₩118,000 Home Cooking Challenge~*~Day Two


B-whole grain waffles with spiced apple topping, yogurt

L-bean & cheese quesadillas, carrot sticks

D- Char Siu Bao, cabbage & carrots sautéed w/ ginger, garlic, and sesame oil, Szechuan eggplant

Today, I deviated from my intended menu plan a bit as we had leftovers to use up, specifically marinated peaches and fried rice from yesterday. I served the former with the morning waffles and the latter as a quick and easy lunch following our Korean language tutoring session this morning.

After tutoring, we stopped by the basement level food shop in the department store near our apartment and picked up some pork belly for Char Siu Bao filling, several vegetables, and a box of pineapple cookies for tea time snacks. The total cost was ₩18,760, leaving me with ₩99,240 to spend on food between now and Monday, September 7.


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₩118,000 Home Cooking Challenge~*~Day One

The first day of my Challenge involved three pantry meals. My kitchen being as small as it is, my storage spaces are extremely limited, meaning I must use virtually all of the food in my refrigerator, freezer, and produce storage areas before shopping for food again.  As you might imagine, I shop for food, especially fresh items, far more often here in the ROK than I did in the States, but even this frequent shopping trips with a limited number of items still finds me cooking and eating every last bit of food to make room for the next batch.

On the menu~


B- hotteok, marinated peaches (I swapped the liquer for vanilla), yogurt

L- Szechuan vegetable fried rice

D-summer vegetable pajeon with banchan
Two of my go-to “use-it-up” meals are in this menu: savory Korean pancakes and fried rice. Both help you utilize any sort of vegetable, meat, or seafood leftover you happen to have on hand. The fried rice is also ideal for assuring extra rice doesn’t go to waste, especially as you can turn cold, leftover rice into this tasty meal.

One of our side dishes with dinner was chosen as the leftovers make perfect snacks for tomorrow. The tiny sized sweet potatoes you see are steamed and then served as is, either hot or cold, and are quite tasty. I have seen numerous street food vendors offering this perfect snack while walking around lately and thought it a prime time to “embrace the local customs” with this banchan-turned-snack.

I find I learn a lot about local foods simply by observing in this way. The bus we take most often brings us right by a large traditional market near our home and my eyes are always curious to see what market patrons are carrying as they board the bus. Several weeks ago, almost every older person on the bus and walking home from the market was carrying a big bag of garlic. Naturally I had to go check it out myself. Was there a secret garlic custom I didn’t know about? A new recipe to try? A local tradition to look into?

Keeping a curious eye on the traditional markets also affords me opportunity to see what street foods are eaten around the year. The breakfast we enjoyed today is a filled pancake-like dish called hotteok that we discovered in just such a way shortly after our arrival to the ROK. Typically served in the winter, we’ve been missing our sweet hotteok as warmer weather has brought out another feature on today’s menu, the savory pajeon pancake. Yes, I know, a cardinal culinary sin was commited on today’s menu plan. TWO pancake-esque dishes on one day. I didn’t even realize what I had done until I was mixing up the quick and simple pajeon batter while preparing dinner this evening. Oops! Thankfully for me, my family barely noticed and was quite content to eat everything I served up despite my little culinary faux-pas.

Total of my budget spent after day one: ₩0


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₩118,000 Home Cooking Challenge, Menu Plan Week One 

An ambitious kitchen goal demands good planning. After perusing cookbooks, taking an inventory of the goods I already have in my kitchen, and considering what is in season at the local street markets, I put together a tentative menu plan for the first week of my challenge.

Menu Planning for Week Hana 


B- hotteok, marinated peaches, yogurt

L- Szechuan vegetable fried rice

D-summer vegetable pajeon with banchan


B-whole grain waffles with spiced apple topping, yogurt

L-bean & cheese quesadillas, carrot sticks

D- Char Siu Bao, cabbage & carrots sautéed w/ ginger, garlic, and sesame oil, Szechuan eggplant


B-breakfast burritos

L- steamed bulgogi mandu, leftover vegetables from night prior

D-crispy pan fried tofu and vegetable stir fry over quinoa


B- sweet potato bao, seasonal fruit slices, yogurt

L- rice & kimchi with roasted dried seaweed

D-Beijing pulled noodles with sautéed summer vegetable & chicken


B- whole grain waffles with spiced peaches topping, yogurt

L- bean & cheese quesadillas, carrot sticks

D- chicken Phở, vegetable spring rolls, pineapple fried rice


B-overnight oatmeal with marinated peaches

L- “planned-overs” of spring rolls & pineapple fried rice

D- chicken tikka masala, garlic naan, chaat salad


B- breakfast burritos

L- spicy udon

D- bean & veggie tacos, Spanish rice, cabbage slaw

Recipes, pics, and Cooking Challenge tales of woe to come! ;D

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₩118,000 Home Cooking Challenge 

According to the Timehop app, I was ending a pantry challenge at this time of year for the past two years. With a tiny space pantry being my present reality, there is nowhere near enough food stuff in my kitchen for a prior pantry challenge, but a moment of frugal challenge inspiration of another kind has entered my mind.

What if I halve my grocery budget for two weeks and cook all meals* at home? What if I accomplish this task while shopping exclusively “on the economy” and not on post? Can we eat well on just ₩118,000 a week?

Can it be done?

I’m going to try.

The rules:

*Anything already in my kitchen can be used and does not go towards the ₩118,000 figure.

*My husband’s birthday is next week and will find us on an excursion to an amusement park, meaning we will be dining out that day.

*A day trip is planned during this two week time period so we will possibly be dining out in one additional weekend day as well.

*We can buy a treat during Korean tutoring to pay for our “sitting in the offer shop fee.”

*These extras must be frugal minded and will be blogged alongside my own cooking endeavors for this challenge.


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Collapse Now & Avoid the Rush

The economic tremor caused by the Chinese yuan situation has been weighing heavily on my mind this week. I recall quite vividly the last time the world markets were on the eve of a fall. The latter part of 2008 was just that moment. I found myself alone in a small, rather dingy apartment with an almost- two year old child and a husband deployed to the Middle East. We were taking the beginning steps to repairing our financial situation, earnestly paying down debt, and living as frugally as possible to accomplish our goals. The general air of the economic downturn left me a bit frightened, being the first economic crisis I had witnessed in adulthood. 

My fear was not misplaced but allowing it to control my life would have been. Instead, I turned the nervous energy into action, read numerous books on alternative economic theories, and learned a variety of new skills that serve me well to this day. Sourdough bread making, the beginning baby steps of gardening, cooking from scratch, preserving food, and investing in high-quality goods to make my endeavors and general life comfortable with these new self-provisioning and energy-saving choices in mind. All seemed reasonable and natural after two years of breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and organic baby food making. 

As the years ticked on, the economic need for say, thrift store shopping and gardening declined, but my interests only grew. I took up vermicomposting, canned 500+ jars of food every summer, and purchased a grain mill & dehydrator. A clothesline joined the arsenal in my backyard and herbal medicine books came to line my bookshelves. I experimented more in the kitchen, made my own cleaning supplies, and raised a child in a home without television where entertainment was ours to make. Soon I found myself riding a bike with trailer was my primary mode of transportation and owning a tiny capsule wardrobe to get me through my clothing needs. 

Truth be told, one of the appeals of requesting my husband’s Korea assignment was learning to live with less and “make do” in a society different from my home culture. Here I live in a high-rise apartment and learn to conserve home energy in a new way. I have no dishwasher and must wash dishes by hand. The bulk of my laundry I dry in clothing racks. My feet, subways, trains, and buses take me everywhere I need to go. Where my favorite tee shirt once read, “pump tires, not gas,” a current edition would read, “charge transit cards, not electrical assist motors” ha! I cook with different foods and have learned a variety of new cooking techniques. I frequently experiment with Asian cooking techniques and New World ingredients, conjuring up interesting new combinations that speak to the cultural fusion that my life currently is. And near daily I witness first hand how people live with much less than I do and how they, too, have meaningful lives. There is a life outside the American Dream and people enjoy their modes of living just the same as Americans do theirs. It’s a lesson I expected before I arrive but all the more interesting to witness firsthand. 

Some of the latest adaptations in my life came as a result of circumstance. I am back to kneading all of my dough by hand, for example, as my Kitchen Aid mixer was among the kitchen appliances that would not work in my new home, even with the aid of a transformer. More positively, I have been able to live without a/c for much of the summer thanks to crosswinds and living on a floor low enough to avoid the harshest sunshine. Both were new discoveries and corrections to my ignorance, and both demonstrate well the realities of life with less. 

I think about all of these lessons now, as the markets grumble in pain once again, and the situation in my own country continues towards what will likely be the Crisis as predicted in generational theory. Our infrastructure is rotting. The number of children in poverty rises every year. Educational reform has failed to straighten the path of our failing educational system. Living in a world with less, either due to peaking resources or a rising demand from the BRIC nations, remains swept under the rug with everybody in a tizzy to point fingers and pretend that the 2016 election cycle is something other than an amusing circus, funded by the corporate overlords who have bought and paid for our government. It seems their imperative to keep Business As Usual afloat no matter who gets into the White House. 

I realize my last paragraph sounds dark and cynical, but I assure you my mind is in no dark, dreary, conspiracy theory place. Quite the contrary, in fact. Accepting these lessons has proved comforting in its own way and shown me the importance of questioning Business as Usual and the Way We Are Supposed to Live. Living simply and differently has proven enriching to me, not only in my bank account, but in my general life. It’s empowering to know I can feed my family well on little and that I possess the physical strength to pedal my bike plus 100+ of child and cargo up a daunting hill. It’s a good feeling to be entering year #6 of homeschooling and having a child who is old enough for some of the fruits of my labors to be blossoming, bit by bit. Knowing that change isn’t scary, that it can bring some different but better, is a beautiful bit of knowledge. It makes me feel cautiously optimistic. Come financial crisis or whatever, we can have a good, noble, beautiful life if only anxiety and fear can be channeled into positive avenues and used for good.

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