How to eat cheap and simple

We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.
~Alfred E. Newman

1. No 2% milk. Or diet soda. No low-fat cookies, low-sodium soy sauce, or any of that garbage. If you don’t want to eat the food in all it’s unhealthy glory, you don’t need to be eating it at all. Buy the whole thing and nothing but the thing. Don’t cut corners. [insert deity here, if applicable] only knows what the hell they put in low-calorie snacks to make them low-calorie.

2. Garlic, onions, and/or jalapeno peppers can be added to just about any dish to add flavor and veggie content.

3. Fuck mixes. I don’t use stew mix, taco seasonings, or pretty much any of that other crap. I can usually find a recipe for it online that will taste much better and will contain only the ingredients I want.

4. On the same note as 3, any time you find yourself buying something, ask “can I make this myself?” Barbecue sauce, bread, rice mix, chicken stock, lots of things.

5. Read ingredient lists. All of them. For everything. This includes pet food and not-food. Make it a habit. Pick up something you’re going to buy, and read the label.

6. Eat little. I’ve lost a ton of weight by being poor and therefore not eat huge portions of food. I have to make every dish stretch. Not only does it help the waistline, but it requires the production of less food, which means less land has to be cultivated, or the same amount of land can be cultivated less intensely.

7. Cook batches, not meals. When I cook, I fucking COOK. When I get done in the kitchen, there are typically enough meals for almost a week’s worth of lunches. I always take my lunch to work. Eventually, yes, you do get accustomed to eating the same thing for four or five days in a row. I’d recommend cooking two batches at a time…one for lunches, one for dinners. That way you’re not eating the same thing more than once a day.

8. Scrounge, scavenge, and mooch. I work food service, which means I wander out of the restaurant with anything from small containers of pico de gallo (to add to scrambled eggs), to several containers of left-over cooked chicken. I don’t turn my nose up at leftovers or other people’s unwanted food. Some people find it tasteless, but I’m not too proud to claim anything unwanted.

9. Don’t get extravagant. Egg salad does not need to be complicated. If you find yourself buying a basketful of new ingredients for a dish, reconsider it. Are you going to use what’s leftover for some other dish? If the answer is “no,” then you might want to cook something else.

10. Use what you’ve got on hand. If you need to, look up a substitution for an ingredient you may be missing. You’d be surprised what you can sub in a recipe. When deciding what to cook, shop your kitchen and pantry first. Got some chicken? Cook chicken. Left-over celery? AllRecipes.com lets you search by ingredient.

11. New spices can jazz up old recipes. As unbelievable as it may sound, I grew up on chicken-fried steak and no longer find it as wonderful as others do. Then one day I had a bright idea. Why not add the spices from Alton Brown’s fried chicken recipe? My chicken-fried steak was now very tasty. I already had the spices on hand (I left out the buttermilk completely and went with regular paprika instead of Hungarian).

12. Crock pots are wonderful things. I don’t use mine as much as I used to, but there’s nothing like coming home from work and smelling a freshly-cooked meal that you prepped the night before that’s now hot and ready to eat.

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4 Responses to “How to eat cheap and simple”

  1. Dargon Says:

    Regular paprika instead of Hungarian? Blasphemy. Then again, I like Hungarian better and tend to sub it in when a recipe calls for paprika.

    With regards to milk, it seems to me people tend to prefer what they were raised on. Those raised on whole tend to find 2% too watery, and those raised on 2% (ie me) tend to find whole too thick.

    If I were to throw in a piece of advice, it would be avoid low calorie stuff, not because if what’s in it, but because it’s the same price for less calories. Eating cheap often means trying to get more calories for your dollar.

  2. Hell yes to all this. I’d also add “grow your own”. Gardening is a wonderful way to supplement one’s grocery list, especially with high producers like tomatoes, and easy to grow veggies like carrots and peas.

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