I’ve been off the post-collegiate fast food diet (mostly) for a couple of years now. I used to think that I was saving money from my frequent trips to Wendy’s and Taco Bell. Usually my meal would only cost $3 or $4 because I ordered off the dollar menu. Sure this wasn’t healthy, I knew that. But turns out it wasn’t cheap either.
When I added it up, these empty calories added up to a higher price tag than they were worth. My grocery habits mirrored my fast food habit. Sure I bought groceries, but I had a lot of frozen burritos and pizzas in the mix. It was almost just like fast food, just in the comfort of my own home. And I’ve started learning how to cook to start making good food while saving money on ready-to-eat meals. Here are some tidbits I’ve learned.
1) I love my pressure cooker. I use it to make rice in 10 minutes, beans in 30. That’s a meal right there and it just cost me a dollar or two. Sometimes I’ll make beans this way, add spices until tasty, then make rice and bean burritos which I then wrap and freeze. Two minutes in the microwave and I’ve got the burritos I love, fresh out of the microwave. The difference between this and store bought is A) these are cheaper than all but the grossest grocery burritos and B) I know exactly what goes into these things. No fillers, preservatives, whatever. I’ll add hot sauce, chicken, steak, whatever I want to these puppies for variety. I make them in huge batches so there’s always some waiting at the bottom of my freezer.
This is only one of a million pressure cooker applications. You can make big meat dishes fast, make stews, lots of things. I have an electronic variety that doubles as a deep fryer.
2) I appreciate the egg. Eggs are cheap and nutritious. I’ve learned how to make the perfect eggs over easy, beautiful omelettes, even the troublesome poached egg. With eggs, it’s all about what you put in and around them. I love making savory mushrooms and caramelized onions for my omelettes. Sometimes I’ll just hard boil a bunch of eggs to have something in the refrigerator for breakfast when I’m not in the mood to make anything at all. Plus I’ve learned the eggs keep forever in the fridge, so I buy them in the biggest packs available. Sometimes you’ll see them in 3×18 packs at the megamart. I buy those whenever I can because you save several dollars buying that many eggs by the dozen.
3) I look to the dry goods. Beans, lentils, rice, garbonzos. These have become the staples of my diet. I make a yummy fried rice at least once a week with whatever veggies I have lying around. I’ve learned to make my own fried or baked falafels with my gorgeous garbonzos. I’ve also learned the seductive beauty of the bean that, when coaxed for hours on the stove top, can be one of the most savory meal bases that ever has existed.
Basically what I’m saying here is: learn to cook with the cheap stuff. Cheap doesn’t have to mean anti-nutrition. Eggs and dry goods like beans are great for you. And they’re easy to make into really toothsome dishes. Get to know them well and they will provide delicacies at a fraction of the cost of what you’d spend at a restaurant or for prepared meals from grocery stores. Plus, these options will be way better for your body in the long run. Treat em right, your body and your wallet, and they will thank you.