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Cooking for Dirt Poor College Student

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
 As the title suggest I am currently in my 3rd year of college (technically my 5th), and Im getting kinda tired of eating crappy food.

I don't have a job, very little spare money, only a basic set of pots and pans, no measuring spoons, no decent knives other than discount steak knives, and a basic set up of a stove/oven/microwave, but I'm getting tired of eating unhealthy food and I feel like there has to be some way of eating healthy and not emptying my bank account.

I've noticed over the three years I've been at my current school I've gotten really out of shape. I haven't gained any weight (I don't eat enough for that), I'm just plain getting out of shape and loosing what little muscle structure I had in the first place. I realize the muscle thing isn't really food related but it gives you the idea of what condition I'm in now.

Every time I go to the grocery store I tell myself I'll try to buy ingredients to actually make something but either I feel the ingredients to make everything would costs too much, or Im worried the amount of food I make won't last me more than two days. Which for me how long the food will last me is a big thing. If I can finish it in one or two days its not really worth it. Usually I end up buying the same thing over and over again which is stuff to make sandwiches, and the basic ramen noodles, then occasionally whatever else I may need. I've pretty much been eating sandwiches every day for the past three years.

So my question is if there's any sort of cookbook or website or person that knows of good healthy filling recipes that I can make fairly fast, for cheap, with little equipment, and will last me more than two days.

Thank you
post #2 of 39
Actually there are quite a few things you can do.  I sympathize a bit because when I was school my room mate and I had a budget of roughly $1-2 dollars for our evening meal.  We did save up so that at least one night per week we would have something better.  A small steak, roasted squash, ham, something.  Another popular option was that by working one meal in the cafeteria, about 30 min to an hour washing dishes, we got three meals for free on that day.  Try looking for less expensive cuts of meat such as flank steak, chicken thighs and such.  Soups and stews can also be tasty, easy to prepare with a slow cooker, and provide lots of leftovers.  Side dishes with rice, or potatoes can help stretch your meals.   Look for the larger bags of rice, they are usually a much better buy than the small so-called gourmet rice.  Many pasta dishes also come to mind. 

My first cookbook was the Frugal Gourmet by Jeff Smith.  While he had a rather unsavory portion to his life, his intro cookbook was quite simple and tasty.  There are many others as well.   To make a long story short, your primary limitation is your imagination.  Take a tour of your grocery store, stay mostly on the outside edge where the fresh stuff is sold, avoid the center aisles because the stuff there is usually expensive and not too terribly good for you (rice aside).  Find stuff you think you can afford and then do a google search for recipes.

I'm confident that others will chime in and with just a wee bit of effort you'll be on the right track.

Good luck,
Rich
post #3 of 39
beans, rice, lentils, pasta, corn tortillas and vegetables form the basis of an inexpensive nutritious diet. Use meat as an accent.  Also think of the various grains: corn meal, bulgur, quinoa and so on.

Learn to cut vegetables.
Pinch grip the knife,
Learn the claw grip for the food being cut. Searching here at chef talk will pull up some info on that.

Carrots and onions are some of the trickier vegies for unskilled people to cut. Here are a couple of videos that looked useful in my quick searches.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C79WRZrZ-ys
http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/cut_onion.htm

Cooking this way takes time. Beans take about 2 hours to cook from dry. Lentils about 45 minutes.  You're not involved in the cooking directly for much of it, but you need to be around to prevent problems. Good time to be studying at the kitchen table.

These basics offer various Mediterranean dishes and soups, plenty of central and south american dishes as well as into India though that often needs more seasonings than you should probably stock. Even basic curry powder can make some good Indian style dishes though.

Primary seasonings are fresh garlic, dried thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, salt and pepper. These will take you a long way. Fresh cilantro and parsley as needed.

A good knife will improve your experience a lot and some good ones are available cheaply, such as an 8" Forschner Fibrox handled chef knife.  http://www.knifeworks.com/forschnerchefsblackfibrox8in.aspx for $26.00 and some shipping.

Protein wise, a legume and grain form a complete protein. So beans and rice, beans and corn tortillas and so on. However, you'll want some animal protein. Eggs are good and affordable. Dairy offers good things too and plain yogurt is pretty darn useful. Bacon, while not cheap can be used to add a lot of flavor to dishes with only a few strips. Save the bacon grease for using as a flavoring cooking fat for soups and such.

Tell us more about what you like to eat and we'll help you find inexpensive nutritious simple versions of them.
post #4 of 39
Equipment wise, you certainly don't want to put money into this yet. However, you can get by with cheap stuff for the time you have left.

A good knife will make up for lots power tools so I still think this is worth spending some money on as I linked above.

You can make purees of soft foods by forcing foods through a wire mesh sieve. You could make hummus by forcing cooked garbanzos through for example. This is also handy for some soups you might want to serve smooth. Some fibrous parts of the food won't all go through and that's what you want for those smooth foods.
post #5 of 39
One thing you need to do, in addition to the great advice given by Phil, above, is to budget based on cost-per-serving. Do that and you'll see that, often, things that appear expensive actually are the better value.

Also think stews and similar dishes. A pot of, say, beef stew, is good for many meals, and probably more nutritious than the sammies and ramen you've been living on. Yet probably costs little more. Same goes for chili.

Can't stress enough Phil's point about grains & legumes. Together, any combination of beans and grain provides the same protein and amino acids as does meat, but at a fraction of the price. And they provide bulk, which means it goes further. If necessary, use meat as a condiment rather than as a main ingredient. F'rinstance, you can take a bowl of beans & rice and add just a couple of slices of, say, flank steak, cut in bite-sized pieces.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 39
My next thought is learn to make a vinaigrette. This is a fantastically versatile concept. that can accent your basic salad to bean salads, potato salads and more. Generally how tos for vinaigrette use expensive ingredients but it's not necessary for many good ones.  Making them yourself gives you control of the flavor and volume and saves a lot of money.

Most commonly they are made with vinegar as their name implies. While flavor can improve with better vinegars, even basic white or red wine vinegars will do and are appropriate for your situation. cider vinegar can be interesting here too or rice vinegar though it's not as strong.  Citrus juice also shows up alone or in combination

Oil is the bigger component. While olive oil often shows up alone or in combination with a more nuetral oil, it probably isn't worth the money in your case for more costly oils though having a small bottle of extra virgin olive oil for accenting a dish isn't expensive and used only in small amounts. . While plain vegetable oil is fine, you might consider the extra cost for canola as it's a healtlhier oil profile in mono-and poly-unsaturates.

http://www.cheftalk.com/search.php?search=how+to+make+vinaigrette shows some search results here at Cheftalk on vinaigrettes.

Garlic and a little mustard add flavor and help emulsify the vinaigrette.
post #7 of 39
Essential skills:

cut up a whole chicken. Least expensive way to buy chicken. Supplies a carcass for stock.  Freeze carcasses until you have enough for making a batch of stock.
http://www.cheftalk.com/search.php?search=cut+whole+chicken  Also check youtube. There will be plenty of videos.

Freeze giblets and use to make dirty rice for one use for parts you may not normally eat.

chicken stock
http://www.cheftalk.com/search.php?search=how+to+make+chicken+stock

Make a basic tomato sauce from canned crushed tomatoes
http://www.wchstv.com/gmarecipes/15minutetomatos.shtml  but you'll get by with dried herbs (use less dried than fresh). You can make this in the time your pasta cooks.

roux to bechamel. This is the basis for many casseroles, pan gravies, cheese sauce and lots more. 

http://www.google.com/search?q=from+roux+to+bechamel&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a 
post #8 of 39
See Squid,  I told you the big guns would chime in.  You don't say where you live but if you have room for one or two potted plants, you might go the the local store with a garden center and pick up a few seed packets.  For just a few bucks you can grow your own italian parsely, basil and one or two others such as cilantro or oregano.  Believe me, fresh herbs make even a TV dinner taste better.

One other thing, as Phatch mentions, it is much cheaper to separate a whole chicken rather than buy the prepackaged parts but that advice also applies to many other items.  Next time at the store look at the price per pound of say pre-chopped cantaloupe vs a whole one.  Or bagged salads vs getting a head of lettuce.  It's amazing the mark up for saving perhaps a couple of minutes.  Check out farmer's markets or you-pick farms for other bargains.

Rich
post #9 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Squid View Post

 As the title suggest I am currently in my 3rd year of college (technically my 5th), and Im getting kinda tired of eating crappy food.

I don't have a job, very little spare money, only a basic set of pots and pans, no measuring spoons, no decent knives other than discount steak knives, and a basic set up of a stove/oven/microwave, but I'm getting tired of eating unhealthy food and I feel like there has to be some way of eating healthy and not emptying my bank account.
 

Shop for in-season food at the Farmer's Market. Nothing cuts costs and improves quality like buying off the back of a truck, from the guy who picked it.

Oddly enough, if you're willing to learn to do a little cooking, you can make the best food in the world for the same or less than the cost of junk food a paper bag from the drive-through.

When you're looking for ideas, think about cultures that typically don't spend a lot on food. Traditional Mexican cooking, for example, involves a lot of beans, rice, veggies and corn products, none of which are expensive if you buy them right.  Speaking of "buying right" if you're really looking to save money, check your area for a "damaged groceries" store. There's one here at the farmer's market that buys up damaged and nearly expired packaged food (canned goods, dried pasta, etc.) and sells them cheap; typically less than half of their original price, and sometimes less.

And while I'm rambling, Italian food comes to mind. An egg, 10 cents worth of flour and your finger will make fresh pasta dough for one person. A wooden dowel (rolling pin), maybe 50 cents worth of ricotta, some herbs from the farmer's market and maybe a tomato and a little olive oil will get you an awesome Cheese Ravioli dinner.

Who knows? You might even enjoy cooking and get a job as a cook!


Terry
post #10 of 39
Here's how you can get a few meals out of one chicken.  Get a big chicken.

1) Roast a chicken and potatoes.  Bake some bread.  Get a head of Romaine.  Chop it up, sprinkle with salt and pepper, dress lightly with vinegar and EVOO.  Eat like a King and save the bones

2) Save one breast for sandwiches.  Make some mayonnaise out of dijon mustard, vinegar, egg yolk, and oil.

3)  Remove all the remaining meat from the carcass and boil the carcass.  Add onions, celery, carrots, make a bean soup.  Eat it with your remaining bread.

4)  Chop up the remaining cooked chicken meat and use it as stuffing for Raviolis.  Toss with some EVOO, shave some parmesan, yummy.  Garnish with fresh basil and tomatoes if you can get some from the farmer's market.

Notice the key to eating well on a budget is knowing how to cook.  Learning how to bake bread is one of the best things a college student can do.  In fact it's probably the best thing anyone can do.  After you've made your own you will never want to buy bread again.

Making pasta is quite simple.  So maybe you don't want to do raviolis, but you can just roll it out with a beer bottle and cut nice wide papardelle.

My advice to you is to pick a project and see it through.  You will learn a lot along the way.
post #11 of 39
Chinese cuisine has lots of possibilities as well. Depending on your location though, you may have some difficulty finding the good condiments at the good prices. They are surpisingly inexpensive and of much better quality than most mainstream grocers carry. At least in my area.

This cuisine requires a capable knife. A wok is helpful but a large skillet does fine for serving 1-3 people.

If you have access to an Asian grocer, you can save some money on meat and vegies there. The same is true for Hispanic grocers too.
post #12 of 39
learn to make bread, super cheap, fairly easy.
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #13 of 39
This thread is full of fantastic advice. No doubt, an individual can eat both healthy and on the cheap. Unfortunately that comes at a cost of time.
post #14 of 39
Hmmmm?  I wonder if Squid will ever respond?    OR have we had our emotions, and willingness to help played with? 

Rich
post #15 of 39
Thread Starter 
Wow, thats a lot more information than I expected, thanks a bunch. Oh and someone asked but I live in a house off campus so I have no rules about no fire or any other restrictions dorms may have

While it may take me a while to read through all of it and write stuff down a few things that stood out to me were the mention of tortillas, beans, chili, and stew.

Personally I hate spicy food, I have a sensetive stomach and I can't eat really greasy things or really spicy things without filling myself with Zantac first. But when Mexican food and chili aren't spicy I really like them so those interest me as long as I'm not adding peppers. 

I've also just discovered I have a slow cooker/crock pot thing buried in one of the cabinets. Not sure if it works though since its been here for ages and I've obviously never used it.

As for the tortillas, I keep reading to use meat as more of a side dish since it's more expensive, but if I cut back on the meat what else can I put in the tortillas? I feel like tortillas and beans or rice would taste pretty bland.

As for buying a whole chicken and using every bit of it, it sounds like a lot of work. How long does it usually take to prepare a chicken like that?

Chili and a stew interest me too, I love both. Generally I like them pretty basic too. Such as chili just meat and beans and then whatever the chili sauce is. For stew I like the beef, carrots, and potatoes. I don't know if that will give anyone any ideas for recipes.

But other wise in general I really really love Greek food, probably my favorite. Italian is good too but all I've manage to make is boil some noodles, add alfredo sauce. Which is getting pretty boring. I also find myself not really caring too much for canned red sauces. The ravioli sounds interesting but making my own dough and putting everything together sounds like a lot of work. I also have a strong Swedish background, grew up eating it fairly often and I haven't had a good Swedish meal in a while,  so anything cheap, easy, and Swedish will automatically have me interested.

So yeah basically I'll eat anything as long as its not spicy, oh and no mushrooms or olives I hate both with a passion. And good ethnic foods besides the usual Mexican and Italian are hard to come by around here. There are a couple very small asian stores but they're also really expensive.
post #16 of 39
Squid,

There really is nothing that is worth doing that does not take a bit of effort.  If you are looking for some miracle dishes, I'm afraid you will be dissapointed.  Yes, separating a chicken is a bit of work.  Your first time might take a while.  Your fifth or tenth time might take 5 minutes.  You will have to decide how serious you are.  If you are looking for serious help, you've come to a good source.  Perhaps, a bit more information from you would help the others focus better.

Edit:  OK perhaps I'm being a bit harsh.  But you give so many caveats that I would be terrified to ask you to dinner.  Before you condemn so many dishes and ingredients, please ask yourself if you've ever had them prepared well.  You worry about a dish being bland but don't want to use peppers.  OK, what kind of peppers?  They run the gamut, not to mention fresh vs roasted, seed and membrane included, taken out.  To lump a haberno, jalapeno, and poblano pepper together...... well I'll not go there.  I suspect that others here with more experience may be able to help but personally I think you might have to be a bit more flexible.  I can assure you the rewards are considerable.

Best wishes,
Rich

My apologies to the others, I apparently jumped in over my head, I'll stay out of the rest. I have this fixation on wanting to help folks and once again I'm probably going under fast.   Good thing I do SCUBA, neh?

Rich
Edited by CaboSailor - 4/7/10 at 9:47pm
post #17 of 39
i completely understand the dirt poor situation.  Cooking healthy doesn't have to be expensive, in my experience i usually spend less on healthy food than i do on junk and quick food.  i do not usually measure out spices, i just use them to taste because everyone i cook for likes things differently and i make them taste it as i make it, so i appologize that it is not more exact.

sheperd's pie

2 pounds ground beef or chuck
1/2 onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
pepper to taste
garlic to taste
seasoned salt to taste
a pinch of paprika
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 can of corn and or 1 can green beans (can also use mixed vegies instead)
1 can mushrooms

4-6 potatoes
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp salt

grated cheese (optional)

preheat oven to 350 degrees
wash and slice potatoes before placing in boiling water.  let potatoes boil till soft enough to mash.  once soft, drain potatoes and mash with butter, milk and salt.

brown meat in pan with onions, mushrooms and seasonings.  drain grease then mix cream of mushroom soup with meat and place in deep cassarole dish.  cover meat with the vegies and then cover that with the mashed potatoes.  sprinkle cheese over the top and place in oven.  cook untill cheese has melted. 

this should make enough for you to have leftovers for a few days, or it will feed maybe 3-5 people
post #18 of 39
This site can be handy for living on the cheap. Don't take everything they say into your heart some parts of this site suggest stealing what you can't afford but other than the petty theft it advocates it has some really good information for low low income college students. http://wiki.stealthiswiki.org/wiki/Cheap_Chow 

Other than that this forum has provided tons of good ideas and by the way once you learn to fabricate a whole chicken it takes almost no time at all and there are all kinds of videos how to do it. Heck Martin Yan fabricates chickens in 18 seconds (it still takes me about 3-5 mins I am not about to try and cut my fingers off). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sy6P3E84Dqs 
"Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors." - W. Eugene Smith
 
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"Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors." - W. Eugene Smith
 
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post #19 of 39
Squid - it's not easy is it?  There's a thread similar to this one I started a while back.  I don't know how to link to it, but if you search the main forum for:

Student Starving in a Garrett...can't cook

That could give you other similar ideas.

With stews and chillis - you can bulk them out with a cheap brand of pasta to give yourself more energy.  Sounds like you are short on protein if you're losing muscle mass.  Eggs are always good, so is canned tuna fish (doesn't have to be costly), this can go in well with rice, pasta, corn, beans...all those other things mentioned above.  And don't be afraid of the "Home"or generic brands - just don't use much salt (if any) while you are using them.  They also produce really cheap powdered gello (jelly) for a cheap sweet treat.  Just add boiling water, into a dish (or 2 to have it again the next night) leave it to set in the fridge.  Might want to do it in the morning so it's ready for when you get home (cover in plastic or if you don't have any, just with a flat plate).

Onions will help keep you healthy too, plus garlic if you can spring for it.  Any leafy greens you can get within your budget too - very important.  Get some sort of calcium into you as well - I don't know about there, but here you can get generic brand tinned mackerel in tomato sauce, lots of very soft bones in it, just smoosh them up - you really won't notice them much.

I love the mention of working in a kitchen, no matter if its general dish and bottle washer.  There's usually something to be had to eat.

Don't stress about what equipment you have or haven't got - hit the local second hand shop for a veg peeler and a wire sieve when you can.  Just give them a good scrubbing before you use them. 

P.S.  What are you studying by the way, if you don't miind the question?  No matter if not  Just curious - my teens are at college(Business management and music) and Uni. (Journalism) now, and we have a boarder here doing law at Uni.

P.P.S. See if you can find a bakery that sells day old bread - usually half the price.  Freeze what you have which is going stale, use it for toast or toasting (use your broiler/griller if you don't have a toaster) and cubing for making croutons for soups etc, even stews.  Good Luck

Oh also if you make too much of something and have a freezer, freeze a portion in a cheapie freezer bag for another time - try to label and date it with a marker so you know what the heck it is hehe.   I have several tihngs I know not wot they be lurking around in mine.

Daina
Edited by DC Sunshine - 4/8/10 at 12:09am
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #20 of 39
This site looks pretty good!
http://www.studentrecipes.com/
post #21 of 39
Mexican cooking does not have to be greasy.  The basics remain the same.  A taco, for example, is just some stuff in a tortilla.  My favorite is corn but yours may be different.  In fact, if you want you can buy masa fresh from the mercado and roll it out and cook it immediately on a griddle.  Flip it over and put your stuff right on it.  It's called a Tlacoyo.

So for a quick, simple, easy, meal, season some chicken thighs with salt and pepper and grill.  Dice a small onion and cilantro, chop up the chicken and put it in a tortilla with the cilantro and onion.  Squeeze some lime on top and enjoy.
post #22 of 39
I still like the focus others have put on using every part of the product you buy. In addition to buying the products you can afford. Chicken leg quarters are surprisingly cheap, yes much cheaper than a whole chicken per lb. and I really don't think you'll be missing the breast meat that much. I have purchased six large leg quarters for $3.00 at our local supermarket. The key then is to utilize them in as many interesting ways possible. As others mentioned you could boil a few along with basic roasted veges and what herbs you have available to make a stock. That stock can then be used for numerous soups and sauces. The meat can then be pulled for:

1. combine with BBQ sauce and spread liberally on a kaiser roll (or any bread) for BBQ pulled chicken
2. combine with a little mayo, relish, onion for a basic chicken salad (add dried fruit if available for a spin)
3. combine with cooked pasta, peas, mayo, etc then chilled for a cold salad
4. combine with some of the stock, pasta, veges, whatever else is on hand for a rustic chicken noodle soup
5. create a roux, combine pulled meat and stock with diced potatoes for a creamy potato chicken soup

Those aren't meant to be recipes, just very basic ideas, as there really are many possibilities all involving that single affordable protein. There are cuts of beef, stew meats, flatiron, etc. that are also very affordable. Keep an eye out for sales, and buy when it makes sense. Then use the products to their fullest. Being able to use what is in your fridge/pantry before it expires will help stretch your penny.
post #23 of 39
 

Welcome to the family Squid,


 

All the posts so far have been terrific. If your crockpot is working you can easily make a stew, put it on in the morning and by the time your finished with classes your dinner will be ready. If you speak to the butcher at the supermarket he can advise you on which cuts are on sale that week and may (for no extra cost) prep your meat for you.

Potatoes , carrots, celery and onions are vegetables you would want to keep on hand as you use them for so many dishes.

If you go into the search menu you will find so many different stews.

Type in “ Crockpot Ideas ? “ (great recipes here)

This is also a site to help you with ideas.


 

http://southernfood.about.com/library/crock/blstew.htm


 

You can also ask the fresh produce manager what items you can get at a discount as every store has  "quick sales" ....

Eating your greens and fruit is important as well .

Buying spices can get expensive but if your were to buy 5 basic spices it would be a start to your pantry then every week or two try and buy one more this way here you will not find it so expensive.
So many foods can be "recycled". Stale bread....bread pudding, leftover rice.....rice pudding....on and on...


 

Check all the food flyers to see what is on sale.


 

Dollar stores are quite popular.....there you can buy a measuring cup, a carrot peeler, and a few other kitchen items.

Just a few thoughts......
 

Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

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Victorian cupcakes
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Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Baby Cake
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Victorian cupcakes
(10 photos)
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post #24 of 39
heh, don't wast a whole leg on stock. If it's just you, bake  that leg w/ bbq sauce eat your dinner then toss that bone into a pot and make stock. or save it it in the freezer till you got a couple of bones for stock. if you have a real butcher in the area (unlikely) see what bones you can get for free or even cheap.
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #25 of 39
I agree, having some ready made stocks and sauces are easy ways to add flavor to simple dishes.
Try a classic white wine sauce or red wine sauce for steaks or even pasta.
Edited by MoreThanGourmet - 4/12/10 at 7:10am
post #26 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Squid View Post
But other wise in general I really really love Greek food, probably my favorite. Italian is good too but all I've manage to make is boil some noodles, add alfredo sauce. Which is getting pretty boring. I also find myself not really caring too much for canned red sauces. The ravioli sounds interesting but making my own dough and putting everything together sounds like a lot of work. I also have a strong Swedish background, grew up eating it fairly often and I haven't had a good Swedish meal in a while,  so anything cheap, easy, and Swedish will automatically have me interested.

So yeah basically I'll eat anything as long as its not spicy, oh and no mushrooms or olives I hate both with a passion. And good ethnic foods besides the usual Mexican and Italian are hard to come by around here. There are a couple very small asian stores but they're also really expensive.

If this is truly the case, I'd suggest talking to your colleges food-service department and trade a couple of hours/day for a meal plan card, and let them feed you.

You're not actually allowed to be broke, starving, unwilling to work and overly-fussy all at the same time.

Terry
post #27 of 39
Squid, there is no reason for any food to be greasy or overly spicy. Not when you make it yourself. That's one of the advantages of cooking.

One tip we seem to have implied but not stressed enough: Stay away from convenience products. They are, by and large, the most expensive route to take, and, generally, aren't nutritionally the best.

A further note on breaking down a chicken. Friend Wife and I typically will wait for chickens to go on sale. We'll then buy three largish ones, averaging five-six pounds. By utilizing them fully we get as many as 21 meals (i.e., servings) from them, at a cost of about 18 bucks. This does not include either the stock we make, nor the wings---which we collect in the freezer until having enough for another meal.

Even the first time you attempt it, disjointing a chicken should only take you about 20 minutes or so. Then you're good to go. Once you've done it, it becomes progressively easier and faster.

Now then, on the question of how long things take. The basic lesson to learn, when living poor, is that you can always trade time for money. Easiest way to understand this is to look at convenince products. Take a frozen entree of any kind. Putting aside quality issues, the only thing it saves you is the time it takes to prepare that dish. But you pay much more for somebody else having invested that time for you.

That time/money trade off exists not only with food but with practically anything else you can name. F'rinstance, you can fix your own car, or send it to a mechanic.

With cooking, however, it's not a straight trade-off, because much of the time the oven and cooktop are investing the time, while you use it or other purposes, such as studying or writing a paper.

Example: We talked abou chili. Your prep time for chili is what? 15-20 minutes? The rest of the time it's on the stove simmering, with an occasional stir from you. So, while the chili might actually take 2 1/2 hours, start to finish, you're only spending 20-25 minutes actually cooking it. And, of course, you can just reheat it in the microwave for subsequent meals.

Getting back to the meat as condiment idea. Numerous cultures live that way all the time, with Asian cuisines being the most commonly known. The basic idea is to bulk out on inexpensive but nutritious ingredients, and add in meat merely as a flavoring agent.

Here's an example of the difference. Let's look at some shrimp. Let's say 25-30 size, and posit $12/pound. This, by intent, represents a fairly expensive protein.

You could make yourself a big bowl of boil & peel shrimp and some cocktail sauce. Do that and you're likely to eat the whole pound. Cost of the meal: About $14. Rather steep.

Alternatively, take a couple of tortillas, some chopped up onions and bell peppers, a couple of slices of cheese, and just four or five of those shrimp. Make a quesidilla with those ingredients. You'll now have at least five dishes at a cost of about $3/each. Throw in some rice & beans, and a tossed salad and you're looking at maybe four bucks for a complete meal.

You're probably spending that much on the sandwhiches you're living on now.

Now then, do the same thing, only instead of shrimp substitute some of the chicken we've discussed. That entire meal would cost you less than $3. And you'd have about 20 minutes invested in it.

As you develop meal plans, don't neglect eggs---probably the least expensive of all animal proteins. Around here they run 99 cents to $1.19/dozen. And there's an awful lot you can do with a dozen eggs.

Also keep in mind that frugality often means buying in larger sizes. A five-pound chub of chopped meat, for instance, is considerably less per pound than bying five one-pound packages. But look at how you can stretch it. One set of possibilites: 2 1/2 lbs used for a large pot of chile, yielding multiple meals. 1 1/2 lbs used to make a meatloaf---again, for multiple meals. One pound divided into four burgers, which, when paired with sides dishes, is another four meals.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #28 of 39
Thread Starter 
Quote:CaboSailor
 
OK perhaps I'm being a bit harsh.  But you give so many caveats that I would be terrified to ask you to dinner.  Before you condemn so many dishes and ingredients, please ask yourself if you've ever had them prepared well.  You worry about a dish being bland but don't want to use peppers.  OK, what kind of peppers?  They run the gamut, not to mention fresh vs roasted, seed and membrane included, taken out.  To lump a haberno, jalapeno, and poblano pepper together...... well I'll not go there.  I suspect that others here with more experience may be able to help but personally I think you might have to be a bit more flexible.  I can assure you the rewards are considerable.

I didn't mean for it to sound like I'm picky. I'm really not, I'm willing to try just about anything. I just can't eat peppers, my stomach doesn't like them and I'm usually in pain after eating anything spicy. I don't know why, its just the way I was born. Nor do I think not liking olives or mushrooms is terribly picky either. There's plenty of other stuff out there that I have no problem eating.


Quote:
Quote:DC Sunshine
P.S.  What are you studying by the way, if you don't miind the question?  No matter if not  Just curious - my teens are at college(Business management and music) and Uni. (Journalism) now, and we have a boarder here doing law at Uni.P.S.  What are you studying by the way, if you don't miind the question?  No matter if not  Just curious - my teens are at college(Business management and music) and Uni. (Journalism) now, and we have a boarder here doing law at Uni
 
I go to an art school for Computer Animation. So with that said all of my homework has to be done at a computer at school so studying while cooking isn't doable for me. Which is why I'm thinking the weekend is the best time for me to try to make anything since I usually don't go to school till later then so I can make everything during the day.

Quote:webMonkey
If this is truly the case, I'd suggest talking to your colleges food-service department and trade a couple of hours/day for a meal plan card, and let them feed you.

You're not actually allowed to be broke, starving, unwilling to work and overly-fussy all at the same time.
I don't know why so hostile, but I haven't been able to get a job at school and believe me I tried. Plus meal plans cost way more than it does for me to go grocery shopping every couple of weeks. And I never said I'm unwilling to work and I don't believe I'm overly fussy either. I was answering someones question about what I like to eat, and all I did was mention my favorite things, but by no means does it mean I hate all other food out there.

If it makes anyone feel better I bought a bag of rice and some eggs today. As well as some carrots, onions, potatoes, and meat to try to make a stew...assuming that crock pot works. If it doesn't I'll have to figure something else out with the ingredients.
post #29 of 39
If you have a pan, salt and pepper the meat first and then brown it.  Transfer it to the crock pot, deglaze the pan with water and get up all the brown stuff off the pan.  Transfer that to the crock pot too.
post #30 of 39
 My parents grew up through the 'dirty thirties' and with it, some of the most frugal dishes ever conceived. 

  One that would work well for you comes to mind.

 Ox tail and lentils with rice.
If that slow cooker works I would suggest to give it a go.

 2 Lb Ox tail
 1 large yellow onion chopped
 3 cloves garlic chopped or grated
 1 tomato chopped
 1 cup of flour
 salt
 ground black pepper
 oil - whatever you have available
 2 cups of lentils - red, yellow or brown, it doesn't matter (I use brown)
 1 bell pepper chopped (optional)
 6 cups of water

My mother does this dish in a pressure cooker due to the normally long cook period required for this dish but because you are a student and the days are long for you, I figure that the slow cooker would do a great job and would have your dish ready by the time you get back home.
 
 Start by brushing / covering the oxtail with a thin coat of oil
 Season with salt and pepper
 Coat with flour
 In a pan on medium high heat add enough oil to brown the oxtail in.  Add oil when the pan is to temp and place oxtail in and brown till a nice dark browning is had all over.
Take the oxtail out of the pan and put into the slow cooker.
Add lentils, onion, garlic, tomato, bell pepper (optional) and some more salt and pepper to taste.
cover with the 6 cups of water
Set it on medium setting or if you can visit during noon hour, set on high.
It will take about 8 hours by slow cooker.

You'll know when it is cooked as the oxtail will fall off the bone and the lentils form a nice thick sauce.
serve over rice and if possible, your favorite veggies.

 If you like I can give you a nice bread pudding recipe. It's a 70 year old recipe that our family has enjoyed throughout the lean and fruitful times. 
"Ye can lead a man up to the university, but ye can't make him think."

Finley Peter Dunne
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"Ye can lead a man up to the university, but ye can't make him think."

Finley Peter Dunne
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