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Wednesday Food: Help Me Eat Well, Cheaply

Dear Heteronomous,

Due to a number of “lifestyle” changes through which I am currently working, the relatively cushy grocery budget I used to maintain has been cut.  Though I was never exactly wielding kopi luwak or matsutakes willy-nilly, the days of generous Parmesan wedges and tenderloin are on hiatus.

In an attempt to avoid a constant rotation of oatmeal and ramen, I’m trying to get creative with stretching eggs, lentils, tuna, and bananas.  When you’re in that week when you are desperately waiting for the old disbursement to post to your account, what do you find yourself eating?

Suggestions are greatly appreciated.  Let’s help each other out.  (I’m looking at you, jms).




August 25, 2010 - Posted by | Wednesday Food


  1. Cook your way through Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

    I’m a good home cook and every time I open it, he’s got another variation that make lentils, beans and all those (cheap!) mystery grains in the bins at Whole Foods taste good.

    It’s by no means lacking in fat (or taste). A favorite recipe is black beans and kale with ground cashews/macadamia nuts.

    Comment by BruceF | August 25, 2010

  2. Dried/canned beans stretch immensely far, as do big pots or pre-cooked cereal grains such as barley, farro and brown rice. They can be adapted to included various odds and ends of vegetables, cheeses and of course, a few home-grown herbs will do wonders for a little fresh flavor. Top pretty much anything with a fried or poached egg for a complete meal. Freeze sliced bread to extend shelf-life. Have a bag of frozen and shelled edamame for last minute protien. Keep a variety of pastas, stock a couple vinegar or oil selections and always always have garlic, onions and lemon. Keep ontop of your famous “compost stock” and you’ll eat like a queen: soups, stews, risottos! I like to stick to one-pot meals if I can as well.

    heapies to try:

    -mashed sweet potatoes with sauteed onions, any hearty green and a fried egg
    -green lentils with roasted carrots, red onion and a mustard vinaigrette
    -spaghetti with garlic (roasted until sweet if you have time), lemon, olive oil and fresh basil
    -winter squash soup (hard squash keep forever, are healthy and stretch)
    -tofu scramble (a package of tofu stir-fried with any leftover veggies will last at least 2-3 meals; punch up flavor with bacon or top with, again, an egg)

    Comment by Vanessa | August 25, 2010

  3. Tortilla de patatas! I haven’t made one in a long time, but the proportions in this recipe look about right. Easy to make with inexpensive staple ingredients, and so good with salad and sour pickles.

    Also, tuna and eggs makes me think of pan bagnat, which is nice to eat in hot weather.

    Comment by jms | August 25, 2010

  4. Black beans and hamhocks. Polenta. Pulses and grains generally! Delicious quinoa!

    Red lentils can be cooked to mush with butternut or other squash and, say, ginger and jalapeño and maybe even peanuts to form tasty soup.

    The potato is a lovesome thing. Buy cheaper cuts of meat when they’re on sale and freeze if necessary.

    Green lentils can be made into tasty salads with boiled egg, veggies, mustard, etc. (I see Vanessa has that one covered.)

    Comment by ben | August 25, 2010

  5. And remember, thrift is a virtue men like to find in a woman.

    Comment by ben | August 25, 2010

  6. Mujadara is delicious.

    Comment by ben | August 25, 2010

  7. I’ve never had mujadara! But upon googling recipes it seems lovely and I will try it. When I was in college I ate frequently from a rotation of three food carts: the curry cart, the spinach burrito cart (it sounds terrible, but somehow it was actually awesome), and the middle eastern cart, wherefrom I would get a cup of “lentil raisin rice,” which was amazing. Anyway I’ve since tried to recreate this dish with not much success, using various pulao recipes as a starting point, but it’s been a while and ben’s comment inspires me to reset this endeavor with reference to a mujadara recipe.

    Comment by jms | August 26, 2010

  8. Wow. This response is like Christmas morning.

    Comment by ebolden | August 26, 2010

  9. I wasn’t a very good cook in my grad student days, but a bag of frozen shrimp lasts forever and can add a feeling of indulgence every so often — which I think is necessary for this kind of regime.

    But mainly I’m going to be referring back to this.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | August 26, 2010

  10. I could offer help with cheaply, but not well. For most of my final year of collee, I set a rigid grocery list of exactly the same items every week. They cost a little over $15 and the closest thing I did to cooking was oatmeal. Admittedly, this was 12 years ago in Michigan’s UP but it was still a shockinly low amount of money to put toward food.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | August 26, 2010

  11. Thanks to everyone for constructive, awesome responses. Like Adam, this is definitely a page to which I’ll be referring back. I look forward to the exploring the affordable magic that is lentils!

    Comment by ebolden | August 26, 2010

  12. i can sustain on bread with jam indefinite long time, also yogurt, banana, fried eggs, though after months of this one could become unwilling to buy bananas or eggs when shopping
    but that’s not eating well i guess
    tsamba or ours arvain guril – barley flour may count eating well maybe just b/c it’s healthy and easy, to make balls in tea with butter and sugar
    i was to bring it from home, a pound of forgotten taste, but the luggage weight limit prohibited me that

    Comment by read | August 27, 2010

  13. grocery

    Comment by read | August 27, 2010

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