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Eating cheap

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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.”

Mmmm. Pasta fixings.








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.

My typical lunch break.

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.


Veggie Pad Thai Rice

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A great way to save some money is by eating a few meat-free meals a week. I am fine with skimping on the meat, as I tend to like veggies more anyway. My boyfriend doesn’t usually let me get away with vegetarian meals (“So, where’s the meat that goes with this?”), and lighter, veggie-heavy meals tend to have him asking for a snack thirty minutes later. I, however, am perfectly happy with veggies and rice or pasta.

Adrianna over at A Cozy Kitchen offers a lot of delicious, meatless options, like her Spicy Vegan Chili, Baked Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce and this super-interesting sounding Chile, Corn and Cheddar Pizza. Joy the Baker has some great vegetarian options, too. I’m especially excited to try her Savory Cornmeal and Chive Waffles with Salsa and Eggs. Double yum. Joy and Adrianna aren’t vegetarians, they’re just girls trying to eat yummy, healthy food that won’t cost an arm and a leg. (They both get paid to blog, it’s worth noting. They don’t need to save money on groceries as much as us normal folk.)

As far as veggie recipes go, my go-to meal is Veggie Pad Thai Rice. I use a double recipe of the pad thai sauce from Big Girls Small Kitchen, scramble a couple eggs, stir fry whichever veggies I can find in the kitchen and top the whole mess with Sriracha and sliced green onions. Rice is a cheaper and easier-to-find alternative to the traditional rice noodles. While I definitely still enjoy real-deal pad thai when I go out to eat, my dish is a good substitute when the craving strikes. (For the best pad thai in KC, check out Lulu’s on Southwest Boulevard. And order some pan-fried seafood dumplings and mango mojitos while you’re there. Okay? Thanks.)

Easy Pad Thai Rice:

2 servings

You could always add meat to this. Just stir fry some chicken or shrimp before the veggies, remove it from the heat and add it back in at the end.

Sauce: *

¼ c oyster sauce

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp sugar

*The oyster and fish sauces can be found in the “ethnic” food section of most bigger grocery stores.

Veggies (use whatever sounds good to you! But I typically use…):

2 med carrots, sliced into sticks

1 large zucchini, sliced into sticks

½ red onion, sliced thinly

4 green onions, light green and dark green parts

2 eggs

1 c rice



Whisk sauce ingredients together in small bowl and set aside.



Scramble eggs and prepare one cup of dry rice (which will make 2 servings once cooked. I use quick white rice, but I’m sure this would be yummy with brown rice, too). Set eggs and rice aside.



Working in batches, stir fry the veggies over medium high heat (I use “7” setting) in about ½ tablespoon of veggie oil. I typically start with the carrots, which take the longest to cook, and do the red onions last. Once one veggie is done (tender with some brown spots), remove it to a bowl and continue with the next one, adding more oil as needed. Don’t overcook! Nothing is worse than mushy vegetables.

See? Brown spots.

Add the green onions at the last minute, so they warm up but don’t cook much. Add all the veggies, the rice, the eggs and all the sauce to the stir fry pan. Fold together gently.

Top individual servings with Sriracha. Don’t be a baby – a little spice is nice. Chopped cilantro is also delicious and adds even more color to this pretty bowl.

Don’t eat the whole thing, no matter how good it is. Your belly will hurt. I speak from experience here.