Do you know how some things just really unite people? Maybe it’s a race in support of a disease, a fundraiser to help a family in need, or one of those things you see in the news where everyone sends a “Happy Birthday” message to the 4th-grader who doesn’t feel like he has any friends. I love that stuff. It’s very John Donne “No man is an island” type stuff.
Do you know what else really unites people?
I know there are a lot of good causes to get behind, but I can pretty much always get behind food.
One thing I learned during college is that food is very much a social experience. Wednesday night half price sushi the whole apartment building goes to, meeting south of campus at J-dawgs instead of attending the campus forum, trying out all the random South American restaurants on Center street, and lots of double dates. Food was everywhere.
Chances are, though, if you’re in college then you’re a bit limited on funds. I think I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day the entire time I was at community college. I was super poor at that time and slightly less poor somehow after I transferred to my university, but I definitely could have eaten better. Getting married was a change, because we were still poor and now there were two of us. Luckily, there are a lot of people who spread their cheapness and cooking skills goodness all over the internets and we were able to learn how to make tasty food without breaking the bank.
So here’s a few tips to get you started on your path from Hot Pockets to making your mama cry tears out of her face from pride.
- Check out www.budgetbytes.com The woman is a genius. Her food is crazy good, super low-processed, and cheap! She uses a lot of spices to pack in the flavor, so you end up needing to buy less meat and cheese to get that taste satisfaction. Just do it.
- If you live in a kitchen-less dorm room, you can still eat healthy. You may have to adjust recipes to fit your mini-fridge needs, but you can do it! Make eating real food a priority and it can be done! The Freshman 15 is a real thing, my friends, and it comes from not eating real food!
- Winco is a godsend. They have tons of bulk bins, which is awesome if you don’t need very much of something. Especially helpful with spices you’ve never tried and don’t know if you’ll like. But watch out for the coffee ones, I see little kids digging their hands through those delicious-smelling bins all the time. The Winco brand for boxed/canned goods is pretty good, but their name brand stuff isn’t really much of a deal. Once we stopped buying groceries at Walmart and switched to Winco, our grocery trips dropped $30.
- If you really struggle with cooking, there are a billion tutorials online. Spend a little time learning if you need and start simple. You could also take a cooking class on campus for one of your electives!
- We cut out a lot of meat from our meals. If we cut meat out of a recipe we tend to replace it with lentils, quinoa, or more veggies. When we do use meat for a recipe (usually just 1 a week, sometimes 2), we almost always by the turkey version. Bacon, kielbasa, hot dogs, ground beef–they all have a turkey version. I find the flavor is usually better and it’s cheaper.
- It’s pretty easy to make a little extra so you can have leftovers for lunch the next day (or two). Making enough for leftovers saves you money and time! Plus, a lot of food tastes even better when the flavors have had a chance to sink in more.
Now for the good stuff. Here are 7 of our favorite easy dishes for when you’re poor! Or learning how to cook. Or just hungry, because these are the bomb!
Cajun Pasta Salad from Budget Bytes I already mentioned this one before, but we’ve made this more than anything else we’ve found online.
Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad from Budget Bytes I love pasta salads and this one has great flavor and tons of veggies.
Easy Southwest Mac and Cheese from Budget Bytes It’s fast, easy and has a great kick!
Walnut, Parsley and Parmesan Linguine by Simple Provisions Such a simple recipe with great flavor. I love this one.
Sweet Potato Enchiladas from Damn Delicious Oh, these are my favorite enchiladas recipe by far! Sometimes delicious things look complicated, but these are not.
Bean Burritos from Taste of Home Simple to make, tasty to eat. Good for when you need a quick meal or are feeling too lazy and tempted for fast food.
Rice Bowl with Black Beans, Avocado and Cilantro Dressing by All Parenting I wouldn’t eat rice until I was 23 years old because it was nasty. Fortunately, I like it now and this recipe makes me happy that I repented of my rice aversion.
Learning how/making time to cook is a huge benefit for everybody. When I was learning how to be a better cook, it took me forever to make some recipes. The great thing about cooking is that the more you cook, the less time it seems to take because you get more confident in your abilities. You’ll probably make mistakes, but don’t worry about it. One time I put cumin on my toast instead of cinnamon. That was one gross bite of toast, but I lived and still eat toast. We’ve definitely made meals and promptly threw them away and made a sandwich instead because they weren’t good. It happens.
Whether you’re a freshman living in the dorms, starting your senior year, or going back to school working full time with three kids–you gotta eat. Might as well eat tasty food and not spend all your money on fast food junk and hamburger helper, right? Happy eating!