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$1000 meal plan for 4 months?

our daughter arrived in NYC as a transfer student. We found out that the meal plan for $1000 the semester consists of eating at diners/rest. in the area of the dorm and school. The diner swipes the card, charges menu prices, and supposedly does not charge tax. (this only gives her 10.00 per day to eat....)..She may as well find good and cheap places near her area and use her debit card. So where to eat on the east side from 50th to 72nd between 2nd and 3rd., that is healthy and cheap?

thanks for input

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  1. I'm trying to put myself in your daughters shoes and it scares me. What would I do for the rest of the other 3 months? What does she like?

    1 Reply
    1. re: DarthEater

      Yah, it scares me too. She likes most everything ethnic, deli, soups, salads, etc. We do send her the occasional care package....but.

    2. Her best bet is to learn to cook. Stock up on cereals and other dry goods at Trader Joe's and limit her eating out to a few times a week at most.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Ora

        I agree. Avoid the supermarket Gristedes at all costs. Its horrible.

        1. re: Ora

          When I'm watching my budget, I eat a lot of eggs and pasta, and throw in frozen veggies wherever I can. Big stirfries are great too on budget.

        2. I'm actually on a similar budget in an attempt to curb my current law school debt, budgeting $250 each month for food. I'll be honest--it kind of sucks. My boyfriend and I will go out to eat maybe once a month, which is torture since I used to have disposable income and enjoy restaurants.

          Fortunately, I like to cook and plan my meals, which is what I recommend for your daughter. Day-to-day meal planning down to the last ingredient is tough, and I've only gotten good at it because of practice, but your daughter should make a list of the food she likes to eat, and the foods she can cook, and shop in such a way to make sure she has raw ingredients on hand.

          I bet student services also offers nutrition and menu planning advice, but my basics are to become a vegetarian in practice, and seek out cheap proteins like beans, lentils, and nuts, and buy cheap grains in bulk. There is not a lot of glamor in this budget, but if you keep track of what you spend, it's possible to eat well on this budget.

          Also important is to figure out what your daughter cannot do without and work those into the plan. For me, I just don't want to make coffee at 6:00AM, and will not go without, so even though there are cheaper alternatives, I spend money buying coffee everyday.

          Please don't take this as a lecture, but if your daughter goes out, alcohol is insane here. Have a few at home with friends, if at all. That being said, if she's of age, some bars run student specials. It's just a budget breaker if not watched.

          I think, having done this for 2 semesters now, that $250/month in NY all but excludes daily restaurants. But her school should have good resources to provide for counseling and advice.

          If need be, you can always look into the bigger plans if offered.

          1. The fruit stands on street corners really do have the best produce. If I'm low on cash and know I'll be getting hungry, I'll grab a banana for $.25 when I see a stand.

            1. You can't beat 5 bananas for $1 from the fruit stands in the streets.

              Chicken Kitchen 2nd Ave @ 62nd. Tasty grilled chicken. $6.25 for a quarter dark with two sides (eat in only). The place is not the cleanest and delivery is very slow so most people prefer to stop by and take out. Together with curt service it might not sound like the ideal place but it's the only place around here for a reliable, relatively healthy, cheap tasty food.
              Next to Chicken Kitchen she'll find a small fruit/vegetables store. It's cheap but quality varies a lot.

              Not great food but a lot places offer lunch specials. She can take out a chicken or salmon teriyaki at one of the ubiquitous standard sushi places. I used to do that at the Japanese place on 55th and 2nd Ave next to Grand Sichuan (which is great, btw, but the only items within her budget at Grand Sichuan are the lunch specials which are not recommended).

              On days when she feels like splurging she can try Astra on the 14th floor of the D&D building (59th St and 3rd Ave, lunch only), the $14 all you can eat lunch buffet at Chola (58th st between 2nd and 3rd) or the $15 lunch / $23 dinner at the French bistro Les Sans Culottes.

              I know of a school that organizes a weekly bus to Fairway in Harlem for its community. Fairway is much better and cheaper than anything around where she'll live. She should see if she can find a similar service available to her.

              If she hangs out around the east village or near nyu she should eat there. There are many more interesting, cheap options in those neighborhoods.
              Also, there is an F train subway station on Lexington Ave @ 63rd. It runs express to Queens and the food there cheaper and way more authentic.

              1. This is really not that hard as most people are making it sound. I don't have such a budget myself, but now that I think about it, I probably don't spend much more than $10 on food. Granted, I do cook, but still. I would second Chicken Kitchen - for about $6.00 you can get half a chicken and bread, which if you throw together with a few vegetables, can last you 2 meals. I would also second the fruit/vegetable place next door (along with most of the other street vendors). For breakfast, yogurt and cereal are both pretty cheap (and healthy). As for lunch, a can of tuna, a little mayo, and 2 pieces of bread go a long way. For dinner, pasta is really cheap (as is a slice of pizza). Kar Won (on 60th and Lex) is really good too (huge portion of roast pork on rice for $5.25 - can also last you 2 meals). Most of the sushi places are a bit more expensive, but have lunch/dinner specials if she wants to splurge a bit. Avoid the traditional supermarkets for anything other than kilk/eggs. Fresh Direct usually has good deals on bulk items (chicken) - that would be a nice gift for her from you :)

                2 Replies
                1. re: RussianGirl

                  With all due respect, it is in fact pretty hard to live on $10/day and eat well in Manhattan. Though it is possible to live on Chinese food leftovers and a slice of pizza a day, with the occasional can of tuna thrown in, that lifestyle gets old fast. Getting good quality produce and proteins requires thought and planning if you're on a $1000 4-month budget.

                  Even then, food adds up quickly. I've spent the last school year writing down everything I spent money on. Every single coffee or sandwich got tallied up. While it's not as restrictive as the food stamps challenge several politicians have taken up lately, it does force you to make choices and to plan ahead in order to eat well.

                  Takeout and pizza don't get you many nutrients for the price. While it may be fine for a cheap day or two, a long term strategy is a lot more difficult that eating cold rice out of a dorm fridge.

                  1. re: corgette

                    I'm not saying it's easy, but it's definitely manageable. Especially if you don't eat a lot of take out and cook for yourself. I am a triathlete and work out 5-6 days a week, so it's definitely important for me to eat well and get all my nutrients. My main point was that it's cheaper to make things at home than to eat out, but if you must eat out, there are certain things (such as the ones I listed) that get you more bang for your buck (and are a little better for you than eating a bag of doritos or a carton of ben and jerrys for dinner :)

                2. I'm just wondering - in terms of clarification - do we know that this card can be used at grocery stores in the area or that the student will have access to a kitchen? I read this post to mean that she could use the card at local eating establishments ... would be nice, of course, if it worked at markets as well.

                  1. If she does not have access to kitchen facilities, I think it's really difficult to eat on $10 a day in that neighborhood. What I used to do when I was a student was to make a trip to Chinatown once a week and pick up a lot of ready-made meals (steamed buns, the four dishes and rice for $3 deals, noodle dishes) and nuke them in the microwave. I couldn't really cook everyday as I didn't have much time. On the 6 train, it should take no more than 20 minutes to make it to C-town from where she is.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      Also, a lot of Chinese places have huge soups with noodles, meat, and veggies, that make an excellent dinner, often for under $6. One in particular is Mee Noodle:

                    2. When I first moved here, burdened with undergraduate debt and high rent (even for a three-person 1 BR apt, but I digress...), I bought "The Cheap Bastard's Guide to NYC." Now, even buying it I figured it was kind of touristy, but I was surprised at the good info. There were sections on which places gave half-price sandwiches at the end of the day (and at what time), where some of the best off-the-truck fruit was, wine tastings that served food, etc. I would walk 25 blocks each way sometimes to get a half-price sandwich. Now I'm starting to sound like my Depression-era grandpa...