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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Eating on a Budget!

After more than 7 years of living on a student budget (read: living off of loans), I have learned some tricks on how to eat cheaply--and continue to eat well. I compiled a list of some things that have worked for me, but note that they may not work for everyone because it is based on my food preferences and available stores and markets...

1. A quick note on where I shop:
COSTCO: there are some *goooood* deals at Costco if you can avoid all the impulse purchases.
WHOLE FOODS: some items are surprisingly cheap. and some are worth the expense. best selection. best quality.
TRADER JOE'S: words cannot adequately express my love for Trader Joe's and their creative and inexpensive products.
FARMERS MARKETS: I buy all produce fresh and local. its inexpensive and what I buy mirrors what is in season.
SPECIALTY STORES: there are many ethic grocers out there who carry amazing authentic items (often imported).

2. One "food adventure" of mine is that I regularly purchase one unfamiliar ingredient or item that I have no clue what to do with and then I go find out how to use it and what I can make with it by looking online, asking friends, reading books, or even asking someone who works at the grocer where I bought the strange item. try it! (my last purchase was pomegrante molasses, which is common in middle eastern food...more to come on what I did with it later...)

3. Bread goes stale quickly. I freeze sections of bread for when I am unable to get fresh bread.

4. I eat about 90% vegetarian so i dont spend money on meat. you'd be shocked at how much $$$ you save. vegetables are cheap. and delicious.

5. I avoid buying produce in commercial supermarkets because it is usually more expensive with lesser quality. find your local farmers market!!

6. Rice. Especially if you can buy it in bulk at an asian grocery. Everyone in Hawaii uses Calrose rice so the supermarkets carry 20-pound bags that often sell for less than $5.00.

7. Try making your own stock and then freezing it rather than buying canned stock (dont forget to label how many cups you made and leave room in air-tight container for liquid to expand!). Boullion cubes are okay too (but many fancy restaurant chefs would cringe at the thought of that...and if you dont think you can tell the difference, try making risotto...).

8. I do not drink soda. Instead I drink 100% juice or I make iced tea. Tea is ridiculously inexpensive and, because I am a tea fanatic, I usually have about 40 different flavors on hand...

9. I purchase non-refrigerated Organic soymilk from Costco--12 cartons last a long time and it works out to be around 80 cents each box.

10. Lentils and split peas. it is easy to see how many cultures consider lentil a staple food. It is cheap, has a very long shelf life and you can make lots of things with them (even if all you have around is an onion and spices).

11. Oatmeal is the cheapest food I can think of (and healthy)--a big container lasts months...i eat oatmeal with flax, wheat germ, walnuts and a spoonful of 100% raw, organic almond butter.

12. Make sure you have good tupperware to save leftovers...Leftovers are good for lunch, snacks, or another meal!

I hope you find some of these tips helpful...A big part of eating cheaply is being creative--I often have small amounts of little leftovers in my fridge and I think of ways to put things together (example: see recipe for Edamame and Warm Tofu Salad). I constantly take note of what is in my fridge and what will spoil first and go from there!


Mo said...

This is really helpful for a professional student--thanks! The big problem I have though is being pressed for time. Any tips on quick meal ideas (or prepwork)?

Alexis said...

My best investment so far: buy a vaccuume sealer. This way, you can put all your veggies (especially the ones that will go bad quickly like lettuce and cilantrro) in a vaccuume sealed container and they will last for weeks! I only go shopping once or twice a month for month for my veggies and I can buy more in bulk. I have a "Seal-A-Meal" and I purchased the tupperware that goes with it.

Morgan Lee said...

Thank you for your comments! I will try to write a blog on saving time!