11 surprising cheap meals you can make at this famous Japanese convenience store chain.

Cheap eats abound in Japan, and to prove it, our team of Japanese-language reporters has been eating out at various places, seeing what types of meals they can put together for 1,000 yen (US$7.25) each.

This week, the team headed out to 7-Eleven, one of the country’s top convenience store chains, where they came up with 11 different meal combinations, giving each one a name and putting it forth as their suggestion for the best use of their limited funds.

So let’s take a look at each budget meal below, keeping in mind that maximising the full potential of 1,000 yen is one of the goals, and going even one yen over budget would result in immediate disqualification.

P.K. Sanjun’s Adult’s Chinese Children’s Lunch Set” (977 yen)

● Fried Rice (149 yen)
● Pepper Steak (321 yen)
● Onion Salad (138 yen)
● Stir-fried Chinese Pickles (149 yen)
● Fried Chicken (220 yen)

Taking inspiration from a children’s lunch he once saw, P.K. originally wanted to add noodles as the main ingredient but that would’ve taken him over budget so he opted for fried rice and chicken instead.

“Doesn’t it look like something you’d eat at a really fancy cafe?”

P.K. did do a good job of making this meal look fantastic, and when he tasted it he was mighty pleased — not only does it contain a good mix of ingredients, including lots of meat and vegetables, but it was tasty and filling as well!

Yoshio’s “Highly Acclaimed by Office Workers! Cold & Warm Full Stomach Set” (995 yen)

● Cold Ramen with Bean Sprouts, Green Onion, Pork and Salt (594 yen)
● Plums & Hijiki Seaweed Rice Ball (151 yen)
● Mushrooms & Fried Tofu Rice Ball (140 yen)
● Hot Coffee (110 yen)

“It’s getting hotter, so I chose cold ramen as the main dish. I can’t say it’s super good, but it’s good, 7-Eleven quality. However, ramen alone probably won’t fill you up, so two rice balls complete the meal nicely.”

Yoshio’s aim with this selection is to provide the body with a good balance between hot and cold dishes to keep the yin and yang in check. With a cup of hot coffee to finish, Yoshio believes this is a particularly good option for office workers wanting to maintain their energy levels throughout the day.

Takashi Harada’s “Happiness Carbohydrate Bomb with a Touch of Conscience Set” (980 yen)

● 7 Premium Rich Dipping Noodles (516 yen)
● Arabiki Sausage Rice Ball (183 yen)
● Vegetable Sticks with Koji Miso Mayonnaise (280 yen)

“When I think of 7-Eleven, I think of these tsukemen (dipping noodles) supervised by the chef at the Chuka Soba Tomita restaurant. At over 500 yen, the noodles are pricey, but they weigh in at 400 grams (14 ounces) so it’s worth it. When you follow it up with the Arabiki sausage rice ball, you’ll be in carb heaven!”

If you’ve been following our foodie stories recently, you may have noticed that Harada has been attempting to curb carbs in his battle against the bulge, so carb-heavy foods are constantly weighing on his mind. But hey, when you include a tub of veggie sticks with your meal, it’s okay to splurge every now and then…right?

Yuuichiro Wasai’s “Zero Washing-up Zero Guilt ‘Ideal Little Drink’ Set” (968 yen)

● Grilled Pork Meatballs (235 yen)
● Octopus, Broccoli & Basil Salad (280 yen)
● Tuna Sushi Roll with Soy Sauce (221 yen)
● Kirin Ichiban Shibori Zero Sugar (231 yen)

“It’s not well known, but 7-Eleven’s meatballs are actually high-quality. They have chicken meatballs too, but the richness of pork goes well with beer, and it’s lower in calories than the chicken.” 

Though the meatballs are the star of the show here, the salad plays a great supporting role in providing some freshness to the mix. Enjoying bites of each in between sips of beer makes for a great after-work meal, especially when finished off with the luxurious hand-rolled sushi to fill your stomach at the end. Plus, with no washing up afterwards, this is Yuuichiro’s favourite type of quick and easy senbero (literally “1,000 drunk”, the term given to a 1,000-yen food-and-drink session that gets you drunk).

Ahiruneko’s “Midnight…The Immoral 7-Eleven Drinking Set” (998 yen)

● Fried Chicken Skewer (180 yen)
● 7 Premium The Brew (136 yen)
● 7 Premium Clear Cooler Sicilian Lemon 500ml (168 yen)
● 7 Premium Smoked Beef Tongue (237 yen)
● 7 Premium Monja Snack with Sauce (127 yen)
● 7 Premium Curry Noodles (149 yen)

“When you see the bright lights of a convenience store late at night, you might be tempted to pick up some supplies for a nightcap at home. When that happens to me, I like to pair my beverages with cheap junk food and snacks, especially the hot snacks next to the cash register like fried chicken skewers.”

With a total of six items on the table, and scraping it all in with just two yen to spare, Ahiruneko did a sterling job of hitting the brief on this assignment. That should come as no surprise, really, seeing as Ahiruneko has perfected his 7-Eleven senbero game over the years, relying on items like the smoked beef tongue and tasty monja snacks for their great taste and value for money.

Seiji Nakazawa’s “Naughty 7 Premium Party Set” (974 yen)

● 7 Premium Sumire Fried Rice (300 yen)
● 7 Premium Spaghetti Bolognese (257 yen)
● 7 Premium Macaroni Gratin (278 yen)
● 7 Premium Soft Boiled Egg (138 yen)

“There was a time when I used to think that spending 1,000 yen at 7-Eleven wouldn’t fill me up, but these meals are large and delicious. The egg adds a boost of protein for an even more filling meal that’ll take you to the extreme side of fullness!”

These heat-and-eat meals definitely won’t disappoint, especially with the fried rice being produced under the supervision of Sumire, a popular ramen restaurant in Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital city. With no regard for balance or health in terms of vegetable components, this is a very naughty set that’s like a party for your taste buds, and it sent Seiji to carb heaven, where Takashi was waiting for him.

Mariko Ohanabatake’s “Korean-style cafe at 7-Eleven — I Made Injeolmi Toast” (930 yen)

● Bibimbap-style Grilled Rice Ball (235 yen)
● Beef Bone Soup with Beef, Glass Noodles & Green Onion (378 yen)
● Rice Cakes with Brown Sugar Syrup (181 yen)
● Bread (105 yen)
● Brown Sugar Syrup (30 yen)

“Actually, 7-Eleven has a lot of Korean options these days! The highlight for me is the frozen bibimbap-style grilled rice ball, which I love as it’s cheap, spicy and delicious. The soup pairs well with it as it has a more mellow flavour, and I added the rice cakes to my selection so I could make Injeolmi Toast, which is curretly popular among young girls.”

Ohanabatake’s selection is a very stylish one that reflects the popular tastes of the younger generation. The toast turned out to be particularly delicious, made simply by adding the warmed rice cakes in between two slices of buttered toast and drizzling it with the brown sugar syrup. Ohanabatake says this meal is so good it’ll make you feel like you’ve jetted off to South Korea.

Mr Sato’s “Health Set That Satisfies Both Taste and Fillingness” (922 yen)

● Octopus, Broccoli & Basil Salad (280 yen)
● Chinese Cabbage, Vegetables, Sesame, Chilli & Garlic (194 yen)
● 7 Premium Sugar 0g Carbohydrates Low Calorie Konjac Noodles (213 yen)
● 7 Premium Salad Chicken with Herbs (235 yen)

“I shop at 7-Eleven quite often and find it useful because there are a lot of things I can eat even if I’m on a diet. There are a wide variety of small delicatessen-style packs that keep me from getting bored, and this time, I chose a satisfying and healthy selection that doesn’t compromise on taste or texture.”

▼ “You can be full while limiting calories and sugar!”

In recent years, our food-loving Mr Sato has been cutting down on his penchant for massive meals, keeping trim with a more health-conscious diet amid twirls on the dance pole as he approaches his 50th birthday next year. Still, he assures us that his healthy 7-Eleven meal delivers bagfuls of flavour, and highly recommends it to anyone else watching their calories on a budget.

Masanuki Sunakoma’s “The Taste May Change Depending on the Result of the Game” (970 yen)

● Beef, Garlic & Vegetables (702 yen)
● Miso Soup with Green Onions (108 yen)
● Nikkan Sports (160 yen)

▼ Yes, Masanuki has included a copy of a sports newspaper with his meal recommendation. That’s how he rolls.

“If you’ve never had this rice bowl topped with beef, garlic and vegetables, you really need to try it! It’s one of 7-Eleven’s representative dishes, and it’s filled with beef and garlic. I’ve always found it to be delicious, but when I ate it while reading the paper, the flavour wasn’t as great because I saw that the baseball team I support, the Yokohama BayStars, lost their latest game.”

“It would’ve tasted five times better if they’d won!”  

Go Hatori’s “7-Eleven’s Most Delicious Set” (989 yen)

● Shrimp Gratin with White Sauce (496 yen)
● Ham and Cheese Burrito (259 yen)
● Custard Whipped Cream Puff (149 yen)
● 7 Premium 100 Percent Apple Juice (84 yen)

“Do you want to know what the most delicious thing is at 7-Eleven? It’s the gratin. And out of the gratin, the shrimp gratin, with its plump shrimp, are the absolute best.” 

Adding a burrito that he likes to eat every now and then — the ham and cheese variety is the best, he assures us — and a massive cream puff and a pack of fruit juice, Go believes there’s no greater luxury at 7-Eleven than this selection.

He tells us that the gratin is so good it tastes like something you’d get in a restaurant, and highly recommends it to those wanting a taste of convenience store luxury.

Ikuna Kamezawa’s “Easy at the Office! Giga Cheese Doria” (954 yen)

● Rice Gratin with Beef & White Sauce (345 yen)
● 7 Premium Cheese Slices (224 yen)
● 7 Premium Bolognese Sauce (213 yen)
● 7 Premium Hamburg Steak with Cheese (170 yen)

“I’ve been dieting recently, but sometimes I get depressed and gain weight if I don’t eat what I like. At those times, there’s nothing for it but doria. If you want to have it, you should go all out with it, so I buy a gratin and add layers of cheese, meat sauce, and hamburg steak to it to create what I like to call a ‘Giga Doria'”.

As someone who likes to have a nice charred crust on her melted cheese, Ikuna uses a toaster oven to heat her meal, but if you’re rushed for time you can simply heat it in the microwave. As for all the calories this sumptuous meal might contain, Ikuna simply says that cheese and meat aren’t entirely bad for you, so you don’t have to feel too guilty with this as a meal every now and then.

So there you have it — 11 different meals you can enjoy for less than 1,000 yen each at 7-Eleven, as recommended by our Japanese experts. Some options are healthy, some are fun, and others are downright decadent. Which ones appealed to you? Let us know in the comments below!

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