Cheap as Free!

Food is an important part of a balanced diet. - Fran Lebowitz

My loan check finally came!!!! Finally I can buy produce again! See, just days after inauguration and the economy is rebounding already!

I have to say though, that this recent bout with poverty, while not especially thrilling (particularly all encounters with my hellish bank) did teach me some lessons about surviving on little to no food except what's already in my pantry. Its been a while since I've had to think about what I'm going to eat so much, and I got some good new ideas, and pulled out a few good old ones. They say necessity is the mother of invention. At any rate, here are a few....


1. Drink Tea. When Eva Peron was a young aspiring actress, not an iconic and controversial martyr married to a semi-dictatorish Argentinian President, she maintained her budget by drinking lots of Mate. Its a natural energy booster and appetite suppressant and is pretty delicious with some agave nectar. Similarly, I drink mate and peppermint tea to stay awake-- and its cheaper than coffee. (Especially effective when combined with a good book, pictured above.)

2. Bake. This should be obvious, but I always forget about all the whole wheat flour, yeast packets, and other baking accoutrement hiding in my cupboard. When you've got nothing but time and flour, you can always come up with something. (And a lot of recipes that call for soymilk work ok with water...)

3. Reconsider your condiments. I found myself relying more and more heavily on condiments the last few weeks, since they are always plentiful in my fridge. Can I eat a barbeque sauce and onion sandwich if it comes down to it? Yes, yes I can. Soy sour cream and fried bananas? Yes, please. A grilled mango chutney sandwich? You betcha. An even better option though?
Secret grilled sammies: Mix up a good knob of earth balance with some nooch, salt and pepper, and garlic powder. Spread it thick on the bread of your choice, and grill it, buttered side down, in a pan. Once its brown and crusty (and scrumptious!) fill it with tomatoes, avocados, or whatever else you have. These are good enough to eat even when you're rolling in cash.

4. Lie. For some reason, people are more likely to buy you a drink/ dinner if you lie and say its your birthday or someone just broke up with you. I didn't try this one, but I feel like one could procure some beer or cupcakes out of the deal...

5. Try the magic one pot combo. I have developed a formula that combines the grains and canned beans on hand in every cupboard with spare veggies, hopefully ones you might have in the freezer. Here it is:
Garlic + bean of choice + spices + frozen veg + liquid + grains= dinner for two days, at least

Basically, all one need do is fry some garlic or onion in a little oil, add in the beans, veggies if you have some, and spices, cook until a little browned, and enough liquid (veg broth or water) to cook the grains, which is the last thing you add. At the end, cover with nooch and hot sauce and it will (probably) be good.

Possible combos:
-garlic, chickpeas, asparagus and sundried tomatoes, white wine and cous-cous! (pictured)
-onion, black beans, canned pineapple, frozen broccoli, water and quinoa!
-garlic, kidney beans, frozen peppers, hot pepper, veg broth and yellow rice!
Combos are finite, but very likely to use up every last can in your pantry.

6. Pretend. When you go on a fast or detox you don't have a lot of solid food on hand either, right? Might as well make the best of things, drink a bunch of juice and nettle tea and just pretend this whole "broke" thing is an illusion... you're just intentionally detoxing for a few days!

*Ummm, you probably shouldn't use these if you're going to be out of money for more than a week or two, or you might starve/ get scurvy/ alienate your friends.

Song of the Day: Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk- Rufus Wainright


Anonymous said...

I've never tried maté tea, sounds like a good plan.
Oh, condiment sandwiches... How many times have I had a mustard sandwich, or a ketchup sammie, or if I was really lucky, maybe there were pickles in the fridge, which made it a veggie and mustard sandwich.
Glad your check made it!

Crystal said...

I'm glad you finally got that check, and made it through unharmed! I think now is the best time to stock up on even more of the things above- just in case! Haha and I have one more to add to the list: Make friends with someone who works in a restaurant- and hates thier job, and have them "take some stuff home" That's what I do when I'm too broke to buy a salad- only I'm the unhappy employee! At any rate I think I live too far away to hook you up- but just in case.. :-)

Anonymous said...

Good to hear you finally have some mony. Sounds like a huge relief.
These are great tips! I drink Mate and peppermint tea too. Although it never helps to keep hunger down, it's definitely very refreshing.

Anonymous said...

...I meant to say money, of course...

allularpunk said...

i love your no-money ideas! i, too, am a big fan of the bean/grain/garlic/veggie combo. in fact, i do that when i'm not broke. usually at the end of my pay period, i live during the day off of the snacks in my office kitchen. it's amazing how long i can go eating the apples, pretzels, and peanut butter before someone notices. also, one of my favorite and easy cheap meals is:
can of kidney beans + taco seasoning packet. it's surprisingly delicious to just eat up with a spoon.

Bianca said...

Good tips! Since my company is likely facing an across the board paycut, I may need to take some of these to heart.

Love the secret sammie idea! I'm totally going to start adding nooch to my buttered toast.

jessy said...

aaaaaaaaaaahahaha! i love this post! it's funny & smart & just plain awesome! you've got some great tips - i think i'm gonna have to print these out so i can remember them. cutting back can be a good thing - and dan & i are always looking for ideas on using up what we've got on hand in our pantry! necessity is the mother of invention, fo 'sho!

your one pot meals have me thinking of yummies i can create like that - and the grilled sammies sound AMAZING! huzzah for tea, too. totally gonna have to try out some mate!

hooray for your check coming in - and go get some produce! :D

Anonymous said...

I love the tips; we've all found ourselves in that position before and it is a good idea to keep a collective list of how to best get by!

I'm jealous that you got to be in DC for the inauguration!

River said...

You are so resourceful! The secret grilled sammies are such a creative meal! You are cash-flow problem genius!

Jo Stockton said...

I just did the one pot meal thing yesterday! One minute I was whinging that I had no food in the house, then within twenty minutes I was eating brown rice, lentils, and the dregs of a bag of spinach with garlic, onion, thyme, and soy sauce. Not bad at all and I have leftovers for lunch! I'm with you.

DJ said...

I love your little action plan for surviving a temporary shortfall! Some great tips there - Skint Vegan Dad likes to consider a chutney sandwich a delicacy in its own right!

Anonymous said...

As a broke student I can use those tips ;) I am right now also participating in a challenge to use up everything you have in your cupboards, which is great! I'm having rice with beans all the time :D
Also: the song. It's perfect. "Everything I like is just a little bit stronger, a little bit harmful for me." Or something like that^^

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