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Cheap Meals for College Kids

kwilkinson

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Well, I've been on my own for a little over a month now. First time not living in dorms with a cafeteria. One of the parts of the day that I don't look forward to is coming home from school and having to take care of the apartment, do my homework, do laundry, cook dinner, etc.

I'm in a uniquely fortunate situation in that I get one meal a day at school, and it's normally something pretty elaborate and impressive since we're learning how to become chefs. Anyway, when I get home it's normally deli or ramen or spaghetti. Nothing really wrong with that, but I'm getting sick of the same rotation.

Anybody have any suggestions on incredibly cheap meals to add some pizzazz to my food life? I have a very small weekly budget for groceries I normally have one good meal a week, and the rest of the budget goes to staple items like eggs (breakfast everyday) and then ramen noodles, tuna, bread, deli meat, etc.

What did you guys do when you were in college/had little money to work with?
 

Piobaire

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What's your cooking and freezer/storage situation?
 

kwilkinson

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Originally Posted by Piobaire
What's your cooking and freezer/storage situation?

4 burner gas range, with a tiny oven underneath (the baking sheet we bought before moving actually doesn't fit in this tiny oven
). A couple of sauce pans, a stock pot, a few saute pans. That's about it. Plus a huge ass knife set lol.

Storage is not ideal. After storing my cookware and plates, I have one cabinet of food storage, maybe 30 inches tall, 4 feet long, and 12 inches deep. I have a regular sized fridge with the freezer on the top (not the kind with two separate doors, but the kind where you open the fridge and then can open the freezer from there).

I think for Christmas I'm going to be getting a vacuum sealer, so hopefully I could buy some nicer meats and freeze them up for regular use.
 

BPerm

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I am still in College and I enjoy the Stouffers' skillet meals. They have a pretty good selection. They are supposed to serve about two people so you can easily have left overs. Compliment it with a salad and you have a meal just like at your parents' house. You can find them pretty much everywhere in the frozen foods section. I buy mine at Wallmart.
 

Texasmade

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When I was in college my parents got me a mini deep fryer for a x-mas present. It was my most used kitchen appliance.

One thing you could do is buy a bag of frozen chicken breast or thighs and add some spices or marinade then grill them. I ate that and a side of corn when I was in school. It's pretty cheap to make and cook. Another thing I ate were brautwurst or Italian sausage hot dogs.
 

Piobaire

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Stop with the ramen man. Nothing but carbs and salt.

You're a budding chef. Go buy beans on sale. Get creative. Split pea soup with smoked ham hock? Various bean and rice dishes; use lots of spices. Try this: puree some chic peas. Put some olive oil in a hot pat. Drop in minced garlic, a bundle of Italian parsley, and chopped fresh rosemary. When the parsley is wilted, add water or chicken stock. Add in 8 oz of tomato sauce. Now put in some cooked chic peas and the pureed cooked chic peas. The puree will thicken the soup nicely.

Go to ethnic markets in Chicago. Produce is often cheaper there as it's riper, so you can stretch your dollar that way.

Buy cheap cuts of meat and braise.

How's that?
 

robin

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You're in cooking school. Why aren't you coming up with this stuff on your own?
 

AntiHero84

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Trader Joe's should become your best friend. Good food for really good prices. If you enjoy Indian food, they have packets of 8 different dishes. All you need to do is cook some rice, microwave the packet, and you have a simple dinner. Also, they have pre-marinated frozen fish which only need to be baked. Uhhh... basically go look in their freezer section and find things that look good and simple.


Warning: Be careful with their burritos. Some are good, most are awful.
 

kwilkinson

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Originally Posted by robin
You're in cooking school. Why aren't you coming up with this stuff on your own?

B/c that's all I do all day every day. From 9-5, I learn how to cook. Do you get home from work and want to have to do exactly what you've been doing all day?
Originally Posted by Piobaire

How's that?


That's good stuff, thanks.

And to errbody else, thanks, and keep it coming!
 

BPerm

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Originally Posted by kwilkinson
B/c that's all I do all day every day. From 9-5, I learn how to cook. Do you get home from work and want to have to do exactly what you've been doing all day?

Exactly and you don't want to waste the little free time during the week just cooking. Go stock up on some chunky soups (or your favorite) and just make some sandwiches with them.

And as for Top Ramen... Save that for when you are drunk. That is a drunk munchie cure for sure.

Originally Posted by AntiHero84
Trader Joe's should become your best friend. Good food for really good prices.

+1 AntiHero hit that dead on.
 

mr.loverman

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dude i just eat tortillas with beans and some chicken thighs. mad cheap. hot sauce, garlic, onions, jalapenos, maybe some cumin and chili powder are the only acoutrements you need.
 

Connemara

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I find myself eating out at least once a day, often twice. It sucks. It's just a bear to go to the store, buy meats/fish/etc., store it, and so on. Like kwilk, I have a studio apt. and not a lot of space to store stuff. I buy organic wheat pasta and some quality organic pasta sauce. Usually makes a nice meal if you throw in some rice or something. I wish I had more money to make good foodz.
 

kwilkinson

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Originally Posted by Connemara
I find myself eating out at least once a day, often twice. It sucks. It's just a bear to go to the store, buy meats/fish/etc., store it, and so on. Like kwilk, I have a studio apt. and not a lot of space to store stuff.

I buy organic wheat pasta and some quality organic pasta sauce. Usually makes a nice meal if you throw in some rice or something.

I wish I had more money to make good foodz.


I was hoping you could get some help out of this thread as well.

Also, if you add up the $10 + you spend on eating out one or two meals a day, that's $70 a week for groceries. I top out at about $40 for groceries a week, so eating out and shit adds up quick.
 

Huntsman

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Whole chickens (the nice little fryers that are like $4.00) are incredibly useful and should be able to feed you better than a week's dinners (though I would assume parts would be frozen so you can mix it up a bit). And I am gonna assume you have or can get a bunch of staples to have around -- flour, butter, oil, a few seasonings for the major cuisines, etc, because the hard part is getting a critical mass of accessories that you can do stuff with, so that 1 chicken, a pound of ground beef, and the odd veg will feed you for two+ weeks with a lot of variety. Oh, and get some herbs in a pot. Chicken track 1: A) Make soup. B) Use some white meat for chicken salad C) Use the other breast, with finely minced onion, spices and a touch of salsa for chicken enchiladas D) Reduce remaining broth with chopped carrots, corn, etc, then reserve. Mix broth with white sauce and make a veloute. Add veg back in along with any remaining chicken peeled off bone. Pour into large ramekins, cover with french pastry -- best chicken pot pie on earth. E) Bonus points -- if you make your own pastry and tortillas, this can be cheap. The variants on the above theme are endless -- do a Thai soup with coconut, Kaffir and chili. Two days later, reduce some soup, reseason and serve the chicken with rice. Or go Chinese, with soy and scallion and whatnot, then stirfry some veg, sauce it, and add reserved chicken back for an entree. Thriftiness and versatility ever increases with chickens. Level one: Make a soup after having reserved the breasts -- grill or broil with the skin/bbq/mexican, or if skinless, make paillaird, chicken parm to liven your spaghetti, stuff with ham and cheese for cordon bleu, possibilities are endless. Thriftiness level three is to debone the breasts and thighs and legs, saving/freezing whatever, then starting with soup from the carcass with veg and etc, then using the other parts as you feel. Chicken track 2: 1) Roast chicken however you like. 2) Make fake stock with carcass and vegetable scraps (I save onion, carrot, celery,, scallion, asparagus, leek, etc etc etc ends in a bag in the freezer). Use for your finer meals. 3) With good bread, chicken breasts, a little ham and good cheese, make excellent sandwiches for dinner. Also, keep an eye out for chicken thighs. So cheap, like 0.49c/lb on sale, and in any sauce they suck up flavor like sponges. Chuck eye steaks can be found ultra cheap occasionally, $1.99/lb, and fried fast are very steak-like, with a beefier flavor than the vaunted filet. There is also this flat cut of chuck (has a bone that is very T shaped in it) that braises very tender but is cheap. Other things as they occur to me. Oh, and deli meat is incredibly overpriced -- the cheapest I can do consistently is like ~3.99/lb for ham, or 2.99/lb on a super sale. A whole chicken is like $0.79 for an off brand (not Perdue or Tyson). The only good thing about deli is you can get two slices. It's a horror to me how there is this culture in the U.S. that eating cheap means buying those inhuman microwave-in-a-box POSs with enough salt to put you on Diovan when you hit forty and enough preservatives to save your kin your embalming fee. Cheap cuts of meat with some though applied, plus onions, carrots and potatoes/rice/pasta/beans can really get you through and in a modicum of style and health. About when I joined SF I was feeding five people on $400/month, which works out to like $20/person/week. Of course there were economy of scale benefits to my situation, but I'm just sayin you should be able to do pretty good. ~H
 

Dewey

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When I was a cook in college I ate constantly at work for eight hours and fasted the other sixteen. If I got really hungry eight hours away from my next shift, I drank a quart of milk.

Right after I quit the cooking, while still a poor college student, I would cook a few cups of rice and a few cups of beans on Saturday. With a dozen tortillas, a bag of frozen sliced peppers & onions, and a block of sliced cheddar cheese, I'd roll a dozen burritos, freeze them, and then bag them individually in freezer bags. The rest of the week it was easy to nuke one up for a meal. They were cheap and they were delicious. The total cost was like $8 for twelve huge bean & cheese burritos.
 

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