AdviceEat & Drink

Cheap Food that Fills You Up

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Heart-to-heart time: One of the hardest money-related problems I seem to have is feeding myself on a consistent basis. An occasional FREE meal I can win and FREE fruits and veggies is an exciting development, but eating every day is hard to figure out. The easiest and most delicious solution so far is my Vietnamese sandwich addiction, but at $4 a pop, even if it’s the only thing I eat all day, I just can’t afford it. Plus, I am absolutely sure the guy who runs the store is judging me for my pajama-like attire, obvious drooling while he makes my sandwich, and my complete lack of ability to hide the fact that he’s the only real life social interaction I’ll have all day. With all the stress I’ve got going on right now, the judge-y eyes are just too much when all I want is sandwich. And a hug.

But the grocery store, where apparently all the food lives, is a complete trap. You shouldn’t go shopping if you are hungry, but if you are rubbing two pennies together, you are pretty much hungry all time. Much like when shopping at Target, some type of monster takes over me and suddenly I find myself lugging sacks of groceries home–paid with a magic plastic card–and filled with the randomest assortment of food that never quite makes a meal. And my stomach growls bewilderingly as I unpack jars of kimchi, beets, honey and V-8 juice. Perfect. Guaranteed the next day you’ll find me sheepishly handing the sandwich guy quarters I found in the couch and hoping he doesn’t notice the sharpie artwork I drew all over my arm while I was staring at my computer hoping to miraculously have some stranger offer me a job while trouncing them in Facebook scrabble.

To assuage the rumbly in your tumbly, I present some cheap food advice gathered for your broke-ass needs:

  • Homemade hummus. It does involve a blender though. I don’t have one.
  • Poor Man’s Pizza: bread, spaghetti sauce, cheese slices. Toast it all up nice and toasty.
  • Hardboiled eggs.
  • Rice, frozen veggies, and any type of sauce.
  • Tuna in a can, add whatever you can.
  • Explore the crazy world of  TVP.
  • Legume and Carb it up. E.g., Lentils, beans and brown rice, box of pasta and pasta sauce.
  • Mix wheat gluten with water and bake in the oven for 45 min. Cut it into slices and boil, adding whatever spices you want. After about an hour, add in 'œa shit ton of nutritional yeast and a bit more water.' Apparently, this is now a good-for-you soup. I’d add a 'œshit ton' to spices too. (thanks(?), bob)
  • If you have a bread maker, make your own pizza dough and top with whatever you can scrounge up. I’d suggest not the chip crumbs you find in the pantry. But, whatever.

Other advice: bar specials are your friends, spices make cardboard taste better, drink lots of water and tea, make popcorn on the stove, host potlucks ala Andrew style, dumpster diving, fast food meal deals.

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For those who can follow a recipe, these websites seem to be A-OK: Cheap Cooking and Cheap Healthy Good. The latter has a price per serving breakdown. And they both fall into the category of 'œrecipes you wouldn’t be embarrassed to serve a guest' unlike any recipe involving stolen ketchup packets and pasta.

When entering the dangerous world of endless aisles of food, here are some shopping tips and a basic shopping list.

And because the internet is full of people who love to tell you what to do know everything, here are some metafilter threads with some actually really helpful tips, if you aren’t too hungry to read.

A final caveat though: while I was writing this I stole a banana from my roommate and fantasized about a certain sandwich. Fuck. I wonder what food they give you at the museum. I probably shouldn’t be the one writing this. Anyone else have advice for hungry sad sacks like me?

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Jessica Longo - Two-Bit Reporter

Jessica Longo - Two-Bit Reporter

Jessica was born, moved around a lot and has an odd dialect to prove it (see: hella, bubbler, and cawfee), and is now precariously settled in SF. Despite graduating high school too many years ago to count, she was crowned Prom Queen this summer and considers her life complete now. Last year her production editing job was outsourced to the Philippines. Hope they like it. Luckily for you, this Lady of Leisure is currently accepting applications for the position of Wealthy Benefactor.

2 Comments

  1. August 7, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Safeway will have a great deal on rice-a-roni / pasta-roni every few months. Each box will be $0.89!!! Toss in some frozen veggies or my personal favey —-> salsa, chicken (can even be left over mc donalds nuggets) and enjoy! You can roll it up in a tortilla if you want. Very filling!!!

  2. Jessica Longo - Two-Bit Reporter
    August 9, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Nice. I’m trying to think of something clever to say about rice-a-roni being the San Francisco treat, but uh.. yeah; I got nothing. But I’ll have to watch out for those deals.