Financial Friday (on Sunday): Save Money By Cooking from Scratch

This post was inspired after one of my readers, Adele Flannery, praised Jamie's Food Revolution cookbook in the comment section of this post.  Since this month we are trying to cut back on restaurant expenses, I took her advise and bought the book. I'm so affected by my readers comments and money saving tips! Thanks Adele! Great suggestion!

I adore the concept of Jamie's Food Revolution. It's made for people like me who never cook. It's basic with a capital B. In the introduction, Jamie suggests mastering one recipe from each chapter and then passing it on. It seems like a manageable goal. Here's my first attempt of passing it on (without breaking any copyright laws!) Below is an adapted version his Asian Chicken Noodle Broth from Chapter 1 entitled "20 Minute Meals".

The first time I tried his recipe, it took me 38 minutes, I burned the mixed seeds, and over cooked the veggies. The second time I made it, I made some changes, felt more comfortable with the recipe, and it took me around 30 minutes. Both times, the soup was delicious.

The problem I found with Jamie's cookbook is that he doesn't do lot of prep work and expects us to do a lot of multitasking to save time. For example, he'll write: While the chicken is cooking, peal and slice the ginger and slice your chili . . .  

I don't know about you, but while my chicken's cooking, Oscar is screaming about my computer freezing, Ella's asking me to sharpen her pencil, and Owen is crying about a paper cut. I need to have all my food prepped and ready to go before I start cooking, just in case all hell breaks loose. If I don't, I'll end up burning something. If I find myself twiddling my fingers with nothing to do while my chicken is cooking, I can always load the dishwasher or drag a kid in time out or attempt to prop style my ingredients (below! ha). I'll find something to do, Jamie, trust me.

Things I've changed from his recipe:
I replaced the asparagus with shittake mushrooms, chicken with shrimp, and soy sauce with double fermented soy sauce. I also eliminated the baby corn and green chili. For ease, I doubled the recipe because his only serves 2. I also tried to simplify his directions into categories. My brain works better that way. His directions are lumped into 2 giant paragraphs, and I found myself getting lost.  I hope that's enough changes to post this recipe on my blog. If not, print it out now before Jamie personally comes after me. It's really that good. Restaurant quality! Enjoy while you can!

Asian Noodle Shrimp Soup
adapted from Jamie's Food Revolution
serves 4

2 small handfuls of raw cashew nuts
2 tablespoons mixed seeds (pumpkin, sesame, poppy, sunflower)
2 quarts chicken broth
1 lb large uncooked peeled shrimp
4 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
olive oil
2 thumb-size pieces of fresh ginger root, sliced thin
4 ounces rice sticks
2 handfuls of snow peas
2 handfuls shitake mushrooms, sliced thin
juice of 2 limes
4 tbs double fermented soy sauce (or regular, whatever the store has)
2 small handfuls of spinach leaves

Throw cashews and seeds into a frying pan. Turn heat to medium. Toast lightly while the pan is heating up.  Remove contents from pan and set it aside.
THE BROTH (part 1):
Heat the chicken broth into a large pot on high heat.
While the broth is heating up, toss shrimp with five-spice powder and a reasonable amount of salt and pepper. Heat up one or two tbsp olive oil in frying pan. Cook shrimp. Set aside.
THE BROTH (part 2):
Throw in sliced ginger root, snow peas, sliced mushrooms, lime juice, and soy sauce. Cook until veggies and noodles are done.
Put a few spinach leaves on the bottom of a bowl, add soup, places shrimp on top, and sprinkle with toasted nuts and seeds.

Wow. I have a new respect for food bloggers and cookbook writers. It's harder than it looks. This post has taken me forever to write! Hope you like it because I might never do a recipe post again.  :)


  1. This recipe looks delicious, thank you for sharing!

    My husband and I participated in a challenge where we could only eat out one meal a week, for six weeks. One of the things that helped us get through is Real Simple's meals for a month. They have the shopping lists for each week on their website, and they are really yummy recipes. The best part is that shopping for each week only cost about $120. It's one of the best things that has happened to our food budget!


  2. This looks SO SO SO delicious!!

    Thinking I'll have to try this over the weekend!!



  3. I remembered this recipe while I was at the corner grocery this afternoon. Working off memory as inspiration I bought what I thought I needed and just whipped it up. I made mine vegetarian and used tofu instead of shrimp and water with a vegan bouillon cube instead of chicken stock. It took about half and hour and is totally wonderful. Thanks for posting!

  4. Sharon! I'm so happy you gave Jamie's cookbook a try! I promise, once you get 2-3 recipes down you'll understand the logic of the recipes and it will get a whole lot more intuitive. His curries are amazing (the Rogan Josh is my fav). I stock up on homemade curry pastes now because of him! Beautiful food post, I hope you do more when you feel up for it! :D

    Your post has inspired me in return! Maybe someday I'll a recipe or two up on my own little bloggy adeleflannery.tumblr.com

  5. Are you kidding? Having three kids and still making supper is gold star material. I'm a food blogger and I struggle every time to draw my recipe before I eat it all! Can't imagine restraining hungry children :)

    Enjoy Jamie's revolution - and Happy Pancake Day!

  6. Hi, I love this! (not the soup, though I'm sure it's great) but its like having a little money saving kick in the butt, in a really good way. I brought a book off amazon just before Christmas about budgeting and saving money, many Of the reviewers have the book a bad wrap because they said it implied the readers were stupid and the whole book was just common sence, well when it comes to mindless spending, maybe I am/ was stupid. Because the simple things really helped, the first step, was write a budget, and also make note of every thing u spend that week, also to Pay any bills that came in that week on Payday, the other tip I've found really helpful was to start a spendings account, to save fOr short term goals, today after 4 months we've paid an extra $4000 of our debt, and just brought my husband a new computer he's been needing for a long time, for the first time in a long time I don't feel broke all the time, Most important thing I've noticed, kind of like dieting, it's all about creating new habits and having really crap binge weeks, we're I realize I've spent stupidly, and have no

  7. Great pictures!

    As a young professional on a budget in NYC, I often have to stretch my pennies as far as they'll go. I've become a big fan of a certain cherry-tomato-and-ravioli soup recipe by Rachel Ray. Also, anything in a slow cooker is golden!


  8. I will have to try this recipe this week, looks so good.

  9. Ooooo! Looks so yummy. We have been on a Thai food kick lately...We grew these tiny little red Thai chilies in our garden last summer and dried them in the dehydrator. You only need one- BAM!- They make whatever we're cooking instantly spicy and Thai-ish. Spicy food is so comforting and filling on a cold winter night. :)

    Enjoy your cooking from scratch mission! Preparing food for your family is such a labor of love- a meaningful and healthful way to express love. ♥

  10. Totally agree with this. Especially the rice!

  11. Great pictures- that looks soooo good! It seems like after I buy all of the ingredients I end up spending more. I guess it's an upfront investment if you plan on making the same recipe more than once. I think it's brave of you to substitute ingredients. It always makes me nervous to do that. I've had good luck with Paula Deen recipes.

  12. This looks delicious, but a tricky intro to cooking at home. I love Mr. Oliver though. The America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Meals book is great, as is their One Skillet Meals book. And they don't expect you to multitask so much!

  13. That looks great! I feel like every time I try to make Asian food, it never tastes as good as restaurant quality. Maybe you just have to get the right combination of spices!

  14. Love your comment at the end! The photos look great - makes me hungry - and I have that book of Jamie's - so even if it did take a long time to write up this post, it was totally worth it :)

  15. You go girl! So true about multi-tasking. Now with a baby it takes me several hours (on and off) before cooking to get all the ingredients prepped for something like stir-fry.

  16. Looks delish! Great job.
    A budget tip - get cookbooks from the library rather than buy them. If you really like a recipe write it on a pretty index card and save it.

  17. ugh, TEND not tent ;)

  18. Ok that looks delish, I am inspired to try it! I have this cookbook and I do love it but i'm not a very brave chef and tent to stick with what I know. The sweet and sour pork is a huge hit around here, even with my 2 year old. I am the biggest nerd in the kitchen and it takes me FOREVER to chop veggies. I have to prep everything or it goes south very quickly, especially the 1st time I make something. I also give myself double the allotted time. Who are these super fast choppers?

  19. We use this cookbook weekly! It's so well used that it's practically falling apart now! The multi-tasking thing Jamie O expects is fairly overwhelming, especially the first time you make the recipe. However, after you have made one of the recipes repeatedly you start to get the hang of it and it gets easier, thank goodness!

  20. just pinned this to try this week!

  21. I like that cookbook. The post roast meatloaf if my favorite recipe! I agree with you, though, that it's better to prep ahead of cooking, and that the long paragraphs of directions are hard to follow. This soup looks fantastic!

  22. Looks yummy! We'll have to try this. A budget tip... save even more by making your own broth. We do veggie broth and just use that for everything - it's F-R-E-E since we make it with what would otherwise be waste. I'm planning to blog about it this week... pictures are all taken, maybe I'll manage to get that post up today!

  23. I have Jamie's Great Britain which is written the same way and I have to read through the recipes multiple times before I start and then do the same as you with the breaking it up. All the ones I have cooked have been worth it though!

    Also I do some recipe reviews on my blog which are aimed mainly at budget cooking, since we are on one income I also try to make things stretch from dinner into a lunch if you want to check it out!

  24. It looks delicious! I'm going to have to try it. And maybe take a look at the book too. I always get a little put off wen books are made for people who don't cook, because I do love to cook, but the truth is I hardly ever cook from recipes, just throw stuff together, so maybe that counts me as more of a novice in the cookbook department. Anyway, thanks for the recommendation and for this amazing post!


  25. So true about the expectation to multi-task from cookbooks! I have learned the hard way many of times. What probably takes a chef less than a minute takes me ... ten. I have ended up burning countless things. So now I try to chop everything before - oh, and read the recipe before I cook :)

  26. We're vegetarians who only eat organic...and we live in a town of 30,000 with more than 9 dairies. We're so outnumbered here that some restaurants don't even offer one item without meat, and not a one of them offer an organic meal. Yeah, we cook from scratch a LOT.

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