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  • New! ChicagoBoyz Eatin’ Cheap Contest!

    Posted by Dan from Madison on April 24th, 2008 (All posts by )

    In my last post I mentioned some things that blew me away because they were so inexpensive. The main thing I discussed was shaving cream, but I also brought up some food items. That last comment thread went two ways – some took the shaving angle, and some approached the food angle. For this post we will keep going down the food path.

    I would like to hear in the comments ways that you eat cheaply. The media is full of stories of doom and gloom about how food is skyrocketing in price, so let’s take the opposite tack and discuss things at the other end of the spectrum. I will start.

    Every morning for breakfast I have a bowl of instant oatmeal. I buy the generic packs of ten envelopes at the store – each envelope has a cost of only .17! At that rate, they should almost be paying me to eat the stuff. It is hard to believe that they can make money from this, unless oats and packaging and freight and stocking the shelf are almost free. On top of that it is relatively healthy since I ran the ingredients by my wife who is a food Nazi, and she gave them her blessing.

    I saw in my comments at LITGM that the going rate for Ramen Noodles is .19, unless you need it in the elitist cup, then it is a preposterous .27 per serving!

    Here is another – for just under $8 I made an immense pot of jambalaya the other day (with the newly rationed rice!), enough to feed a family of four for two days. It would have cost under $5 if I would have made it vegetarian. But what is vegetarian jambalaya? Not jambalaya, that is for sure.

    So give me some examples of you folks eatin’ cheap, and the winner (judged by myself based on creativity and best use of money) will receive his or her name in lights, like Rummel did when he won our air pistol contest. What a prize!

     

    48 Responses to “New! ChicagoBoyz Eatin’ Cheap Contest!”

    1. Tim Worstall Says:

      From back when hard times were upon me (umm, from the several times that has happened).
      Find a butcher. Yeah, I know, not many of them in the US anymore.
      Traditional English butcher. They close around 4, 4.30 pm on a Saturday afternoon, not to open until Monday. What’s there in the chillers gets sold very cheaply, rather than being put back in store to await Monday.
      Haunting supermarkets in the 45 minutes before they close (not that US ones do any more so this won’t work there either) for foods that are marked down because they will be out of date the next day also works.
      One that might work in the US still (it worked in the 90s in California). The items that the newspapers carry coupons on are also (usually) the items that you get the loyalty card discount on. If you use both the coupons and the discount card you can end up getting things for free.
      I latched onto this a few weeks after arriving in San Luis Obispo after 7 years in Russia (talk about culture change!).
      Some new Gilette razor, headline price $5.99. $2 off in Vons if you had a Vons card. $2 coupon in the newspapers. Vons doubled coupon values. So, go and do a regular shop and I really can’t believe that I’m going to get this for free. So I pay for the usual trolley load and keep the razor back and put it through as an isolated sale. Sure enough, the coupons and the card mean I get it free. I did point out that I actually had $6 off a $5.99 item so where was my penny but that was thought to be going a little far.

      My current method of eating and living cheaply is less sophisticated. Live in Portugal.

    2. Tatyana Says:

      Tim, I was just thinking when I saw your name @the first comment – he’s going to say – go live in Portugal! And you did!
      [didn't know you served 7 yrs in Russia - where exactly? and what for?]

      Dan: in my first immigrant year, when I had to feed family of three for about $600 a month, my most reliably cheap food item was eggs. It was about $1per dozen, but even now, at $3.60 for organic I consider it pretty cheap source of protein.
      Home-made pies with egg/mushroom/onion filling cost me about $4.50 a piece (well, labor/gas/pan amortization not included…) and one is a solid foundation for a dinner. Or two.

    3. Patricia Says:

      Yes, Ramen Noodles must be the favorite for many a cheap eater. Top Ramen got me through college in the 1970s when the cost broke down to about 12 cents per serving. It seems that inflation hasn’t done much damage to that.

      I haven’t eaten them since, but I thank the food gods they were there when I needed them.

    4. Tim Worstall Says:

      Tatyana: Moscow. 91-97. First to see what is was like, then to see if there were any business opportunities, then to run that business.

    5. Shannon Love Says:

      Pinto Beans and cornbread– Back in college we used to cook up a giant pot of beans Sunday and eat on it all week. A pound beans cost under a well under a $1.00, a bag of cornbread mix around $0.60. I think I calculated that each hefty serving cost less than $0.15. That’s 15 cents for a complete protein.

      When we were flush we made a lentil stew with lentils, cheap meat, potatoes, carrots etc. I think its per serving cost was something like $0.40.

      A lot of the bar code tags in supermarkets these days have the cost per serving in the small print. With that you can see that a lot of foods have a very low per serving cost.

      The last time I looked, the Average American family spent only %15 of its income on food. A century ago, it spent %50.

    6. Miki Ellis Says:

      In Austin, I used to shop at Wheatsville Coop. They had several staple items that they sold at cost. I use to buy beans and grains there on a regular basis. I could make a batch of black beans, pinto beans or black-eyed peas for about $2.00 that would last for several meals for me and Shannon. We’d eat them with cornbread or brown rice and a salad. The entire meal for the two of us cost about $1.00. I also used to buy chuck roast when it went on sale for about $1.00/lb and use it to make beef lentil barley stew. That was also served with a salad and maybe cost us $1.00/meal per person.

    7. Tatyana Says:

      Tim: so you’ve witnessed the Coup, then. 91-97 was a hard time to be in Moscow. “Character-building”.

      [sorry for the off-top]

    8. Jonathan Says:

      Pressure cooker is useful for this kind of cooking, and saves time.

    9. Tyouth Says:

      black beans and cornbread diet:

      add egg for breakfast, just the beans for lunch, add a small salad, a chop and a beer for dinner.

      Now that’s the high life!

    10. Lexington Green Says:

      Paralegal in a law firm circa 1988. $20,000/yr. Costs per day: one subway token to the office. About 35 cents for a roll from the bakery. Coffee at work was free. Skip lunch. Work late enough to get food for free for dinner. Total food cost for Mon-Thurs, less than $2. Friday, bars, chicken wings and other snacks = another free dinner. I was skinny in those days.

    11. John Burgess Says:

      Yes, a pressure cooker works magic on both the diet and the wallet!

      Portion control is a biggie, too. Most people eat far larger portions than they actually need.

      Beans, rice, potatoes, cheap ethnic starches… they all go toward providing some protein and a lot of carbs.

      You can do better on the oatmeal by buying it in bulk, not in elite little single-serving packs. You can even splurge a few pennies and get good oatmeal. Not only does steel cut oatmeal have more nutrition, it has better taste and texture. It does take twice your 10-minute window, but hey, we’re talking an extra 10 minutes.

      BTW, add some crumbled bacon, butter, salt and pepper to that oatmeal and you’ve got a good dinner. Add a salad if you’re female.

      Don’t forget, either, those various field greens: Mustard, Turnip, Collard, and Kale. Lot’s of recipes for them, with/without ham hocks, sausage, etc. Just don’t cook them until they’re gray.

    12. Jay Manifold Says:

      Live in an inexpensive city that is sometimes known as the capital of the Breadbasket. Eat a monotonous but rather healthy diet consisting largely of high-fiber cereal, skim milk, fruit and fruit juices, protein shakes, tuna sandwiches, green tea, and a few miscellaneous items.

      In general, having simple tastes = giving yourself a raise. A big one.

    13. Sgt. Mom Says:

      In my strictly budgeted days – as a very junior troop living in junior enlisted housing, I got along on $25 every two weeks at the military commissary. One toddler-age child, who did eat a lot of meals at the day care center. Lots of beans and rice, lots of seasonal veg, the local farmers market for crates of apples, transformed into apple-sauce, lots of home-made yoghurt, lots of home-made bread. Meat above $1 was just not in my scheme of things.

      Today, we economise, of course. We dearly love marinated artichoke hearts and have discovered that a couple of cans of the store-brand plain artichoke hearts, soaked in a splash of Lawrys’ Garlic and Herb salad dressing makes a very good aproximation for considerably less cost per serving.

      And buying seasonable vegetables from the vendor selling them out of the back of his pickup at the corner of Stahl and Higgins – that works, too. Nice guy, he trucks them straight up from the Valley. And he does take checks, too…

    14. Jonathan Says:

      [Reposting 2 comments.]

      Comment Author: Mitch

      Comment: Cannibalism FTW!

      —-

      Comment Author: James R. Rummel

      Comment:Buy potatoes, wash and individually wrap in aluminum foil, then cook in a conventional oven instead of a microwave. Pop into the fridge when cooked all the way through but before they have time to cool.

      The heat from the oven sterilizes the spud, the foil wrap insulates it from fridge odors. They will last three weeks to a month at least.

      James

    15. Dr. Weevil Says:

      This old post of mine has some remarks along the same lines, including a comment from one of the commenters here. This post followed up with a recipe for Mulligatawny Soup, which is cheap, tasty, and very nourishing, though it takes a while to make.

    16. Michael Moriconi Says:

      I find that the very best way to save money on food without the outrageous sodium levels of Ramen noodles is to find, skin and process road kill. The fresher the better of course, and you want to stay away from road kill where the gut (intestine) has ruptured. Another factor is that often you can’t be too picky about the species, but one man’s groundhog is another man’s roast duck right?

      If you’re careful you should be able to feed a family of four for quite a few meals – especially if you are lucky enough to stumble across a deer rather than a skinny little squirrel. For more information about the techniques that are involved in utilizing road kill, you should check into Urban Scout’s blog.

      Now – unless you receive additional submissions of ideas for food that is completely free, I would assume that I win your contest. Is that not correct?

      If only the Sudanese were a little more thrifty (eating more Ramen) maybe they wouldn’t be dying in such great numbers. Making light of desperate times in the lives of millions of people is reprehensible.

    17. Jeffersonian Says:

      For eating high on the hog (literally), but on the cheap, you can’t beat smoking a pork butt (aka shoulder). For around $1.20/lb, you can make pulled pork that is delicious and inexpensive. I’ll smoke 2-3 at a time, a total of ~20 pounds worth, and freeze what we won’t eat in a day or two. I can put a lot of meat on the plates of my family of five for 4-5 meals for under $30. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

    18. Rob Schwartz Says:

      If we can take some wisdom from people like my parents who lived through the Depression and World War II, we can learn to be healthy, happy, and frugal. A few years ago my father shot me the dirtiest look when I bought a bottled water – he was onto something, even before the eco-warriors denounced the product. Within the year I had a couple of windfalls that made my financial position pretty solid. I vowed to do the opposite of what many do and become a frugal eater and shopper. By cutting out waste, lunches out, and cooking more, I have saved tons of money and can splurge on my savings, not my credit card.

      I remember shopping for a camping trip several years ago and one of my friends was amazed at the Ramaen Noodles we bought- My reaction- if you didn’t know about them you have never been poor!

    19. Earth Girl Says:

      Grow your own food! Even if you don’t have land, you can grow an incredible amount of food in a small lot or even a balcony. To reduce the cost, buy seeds, not plants, and buy the seeds from a bulk dealer, not in fancy packs. Eat all summer from the garden and freeze or can the excess. Yesterday I made a quiche with spinach and red peppers from my freezer.

    20. Jay Says:

      People have already mentioned beans, which can be central. Then compare flour tortillas that if you make them yourself are insanely cheap. Flour has gone up some, but we figured a batch wasn’t more than about 40 cents. That’s for 16-20. Burrito sized ones at the store start from about $1.69 for 8. Pinto beans are around $3 at Wal-Mart for 64 oz, or still low anywhere for 16 oz. You have a cheap basis for burritos. It stretches meat and uses the cheapest of meats. You can add rice, corn, cheese, whatever, or not, depending what’s on hand and affordable. Real garlic or onion in the beans are both cheap (garlic is light and you don’t use that much) if you want to go beyond powdered seasonings. The tortillas can be used for many other things, like wrapping scrambled eggs.

      The same beans are great for chili, which is also cheap and filling, depending on exact ingredients. Serving cheap bread with it stretches it at low cost. Ditto if you’re having pasta with red sauce, using cheap bread as garlic bread is a tasty stretcher.

      Traditional popcorn is insanely cheap, even after cost of oil, even after adding margarine or butter. When I was eating on $10 a week in the Bush economy (no, the *other* Bush) after college, a giant pan of popcorn was a frequent meal for the day.

      French toast. Pancakes. Stretching what you’ve bought until it screams, like turning that chicken carcass into soup, in which lentils and barley are yummy and cheap the same way beans are cheap.

      An so forth, but since I’ve been contemplating a book and/or blog series on this, I should save any more and details for that.

    21. Jay Says:

      I should add that eating cheap in a way that involves “real food” and extra preparation and thought takes a tradeoff in time and energy. It’s sort of the inverse of the “takeout food tax” one might pay by working a second job.

    22. Willys Says:

      In cold weather I like to eat soup. I get frozen veggie packages like cauliflower/broccoli or new potato/broccoli… any mix. The directions say to cook with 2 tbs water but I use two cups of water. Makes two big bowls of the best soup I can get.

      The brand names have the best veg flowers and the house or off brand have more stalk.

      Also, I get big bags of broccoli/mix stir fry. At the bottom of the package are tiny drop off peices. I save those in the freezer for a thicker soup.

    23. Jason Allen Says:

      Walmart-5lb chicken leg quarters @ $.69/lb.

    24. John Says:

      Margarita Mondays at Acapulcos. Go into the Cantina during happy hour and for $1 you get a margarita (cheap tequila, but it still works) and all you can eat buffet. I swear, for a while there in college that was the only fresh vegetables I was getting. They also had these great little taquitos. You just had to make sure to get out before the karaoke started (or if you had at least $5 you could be drunk enough to last through it).

    25. Rob Says:

      I’m a type 2 diabetic, so the traditional ‘poverty diet’ — things like oatmeal, beans, rice, potatoes, and pasta — is simply out of the question — too high in carbohydrates that send the blood sugar skyrocketing. I can have a little of each, but I can’t make a meal of them alone or in combination.

      Eggs are good and relatively inexpensive (though you have to exercise to keep the cholesterol down) as a source of protein, and from there you have to look for relatively inexpensive cuts of meat – chicken, pork, lamb and beef – and try to get them on sale. Things like pork shoulder, ham, and roasts and stewing meat can be used and stretched in soups after an initial meal

      Beyond that, vegetables and fruit require careful shopping for what’s currently in season. And, soups/stews can very savory. Salads are good when lettuces are reasonable.

    26. Tim Worstall Says:

      Tatyana, staying off topic with you: my first visit was before the first coup but I wasn’t living there until after that one and before the second.
      That second one was all rather “interesting”. The Sunday evening we went out looking for a beer or two and as we were walking along Novy Arbat to the Shamrock we could see the shooting start up at the end of the road, outside the Duma (the old one, not the current). We tried to walk home and found ourselves “persuaded” to take a different route by extremely nervous young men in tracksuits pointing Kalashnikovs at us. Got home in the end and in the morning were woken by revving tank engines. We lived right next to 38 Petrovka, the marshalling area (and of course Militia central) for the tanks that went to do the business that day. I spent the next three days holed up and reading Gulag Archipelago, with occasional peeks out the window into the courtyard where there was a plaque to Vladimir Vystotsky (I think he’d lived in one of the neighbouring flats) and wondering what he would have made of it all.

    27. Ozmo Says:

      A few weeks back my wife, using a combination of newspaper coupons and a drug store loyalty card purchased about $50 worth of snacks and toiletries. Taking into account the combination of “free” purchases and store credit applied to her loyalty card, the final tally was $13 PAID TO HER for making the purchase.

      Should have kept that receipt.

    28. Roscoe Says:

      Chop up a couple of cloves of garlic, brown it in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add a quarter pound of cooked pasta, a little salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper and oregano. Both cheap and very tasty. If you want to splurge, add a little bacon.

    29. beloml Says:

      One of my favorite meals, and frugal to boot:
      dice and sautee an onion
      add two tablespoons green curry
      one bag fresh spinach
      one can garbanzo beans (chick peas)
      serve over rice

      Delish!

    30. Dusty Says:

      Two PB&J’s and a glass of milk is about 25 cents.

    31. Dusty Says:

      BTW, Ramen noodle is good with a veggie and/or an egg added. Try adding frozen corn, bak choi, napa or spinach. The three former should be put in about a minute before the noodles; the spinach or egg right after the noodles have softened.

    32. Jonathan Says:

      Hummus is nutritious, tastes great and is cheap and easy to make. Two cans drained chick peas, juice of one lemon, two to four large tablespoons tahini (ground sesame; shake well), garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Put everything into a blender or (better) a food processor and puree for several minutes, adding water as needed to get the right consistency (a bit too thick is better than too thin). Use chilled chick peas or chill the prepared hummus before serving. Traditionally served as a dip with warm pita and garnish of olive oil, paprika, onion, olives, pickled turnips and similar. It’s also good, though stronger tasting, when made with fava beans or a fava/chick pea mix. Very important to use fresh ingredients! Don’t even think of using bottled lemon juice, make sure the chick peas aren’t stale, and try to buy the tahini in an Arab grocery that has a lot of turnover. Garlic powder seems to work at least as well as fresh garlic. You may have to add quite a bit of salt for best taste.

    33. Matt Says:

      Poverty had always brought my weight down and resulted in low blood sugar, fewer addictions, and cheap sports.

    34. Big D Says:

      For years, I’ve been trying to live on ~$2/day. Recently, I’ve been relaxing that somewhat, to give myself more options and flexibility, but I still find that most days I stay under $2. Developing a cheap lifestyle and mentality is the most important part. When you do that, you find yourself walking past anything that looks good but is over your budget.

      Ramen is great; not only is it cheap (I can still get it at $.12 at Wal-Mart), but it’s “refrigerator velcro”. Dump a can of tuna (in water) in it, and you’ve got yourself a fast hearty meal. There are few things that don’t go well with ramen–the only drawback is the sodium, and if that’s a problem, throw away half the flavoring. If you’re being a little more upscale, you can go with Ricearoni or the Lipton/Knorr pasta or rice packets, although those run around a buck each if they’re not on sale. Sandwiches can be dirt cheap–it’s hard to beat PBJ. While a lot of TV-style dinners (especially the “healthy” ones run around $2-$4, some frozen foods can be had for under $1. I have a particular fondness for Jose Ole’s frozen burritos, which are still around 3/$1. Some vegetables freeze well, and are tastier and healthier than canned varieties.

      For special treats, I like to make microwave stroganoff with 2 packets of Lipton/Knorr stroganoff-flavored noodles, 1 can of cream of mushroom, and upwards of a pound of pre-cooked frozen meatballs. Takes very little time and effort, makes 5-6 servings for not much more than $4.

      Oh, and make as few trips as possible. The gas you burn getting there and back is almost as expensive as milk these days. Use as few perishables as possible, and do without for a few days rather than make a special trip just for them. Either plan out every meal in advance, or if you’re too lazy (guilty) to do that, fill your larder with as much variety (bought in bulk where possible) as you can cram in there, and be satisfied with the options you have on hand until you’ve run low enough to make a trip worthwhile.

      It probably doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyways… DON’T EAT OUT. Eating out is for special occasions only. If you must eat out, and it’s not a special occasion, there are places you can eat for $2-3 (Taco Bell–skip the chalupa, eat from the under-a-buck menu), or buffets for $5 (pizza or Chinese, some of which have very impressive selections).

    35. Ryan Waxx Says:

      I’m a type II as well, which is one of the main reasons I came to this thread.

      Being a type II jacks your food bill through the roof, and it takes a lot of creativity to get it back down.

      The sugar substitutes are far more expensive than sugar, most startches are off limits or have relatively expensive substitutes, etc. It doesn’t help that I can’t stand the taste of most vegetables.

      Tips:

      1. French toast is still OK, but if you must have it sweetened the alternatives are more expensive. But even if you have to spend on a non-sugared syrup, its still cheaper than many other breakfasts.

      2. You can’t go wrong with eggs, and the amount of things you can make with them as a major or minor ingredient is amazing. Use them to enhance a side meal into a full meal, like adding them to salads. Egg-salad sandwiches are cheap and yummy.

      3. There are relatively cheap low-carb breads, but you really have to search to find that combination. My choice is Holsum Lite-r 35. (so named because it has 35 calories). Cut your sandwich bread bill in half by using an open-face sandwich.

      4. Poor-man’s stroganoff – use ground beef on a bed of low-carb toast instead of steak strips on noodles. Sour cream isn’t all that bad of an expense if you don’t go overboard.

      5. The cheap cheeses are mostly fillers, which have carbs, whereas real cheese has virtually none. Choose your poison carefully.

      6. Meats are your budget’s worst enemy, but it’s difficult to omit them entirely. For them, A george foreman-type grill is your best friend. Low power usage compared to a microwave and very versatile.

      7. Try this at work for your lunches: cook some cheap breakfast sausages in the microwave. Then scramble some eggs and microwave them too. You can do it all in one bowl as long as you do the sausages first and drain the grease.

    36. John M Says:

      Delicious and low-carb: frozen spinach sauteed with eggs.
      Garlic. Grated cheese. You can use egg-beater stuff, too. Probably 75 cents a meal, 200 calories.

    37. Moonbat_One Says:

      You made jambalaya for $8? It usually costs me around $30 for the shrimp, chicken, and sausage.

    38. Dust Bunny Queen Says:

      One chicken at .99 a pound about $4 to $5. You can make 3 satisfying meals. (Ok you do have to have some basic ingredients in your pantry You can’t cook without SOME basic ingredients) Cut the chicken into 3 pieces. One the deboned breasts. Two the legs and thighs. Three the carcass.
      Day one. Chicken stir fry over rice. De-bone the chicken and use a couple of carrots, half of an onion any other veggies you have (mushroom or two, green pepper, the last bit of frozen green beans, whatever). A dash of soy sauce mixed with cornstarch and broth.
      Day 2: Chicken rice gumbo. Boil up the carcass with onions, celery, spices. Cool and peel off the meat. Dump in a can of stewed tomatoes and any other veggies you have on hand. Bisquick biscuits
      Day 3: Now, completely sick of chicken because you have leftover stir fry and chicken soup, rub the legs and thighs with mustard and brown sugar and bake in the oven. Spring for some fresh broccoli and linguine or spaghetti. Bake the chicken, and toss the pasta in a spicy butter/oil sauce.

      Three meals for less than $15.00 and enough to feed at least 2 to 4 people each day.

      Other than that…. the cheapest is Top Ramen with any leftovers or a beaten egg blended in. The college student’s friend. I used to make ramen soup in my coffee maker.

    39. louisianaman Says:

      You folks are making jambalaya all wrong.

      Jambalaya is to be made only from LEFTOVER meats, or meats that wouldn’t taste so good unless you mixed them in jambalaya juice, such as deer or other gamey meats.

      That’s why jambalaya is cheap … because it costs “nothing” for the meat. It’s meat that was leftover from previous meals that might have gone to waste in the frige … chicken wing meat, thighs nobody wanted, leftover crawfish from the boil, that catfish that was too puny to fry up, that last half of a pork chop dad couldn’t finish.

      If you have $30 for shrimp, chicken sausage to thow into a jambalaya, you might as well have shrimp cocktails, fried chicken and seared sausage!

    40. Wacky Hermit Says:

      Five Dinners Out Of One Chicken!

    41. Dr. Weevil Says:

      I’d been intending to blog this for a few days and this post has finally inspired me to do so: the best thing to make with ramen noodles is Faux Pho, as explained here.

    42. South Sounder Says:

      I bought 8 blueberry bushes on sale at Lowes for $2.23 a piece in March. In three years each plant should produce between 8 to 10 pounds of blueberries. They are also an array of seasonal varities meaning I will have fresh blueberries for 2 months.

    43. Dictyranger Says:

      I’m with jeffersonian: pork shoulder (aka Boston butt) is some of the best cheap eats out there. Give it time to cook, and you’ll get pounds of superb meat plus a pork triple consomme that turns everything you cook in it into gourmet grub…all for $1 a pound! What’s not to love?

      In general, for cheap eats, I tend to think like my Eastern European immigrant grandparents: cabbage, beans, rice, meat for flavor. I also cook Asian, which is also cheap if you shop at an Asian market (dried mung beans were $0.69/lb this morning at my favorite place, and “standard” Asian veggies and other items were similarly cheap). Really, the main ingredient is time. If you’re willing to set up the Crock-Pot in the morning before you go into work, or cook stir-fry with seasonal ingredients, or cook on weekends and freeze the food back, you can eat like royalty on a grad student’s salary. Nowadays, you pay mostly for convenience. My grandma would have killed for what I take for granted.

    44. memomachine Says:

      Hmmmmm.

      1. I suggesting making a long-term relationship with fellow frugal-eaters. What is ridiculous for 1-2 people, in terms of bulk purchases, is smart for a dozen.

      2. A kitchen garden is always and excellent option if available. My family had an enormous garden when I was a kid. Every day we had fresh greens by using scissors to snip off the new growth rather than pulling the entire plant out of the ground and killing it.

      3. Make friends with local farmers and gardeners. A lot of farmers will have products that are blemished that they will have trouble selling. *shrug* in soup it all looks the same. Plus many gardeners end up with far more than they can personally use. It’s delicious, in season and local. Hard to beat.

      4. My favorite meal consists of a hot (spicy) Italian sausage with the casing removed, broken up and browned in a skillet. Chopped onions, bell pepper, celery and carrots, about a double handful, along with some garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin and thyme go in after the sausage has been browned and it’s all mixed together. Then when the vegetables are done the whole mess is served on hot white rice.

    45. Kevin Says:

      Years ago, I had a few tricks I’d use to eat cheap. Adding spaghetti to a can of soup made it last a little longer, and the two textures of noodles (al-dente and mushy from spening weeks in a can of soup) made it seem like you had a little variety.

      I also used to go to a cheap diner, where a grilled cheese sandwich was only 89 cents. I’d dip the sandwich in A1 steak saucem which gave the illusuion of meat.

    46. rb Says:

      In response to fellow posters with type II diabetes:

      There are green beans, sauerkraut, and most importantly, greens. An entire can of each has almost no carbs.

      You can stuff yourself with a can of greens, 1 serving of sauerkraut, and 1 serving of corn bread, and still keep the carbs low. That might cost a marginal amount more than rice and oatmeal.

      Even so, there is no reason to eliminate the ‘cheap carbs’, as long as you eat several small meals with sufficiently low overall carbs. Toss in a can of tuna and a couple of eggs for protein, and that should suffice.

    47. John Says:

      Thankfully I’m passed the “tuna in the ramen noodles on special occasions” stage, and I confess I got through most of that by working in a pizza place… prank orders from college students, mis-made pies, and ten cent fountain cokes can go a long way… Especially if you work through lunch and dinner.

      My concern these days is high quality for reasonable prices rather than lowest possible price. In that category the big win for me is making my own bread. I’d expect that bread would be one of those cases where mass production would lead to unbeatable prices, but for some reason it doesn’t work out that way. I can make my own for about 60 cents a loaf, not counting my time (minimal actually) and the cooking gas. I’m sure there are loaves of bread available for that kind of price, but the quality isn’t there. When you make your own bread, you can see how it got the reputation as the staff of life and became a synonym for food. Add the peanut butter and jelly others have mentioned above, and you’ve got cheap, tasty, and nutritious all at once.

      I also second the garden/grow your own comments above. I once got through nearly an entire summer on about $5 a week in groceries, mostly flour and sugar. Ratatouille is good stuff cheap when you have a garden.

      fwiw.
      John

    48. Anonymous Says:

      I love ramen and I’m no college student… just a penny pinchin’ mama of two. My korean inlaws have really inspired my usual ramen preperations with their kimchee soups and chapchae. Add some protein, some veggies, and some spice and it’s just yummy. I make my Top Ramen brand with shredded purple cabbage, frozen peas or spinach, leftover salad mixes, an egg, soy sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, 1-2 tsp hot pepper flakes, and 1-2 tsp sesame oil. Split it with your mate. Yummy and healthy. And cheap to boot!