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One of the toughest things about postgrad life is eating healthy without going bankrupt. I understand all too well. That’s why I sought out simpler ways to eat relatively healthy for anyone on a tight budget. Why spend 30 minutes slaving over a hot stove cooking a complicated meal to save money? Why take years off your life clogging your arteries with $1 McDoubles when you won’t be alive to spend the money you saved? There’s a better way–my way, and I still eat this way 70% of the time. Let me teach you how to eat.
1. The Dog Bowl
My favorite of the cheap meals, I call this the dog bowl, because when you eat it out of a bowl it looks like you’re just spooning a barely recognizable mass of meat into your mouth. In reality, it is the poor man’s burrito bowl. Basically you just brown ground beef (or turkey if you’re some kind of hippie who doesn’t eat red meat), mix it up with either homemade or store bought guacamole, and smother it in hot sauce. You can mix in anything else, if you really want. Salsa, refried beans, lettuce, cheese, whatever. Meat, fiber, and greens for about $2.50-3 per meal. It looks gross, but it’s actually pretty tasty and beats the hell out of Ramen, cereal, mustard sandwiches, and McDouble arteries. Woof.
2. Bankrupt Ex-Child Star Chicken
If you’re on the budget that rivals the likes of Aaron Carter, Trader Joe’s sells frozen chicken breasts and thighs for an average of about $1.25 each, and I imagine other brands are around the same. Get frozen pre-mixed peppers and onions, canola oil, and salt. Bake the chicken, cook the peppers and onions on low heat in the oil for about 30 minutes, and put salt on it before serving it all together. It’s the most low-maintenance meal on earth. You can cook it unwatched, with a timer, while beating a British eight-year-old kid at FIFA, and it will likely be ready by the time you finish your “USA” chant. And you’re still probably eating better than he is. America, fuck yeah.
3. Prison Chicken
Do you own a crock pot? If you do not, please proceed to the next recipe. Scrounge up six dollars. Buy a pound of chicken thighs or drumsticks. They’re the cheapest part of a chicken. Take the remaining money you have (probably around $1.50) and buy the cheapest can of Rotel-style tomatoes and peppers and taco seasoning you can find. Chili powder works too if taco seasoning is too expensive. Throw the chicken, tomatoes and peppers, and seasoning into the crock pot when you wake up. Put it on low. Go to work. Come home from work to tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone chicken. If you have some tortillas, even better. Taco night for the rest of the week.
4. The Half-ass Vegetarian
This option is the lowest of the low, but I learned to not be ashamed of this one after a while. It’s probably your cheapest option. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and nothing is unorthodox when it comes to saving money on food. Go to Costco or wherever else they have big containers of cheap whey protein powder. Then go to the grocery store and buy either a head of lettuce or a bag of spinach. The protein shake will give you the protein and carbs you need while the greens will keep you from getting stopped up worse than a commission-only salesman on 10 weeks of jury duty. Except for girls, obviously, because girls don’t poop. I have eaten lettuce straight from the bag more times than I’d like to admit, but it allowed me to eat for under $4 per day so I could pound a double steak loaded Chipotle burrito on the weekends. Worth it.