There’s a certain charm to being young and poor; full of ideas and empty of experience. The hard part of winning real-life hunger games is finding out how to get by with an empty stomach and wallet.
Everyone warns you about the dreaded freshman 15, but if you can’t even afford to roll as a dollar menunaire, gaining weight is of little concern. Managing to scrounge your minimum wage earnings into enough fuel to keep you functional is the true goal.
With that in mind, I recalled five dishes I used to whip up in my salad-free salad days. Even though I am now a responsible adult with three kids and a wife who makes sure I eat like a human being, when left alone I still regress to my college ways and eat some of these old standbys. While I can’t vouch for their nutritional value, I can confirm their flavor and ability to ward off hunger pangs.
Steak Sauce & Tuna Sandwiches
While pickle relish and mayo work just as well to leaven the stinky contents of tuna cans, no additive is as manly as steak sauce. Pour enough A1 into a bowl and you can make enough sandwiches to stack in a tiny dorm fridge and last an entire week. Oddly, the more sandwiches you make and more days you wait before eating them, the better they get. It must have something to do with the chemical makeup of the steak sauce, tuna and chilled bread congealed to make a unified mass of tangy, breaded fish.
Take a bowl, pour about yay amount of water in there, grab some spaghetti, toss it in the microwave for four minutes and voila — instant spaghetti, sans boiling water. Microwaves are notorious for transforming pasta into gummy mush, but that turns out only to be true for leftovers. Spaghetti sauce is optional, but preferred. In a pinch, a pocketful of fast food ketchup packets will do to sauce up your gourmet Italian dish.
By “Frozen Delights” I’m talking about the sad little store-brand ice bricks that are stacked below real-deal Hot Pockets in the frozen aisle. My old roommate fecetiously named them Frozen Delights because their packaging was so unappealing, belying their hidden wonders. These all-in-one, defrostable meals lose their luster if munched for several consecutive meals, and tend to be pricey compared to other things on this list at $1 or more a pop. But as a once-or-twice-a-week treat, their cheesy processed meat bags are manna from Safeway.
Waffles and Vienna Sausages
Thanks to their disc-like portability and easy preparation, frozen waffles should be a standby of any budget breakfast-eater. The same is true of Vienna sausages, those stubby, Spam-like, cylindrical meats of wonder. Alone, both are somewhat boring, but slap them together and you’ve got the breakfast of the gods. The very poor, hungry and carb-tolerant gods. The crunchiness of the waffles and the soft mushiness of the sausages make a party of your mouth.
This, above all, is probably the reason I never had a girlfriend in my dorm days. Yes, I confess, I would recycle the milk that was left over after I was done with my cereal, pouring it back into the carton for later use. The necessity spawned from the diminutive fridge I had, which was too small to store even a half-gallon of milk upright. I had to fetch my half-pint breakfast milk from vending machines, and quarters didn’t grow on trees, so I had to make the milk last as long as possible. Sure, Aftermilk sounds gross, and it is, but take my word for it (please do take my word and leave it at that without trying this at home) that three days of Marshmallow Mateys seasoning made my aftermilk taste spectacularly marshmallowy.
What weird dishes have you concocted to eat cheaply?