Eating on a Budget
Im a cosmetology student in Missouri and am getting pretty tired of spicy beef ramen noodles and $1 menu McDonald burgers (for real)....
1) what was your favorite thing to cook/eat during college?
2) what are some "eating on a budget" recipes you have?
Thanks for any feedback yall have... also, if your in the columbia, missouri area and need a haircut or color, look me up at The Strand... ^_^ (shameless self promotion, i know, im sorry, lol)
Okay. Budget rules:
1. Always buy store brand
2. Check out discounted sections (a loaf of discount bakery bread can be .50; often produce and meat sections also have a discount area )
3. Freeze everything (One tip: most breads can be frozen and then toasted).
4. Always scope out sales!
5. Farmers markets are your friend. I read that if you go later in the day, a lot of times they will give you even better deals, since they are just trying to get rid of stuff.
Here are specific some HEALTHY budget suggestions :)
**Eggs--1.99/dozen (Egg sandwitches, quiche, and my ultimate favorite: STRATA)
Strata is layering stale bread, cheese, and veggies (spinach, tomato...even beans) and then pouring an egg mixture over the entire thing. Bake and you've got breakfast, lunch, and dinner for days.
**Lentils--.99 bag (and a ham hock, onion, and carrots and you've Pease Porridge)
**Beans--.99 cents a bag. Buy a 16 bean soup mix, add some sausage, and there you go!
**Apples and Bananas are among the cheaper fruits. Bananas are often only .99/lb
**Tuna, tuna, tuna--$.59 a can. Tuna salad is quick and easy: add mayo, onion, and celery
**Carrots are cheap (2.99/bundle) if you buy cooking carrots versus baby carrots. You have to peel them...but you get more and they last a while in the fridge.
**Rice-- 1.99 a box/bag...lasts forever and is a good source of folic acid.
**Cereal--1.99 believe it or not, if you buy sale or bag cereal, you can get it cheap...a bag will give you breakfast for a week. Add a banana, even better!
**Frozen burritos 2/.99--quick, easy, good for you. Add some salsa to heigten the flavor.
**Pudding--.29 for a store brand box of pudding...you get your sweet tooth fix, and calcium to boot ;)
Hope this helped!
Canned chili and beef stews are great when you add to a pot of rice.Alot of times the dollar store or Big Lots has stew for 99c its got a high fat content but when you spread it out in the rice its really good.I use them as condensed soup,just sautae onins and garlic,add water and elbow macaroni(its usally cheaper than all other pastas).When making soups stews caseroles ect.Sautae onions and garlic its great base to start with and makes food taste awsome.Oh another good one is cream of mushroom over chicken then bake and eat over rice.Rice is good one thing I do is mix white and brown rice 50/50 then the brown rice tastes better and its still super healthy.
If you've got a Fred Meyers near by look around the store for FMV brand foods there pretty good prices.
oatmeal is your friend at breakfast. sticks to your ribs and supposedly the complex carbs are supposed to keep your mind clearer. i just read that somewhere. I get organic oatmeal in bulk for 89 cents a pound and eat that every single day without fail.
eat lots of cheap fruit like bananas. try to eat fruit that is not loaded with pesticides. bananas are alright. there are websites that will tell you which fruits are sprayed the most and which are sprayed the least. if i see a sale on organic fruit that is usually on the highly sprayed list, i'll buy some, but usually i buy frozen organic fruit to make fruit/soy smoothies which are healthy and taste delicious.
mac and cheese, the 25 cent a box stuff is alright but i would throw in some frozen veggies (like broccoli) and soem protein in there before eating that stuff. not good for every day (have you seen the ingredients list?)
You could try bakery outlets for cheap bread. I prefer rice, myself since it's cheaper and healthier. I mix brown rice with white rice because brown rice straight generally tastes like crap to me.
I like tvp (texturized vegetable protein) to mix into stuff where I want something meaty tasting. I made taco filling that tasted just like ground beef was in it. TVP is really cheap esp when you hydrate it.
I speak from experience. I am a law student currently eating a mostly organic, all-vegetarian diet on $1-2 a day. It's mostly organic and mostly whole grain because I gotta stay healthy. It's vegetarian because meat is freaking expensive no matter how you cut it. also, it's not that great for you and I dont' want to eat just any old abused battery hen.
Oh and how could I forget spaghetti.
I gotta say, I'm really healthy these days but I really, really hate being poor.
For me, it wasn't just about the $$, but about minimizing use of the shared kitchen, which could be wonderful sometimes (being exposed to different cultures' foods, both seeing them being cooked, and the generosity of many in sharing tastes,is good chowhoud education, and horrible at others (seeing / smelling rather offputting / discusting concoctions e.g. cheesy rice, Kraft Dinner with hamburger meat, etc ).
So one of my favourite things was what friends and I called "room salad" - basically salad involving anything you could make with just a fridge, limited utensils/dishes, and your sink. This usually involved pre-washed greens (now I re-wash everything, but then... not so much), cherry tomatoes, bite-sized carrots, maybe cutting up a few other veggies, and some good-quality oil and vinegar - made in a plastic bowl with a lid so you could shake it to distribute the dressing, and then eat out of the same bowl, thereby minimizing dishes!
There was a time when I went to the market with a list that had prices on it so I wouldn't, since I couldn't, spend more than I could afford. It didn't put a crimp in my cooking or eating. I also taught myself to cook from an old Chinese cookbook, the kind that had chow mein and egg foo yung in it, very straight very old-fashioned Chinese food. I graduated to Fernand Garvin's French cookbook, which had if I recall cherries jubilee in it and beef tounedos and beef en daub, and just got a copy of it for my wife who still uses it and swears by it, after much searching on the web, total cost was like $4. for it. So good luck with your quest.
Snack ideas for when you are home:
Popcorn made the old fashioned way, on the stove. Very inexpensive. You can sprinkle on parmesan cheese if you like, or whatever sounds good to you. If you get used to this you may learn to prefer it to the microwave kind.
pretzels with mustard to dip in. the mustard makes it so much more than just a bag of chips!
Toast with cinnamon & sugar.
Graham crackers with peanut butter.
fruits, of course. Some people like to freeze grapes and snack on those.
celery & peanut butter.
Apples & peanut butter.
homemade trail mix.
when you are out, how about bagged pretzels.
A banana and a small handful of chocolate chips or m&ms. If you bring it with you from home you won't eat a whole bag. Or bring a banana with you and ask one or two folks at school to split a bag of m&ms with you. Damage control.
if you like to chew gum that will get you through those times when you aren't really hungry but just want something.
And drink lots of water so you never feel totally empty-bellied.
Good luck with school!
I used to bring baggies of cereal to school with me since its not as bad for you as the junk food I love.
Seasonal fruit makes a great, satisfying snack. In the winter, when there are tons of clementines, you can often find a big box for $5. That can get you through a month, and they last that long.
Also, you can't beat Costco for cheap snacks. A Costco sized container of goldfish was not expensive and would keep me in snacks for months.
wow, so many good recipes. ive been makin a lot of enhiladas lately, but've been bad and bought canned soup... that chucky soup is so good and you get so much! lol... frozen soup kinda freaks me out, plus im afraid itll be out of sight out of mind... what about snacks? i seem to have the munchies all day long (not THOSE kind of munchies, geez....) and im beginning to see those bags of m&ms beginning to settle on my stomach. any snack suggestions?
Also, make a habit of bringing your own thermos mug of homemade coffee and snacks with you to school. That'll save you from spending money at the school cafeteria or coffee shops, which really adds up.
I also used to bake cornbread variations to go with soup/stews. Cornbread costs less than 50 cents and easier to make than yeast-based breads.
Also, quiche is another good one for cheap protein -- use whole milk instead of cream to save money and calories, and throw in any diced leftover meat. The most expensive part ingredient here is the butter/shortening for the crust.
If you can find an Asian grocer, buy a 50 lb sack of rice and split it with friends.
I just made some really good Lebanese lamb kefte (meatballs). They are super-easy. A pound of ground lamb cost me $6, the only other ingredients are onion, a bunch of parsley, and a can of tomato paste (plus seasonings), and it made 12 huge meatballs that I've been eating with rice for lunch or dinner every day. You can freeze them too.
BAKED KEFTE IN TOMATO SAUCE (inspired by Mairy Laird Hamady's "Lebanese Mountain Cookery" -- such a great book!)
1 lb ground lamb
1 whole onion, chopped fine
1 cup parsley, chopped fine
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
fresh black pepper to taste
1 can tomato paste
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c water
1 tbs dried mint
1. Preheat oven to 375. Prepare meatballs: mix all ingredients in large bowl, then roll into oval-shaped balls. Place in medium-sized ovenproof casserole.
2. Bake meatballs in oven for 30 minutes, until browned. While cooking, mix up tomato sauce in small bowl.
3. Remove meatballs from oven and drain off any fat. Pour tomato sauce over kefte (should almost cover them) and return to oven. Recipe says you can either add mint at this point or wait until the dish is finished, but I added it here.
4. Bake 30-35 minutes. (Recipe says at 350, but I needed to stay at 375 with my oven). Serve over hot white rice, and enjoy!
When I was in college, I lived in Wichita, which was the home of Pizza Hut, and they had medium pepperoni pizzas for $5 for awhile. We enjoyed a lot of those. In seminary we enjoyed lots of grub from Taco Bell: at the time we could get a bag of grub that would feed the two of us for several meals for about $20. But I don't recommend making fast food a diet staple.
Here's perhaps a better solution:
Get a copy of the Mennonite Central Committee's More-with-Less Cookbook. It's been around a long time, but it's full of recipes and ideas from around the world for being able to eat well and economically.
Oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes sauteed in a pan, tossed with hot pasta. sprinkle with fresh parm if that's in the budget. quick and delicious. low in the protein dept though, so not an all the time thing.
Buy bone-in chicken breasts. cheaper and tastier. spray with PAM, salt & pepper, bake at 400 for about 30 minutes. It will be juicy and good. - if you like dark meat the thighs are often really inexpensive.
Chicken variations are endless. buy cheap orange marmalade or any preserves you like, mix in a little mustard and pour it over chicken before baking.
Instant brown rice is now available. When it goes on sale buy tons. rice and a chicken breast will taste great.
Do you have time to cook on the weekends? Pasta freezes well, so does cooked chicken breast and rice.
Whip up a couple of 2 second sauces (marmalade & mustard sauce and then maybe a soy sauce, garlic, and oil) and bake pans of chicken, each with their own sauce. Cook the brown rice on the stove.
Buy cheap plastic storage bags (do you have an Aldi store? great prices)
and toss some rice & a chicken breast into each. This will take you far less than a couple of hours to do and then you'll have several tasty meals ready. I still do this today.
Plain yogurt with a piece of fruit chopped into it and brown sugar sprinkled over all. The brown sugar makes all the difference. Never use plain yogurt? Give it a try this way, it's nice.
Oatmeal! Add milk, fruit, nuts, brown sugar, whatever you like. Not the sugared kind, if you can manage to pass that up. Buy regular & sweeten it yourself. You'll use far less
than the manufacturer does and it will still taste great. Besides, too much sugar just makes you crash and you surely don't need that with all you have to do.
You've gotten lots of responses, I'm going to enjoy looking through them for myself, too. Always interested in frugal cooking ideas. Good luck with everything!
I lived in a sorority apartment suite (hey now!) and we all took turns cooking for the whole group of us... we kept it basic: spaghetti and lasagna, pasta dishes can really stretch your dollar.
Use of dark chicken meat, lots of ground beef, bean soups, bulk frozen veggies, eggs!
On the weekends we would make our version of the Denny's skillet, by sticking crummbled breakfast sausage, frozen hash brown patties, cheese and eggs (plus any left over veggies) in a casserole dish and bake it off.
If you live with roommates in a dorm, see if you can make a compromise to combine your money and you'll have more "buying power" and opens your options for making things, and have less chance of waste cokking for one.
First, buy a box of good quality zip-lock freezer baggies to preserve your bulk cooking efforts.
If you can handle roasting a whole chicken then you can also do a whole turkey. Don't wait until Thanksgiving to get one. It'll set you back $15 at first (less if it's on sale) but you'll have lots of high-quality and filling protein for sandwiches, to toss with pasta, and for soup.
I also vote for beans, lentils, and frozen spinach for nutritious and delicious. Good luck!
This is the best website I've ever found about this subject. She feeds a family for an entire week on $45. Tweak it for your own needs and you'll have a varied and interesting menu. Just takes a bit of planning. All the recipes are at the bottom of the page:
While the concept is great, I can't support the menus, either nutritionally or gastronomically. And, the food choices are heavy on convenience and not value...canned veggies, boxed macaroni & cheese, frozen OJ...yuk. I just might try my hand at a healthier, fresher version of the $45 for 4 menu!
re: Hungry Celeste
I think if you're going for $45 for a week you're gonna end up with convenience over anything else. But if you look closely at some of the menu:
oatmeal muffins, lentil and veggie soup with homemade dumplings, oatmeal pancakes, blackbean soup - heavy on the beans and lentils for economy. It's fairly easy to look at this and substitute fresh for canned.
The only canned veggie I saw were the collards and that would be easy to substitute fresh. And if you are not going to eat ANY veggies (as the OP spoke of Ramen and McDs burgers) canned is better than nothing.
I think the idea here is 'hey, here's some great ideas for how to eat cheap'. I certainly didn't eat that well in college.
And I love boxed mac and cheese.
Baked mac n cheese beats boxed any day, and isn't so much more expensive if you shop carefully (and we all know that commodity--aka--government cheese makes the best baked mac)...and I guess my complaints about the menu were mostly culturally influenced food choices...not much interesting cooking, lots of bread, lack of seasoning, general lack of flavor in most of the suggestions. AND the canned peas, canned corn, canned greens, and canned spinach. Hot dogs? Not cheap and certainly not good for you. Buy a little ground pork or some smoked sausage instead and make dirty rice or jambalaya. Just 'cause you're broke doesn't mean you can't taste.
A little "seasoning meat" like pickled pork, bacon, smoked sausage, or ham makes even the most humble of foods into art. Again, my reaction to this menu is cultural: it needs a cajun-soul-food-ghetto makeover and then I could probably live with it, and trim a few dollars off of it, even.
re: Hungry Celeste
Actually, I prefer homemade stove top mac and cheese to baked - but I do love a good comforty box of mac and cheese occasionally. And of course baked is better...but it's not better if what I'm craving is a box - i prefer Annie's with whole wheat pasta when I'm in that mood (add hamburger and garlic - YUM!!!).
I guess when I look at any recipe I assume one is adding their own spices and flair. I see your point, but that was sort of an assumption for me. So, good suggestions on ways to spice up that cheap menu!!
I have one major question that's off the subject: where are hotdogs not cheap? And where is ground pork or smoked sausage better for you than hotdogs? (I don't eat hotdogs but I know you can get them ULTRA cheap)
Again, this menu is WAY better for you than I ate in college and certainly better than the sodium and fat laden ramen and hamburgers the OP mentioned.
You can get 'em ultra cheap, but then they're ultra fatty & filled with yuck (preservatives, food dyes, an incredible amount of saturated fat, etc). I didn't say that gr. pork or sausage was BETTER for you, just that those two ingredients taste a hell of a lot better than hot dogs and can be used quite sparingly yet have significant flavor impact. Thus, they're cheaper b/c just a few thin slices of sausage in your bowl of jambalaya or gumbo is okay, but what person would be satisfied with just a couple of nuggets of hot dog?
There are two reasons why beans and rice show up so often in this thread. First, they're pretty cheap. Second (and equally important), a diet of beans and rice will provide you with a full complement of amino acids (that is, proteins) that you need...no meats necessary. In college, my roommate and I subsisted for months at a time on a diet consisting of beans, rice, seasonal vegetables or those that were getting a little ragged (the local grocery store practically gave veggies away once they started to look tired), and the occasional 'mystery meat (the meat that was marked down for a quick sale, usually because it was either at the pull date or starting to look bad)'.
Beans and rice are delicious and dirt cheap. There are so many ways to cook them...mexican, puerto rican, columbian, cuban, cajun, southern, etc.
Eggs are easy to cook and dirt cheap.
Aldi food stores sells Canadian Bacon, and regular bacon, and other high quality fresh meat products for peanuts plus great frozen and canned veggies.
Genoa Brand Tuna in olive oil from Trader Joes. Trust me, it tastes much better in olive oil.
Yes, dal (lentils) can save your pocketbook while keeping you well-nourished, without killing your taste buds along the way. They're ultra-cheap at bulk stores and need just a little inexpensive seasonings (garlic, fresh ginger, lemon, onion, cumin, tumeric) to become quite flavorful.
The thing to remember: those $1 McD's burgers really do add up to some money after a while. Swear off those things, take your $5 weekly lunch money to the supermarket, and shop carefully. You can feel yourself decently on $5 for 5 lunches and maybe even have a couple of dinners as well. Buy store-brand pasta, learn to make simple sauces. Buy uncooked chicken...a package of chicken thighs only costs $2 or so and you can have chicken salad for lunch or dinner. Eat eggs; they're good for you, versatile, and easy to cook...egg salad, scrambled eggs & cheese, quiche, etc.
When you're in the supermarket, go for value: don't buy things like already shredded cheese or individual packages of things...larger quantities are better values. Most store shelf SKU tags itemize the price per unit ($ per ounce), which makes it easier to comparison shop.
Ditch the ramen; it is loaded with sodium and doesn't have enough protein to keep you going.
And I wish I lived near enough to MO to take advantage of your services...my stylist is in rehab!
Chicken soups are always good, especially if you get a whole chcken. You can make a good chicken stock, cook your chicken and have enough cooked meat left over to freeze, or make enchiladas, pot pies, or anything else with!
I've found Tyler's to be a pretty simple recipe with a hight yield.
Will, have you shopped at Aldi's on the Business Loop? I know people turn their nose up at Aldi's but they are trying to improve their selection and it isn't as bad as it used to be. You will find some interesting entrees in the store that are pretty edible for a fraction of what Schnucks will charge you. Come by my office-I'll give you some home made cookies! I feel sorry for struggling students-I used to be one and know what it is like.
If you live near Asian supermarkets (but not all of them are priced well for student budgets), a Chinatown or a farmer's market, you can get good deals on the seasonal vegetables mentioned. I could buy a lot of greens, vegetables and fruit less expensively during the weekday at Chinatown. Also buy granola and seasonings at bulk stores. You can make your own yogourt parfaits.
Grains mostly through pasta and rice. If you buy bread and you're the only one eating it, freeze it and take out bread slices at a time.
I agree with buying value packs of meat. After you get it at home, you can pre-marinate it or if you don't want to, just divide them into portions you would normally cook with before freezing.
You can make rice and stir fry one night and the next night, make fried rice with leftover rice.
I love making/eating red cabbage slaw. Slice the cabbage thin, toss it with olive oil & (you can buy it in big containers that'll last a long time & be cheap) & lemon juice or vinegar, salt & pepper. Add just about anything else you want -- leftover vegetables, broken cooked spaghetti w/ some soy sauce, can of tuna... Healthy & cheap.
I also vote for chicken. I like buying a value pack or family pack of whole legs. You can freeze some and with the rest, marinate in soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, roast it in the oven. Eat 'em all week or use the leftovers to make chicken chili.
Here in California (and I'm sure in your neck of the woods), they have amazing deals on chicken such as the 10lb bag of frozen chicken legs for $5. When I was poor I'd buy one of those and make everything from 'em. Baked chicken, chicken salad, bbq, huge pots of chicken soup with fresh veggies, greens and spices. There's no reason to stick to carbs only such as pasta etc. Chicken is cheap and will give you the protein you need to keep you going!
I second learning to like cuts of chicken other than the breast. Or even to learn to work with the whole bird. You can do baked chicken, then use leftovers for chicken salad, then use the carcass for soup. And stew meat is also a good way to go, but you do have to cook it for a while which might increase your energy bill. And lentils. Lentils are good. Try cooking them in apple juice with a few slices of ginger. Then top with zuchinni, onions and peppers that have been sauteed and tossed with some soy sauce and a bit of vinegar. If you want more bulk, you can serve it over rice with a dollop of plain yogurt on top. This was a staple for me in college and is now while I'm in grad school. You can also save money by just not being fussy about using veggies that are slightly past their prime. Unless it's going in a salad, I will use bruised or otherwise imperfect veggies that friends of mine would throw away. Or sweet potatoes topped with spiced black beans and yogurt. Less starchy than a white potato and still cheap.
Soon we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving and all the wonderful sales on turkeys. I can't believe how many meals you can get off a single bird. First, of course, is the roasted turkey meal. Then I carve the bird down and store both white and dark meat in smaller-sized ziploc bags in the freezer. Boil the turkey carcass with onions, chopped celery and carrots for several hours, remove the bones from the broth, add wide egg noodles and various seasonings and live on turkey noodle soup for a few more days. The frozen turkey can be thawed as needed and used in turkey salad (chopped turkey, celery with leaves included, onion, cashews, mayo and the juice of half a lemon) served on bread as a sandwich, in a tomato as a salad, on pita bread, etc. I also make a wonderful curry out of left-over turkey. One bird lasts my husband and I for months. And you only fire up the oven once.
Pilotgirl, I'm with ya. Turkey's are a steal in October/Nov as are corned beef briskets around St. Pat's Day. You can pick up a large 5 lb brisket for $2-3. Turkey is a great value and I love brothy soups. My mom used to make a thicker Turkey soup variety by purchasing the manachewitz soup sleeves in the Kosher aisle of most supermarkets, the mix is full of lentils, split peas, herbs and spices etc and makes a very filling soup with added onion, garlic, carrots, celery and various fresh herbs to enhance what might be considered a lil bland by some. Extremely economical.
I'm not a big beans or lentils fan but that sounds really good. I'll have to look for it next time I shop. Just talking about turkey has me in the mood to roast one. My apologies to Bubbles. Did not have a chance to dig out the curry recipe last night as I was't home, but will do it asap. I want to make it again soon myself!! My best friend made it for me years ago -- first time I'd ever had curry -- and have loved it ever since.
Bubbles, you have a right to beat me 30 lashes with a wet noodle!!! This weekend I went through five large recipe boxes looking for the turkey curry recipe and simply couldn't find it. It's been a number of years since I've made it but I probably didn't write it down because it was so easy to make. The next time I talk to my best friend Kathy, who lives in Oberon, Australia, I will ask her for the recipe.
Nope. I would try to use it up within three or four months, though, as texture suffers after that. I often wrap the meat up in plastic wrap and them put it into quart-sized *freezer* ziploc bags, which seems to cut down on freezer burn. The less air touches the meat, the better.
A poor student in Missouri ... I can relate to that.
In general, I would either head out to one of the buffet places around campus a couple of times a week. At the time, Furr's was the most reliable but they have long since closed in Columbia. For the rest of the week, I would make pots and pots of soups.
I would head to Aldi's or one of the other discounters and buy beans. Soak them in water overnight and into the crockpot with smoked neck bones.
Or I would look for chicken necks, turkey parts (wings and legs), and the like to make turkey noodle (or pasta) soup. Little time expended.
I had lots of frittatas. You can add just about any cooked vegetable(s), potatoes, onions, zucchini, etc. and cheese.
My other favorite was pasta salad. I would use tricolor rotelle, add broccoli, green onions and carrots, and rice vinegar for the dressing. Sometimes I'd add cubes of cheese (tofu would work too).
For lunch I would have hummus with pita bread and carrot sticks, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with an apple. Or NF yogurt and cut up raw vegetables, with some sort of carb like pita bread or half of a whole wheat bagel.
I ate a lot of porridge with eggs stirred in.
I would make porridge in my rice cooker, then stir in a beaten egg towards the end when the rice is boiling hot. A sprinkle of furikake (seaweed mix) and I had a breakfast (or lunch/dinner) for under a dollar.
It's also easy to make on a stove top if you have no rice cooker.
Yes...head to a coop or natural foods store and buy all of your rice, beans, and lentils from the bulk bins. I also find a respectable hummus mix in the bins at mine.
My college roommate was the one who showed me the beauty of the crockpot. She had a small one and she would make all sorts of bean soups and split pea soup. If you toss everything in before you head off to school for the day, it's all ready to eat when you get home. Crockpotting is a great way to take pot roasts and cheaper cuts of meat and turn them into a meal with a few carrots and potatoes thrown in.
Someone mentioned it, but you can never go wrong with a can of refied beans, tortillas, and some cheese.
Good luck! I used to eat tons of potatoes and pasta in college because it was all so cheap.
I second eggs - many a meal was soft boiled eggs and toast soliders. Or a fritatta or scramble with whatever veg and cheese we had.
seasonal veggies are amazing, At the end of summer we got baskets of tomatoes for $2.99 and ate toasted tomato sandwiches with a tiny bit of strong old sharp cheddar (used to go into a cheese shop we have here in kensington market and ask for what was cheap - the guys behind the counter came to admire our student budget but desire for good eats and give us tips on deals, ends of blocks etc) and dijon mustard for at least a week.
In the winter we did lots of chickpea and potato curries - as mentioned above we also didn't eat much meat - just becuase it was expensive.
in 3rd year one of our roommate's mom's gave her a deep fryer for xmas - that was a bit of a downfall. We started buying potatoes at $1 a bag and eating homemade fries every day!
I also vote for dried pinto, white or other beans. And, if you're a meat/pork eater, get a ham hock or smoked ham shank. They are cheap, and goot for seasoning the beans.
Also, pita bread is very versatile. You can stuff it, of course, but you can also make mini pizzas. Brush a little oil on the bread, add canned or bottled tomato sauce and maybe a few other ingredients, and toss under the broiler. This preparation is easy, doesn't cost much, and is enjoyable.
Eggs are a good bargain, too.
Here's some excellent threads that were about eating on the cheap:
My favorite thing to eat in college was any kind of a soup... corn chowder, broccoli and cheddar soup, potato and leek soup, and (homemade) tomato soup are all relatively cheap, and then I would usually just have bread with them. Leftover soup is one kind of leftover that I like too.
when I was in grad school our "dinner parties" with friends frequently featured things like pasta puttensca-- no meat, and you can make a lot for a reasonable amount of money. Add a tossed salad and some garlic bread and it's a pretty good dinner. I am always apalled at what you pay for a small jar of "spaghetti sauce" at the grocery store. Start with a large can of peeled plum tomatoes, and you're almost there, with the addition of some onions, garlic, oregano...
Though it wasn't on my menu then, a whole roasted chicken is pretty reasonably priced, especially when the chickens are on one of those "buy one get one free" deals
First and foremost: Beans are your friend. They will give you the nutrition you need at the cost you can handle. If you think you don't like them -- give them a try again.
I would go with pasta, canned tomatoes, and beans. Add any vegetable, and some garlic and red pepper flakes.
Also, lentils and rice make a really good casserole that you can bake in the oven. I have tried this recipe which comes from the tightwad gazette -- written by a crazy lady in Maine who saved a ton of money on a shoestring. Here is a link to a website which has the recipe:
potatoes. I used to get them 10 pounds for a dollar out west. So many good and interesting things you can do with just potatoes...
gratin; baked with a host of cheap toppings; hash browns (think cubed and sauteed, rather than mcdonalds patty style); roasted; garlic and rosemary mashed; potato wedges; twice baked... so many options. all you usually need is a dollar or two of accompanying ingredients.
most important for me at the time, of course, was that I could always fill myself up with potatoes. So I didn't feel as though I was starving.
My college/grad school staple was soup and a baked potato.
I also ate tons of pasta. I used the packets of dried pesto you can buy or a really easy tomato sauce (onion, canned diced tomato, dried basil and oregano and garlic) because I couldn't stand the cheap bottled tomato sauces. I would bring the leftover pasta to school for lunch topped with salad dressing (I was partial to fat free Catalina or Italian).
I would also use a lot of frozen spinach - you get a lot for the money and it tastes as good cooked as fresh spinach - I would make a bastardized version of quesadillas with tortillas, spinach and cheese.
I wish I had known about cooking then what I know now. A few tips:
- Find a food co-op and buy bulk items like rice, pasta and beans. When in doubt, have that.
- Buy store brands whenever possible. The quality difference is there, but not so much that a starving student would mind.
- Make soup at the beginning of the week and freeze it. Generally soups are a lot cheaper, and go much further, than other foods. Same as Glencora said with jambalaya and chili.
- When you have a few extra bucks, beef up your spice rack. If you have a good spice rack, it'll last a long time and you can make most anything edible.
My SO and I used to buy huge bags of onions and make French onion soup and eat it all week. It takes a while to carmelize the onions, but you can't beat the price. My SO still calls it poor food when I make it all these years later--thing is, it's actually really good. Or try making a big pot of chili or jambalaya. Staples like beans and rice and potatoes are inexpensive and healthier than packaged stuff.
Yep, caramelized onions are the poor gourmet's best friend. All you need to do is saute sliced or chopped onions in oil (olive oil if you can afford it, otherwise canola or whatever) and cook very, very, very slowly until they're rich brown and very reduced in volume. No need for sugar, vinegar, or other additions.
You can caramelize one onion in 15-20 minutes, or you can prepare a ton of them when you have time and freeze in separate globs, so you can use them in soups (French Onion!), quiches, over toast (with a bit of pungent cheese, like blue cheese), on pizza, in omelets, and as an add-in to those inexpensive grains (caramelized onions and bulgur are great).
Me, I ate bulk-bought bulgur all through college - steamed for tabbouli and Kisir (a Turkish salad with tomato paste & cumin), cooked like risotto, boiled with chicken broth, with syrup for breakfast, etc. That might explain why I'm not so wild about bulgur any more. But it kept me alive and healthy back then.
EDIT/Afterthought: These threads have some good basic bulgur recipes, plus a red lentil & bulgur soup that sounds great:
And do a search on Epicurious for "bulgur":
My grad school life consisted of:
1. Seasonal veggies because they are cheapest in season. during the winter, frozen lima beans (I like them), peas and corn.
2. All things mexican - beans, corn tortillas and a bit of cheese are cheap.
3. whole grains like whole wheat couscous are really filling and cheap (also check out bulgar)
4. I didn't eat much meat because it is expensive.
There are several threads on budget eating, so check those out too.