Saturday, September 3, 2016

You're Broke, You're Hungry, You Gotta Eat

We've all overstayed our welcome at the Hunger Hotel at some point in our lives (probably college eh) where room service gave you a choice between water, toothpaste, and hunger... But it doesn't have to be so bad. 

It probably also goes without saying that you've only experienced it because of bad management of your fickle monetary figures. Be it splurging for a case of PBR, or getting an order of deliciously horrendous inedible-garbage-Americans-mass-consume-to-trick-themselves-into-thinking-they're-culturally-diverse General Tso's Chicken - aka the Devil's Chicken.

I'll admit, I've had my fair share of DC when I first came to the United States for college. It was new, it was interesting, it was something different and I welcomed it. However, after a while, I came to realise just how unhealthy a simple serving of DC is. It contains significantly more sodium (~40%) and over 50% of an average adult's daily caloric intake. Some of you are now thinking "but it's served with Broccoli! It can't be that unhealthy!" And if this is the case, you tell me if smoking a pack of cigarettes, a day with a side of broccoli neutralises the toxicity of fags. Surprise surprise, it doesn't.

Typically, I don't like getting my noses into other people's business... But having lived with my current overweight housemates for as long as I have, and seeing them both stuff their faces with takeout every single day without fail with food the likes of DC, I have to get the word out there that good food can be prepared by failing college students suffocating from debt that cost less than an order of the Devil's Chicken. So here goes…

I kid. You think I’m going to tell you how to cook “cheap good food” when you don’t even know how to shop cheaply? I know you think you know how to shop for cheap food, but you really don’t. Okay, maybe some of you might, but most of you won’t. I certainly didn’t at first, and it’s been a long hard process but I eventually got there. So here goes…


Wait, before I do go on, I should probably go into a little background myself for credibility’s sake. Nah fuck that. You’re just going to have to take an online stranger’s word for it. Onwards to cheapness!

Okay okay, seriously. When you're purchasing all these things, always go for the option that costs the least per pound. It should always be written somewhere on the price tag. Now I'm done. 


First thing’s first, scour your local area for a good cheap grocery store. Not stores like Giant, Acme, and Trader Joe’s, but more along the lines of Shop ‘n’ Bag, Aldi, and even Walmart. My go-to store is Shop ‘n’ Bag simply because they have quality fresh produce along with a decent selection of culturally diverse ingredients. But, don’t fret if there isn’t one near you, you won’t fail that difficult class, probably.

So after you’ve picked out your location, it’s time to get in there and look for the ingredients that will become your food. One crucial mindset when shopping is to not shop for ingredients you need for something you want to eat, but more of buying cheap ingredients and getting creative and catering a recipe to those ingredients. For the sake of sanity, I will only include salt, sugar, and pepper in this guide and no future guides. 

Here are some basic necessities that you must have in your kitchen, in no particular order: 

  1. Dried beans
    • I say dried instead of the canned wet stuff because you just get so much more beang for your buck. All you gotta do is soak it in water overnight and then HEY I HAVE SO MANY BEANS THIS IS GREAT. 
    • Doesn't matter what kind, and if you've never had many different beans before, don't be afraid to experiment a little. My favourite is probably the garbanzo bean, or more commonly known as the chickpea. 
  2. Spices
    • Salt (see the sea for some scrumptious sodium)
    • Sugar (white or brown as long as it's granulated)
    • Pepper (pepper grinder with multiple coarseness settings)

    • Italian seasonings (individually, or premixed if you want, but it's cheaper to buy individually):
      • Basil
      • Parsley
      • Oregano
      • Thyme
      • Rosemary
    • Crushed red pepper (steal it from your local pizzeria)
    • Paprika (optional)
    • Cayenne pepper (optional)
    • Cajun seasonings (optional)
  3. Flour
    • Crucial for turning your meat drippings into a delicious gravy with roux. 
  4. Rice
    • Definitely buy this one in bulk. A large bag will last you a long time. And it's the perfect food for when you want 2000 of something. 
  5. Ramen
    • Not the crap in the cups, get a large box or bag of it instead of single packets. Sure the single packets seem cheap, but the costs add up after a while. And it's okay to buy the cheapest of ramen for this because you're not going to just be boiling it with the seasonings. You're going to flair it up with other ingredients I'm going to get you to purchase. 
  6. Pasta
    • Some packets of the cheapest spaghetti or penne depending on your preference. It's amazing how cheap you can make yourself a restaurant worthy Alfredo or Carbonara sauce at home to go with the pasta of your choice. 
  7. Onions
    • Same rule as potatoes.
  8. Garlic
    • Either get a plastic tube thing of unpeeled garlic if you don't expect to use garlic in a lot of your food. Or get a large tub of peeled garlic if you're a garlic lover like me. 
  9. Eggs
    • Not much to say here, except get the cheapest. They're all pretty much the same anyways. 
  10. Oil
    • Olive: Good for salads and garlic bread; low heat only. 
    • Canola: Good for everything else; high heat capable. 
  11. Butter
    • Kerrigold is expensive, but I'm willing to splurge a little because of how damn amazing it is. 
  12. Broths
    • Chicken broth powder is great for adding depth to flavour, and cheap.
    • Beef broth cubes also good for depth and certain ramen broths.
  13. White vinegar
    • A large plastic bottle of the stuff is great for making your own pickles. Also great when used for cleaning. 
So there it is, and remember. to always buy the item that costs the least per pound, even if it's more expensive than another brand. Why? Simply because it only means you're getting more of what it is you're buying

Congratulations! You've just taken your first step towards eating cheaply and more healthily!

Anyways, that's all from me today. 

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