Financial Bitch Slaps and My Eating Habits

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sadly taxes and the late refund of state taxes, unexpected car repair, having to fund buying a new computer, and stupid Wachovia taking forever to cash a financial aid payment I made have left me a little high and dry financially. It's a bit upsetting to say the least. It's one of those times when every possible economic bitch slap strikes you all at once stinging your cheeks and leaving them glowing red.

March is going to be what I call Budget Eating Month. I call it this because budget sounds much more Family Fun magazine than using the word poverty. Rather than be upset about it (okay, I'm a little upset) I am going to try and make something of it. I'm going to see how well I can eat through fervent cooking and purchasing ingredients on a strict budget. Normally I live this way anyways, but I'm not adverse to grabbing lunch out once or twice a week or opening a bottle of wine. The occassional dinner out with a friend will slide more over to cooking with a friend. It's time to really bleed the pennies a bit.

Luckily, the pantry is well stocked to begin with. It makes starting this just a tad bit easier. Plenty of grains, pasta, canned goods. I lived on far less than I do now back in college. However, back then I wasn't as knowledgeable a cook. So now I figure is a time of testing, to see what I can really do when constrained.

Soups. Pastas. Potatoes. Onions. Ramen. Simple dishes. There will be a bit more foraging. I know where stray fruit trees, arugula patches, and rogue rhubarb are in the area and I plan to hit those up. A return to radishes, a staple in the dorms but something I haven't eaten in some time will come back. It's times like these I enjoy the fact I have taught myself Ethiopian, Thai, Arab and Chinese food, its simple flavors, ingredient lists, and preparations are perfect for cuisines that, for the many people in these countries, is based on economic hardship.

I've already made enough lentil soup to give me lunch for four days this week. More war cake to snack on if need be. Provisions set aside for baked potatoes, curries, soups, and so on. Indeed, I may delve back into ramen. Back in college we would toss out the flavor packet (most of the time) and then add chicken, radishes, radish greens, green onions and mushrooms. Or serve it with cilantro, lime, and bean sprouts with coconut milk as broth. Grilled cheese sammiches! Eggs every which way. Quinoa with butter and tossed fresh veggies with chili oil. Simple delicious dishes that cost little to make and sustain the body.

Oh, it can be done. Furthermore, as I have been researching wartime food, it give me a chance to really utilize what I learn. I hope to keep you all updated, so stay tuned!


  1. I'm no stranger to the budget saver ramen and tuna salad diet (eggs are a great idea, too!) And no need for your noodles to get boring, check out:

  2. I recommend Foul (pronounced: fool) - Arabic style fava beans. You can boil your own or just buy them canned (rinse first, if canned). Puree half, leave half whole. Heat. Add fresh chopped tomato, parsley, onion, garlic and a healthy dose of cumin. Drizzle liberally with olive oil. Consume with pita bread. Cheap, filling, and really delicious!

  3. I hear you!

    I'm not a Martha Stewart fan, but last week I made this recipe ( ) and thought it was great. She says it serves 4, but I stretched it to 8 servings, which comes out to ~$1 per serving. One tip: Buy bucatini from Trader Joes, where it costs about 99 cents, versus a higher-end grocery store where you can easily pay $7 for a pound.

  4. Hey, if you need any religious points (not that I believe in religious points) you can consider it a Lenten exercise and look forward to some rich chocolate something on Easter!

  5. My husband and I play the budget game every time we shop. Membership cards at grocery chains and coupons mean you can still get your treats on occasion.

  6. I will most certainly stay tuned because budget cooking is of great interest to me. I will be entering college next year, and I love to cook, so I will need a way to cook delicious food with inexpensive ingredients.

  7. I'm with YOU, my brother! Thankfully, I get most of my protein at the hospital cafeteria where I eat for free (well, as part of the 30k/yr tuition, anyway, if you can really call that "free").

    Sadly, times like this means I buy the BIG pack of eggs at costco, sorry about the cages birds, and organic is out the window, but they're a perfect protein.

    Getting "poor" means that I learned how to cook the h-e-double hockey sticks out of a chicken carcass to maximize the collagen (protein) I got out of the bones. When chilled, you end up with chicken-jello... but re-heated you get some AWESOME broth! It's a bit trickier to scrape off the fat, when the "good stuff" is nearly the same consistency as the bad stuff... but you'll figure it out.

    If you have a protected back porch (no dogs to get into the pot) or garage, you can chill the broth out there overnight, which saves you the $$ on the electricity your fridge would use to do the chilling for you.

    Looking forward to this months' adventures... sometimes I do things as cheaply as possible because I enjoy the challenge... so maybe think of it more of a challenge (as you suggest) than an unfortunate encumberance!

    ps... run your dishwasher/clothes drier/washer when power prices are cheaper... usually after 5p is cheaper, and after 10p and before 7a cheaper still... but check with PG&E or SMUD or whoever sets the rates!

  8. The bulk bins at whole foods are your friend. Dried beans at $1.25 or so a pound (unless they have only organic, which are more expensive) are a heck of a lot cheaper than canned ones, and in theory (I've yet to try it) you can make a bunch and freeze them so they're good to go. I think a pound of beans yields 4-6 cans or something along those lines, so they're quite a bargain.

    Making your own bread, if you've got the time, will help, too, and I agree with Christine--work that chicken carcass, especially if you can get one on sale. I had an oven stuffer roaster I got for $4.77 (it was an astonishing 79 cents a pound!) that I've thus far roasted (four servings eaten), made into two chicken pot pies (11 servings total between them), 10 cups of chicken broth (2 cups=1 can; 2 cans + 1 cup arborio (bulk bin $1.49/lb)=yummy risotto, 2-3 servings), and I still have a cup or two of shredded meat frozen for enchiladas or something.

    Sorry to hear you're having financial difficulties, but just think of all the cooking tricks you'll learn. That's a little silver lining...

  9. When I was in college in a largely Jewish community, I ate a lot of Matzoh with mayonnaise. Cheap, filling, and you don't actually have to refrigerate mayonnaise.

  10. Mmm... ramen. I'm also in a budget-eating place, but I need to try not to rely on ramen. It's so addictive and so bad for you (when you use the salt — I mean, flavor packet, which I do).

    I look forward to seeing what else you'll be eating on your budget diet!


    That's a great delicious, cheap recipe. Enjoy! We're all there with you.


Hey, you're leaving a comment! That's pretty darn cool, so thanks. If you have any questions or have found an error on the site or with a recipe, please e-mail me and I will reply as soon as possible.

Vanilla Garlic All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger