Rice is Nice..And Cheap!

This is a guest post by Pamela Grundy, writer for Personal Finance Analyst. Personal Finance Analyst is an online community of bloggers dedicated to taking the mystery out of money and helping you to live a happier, more successful life with the money you have.

Today at Personal Finance Analyst I was researching the savings benefits (dollar wise) of vegetarianism, and I kept thinking throughout the rest of my day how a large part of the world’s population lives on mostly rice, supplemented by small amounts of other foods. They stay slimmer than Americans and they stay healthier than Americans. They don’t seem to mind rice.

I used to think rice was a grim global reality; as in, here I am eating this wonderful T-bone steak with a pat of real butter and a baked potato with sour cream, and meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, some hungry person is sitting down to a bowl of rice and maybe a little bok choi. I’m so lucky. They are so unfortunate. The world is so unfair.

Then I had the opportunity to ride to the cardiac unit of our regional hospital in ambulance after getting hit with excruciating chest and arm pains that lasted over two hours even after nitro pills. I spent two days in the hospital getting lots of expensive tests of various kinds, and was finally sent home with instructions to follow up with a cardiologist and take it easy. Two weeks later, my sister, who at 45 years old is ten years younger than me, had a near fatal stroke. Jesus.

On my next trip to the grocery store, I found I could barely stomach looking at the meat. It wasn’t just because the two pounds of bratwurst I picked up for a cookout cost me over ten bucks. That was only part of it. It was more the knowledge that I was paying big money to kill myself and my loved ones. What kind of sense does that really make?

Rice is a beautiful food. Low in fat, high in nutritional value and energy, it can be paired with almost anything to make a light, inexpensive meal. It is easy to digest, and comes in myriad varieties with subtle taste differences: red rice, brown rice, jasmine rice, basmati rice, arborio rice. Once a week at my house we eat rice and mushrooms for dinner because we like it. That’s it; just rice and some sauteed button mushrooms. It’s cheap and easy and filling.

Rice is gentle on the digestive system. When people have digestive illnesses, they are often put on a diet of rice, tea, dry toast, and bananas. Even with the recent spike in rice prices worldwide, for Americans it is still a bargain: A ten pound bag of rice costs less than $20, sometimes less than $10, and will feed a family of four for months.

One cup of dry rice makes two cups of cooked rice and it is easy to make. Cover the dry rice with double the measure in water or broth and a tablespoon or so of olive oil or butter. Bring to a boil. Reduce the temperature to simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Brown rice will take closer to 40 minutes. You know the rice is done when you look in the pan and there are holes in the slab of cooked rice. Fluff the rice and serve it with anything, or cool it and eat it later.

Keeping cooked rice on hand in the refrigerator is a great way to use up leftover bits of this and that. (Cooked refrigerated rice will keep in a covered container for about a week.) To use up small amounts of leftover food, stir fry a diced onion and a little garlic in a couple of tablespoons of oil, then add whatever is left in your fridge””veggies, meat, fish””in diced form. Finally, when it all looks hot, add the cold rice with a shake of soy sauce and stir fry until light brown. At the very last minute, push the stir-fried rice mixture to the sides of the pan and break an egg in the center. Let the egg barely set, then cut up the egg into threads with your spatula and distribute throughout the rice.

I like to throw some sliced almonds onto fried rice, and chopped green onions are pretty and good too if you have some. If you have leftover fried rice, put it in beaten eggs with some bean sprouts or shredded cabbage and make pancakes to pass with bottled plum sauce: Instant homemade Egg Fu Yung!

Rice with any kind of beans makes a protein as nutritionally complete as steak at a fraction of the cost. Here the possibilities are endless: red beans and rice, Cuban black beans and rice, refried beans with a side of rice and warm tortillas, rice and bean soup, lima beans with rice and stewed tomatoes, and more. Corn will also make a protein out of rice, so just throwing in some diced red pepper and corn kernels makes a pretty and nutritionally complete food.

I’m not saying you should rush out and exceed your two 100 pound bag limit at Costco tomorrow to prepare for total social breakdown, quit eating meat forever, and start weaving your own hair shirt. That would be excessive and more than a little weird.

I’m just saying, if you are looking to save money, get healthier, get skinnier, and feel better all at once with a minimum of effort, then take a cue from the parts of the world we used to pity and believe me when I tell you this:

Rice is nice!

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Comments (10)

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  1. Amphritrite says:

    You’re absolutely correct. I tend to supplement my rice with meat, instead of making meat the focus of the meal. My favorite recipe lately is to take a leftover packet of ramen seasoning, toss it, the rice water plus about half a cup more of water, rice, and a cup of stew meat into the rice cooker, and let it go at it. The rice comes out flavorful and the meat is cooked! Add mushrooms or asparagus, and you have a full meal.

  2. tiffanie says:

    i even use rice as a breakfast food… just take cooked rice, add some milk, sugar and cinnamon and you’ve got a simple and yummy breakfast (or even as a healthier dessert, since it IS sweet). this works especially nice if you’ve got leftover white rice and don’t know what to do with it! i’ve done this for years…started when I was a little girl and still do it occasionally to this day! you should try it 🙂

  3. […] from My Two Dollars relishes in the benefits and cost effectiveness of incorporating rice into your meals. Cheap and […]

  4. Val says:

    Great post-and a nice reminder. We’ll be enjoying more rice this week!! Thanks 🙂

  5. Erica says:

    You’re right. I’ve started incorporating not just rice but all grains as a main part of my meals. Grains we eat include: rice, couscous, rizotto, and quinoa.

    They’re SO much cheaper than meat and so much better for you. A win-win if you ask me.

  6. Mo says:

    I completely agree with this – but you can save even more by microwave cooking rather than using a hob. A friend shared the secret with me of doing this: Use 1 cup basmati to 1.5 cups water, chuck in a dash of herbs and olive oil, don’t cover, nuke for 20 mins on power level 8, and you’re sorted.

  7. david says:

    Thanks Mo!

  8. you are absolutely right! I think rice was given a bad reputation with the carb craze but it really is fantastic for many reasons. That leftover rice tip saves me so much time too. I’ll have asparagus and lemony rice for dinner tonight!

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