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Posted by Devil240Z (3440 posts) -

Edit: broke, pseudo adults.

I've been living on my own for a few months now and I feel like I have no idea what to eat. I mean my life is a tornado of poverty. but some times I can blow some decent cash at the grocery store but I never know what to buy.

I like cooking but I don't know much about cooking and when I lived with my dad I just ate like an asshole all the time(fast food, takeout and bad frozen shit) now I'm on my own, with my culinarily inept girlfriend, and I fancy myself to be a foodie. Cooking pleases me. but I don't know what to make. when I'm broke I eat ramen and crappy frozen dinners. and when I've got cash I eat chilli and SPAM. Sometimes I make Bacon, eggs and pancakes for breakfast but thats one of the most in depth things I get to do.

basically I'm wondering if theres some kind of guide for people like me out there who like to eat well but don't have alot of money.

I just want to cook a variety of good things using simple and cheap ingredients.

#1 Edited by Devil240Z (3440 posts) -

Edit: broke, pseudo adults.

I've been living on my own for a few months now and I feel like I have no idea what to eat. I mean my life is a tornado of poverty. but some times I can blow some decent cash at the grocery store but I never know what to buy.

I like cooking but I don't know much about cooking and when I lived with my dad I just ate like an asshole all the time(fast food, takeout and bad frozen shit) now I'm on my own, with my culinarily inept girlfriend, and I fancy myself to be a foodie. Cooking pleases me. but I don't know what to make. when I'm broke I eat ramen and crappy frozen dinners. and when I've got cash I eat chilli and SPAM. Sometimes I make Bacon, eggs and pancakes for breakfast but thats one of the most in depth things I get to do.

basically I'm wondering if theres some kind of guide for people like me out there who like to eat well but don't have alot of money.

I just want to cook a variety of good things using simple and cheap ingredients.

#2 Posted by Inkerman (1455 posts) -

Spaghetti Bolagnese. Problem solved.

#3 Edited by Devil240Z (3440 posts) -

@Inkerman said:

Spaghetti Bolagnese. Problem solved.

Spaghetti is cool, but that second word its nonsense to me.

also I don't own a pot larger than two quarts. I asked my mom to get me some pots and pans for xmas.

#4 Posted by Snail (8662 posts) -

I guess I could get by just fine with cereal (w/ milk obviously), noodles and hot dogs. Still living with parents, but that sounds pretty cheap.

Noodles especially sounds like a common go-to since it's inexpensive, easy to heat up, and pretty tasty.

#5 Posted by Aegon (5840 posts) -

Meat, salmon, grains, potatoes (mashed, fried), salads. I'm not sure how you don't die from eating only fast food.

#6 Posted by Devil240Z (3440 posts) -

@Snail said:

I guess I could get by just fine with cereal (w/ milk obviously), noodles and hot dogs. Still living with parents, but that sounds pretty cheap.

Noodles especially sounds like a common go-to since it's inexpensive, easy to heat up, and pretty tasty.

but Ive been eating that shit for years. Now I'm in full control of my stomach. if I don't go to the grocery store I starve. I'm trying to level up my chef skills here.

#7 Edited by Devil240Z (3440 posts) -

@Aegon said:

Meat, salmon, grains, potatoes (mashed, fried), salads. I'm not sure how you don't die from eating only fast food.

I don't only eat fast food. I just meant that when my dad wasn't cooking for me thats what I ate. now I cook for myself. I cant cook fast food.... I don't really eat fast food that much anymore.

also isn't salmon a regional thing? What would you even make with it? Ive never cooked with raw meat before. other than frozen hamburger patties, and spam(which is fully cooked it just tastes better when you fry it or something.)

#8 Posted by ThePencil (390 posts) -

You can do amazing things with bacon.

Most of those things involve eating it.

#9 Posted by Devil240Z (3440 posts) -

@ThePencil said:

You can do amazing things with bacon.

Most of those things involve eating it.

I eat alot of bacon. but usually for breakfast. and by breakfast I mean days I don't have to work. cause on those days I eat coffee for breakfast.

#10 Posted by HistoryInRust (6407 posts) -

Hot dogs.

Sliced turkey.

Canned tuna.

Store-brand potato salad.

Canned corn, green beans, peas.

Rice. Sometimes, when you want to indulge, Rice-A-Roni.

Saltines crackers and peanut butter.

#11 Posted by Heltom92 (715 posts) -

@Devil240Z said:

@ThePencil said:

You can do amazing things with bacon.

Most of those things involve eating it.

I eat alot of bacon. but usually for breakfast. and by breakfast I mean days I don't have to work. cause on those days I eat coffee for breakfast.

A lot of bacon can be extremely bad for you, so maybe don't have too much of that.

#12 Posted by ThePencil (390 posts) -

@Devil240Z:Hah! I know how that is (I used to go on days with tea as my breakfast, and then tea for lunch and finally tea for dinner...those were not good days)

Frying is obviously the easiest thing to do with bacon, but if you like your soups (and heres the best thing about soups, can freeze them and use later) I suggest looking out some bacon soup recipes. I made a huge pot of bacon and potato soup once that was really cheap, and lasted me days. Though, in truth, was more of a broth than a normal soup.

#13 Posted by Shirogane (3581 posts) -

http://www.food.com/

There's probably something there that you can afford to make right?

Man, i'm suprised that site worked...

#14 Posted by artofwar420 (6312 posts) -

Vegetables and meat and cookery shows.

#15 Posted by ShadowConqueror (3087 posts) -

Hot dogs and bread are cheap as hell, just as condiments for flavor. Other than that, maybe take an hour or two just to peruse your grocery store to see what's cheap and looks appetizing. You never know what you might find.

#16 Posted by Ares42 (2797 posts) -

Just learn some basic things like cooking rice, pasta and potatoes and sauteeing beef, pork, fish and chicken and you'll have a good variety of cheap decent food. Add in some vegetables and you'll pretty much have a traditional "dinner". It might not be overly fancy, but if done right (and with some extra touches when you get confident) it's both good and much much better for you than fast-food.

#17 Posted by tourgen (4542 posts) -

Baked potatoes my friend. Super easy and good.

Rice, beans. Beans got what you need.

Steam vegetables

All kinds of good advice online for exactly your situation.

#18 Posted by CaLe (4056 posts) -

Rice and crackers.

#19 Edited by BlackLagoon (1460 posts) -

I've taught myself to become a pretty decent cook by looking up recipes online, typically finding them by googling for recipe and a type of dish or a specific ingredient I was curious about. And once I found a good site for recipes, I'd browse it and look for other interesting tings to make. Just start with something that's simple and fast to do, and work your way up, and try to find sites from your own country since it makes ingredients easier to find.

You'll probably need to stock up on some simple cooking utensils though, a knife or two, a chopping board, a set of measuring spoons and a measuring jug should get you started. And as suggested, spaghetti bolognese is a nice easy dish to start with. Tomato soup is another good one, as long as you can get cans of diced tomatoes to avoid the need for a blender.

#20 Posted by SuperTess (142 posts) -

Chili is probably the easiest thing in the world, but you'd definitely need the bigger pot for that. Like others have said chicken is a good, basic choice. Chicken, veggies, rice with whatever seasonings float you boat (there are some great all-in-one seasoning blends) and there you have a low budget grown-up meal. I'd also suggest investing in a good basic cookbook if you get some cash or gift cards for Christmas. There's an iOS app called How to Cook Everything that is awesome, but if you don't have an iDevice it is based on an enormous book by the same name.

#21 Edited by StrikeALight (1114 posts) -

Invest in a slow cooker. They would probrably cost like $30 in the US (I'd imagaine, I'm a brit).

They're idiot proof, and a great way to become better at home cooking.

Other than that, I'd simply suggest to avoid the habit of eating out of packets for the majority of the time.

.@Ares42 said:

Just learn some basic things like cooking rice, pasta and potatoes and sauteeing beef, pork, fish and chicken and you'll have a good variety of cheap decent food. Add in some vegetables and you'll pretty much have a traditional "dinner". It might not be overly fancy, but if done right (and with some extra touches when you get confident) it's both good and much much better for you than fast-food.

Basically, this.

#22 Posted by zombiepenguin9 (529 posts) -

I'd go buy a cookbook. The Joy of Cooking is the bible of cookbooks, so the might be a good place to start. Then just find, say, five recipes that sound good to you. Go buy whatever ingredients you don't have. Cook that stuff, take note of what you do and don't like. Then find five more recipes, and repeat the process. Pretty soon you'll be able to cook tons of stuff.

I suggest a cookbook over the internet simply because I like having a book open that I can quickly reference in the kitchen, but do whatever works for you. I'd definitely shoot for five new meals a week, though.

And trust me, buying groceries and cooking equipment will cost a lot of money up front. But after you get all the basics purchased, and bulk/long-term ingredients bought, then you just replace a few things each week (meat, fresh produce, etc). You'll end up saving tons of money in the long term by cooking at home, rather than eating out.

#23 Posted by Zajtalan (1163 posts) -

Google how to make food lol

#24 Posted by cruxking (204 posts) -

fried rice, easy to make and unfairly awesome.

#25 Posted by Vinny_Says (5721 posts) -

You should probably start by learning the basics ie. cooking rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. and preparing meats like chicken, beef, pork, fish and mixing different salads. Once you got that down you can mix and match and add vegetables and more.

Step two is learning the harder stuff. Baking, constructing elaborate dishes, making entrees, soups and desserts.

#26 Posted by NeVeRMoRe666 (267 posts) -

Just grab a few recipes online. It's not exactly rocket science.

#27 Posted by SSully (4326 posts) -

Noodles are your friend. There are so many different kinds and you can do so much with them. Cook up some noodles and shrimp and you got a hell of a meal. Just learn how to cook basic food items in their easiest sense. Be it cooking noodles, various meats, and vegetables. Once you have the basics down you can throw them all together to make relatively easy and delicious dinners.

#28 Posted by Inkerman (1455 posts) -

@Devil240Z said:

@Inkerman said:

Spaghetti Bolagnese. Problem solved.

Spaghetti is cool, but that second word its nonsense to me.

also I don't own a pot larger than two quarts. I asked my mom to get me some pots and pans for xmas.

Bolagnese is meat sauce.

#29 Posted by bearsteak (6 posts) -

BBQ pulled port is my favorite easy cheap recipe that will feed you for for a week at minimum.

2.5 lbs pork shoulder or pork butt (pork butt has more fat but I think the shoulder is cheaper)

1 full bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce or cheapest you can find

1 2 liter bottle of root beer

some buns if you want to make sandwiches out of them.

Put the pork in a slow-cooker and season it with some salt and pepper. Pour in root beer. I usually use about half the bottle so I can drink the rest. Cook on a medium setting for around 7 hours. When done drain the root beer away and pull apart the pork with 2 forks so its shredded. Remove the fatty bits and discard them. Then mix the bottle of BBQ sauce in with the pork. Now you have amazing tasting pulled pork that will feed for a at least a week.

#30 Posted by WoozyB (18 posts) -

Cooking is mostly about a few things: ingredients, prep, assembly, flavors, and timing.

Sure, you can throw some things in an oven, or put peanut butter on a lot of things (I do this), but to make the most of your money and eating, you need to spend a little time and effort on meals.

Even with the most basic ingredients, as long as you have a range or stove, a knife, a pot and a pan, you can make a lot of shit.

So really, you have to think 'what do I have/can afford'? And then you can look up things you can make with your groceries.

http://www.supercook.com/ is your friend!

Picking ingredients can be as simple or as involved as you want. Try to get fresh things, but on a budget, you'll want dried/canned stuff from bulk or store brand (some store brand is ok, some isn't, quality varies between items sometimes, you just have to figure them out). Don't just buy the easy, cheap crap that's mostly filler (hi hot dogs!). It sucks, but meat is going to be really limited on a budget. Sorry, bacon! I'm not from the States, but I know coupons can save you a bunch if you're willing to put in the time. Try to grab things that are high in proteins, vitamins, carbs, and starches. Stuff like grains, veggies, beans, etc.

Prep is all about planning your meal and setting things up to be cooked. Slicing, dicing, cubing, mashing, etc. Some things need longer to cook than others, so recipes can help here with the order of what you should be working with.

Flavours (besides natural flavour) are tricky on a budget, but dollar stores usually have spice things for a dollar, so some oregano, chili flakes, garlic, etc, are always good. Another good thing for entrees is bouillon (like OXO), whether cubed or powdered. Or you can buy broth, but you have to use it all at once.

Timing is mostly about heat and how you're cooking things, which is different for every type of food. Youtube some cooking channels, check recipes to see temps and times. Generally, meats and tough veg take a lot longer than things like eggs and grains and the like. Get some oil or fat (margerine, butter) for stovetop cooking, foil and trays for oven. For the love of god, don't turn your elements to the highest setting, medium-high is usually good enough. Set timers for longer things. Stir and taste often.

Cooking's also about experimentation, once you get the hang of picking out easy recipes and getting the cooking/flavouring down as well.

Try to make meals up based around getting a decent amount of grain/protein/veg, if you can. Like really basic: chicken fingers (oven), rice (cooker), peas & carrots (frozen, pot).

Protip: Go to a thrift store and buy an intact rice cooker. Do it. You can make more than just rice. You can mix whatever the hell you want, so long as it can handle ~20 minutes in the pot.

TL DR: Pretty much make it as involved as you want, just make sure you always have some basic ingredients around and a few ways to prepare them.

#31 Posted by PhilipDuck (569 posts) -

I eat a lot of pasta.. then change up whats on my pasta haha.. Or chips and chicken something like that..? Is that normal? Or i just order takeaways when i cba...

#32 Posted by Junkerman (279 posts) -

@Devil240Z: You can eat like a king if you just take the extra time to shop smart. I spend under 100 bucks a month on food and you wouldn't know. Number one thing: Value Packs! Buy shit in large quantities (Meat and stuff) use it, and the day before expiry freeze it. Then pull it out when you feel like digging into you pack of 12 beef sausages you bought for 7 bucks because you were digging around in the discount bin and got them 50% off because they expire in 9 hours.

Don't eat out. Ever. Don't buy coffee, dont buy juice. Don't buy shit your body doesn't need. Want some natural fruit sugars? Buy a bag of apples for 4 bucks and a dozen oranges for the same price as a water'd down 4L of orange juice. Water is free and your body needs it more then anything else.

Flyers. Use em! Most places will put out a flyer every couple weeks with things that are on sale and there are usually coupons when you enter the store.

Don't buy name-brand shit. Ever. No-name products are the way to go.. you know why? They're made by the same companies that make the Name brand stuff. In Canada, Loblaw partners with Lays. Safeway = Old dutch. Why pay more for the same thing?

Most labels (In Canada anyway) will have a price per 100g. Basically the price you're paying per unit of weight. That is faaaaar more important then what it says on the price tag. 5 bucks may seem like a good deal for something, but if there is something that is 10 bucks, but your getting just a little bit more mass for what your paying for then the 5 dollar item, it'll be reflected there and you can save even more.

Cook stews, dont waste leftovers, groundbeef is your friend, vegetables are cheap and awesome. Buck fifty for three heads of Broccoli? Fuck yes I'll eat that.

Summary: Do some research, take your time, and eat like a king!

#33 Posted by benjaebe (2784 posts) -

Cheesy potatoes. Just eat cheesy potatoes all day every day.

#34 Posted by JasonR86 (9729 posts) -

I barbecue a lot of my food. Look up some recipes and buy things accordingly.

Online
#35 Edited by psylah (2185 posts) -

I just stopped eating.

P.S. you should sell me your Z. It would look nice parked next to mine.

#36 Posted by Empirepaintball (1397 posts) -

ANY sort of noodles with a little bit of hot sauce usually does it for me. Even Ramen is decent with some Louisiana Hot Sauce.

#37 Posted by Hizang (8532 posts) -
  • Eggs.
  • Beans.
  • Bread.
  • Canned Soup.
  • Noodles.
#38 Posted by Ben_H (3440 posts) -

A lot of good tips here. If you want to learn how to cook meat but are scared of not knowing when it is done, invest in a cheap thermometer. We have to use them at work and now I do all the time at home too. I actually find that it is one of the best ways to cook meat consistently.

#39 Posted by myketuna (1757 posts) -

I eat a lot of sandwiches with like somewhat nice cold cuts. Cereal is good. I make quesadillas a lot. Scrambled eggs with some veggies and some meat (ham, bacon, or hot dog) is pretty good. I like yogurt with some Planters nuts on the side or baby carrots and peanut butter as snacks. Not really good at cooking (read: I don't practice enough), so for dinner I'll freestyle it. Or eat a breakfast dish again.

#40 Posted by MikkaQ (10344 posts) -

Whenever I have leftover steak I chop it up, reheat it and throw it in a burrito. Same with chicken, I'll reheat it, then pull the meat off the bone and add the pulled chicken bits to a sandwich.

Sometimes knowing how to deal with leftovers is more important than knowing how to cook from scratch. I find that living on my own I make really large meals, save the rest and then it's a simple matter of reheating parts of it, while keeping other parts fresh, so it feels like a fresh meal with like no effort whatsoever.

#41 Edited by ShaggE (6716 posts) -

You're welcome. Cooking instructions included.

#42 Posted by Hamz (6846 posts) -

Pasta dishes and Curry are two of the cheaper but all the more tasty avenues to look at if cash is an issue. You can buy big bags of pasta or rice for dirt cheap, same goes for curry spices or sauces, and pretty much whatever you find can be thrown together into a pasta bake dish or curry.

Fish is also a good product to look at, try finding the less popular types of fish as they are often cheaper and when combined with basics like couscous or quinoa and basic veg like a salad or peas+sweetcorn you can get a nice dish.

Minced beef and potatoes, a staple of my childhood at one point, is a great dish as well. Provides you the carbs from the potatoes and protein from the mince. Sorted!

Rather than cooking hotdogs which are full of terrible cuts of meat why not try sausages with fried red onion in baguettes with a side serving of chips/fries.

#43 Posted by laserbolts (5369 posts) -

Chicken breasts with various spices mixed with vegetables and rice is always a good time.

#44 Posted by darkdragonmage99 (741 posts) -

You probably shouldn't ask me I eat the same shit I did when I was 5.

#45 Posted by Godlyawesomeguy (6403 posts) -

Start making bacon cheeseburgers and prepare to eat nothing else for the rest of your life.

#46 Posted by WickedFather (1733 posts) -

@Godlyawesomeguy said:

Start making bacon cheeseburgers and prepare to eat nothing else for the rest of your life.

All 31 years of it.

#47 Posted by Bumpton (457 posts) -
  1. Pull out crockpot or oven-safe pot (make sure you have a lid or cover with foil)
  2. Add pile of rough cut veggies (onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, etc.)
  3. Add big, inexpensive piece of beef (roast, chuck, etc.)
  4. Add half a bottle of cheap red wine and a glug of olive oil
  5. Season with some random herbs and salt and pepper
  6. Cook on low (in crockpot) or ~350f (in the oven) for 2 to 3 hours

Super cheap/easy to make and it always tastes awesome. Only downside really is that it takes a while to cook.

Don't have a big pot or crockpot?

  1. Pull out casserole dish
  2. Add layer of rough cut veggies (onions, carrots, brussel sprouts, parsnips, etc.)
  3. Add a couple pieces of beef filets or chicken thighs (I like thighs because they're cheaper and a little fattier, which adds flavor)
  4. Add a drizzle of olive oil over all of it
  5. Season with some random herbs and salt and pepper
  6. Bake at 350f for 45 minutes and check if done. If not, check every 15 min til it is.
#48 Posted by Zekhariah (695 posts) -

@Devil240Z:

In terms of cost and avoiding highly processed, you can usually look at broadening you meal selection with different kinds of beans, grains, and meat (fruit / vegetables also, but those are not going to be your primary caloric source). Oatmeal for breakfast is kind of an easy one to do. But things like bean soups are super easy and cheap to make if you purchase dry beans in bulk (just look-up how to cook them, its simple but a lot of people don't bother), and for meats try out different seasoning combinations.

A lot of cooking sites tend toward more interesting recipes, since most people are not diving into a cook book unless they are making items for other people (in my experience anyway). If you want inexpensive and healthy, I would suggest looking at a site like: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/ since most of the stuff online about that kind of thing is misleading garbage vs. anything from a solid university.

Items like tacos, burritos, spaghetti (caveat being that this can be real unhealthy too), soup, cereals (or pseudo-cereal like quinoa for variety's sake) and maybe the occasional burger can be a good way to get by. The variety of what people eat at home tends to usually end up landing within a relatively limited number of go to recipes. Being willing to eat left overs will drastically reduce the amount of effort required on your end of this too.

#49 Posted by Petiew (1361 posts) -

Chicken and mince are cheap and can be used in a variety of dishes.
Fajitas are easy and quick. Get some chicken or turkey, peppers, onions and whatever else and the spice.
Stir frys are also good. I usually just buy jarred sauce, but if you're feeling adventerous you can make your own. Get some Chicken, beansprouts, green beans, peppers, etc.
 
Mince is great for a cheap meal. Bolognese and chili are simple to make. All you need is some tomato passata/chopped tomatoes, the mince, mixed herbs/chili powder and some rice/pasta to eat it with.

#50 Posted by TheHT (11802 posts) -

Fruits, noodles, water.