7 Ways to Turn Cheap Noodles Into Simple and Delicious Meals



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Transform an inexpensive package of ramen noodles into a wholesome, frugal dish.



Ramen noodles are a staple food for many penny-pinching college students and other frugal folks. And who can blame them? For 10 cents or so, a package of ramen noodles can become a warm, comforting meal. Sure, it's not particularly healthy, but the allure of a super cheap, warm and easy-to-prepare meal is strong. It's the closest you'll get to comfort food for a dime.
The good news is that you can actually transform those noodles into a healthier meal without a ton of additional expense. Here are seven budget-friendly ways to upgrade a basic packet of ramen noodles into something healthier and tastier with minimal extra cost or work.
Toss the flavor packet and use unsalted broth. Rather than using the flavor packet that comes with ramen noodles, toss it out and use unsalted broth or lightly salted broth instead. You can often find containers of broth at a low price at the store, or you can easily make your own from leftovers and scraps. One strategy, for example, is to buy a rotisserie chicken, enjoy the chicken, then take the remaining bits and carcass and cook that in a slow cooker for several hours with enough water to cover the carcass. Save that liquid for an inexpensive soup.
Add mushrooms while cooking. If you have access to inexpensive edible mushrooms, adding a handful of them to ramen noodles while they're cooking adds a wonderful earthy flavor to the meal while bulking it up quite a bit. Mushrooms can stretch one packet of ramen noodles into two meals. Just save the second meal in the fridge and warm it up later. This is a great way to use leftover mushrooms from another meal before they go to waste.
Add some frozen vegetables while cooking. If you have a partially used package of frozen vegetables from another meal, toss in those veggies while the soup is boiling to add some additional flavor and texture and get in a serving of vegetables to boot. Again, this often stretches one packet of ramen noodles into two meals, and you can save the second meal to be reheated later.
Add flavor with a dash of soy sauce. While there are many different flavorings and seasonings one can add to ramen noodles, soy sauce is a particularly simple and inexpensive choice. It only takes a dash or two to add a rich, strong flavor to ramen noodles, adding only a fraction of a penny to the cost while amping up the flavor.
Add some cooked chicken. If you have any leftover chicken, such as some pieces from a rotisserie chicken or bits from another meal, toss them right into the broth as it finishes cooking. If you add it early, it'll fall into tiny pieces. Waiting until near the end of the cooking process preserves larger bites of chicken. This simple move allows you to use leftover chicken effectively, stretching the ramen into a larger dish that might serve two or make for a leftover meal.
Add peanut butter at the end. Rather than seasoning the ramen, one technique is to simply cook the noodles, drain almost all of the water and add a dollop of peanut butter to the cooked noodles, stirring thoroughly. You can toss in a few peanuts as well. This low-cost recipe adds a wonderful peanut flavor to the noodles, transforming it into a totally new dish.
Add an egg. Eggs go really well with ramen noodles in almost any form. You can add a hard-boiled egg to a finished noodle bowl, place a fried or poached egg on top or simply drizzle an egg in the noodles as they're cooking to create a version of egg drop soup. No matter how you do it, adding an inexpensive egg to the noodles boosts the protein level and adds distinct flavor and texture for little cost.
Use angel hair pasta instead of ramen. If you want to grow beyond ramen noodles entirely, particularly if you're concerned about the nutritional quality of the noodles, try cooking angel hair pasta instead. You can simply break up the noodles before cooking them, so the pieces are small, then add flavorings as you're cooking to turn them into a simple and delicious soup. This is a great excuse to stock up on angel hair pasta when you find it on sale.
Rather than thinking of the humble packet of ramen as a complete meal, view it instead as a starting point that can lead you to a wider range of robust dining experiences while still keeping the cost super low.
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