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With budgets getting tighter and food costs on the rise, feeding yourself and your family when money is short has become harder than ever.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like plain boring food. I like variety, and that can be difficult while trying to stick to keep costs low. One food that I put on the menu multiple times a week is rice.
If you were to ask me ten years ago whether I’d eat rice on a regular basis, I’d have said, “Heck, no!” For me, especially growing up, rice was just a boring, bland, and tasteless food that I was “forced” to eat. (Just ask my mom!) As an adult, living on my own, and trying to stick to a budget, rice became a staple. Adding a few cups of rice a week to my diet started saving me a lot of money. Not only is it filling in its own right, but you can easily replace a few ounces of meat with half to a full cup of rice.
However, I don’t just boil it in water and serve it. I am anything but boring in the kitchen, and I make sure my food is always full of flavor and constantly changing. Below are my top ways to eat rice, stick to your budget, and spice up your life!
1.) Cook your rice in broth
You can make your own broth from scratch (which is super easy and cheap), or use bouillon cubes (this is the brand I like to use when in a pinch). No matter which type of rice you use, be it brown, white, long-grain, or instant, cooking it in broth instead of water turns this bland food into something with some flavor.
Nine times out of ten, I cook my rice in broth. It doesn’t matter if it’s to just eat plain as a side dish, or it’s the first step in my recipe. I just find it tastes much more delicious, and if you’re cooking it in homemade broth, it’s also going to give you a few extra nutrients.
2.) Make fried rice
While it sounds like it might be complicated, making fried rice is so very simple. It involves very few ingredients, and it’s a tasty side that the whole family will love. Furthermore, if you add some protein, it can be a main dish.
To start off, the best fried rice is made with leftover rice, though fresh does work too. (And yes, you can totally use that leftover rice you made with broth earlier). The only other required ingredient is soy sauce. Everything else can be mixed and matched.
My standard recipe involves the following:
- 4 cups cooked rice
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1/2 cup peas* (I typically use frozen)
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp oil
*While I absolutely love peas, I know not everyone does. These peas can easily be substituted for corn, onions, carrots, or a combination of all the above.
- Heat a large frying pan on medium heat. As it is heating, scramble the egg in a cup or bowl.
- Once heated, pour the egg into the pan, making it as thin as possible. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the egg is cooked through. Remove it from the pan and set it aside.
- Put the oil in the pan, then add the rice. Cook for 5 -7 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently.
- As the rice is cooking, take the egg you cooked and cut it into small pieces (about the size of a quarter.)
- Add soy sauce, peas, and egg to rice and pan fry for 2 more minutes.
- Remove from heat and serve fresh.
What did I say? Super easy! Feel free to add in whatever leftovers you have on hand.
3.) Make tuna casserole
This is one of the easiest dishes to make. The hardest part of it is boiling the rice. This, I’ll admit, was not always my favorite dish, but like plain rice, it’s really started to grow on me. There are 3 key ingredients, but when you feel like changing it up a little, try adding or swapping some vegetables.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- 6 cups cooked rice
- 2 cans of tuna (I prefer the tuna that is stored in water)
- 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup** (10.5oz/284mL)
**I know not everyone likes mushrooms (myself included), so if you want to swap the soup, both cream of broccoli and cream of celery work just as well.
Now what? Well, here’s the easy part. Put all ingredients in a casserole dish, stir until mixed, and bake at 350 degrees F, for 30 minutes. Serve hot. Yeah, it’s that simple.
I did say that you can spice it up a little by adding some vegetables. Here are some that I like to mix in; mushrooms, onions, celery, peas, corn, and broccoli. Obviously, you can always change it up, but these are my favorite. Both canned and frozen work perfectly, and I recommend half to a full cup of vegetables.
4.) Make taco casserole
This is one of my absolute favorite dishes. I have been cooking it at least once a week for over a couple of years now, and it’s been a hit with everyone who’s tried it.
Ever since I was little, Mexican food and flavors have been my favorite. It was always a staple in my house. Let’s just say, we ate a lot of tacos, enchiladas, and taco salad growing up.
This is my own concoction and spin on it though. It’s another dish that can vary a lot depending on what I have in the house, but I’ll give you the basics.
- 1/2 cup salsa
- 6 cups cooked rice
- 1/4 cup cream cheese melted
- 1 cup cooked ground beef, chicken, or pork. (basically whatever you use as your taco meat)
- 1/2 cup corn
- 1 cup black beans
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional)
Now, make it a masterpiece! Again, this one is super simple. Stir all the ingredients until fully combined, put it in a casserole dish, sprinkle the top with cheese, and bake it at 350 F for 30 minutes. Serve hot.
There are lots of other awesome ways to use rice.
On top of these rice starring recipes, you can add rice to many everyday meals or dishes to spread it just that little bit farther.
- Trying adding uncooked rice to your soups and stews for some extra filling content or in place of potatoes!
- Add it as an extra side dish to any meal you’re already cooking.
- I listed a couple of recipes for casseroles we eat in my house on a regular basis but get creative! Trying coming up with your own casserole! You can use Daisy’s Ultimate Frugal Casserole Formula.for inspiration.
How do you use rice?
What are your favorite ways to serve rice? Share your tastiest ideas in the comments.