food with thought


Before I left Virginia, my dad gave me three pieces of advice:

1. Don't get pregnant
2. Don't eat all pasta
3. Don't waste anything

Number one aside (it would just be bad timing in both of our lives if I got pregnant right now), I've got a question for you guys: 

How the heck do you eat affordably and healthily?

After living at home for the past four years, I was spoiled by my parents doing most of the shopping and cooking. When I wanted to cook something on my own, I bought the few ingredients my parents didn't have and made it without spending too much money. I also ate a lot of spaghetti and meatballs (which is my favorite meal ever, though I realize how unhealthy). 

The only experience I've had with living on my own was two years in college when I lived mostly on Easy Mac and frozen entrees. I also didn't have anything else to pay for: just food and photography equipment. Nowadays I'm a grownup with student loans, insurance, phone, utilities, and for the very first time: rent! I've only been here a week and I suddenly realize how freaking expensive food is! Not just a meal or two, but enough food to live on! I feel like I've already spent way too much money and am kinda starting to freak out.  

So how do you do it? Other than making sandwiches every day, how do you cook a wide variety of meals that are both healthy and affordable? And I don't want anything fancy here; I want to use ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes, ingredients that won't go to waste. I'm already a little proud of myself as I was trying to figure out something to eat with what few things we had in the fridge: so I made quesadillas with cheese, tomatoes, and onions. And I realize that this is something incredibly easy, something that anything can be added to: leftover chicken, vegetables, etc. But I do realize that I have so many tomatoes and onions and even some leftover garlic that I can't possibly use it up any time soon. So I had another epiphany! I can throw all three of those ingredients into the spaghetti sauce that I just bought! 

So, the wheels in my head are already starting to turn. But I still need any advice that you guys have to give. Pretty please?


harriet.mcatee said...

I know exactly how you feel Andrea! I'm a student, living out of home (soo expensive!). My biggest tip would be to try and buy the simplest ingredients. If it's been processed or something's been done to it (like pesto in a jar or pre-made lasagna) it's going to cost way more than if you made it yourself.

Also, when I moved out I cut down on the amount of meat I was eating, as it's probably the most expensive thing in my shopping trolley!

Buy seasonal (it's cheaper and fresher) and try shopping at farmer's markets. It's really fun as well.

Hope this is helpful! Good luck!!!

Caitlin said...

Staples and fresh vegetables are all you need. We eat curry almost every day. It is so cheap and easy to make, depending on what you like in it.

Puree together:
2 onions
2-4 cloves of garlic
thumb-sized piece of ginger
1 tomato (if you like)

Add 1/4 cup olive oil and cook over medium heat. Add some salt and up to 3 tbsp. your choice of Indian spices cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, garam masala, coriander, etc. Add chopped vegetables and/or meat of your choice, cover and simmer until they are cooked and tender. Carrots, sweet potato, green beans, chickpeas, eggplant, beef, lamb, chicken, or fish. All are great! Adding a little coconut milk at the end gives it a little extra something. Serve over rice.

Good luck!

Liza said...

I remember feeling exactly this way when I first moved to New York. I was so used to my parents doing the grocery shopping (except for my little occasional adventures in the kitchen), that I had no idea what to shop for! I would open the fridge and just stare... what should go in here?!

One of my favorite and most cost-effective ways to add nutrition is beans. Baked beans, black beans, white beans (cannellini are my favorite!) - they come in cans and won't spoil, are reliably cheap, and can be added to almost anything to increase the fiber and protein. Salads, stews, rice dishes, pasta sauces... It's good stuff.

I'm not a vegetarian, but I just stumbled across this website today and it seems like it's got some easy, good looking recipes: http://theveganstoner.com/
The illustrations definitely help. :)

And I'm definitely going to be trying Caitlin's recipe above sometime. I love curry!

Samantha said...

buy this book: http://www.amazon.com/Appetite-Reduction-Filling-Low-Fat-Recipes/dp/1600940498/ref=pd_sim_b_1

eat mostly vegetarian, visit farmer's markets, shop on the outside perimeter of a grocery store (don't buy boxed stuff which is costly and bad for you)


--rock over london said...


Also, these are my personal staples:

Starches: brown rice, whole wheat pastas, couscous (all relatively cheap..you should check out a grocery store that carries bulk like Whole Foods..they're actually pretty reasonable when it comes to rice/couscous in bulk).

Protein: Tofu & beans are both really great and economical sources of protein

Fruits & Veg: I like to go to Trader Joe's and stock up on frozen items because they're priced pretty great for the quality. The veg is great for throwing into stir-frys or as a side dish etc. and the fruit is great for smoothies, oatmeal, or what have you.

I like making food in batches to eat throughout the week in order to save time. I make soups, stews, pastas, & rice and just heat them up when I need them. Sorry this is kind of long-winded I just have TOTALLY been where you are. Take care.


Charlotte said...

hm, everyone has said what I was going to say. but I'll repeat it anyway.

- biggest tip I have: write a shopping list. plan meals for 1-2 weeks - not that you have to stick to eating a particular thing per day, but so you have an idea of what you're buying - and create a shopping list from that. it keeps you organized and allows you to see where you can double up on ingredients.

- check out recipes using cheap staples: rice, beans, eggs, pasta.

- only buy special ingredients if you can use them in more than one meal per week/2 weeks (whatever you're buying for).

- cut out as much meat as you can. it's expensive, and you'll be healthier for it!

- know what you like. if you are buying something that's a little more costly, like breakfast cereal, but you'll know you'll eat it all, that's better than buying something and potentially wasting it.

- cooking in bulk is cheaper, but know your limits. it is quite time-consuming, and again, if you aren't going to eat your leftovers, don't bother.