I follow a great food blog called Big Girls Small Kitchen about cooking for twenty-somethings. The girls that run it, Cara and Phoebe, are all about stretching the few dollars in your wallet to make something delicious. They contribute to Huff Post Food, and an article that they put out last May, ‘The 10 Best Ways to Eat on the Cheap’ really sticks with me. They offer great advice, like:
- “Make a detailed shopping list and stick to it.”
This allows you to plan your meals, taking into account which nights you’ll be eating in and which nights you’re planning on going out. If you just buy exactly what you’ve planned, you’re less likely to have food spoiling in the fridge by the end of the week.
- “Use your onion.”
I take this advice very seriously – onions and garlic are both very cheap, and they’re great ways to add a lot of flavor to a simple pasta sauce, mac and cheese, or even scrambled eggs.
This advice can extend to herbs like cilantro, which is fairly cheap in the produce section of most grocery stores. It’s a good 75-cent investment on weeks where you’re planning on eating Asian and Mexican meals. Cilantro goes great with both, and that will help you use up the whole bunch.
- “Bulk up with carbs.”
Pasta is cheap and delicious. End of story. I eat pasta at least twice a week. It’s so easy to dress up some cheap tomato sauce with different veggies, or to toss some hot pasta with parmesan, olive oil and lemon juice.
The best advice I can offer is to shop from your own pantry. Don’t go out and buy ingredients for a whole new recipe when you probably have some good starter ingredients hanging out in the kitchen already. The can of beans hiding in the bottom shelf can be dressed up with the abovementioned onion, garlic and cilantro, mixed into some rice and topped with salsa. That whole meal costs about $2, and there will probably be enough left for lunch the next day. Eat it over your keyboard on your lunch break and read some celebrity gossip – it will taste even better, I promise.