Monday, October 14, 2013

Frugal Foodie on a British Pound: Efficiency

One of the economic principles often thrown around, even in everyday parlance, is "economies of scale." The idea, whether in manufacturing cars or growing food, is that once there is a system in place to produce something (let's say an assembly line for a Chevy Volt), the added cost of producing an extra unit is minimal. Those large, upfront capital expenses have already been spent, so each extra car you churn out just makes each extra car more profitable. Ok, now this is grossly simplified, and there is a point at which this concept no longer holds, but you get the idea.
So, why on earth am I giving you an economics lesson? Well, this idea holds some water when you try eating on a budget. First of all, there are the economies of scale in purchasing food. You are going to spend more money buying a sandwich everyday from a local shop than if you purchased a loaf of bread, some peanut butter (don't get me started about the UK and PB...), and a jar of jam to last you a week or two. It's also generally cheaper to purchase 2 kg of beans than 250 g. Now, if you have a short attention span or tire of the same or similar foods quickly, then skip to the end of make some mung beans.

If you are like me and don't mind reruns throughout the week, then consider how economies of scale can apply to meal preparation. I can spend an hour and a half or two cooking up some barley, mung beans, and roasted cauliflower, stow it away in Rachel-sized tupperwares, and be set for the next four days. As a student (or a busy working professional, or a parent, or almost anybody really), where other food options are dishearteningly costly and/or unhealthy, there is great utility in this. Don't get me wrong; I am fully supportive of non-economic meals, where solo or with a group, one can spend hours crafting a delicious dinner, sit down and eat at a leisurely pace. But sadly, this is not always possible in our modern society, and sometimes we just have to fall back on industrial revolution thinking.

All of this, though, is just to preface a tasty bowl of tandoori-spiced mung beans and barley, with a side of oven-roasted cauliflower! Easy meal to prep in larger quanities (this amount usually is good for 3-4 lunches or dinners for me, but you could definitely scale up). If you get bored easily, try changing this up by lining up a side veggie, topping a salad green, or adding in some vegetable stock for a soupy transformation.

A Practical Pulse
1 cup dry mung beans, soaked overnight
1 cup dry hulled barley, soaked overnight
3-4 cups water
2 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp coconut oil
3 tsp tandoori spices (mix ginger, cumin, corriander, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne in equal parts, or go fancy and try this!)
Salt to taste

1. Heat oil over medium-high in a pot. Once melted sautee onion until starting to become translucent, then add in carrots and garlic. Cook for another five minutes.
2. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil before throwing in the mung beans and barley. Cook covered for about 15-20 minutes, until tender, checking every five minutes or so and adding water as needed.
3. Once liquid has all been absorbed or evaporated, season with spices and salt. Serve with some roasted cauliflower or on top of a bed of kale.

Enjoy! Sub in some short-grain brown rice instead of barley, if going gluten-free. And make sure to check out other tasty meals at Wellness Weekends!

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