a few minutes. Add oyster sauce, a crumbled chicken stock cube, sesame oil, and a drizzle of soy sauce, and toss well for several minutes more. Make a hollow in the middle of the rice and veges, and crack in two eggs. Replace the lid and allow to steam for a bit longer, then mix the partially cooked egg through the rice mixture. Done!

I made a dipping sauce for our spring rolls, by mixing bought Sweet Chilli sauce, with a little fresh lime juice (limes from our tree....grow something...anything...remember?), a drizzle of rice wine vinegar, a drop or three of sesame oil, and a bit of minced ginger. Delish.

We'll get a generous dinner AND a lunch from our 400gms of fish, so this is a super frugal recipe too.

These days, coloured milk (note...not flavoured) topped with whipped cream and confectionery toppings, are reserved for grandchildren.

Adult folk content themselves with fruit and cheese or yoghurt.

You can buy a dozen really tiny mini fish spring rolls (usually barramundi) where I live for $16.50.

If I had made mine that size, and added the vermicelli noodles, I would have easily had a yield of 50 spring rolls, not 12. At that rate, for my $11 worth of snapper, $3 spring roll wrappers and a few cents worth of vegetables and seasonings, my spring rolls would be worth $55. I call that a win!

Fried rice? Well we have, when excruciatingly busy, bought fried rice for $13 for 4 serves. Mine was worth at least that.

Healthier, better for the bank account. I know which I choose.

How do you manage the fine line between frugality and fitness?



  1. Thanks for the recipes, sounds delicious. Just do not know what coloured milk is?

    1. Hi Wendy! Coloured milk is literally milk with food colouring! The grandaughters love it! We call these Unicorn Milkshakes :)

  2. I love fried rice! It's such a tasty way to use up leftover rice and those last few spoonsful of veggies.

    I'm vegetarian, so eating healthier is my usual game plan (I just have to watch how much cheese gets into my diet; so many quick and easy vegetarian meals rely on cheese, and as a homeschooling parent, quick and easy is a necessity a lot of the time!). I tend to shop the sales, and whatever vegetables are on sale, I build my meals around those that week. I have a well-stocked pantry full of all different types of legumes, so it's easy to mix and match. It's just not always easy to have the energy or desire to cook a full meal (SO MUCH CHOPPING) at the end of each long school day. Summers are easier, thankfully!

  3. Hi Mimi, So nice to see you post. Hope you are doing well. Yea, I was gonna
    ask about the milk, that is a great idea, will have to try that out on my Granddaughter. lol I am planning to make Pork fried rice soon myself. I only like it homemade cause it is always too dry when you buy it.
    Have to say I am very picky about my fish, if it tastes's not for me! lol I have recently found some Salmon that I like at our market, but the key is removing the skin so it doesn't taste fishy. I never liked Salmon before but this is really good, in fact, we had it for din din tonight.
    So how is life treating you? Are you still working?
    It was nice to see you haven't given up blogging many have
    unfortunately.....I have cut back to just twice weekly, since we opened our
    card shop, Well, hope to hear from you again soon.
    Love and blessings, Nellie


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