Frugal Foodie: Orange chicken

Cooking on a college budget

September 25, 2017


Mackenzie Webb

An easy recipe for orange chicken is sure to satisfy takeout cravings.

Coming from a big family, most of my fondest memories revolve around being in the kitchen, laughing, chatting and gossiping while preparing a meal. Cooking has always been a huge part of my life and something I enjoy doing. Few things are more rewarding to me than sharing a meal I prepared with others, from my parents to my extended family or even my roommates here at school.

However, cooking is also a practical matter, too. Learning to cook can teach you plenty of life skills like planning, prioritizing and multitasking. It is not only healthier for your body, but healthier for your wallet. Cooking at home is far less expensive than eating out or buying prepared foods from the grocery store.

Since we are all college students on a budget, saving money is important. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality. In this series, I will be sharing with you some of the meals I make in my apartment for myself and my three roommates, that not only taste good but save money as well.


Orange Chicken

3 chicken breasts
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 brown sugar
Frozen broccoli
Brown rice


Total cost: $14.05

Portions: 6

Cost per portion: $2.35

I think most people would agree that Chinese takeout-style orange chicken is a universal guilty pleasure. Though it’s probably not the healthiest of foods, we crave it just the same. Well, crave no more! Here is a quick and healthier version you can make at home.

Step 1: Set a pot of water on the stove to boil. Once it is boiling, add the rice. My roommates and I used “boil in a bag” rice because it’s faster to cook than regular rice (though regular rice is cheaper). Follow the package directions.

Step 2: Dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper, then dust about ½ cup of cornstarch over them. Toss the chicken pieces around until they are coated.

Step 3: Heat up a skillet, on medium heat with a splash of olive oil. Drop the chicken into the pan and toss occasionally until the pieces are a little brown and cooked through — about 10 minutes.

Step 4: While the chicken is cooking, make the orange sauce. In a bowl, mix together the orange juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, vinegar and a teaspoon of cornstarch. And, of course, a pinch of salt and pepper.

Step 5: When the chicken is cooked through, pour in the sauce. It will be thin at first, but once it starts to heat up it will thicken quickly.

Step 6: This is a good time to cook the broccoli. You can use the same boiling water that you cooked the rice in for fewer dishes to clean later. Boil the broccoli for five to 10 minutes and drain once it’s tender.

Now it’s all done! Serve yourself a helping of chicken, rice and broccoli. It’s just like the chicken from the food court, but better.

This meal is totally customizable as well. If you like heat, add more red pepper flakes. If you like more of a tangier taste, add more vinegar. Any way you like it, you can have it.

Email Mackenzie at [email protected].

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