So my friend Chad mentioned the unhappiness that is eating when broke and so I started scheming what I eat when I'm feeling less than flush, um, which is often...but still want to actually cook something good instead of eating instant stuff or a can of soup, you know? Trader Joe's seriously helps this list but you could probably do it just as cheaply at other stores. Most of the ingredients are pretty straight forward. I've tried to avoid
My top ten cheap eats in varied categories:
1. Homemade popcorn
Start with a heavy bottomed pan, about the volume of popcorn you want to make.
Coat the bottom of the pan with canola oil (can withstand heat better than olive oil) and place on medium heat, add enough popping corn to cover the bottom of the pan and cover. Wait until the popping sounds are a few seconds apart. It might smell like burning a little but that's just the oil... unless it's actually burning. You'll learn to time it after a few tries or you'll end up with a bunch of unpopped kernels at the bottom.
I add butter, salt and nutritional yeast (and sometimes dried oregano).
Oil ~ $3/bottle
Pop Corn ~ $2 1 lb bag
2. Apples and peanut butter/ celery and cream cheese
Okay - it's two different snacks from your childhood but it counts as one because I have more than 10 ideas.
Tart apples and salty peanut butter work best in my opinion
Celery and cream cheese is delicious (some weird people like celery and peanut butter too)
Apples ~ .50c each
Jar of Peanut butter ~ $3
Bunch of Celery ~$2
Box of Cream Cheese ~$3
There's nothing like toast with butter, jam, cinnamon and sugar as a late night snack.
Bread is super cheap!
Butter lasts a while
Jam lasts a while (add some of the peanut butter from #2 for a more filling snack)
Toast and tea is also my all time favorite afternoon snack.
4. Pasta con Queso
Pasta is boring. Yes, but when I lived in Sweden I was seriously broke. Living on practically nothing. yikes. I don't know how I did it. Eating lots of pasta, I guess. The thing that makes it good - cheese. Not Parmesan or asiago, which are delicious but I put the mild, melty Swedish cheese on it - lots.
1 lb Pasta ~$1 at TJs
Jar sauce ~$2 at TJs
Some cheese ~$4 at TJs (Edam, Havarti, Mozzarella)
Occasionally frozen meatballs (or veggie meatballs) can be added too for extra protein
Throw some mixed greens and a bottle of goddess dressing and you've got dinner for under $12, probably leftovers for lunch the next day too.
5. Tuna Casserole
My mom used to make this for us since her mom used to make it for her. Cute Grandma Rosamund had a dinner for each night of the week, Monday pot roast, Tuesday tuna casserole... etc. While I'm not quite down with that much regularity in my diet, it's a nice idea.
So, despite previous encounters with this infamous casserole, please try it!
1 lb pasta ~$1
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup ~$1
1 pound frozen peas, carrots, corn mix ~$3
1 can dolphin safe tuna (in water, chunked) ~$1.50
cheddar, mozza, or some kind of cheese
Cook past until al dente, mix with tuna and condensed soup, add the frozen veg last. Put in a casserole dish and throw some grated cheese on top. Bake at 350 for 20 or so minutes until hot and bubbly. Salt and pepper to taste. Yum. Seriously.
6. Pork chops and mashed potatoes
Boil red potatoes until tender. Mash with butter, milk, salt and pepper. Throw in garlic, sour cream, cheese, whatever you have/want/think would taste good if you feel like being adventurous.
Heat a pan with a little olive oil until it smokes lightly. Add salted and peppered pork chops. Cook on one side until browned then flip and cook until the insides are no longer pink and the juices run clear.
Potatoes are cheap. I don't know how much exactly but they are.
Two pork chops are ~$6
With salad still under $12 and left overs for the next day. Or green beans steamed lightly probably ~$3.
Another mom staple. Somehow I don't think her mom was making them too often. Who knows, maybe GR was ahead of her time.
Corn tortillas ~$1
Refried Beans ~$2
Brown Rice ~$5 bag, but it lasts for a while!
Grated Jack ~$4
Sour Cream ~$2
Seems more expensive up front but you can use the ingredients for other stuff(rice, lettuce, sour cream, salsa)
Bonus - Tortilla chips, TJs red salsa (the one with the yellow lid) and sour cream is a delightful snack too!
8. Yogurt and Fruit
Fage yogurt or TJs Greek style yogurt with a banana or other fruit of choice. For crunch add granola, even the cheap crappy kind will work and taste good. I promise. Or make your own!
9. Baked apples
Core an apple (s) and stuff with raisins/craisins, brown sugar, cinnamon and a little butter, bake at 375F until mushy.
10. "Quick" Chocolate Mousse
My friend from grade school Lillian's dad Phillipe taught us this recipe:
whip one small carton whipping cream ~$3
melt 12-16oz semi sweet chocolate chips ~$3
gently fold into whipped cream, leaving some ribbons of chocolate.
Place in freezer for at least an hour. Patience! Patience! Enjoy.
Blend 1 package soft silken tofu until smooth. Fold in melted chocolate and refrigerate.
There you have it. Chad, I hope this brings more variety to your life! One of my favorite things about cooking with other people is that they make things I wouldn't normally since I tend to get stuck in ruts. So since we're too far apart to cook together - this'll have to do until you come visit or move.