It hasn’t gone unnoticed that prices in Egypt have recently inflated. Because this is a food blog, I’m going to limit my general rant to how groceries have doubled and even tripped in price, because i can, somehow, still work my way around food and think of economic solutions — all i can do regarding the price of airline tickets, petrol, utility bills, appliances and transportation around Cairo is basically freak out and weep :).
Given the threads and conversations I’ve also witnessed recently, everyone seems to have developed the same problem: hectic schedules make it impossible to prepare food economically at home, but then the economy makes it impossible to opt for the convenience of takeout all the time. I totally get that — I love to make food; I don’t always have time; and I’ll easily opt to jeopardise my own health and budget for convenience, because of my working hours. I know for a fact I can speak on behalf of most people I know; we’re collectively broke by mid-month, and we’re probably all on the verge of developing stomach ulcers from the crap we’ve been ordering for lunch on a daily basis at work or otherwise.
CALCULATION & PREPARATION
We’re in a bit of a rut here. But since I’ve had the last week (vacation!) to mull over a) the current economic disaster that’s befallen us, and b) what we’re doing wrong, and c) seriously think about what can be done, I believe I’ve found that the solution resides in basically two things — Calculation, and Preparation.
First thing’s first: QUIT. ORDERING. OUT. Feeding one person via takeout in Cairo can cost anywhere from 40 to 200 EGP. Do that every day, and you can kiss your salary goodbye. Calculate that for a moment — If you made whatever you’re ordering at home, will it cost as much? Probably not. If you ordered a chicken sandwich from a popular fast food joint, you’ll likely end up paying something close to 100 EGP. With that 100 EGP, you can purchase a half a kilogram of fresh chicken plus some condiments and make about 6 of that very sandwich at home, probably better, and still have a ton of condiments left over. Let that sink in a moment.
Second thing; as cliche as this might sound, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. If you don’t prepare, you’ll basically eat anything and spend anything. Like I said, time is the big issue here. So i wondered — what if i made 10 meals in advance? How long would it take me and how much would it cost me?
I trudged down to the local supermarket, tried not to cringe at the prices, and brought some essentials. First and foremost, I bought 2.5 kg of chicken breasts — it’s a protein, versatile, grudgingly affordable, and goes a long way. In addition, I bought some mustard, honey, soy sauce, greens, a few herbs and spices, and went home after spending something like 300 EGP. Not too bad, given what happened next.
1 HOUR, 12 MEALS, 10 DIFFERENT MARINADES
It took me exactly one hour to prepare 12 basic freezable meals with 10 different flavors. It wasn’t rocket science as much as it was basic preparation; Pop a bunch of ingredients in a ziplock bag, toss some chicken in there, smoosh it all around, close the bag, pop into the freezer, and thats it. One hour of my time, 12 meals in my freezer. Does it get any easier, faster, or more economic than that? Not really :)
Below are the 10 freezable chicken marinade recipes I came up with using general items in my pantry or fridge. Now to the nitty-gritty. Items you’ll need aside from the ingredients:
A permanent marker.
The General Method:
Place all ingredients in a ziplock bag.
Press out all the air, and lock it up
Squeeze the marinade around the chicken until it's completely covered
Fold ziplock bag neatly into a parcel. Label each parcel and place in the freezer for up to 3 months
A few items to consider:
Each meal i prepared consists of 2 medium chicken breasts and their tenders. Im a loner, so this is a generous portion for me, but feel free to double or triple portions to feed more people.
These chicken meals can be grilled, pan-fried, baked, broiled, or foil-pocketed. It’s up to you.
Onions, bell peppers, carrot strips and other veggies can be added to these meals. If you choose to roast your chicken in the oven, pop it on a sheet pan alongside some potatoes, onions and carrots too.
You can chop your chicken up into strips or cubes or thin cutlets if you like.
I designed these to be taken down to thaw in the morning before work, so when I get home, I can cook them right away. Ideally, i’d take down two or even 3 packets, and cook them the way i see fit, and store them in air-tight containers in the fridge for the whole week.
Write up the name of your meal on the packet, because once they’re frozen, they all look alike and it’s hard to tell what’s what.
Look at it this way — you’ll save money, time, and your health too. I can rest assured that for 12 days this month, i can choose from 10 different types of chicken, and toss them with a side of noodles, rice, or salad, knowing that each whole meal probably cost less than 30 EGP to make. :)
ENJOY! And don't forget to use a permanent marker to label your parcels.