Tag Archives: food

Spice up your life!

oh, hi there.

i have something very important to tell you:  you might be spending way too much for spices and herbs!

i feel like i have this very special knowledge that i have to get out into the world.  There is an aisle in your grocery store where the herbs and spices are super inexpensive.  And that aisle looks a lot like this:

spice

it’s usually tucked in near the hispanic food section.  (or if you’re at Lucky’s in Oakland, it’s in the farthest back corner flanked by some fake plants and the employee entrance to the seafood section).  what i’m getting at, is that these spices are probably hiding from you.

but they’re well worth the search because every last one of them is under a buck.

let’s do some comparison shopping.  cumin: one of my most favorite spices (mmm, guacamole).  Safeway.com reports that the cheapest plastic bottle of the stuff is $3.49!  Now, we look around for the bagged spices and…

cumin

79¢!  can you believe it?

Now, they don’t have every flavor of spice, and if you’re tricking out your fancy fancy spice rack for the first time, by all means buy some nice bottles.  Just don’t forget the bagged spices when your supplies are running low.  69¢ to refill the oregano?!  yes, please!

secret bonus: here is another really powerful spice that’s well worth dropping 75¢ (it’s secret, because it is only available to folks who can read italics).

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Filed under Big Deal, generally great

An Ode to Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I would like to take a minute to sing the praises of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  The perfect recesh lunch.  It’s crazy delicious AND so inexpensive!  Let me break it down for you:

•Two slices of bread 20¢ (and that’s the good kind, you can usually find decent bread for $2 a loaf)
•2 oz. of cheddar cheeze 56¢ (or less, for two generic brand american singles, fancy!*)
•margarine 4¢ (8¢ for butter, if you’re classy like that)

your basic GCS is just 80¢!

extras: an egg 21¢, a slice of turkey 40¢, half an onion (carmelized first, of course) 34¢, a slice of bacon 22¢, half a tomato and some mustard 50¢.

for just over a buck you can have a fabulous lunch!

allow me to inspire you with two tales about my best grilled cheese sandwich experiences in recent history.

the face of jealousy

A couple of weeks ago, I was house/cat-sitting for my brother.  (There’s a perfect recesh survival scheme if I ever heard one: house/cat-sitting = free food from my bro’s fridge, and my bro’s fridge = fancy food).  So I had access to some nice wheat bread, muenster cheese slices, sliced turkey with herbs already on it, and actual butter.  The cheese melted to stringy perfection and the slightly heated herby turkey was just mmmm.  It was so delish, Bix, the cat looked super jealous!

And now, the tale of the sandwich in that mouth-watering photo up-top there.  That, my friends, is the main course from one of the most delightful meals of my life.  I was in Seattle with my dear friends Raul and Keighty.  We were looking for cheap food near pikes market (it’s tourist-ville.  $10 crumpets? no thanks), when Raul spotted “Restautrant”.  (the place had an actual name on their menus, but we chose to call it by the name on the sign outside).  Keighty and I had identical meals: a cheese and egg sandwich grilled to gooey perfection, and a rootbeer float that came as a glass full of ice cream and a can of rootbeer, yum.  It was a delightful meal and our bills each came in at under five dollars!

Well, now you’ve heard what i have to say about the gloriousness of the perfect GCS.  You absolutely MUST czech this out:

10 of the most magnificent GCSs ever!
(complete with inspirational photos and recipes)

* i know that cheese singles are fancy, because as a child we only got to have them at grandma’s house, and they come individually wrapped!  that is fance!

p.s. what are your fave GCS recipes? comment, please. i’m always up for trying a new form of melted cheese on toasty bread.

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Filed under $5 meals, Big Deal

Five Dollar Fiesta!

I went to Lucky’s determined to pick-up a $5 meal for three (ani, brian and me again). Lucky for me, the produce was all crazy on sale. So i decided to make Taco Salad!  It’s easy to make and delish!

How did i make a top-notch salad for just 5 bucks?  Some stellar deals and one secret ingrede*!  Let me break it down for you:
Lettuce (great sale)!                 .79
2 smallish Tomatoes                .32
green onions                              .39
1 can chili beans*                      .99
1 cheddar cheese snack stick  .59
1 li’l bag of fritos                        .99
the smallest sour cream          .99
taco bell hot sauce packets      FREE

grand total 5.06!

oh! i know, six cents over budget.  but you can probably find that between the couch cushions, or you could charge each of your dinner guests 3¢, or you could tap dance outside of the grocery store and put out your hat ’till you collect six cents.

okay, so now that you have your beautiful ingredes, assemble away!  It’s only a matter of chop, chop, chopping up the lettuce (not the whole thing.  We used just over half, that means more salad soon!), tomatoes, green onions, and cheese stick (ani found it way too small to grate.  her chopping skillz were stellar).  If you happen to have a real chunk of cheese around you can just grate some of it up.  Now, my fave ingrede THE CHILI BEANS, just drain the can into a colander. You can give them a little rinse if you want.  They will still retain their chili-y flavor and give you some protein.  Finally, throw that salad together, top with some fritos! don’t forget the sour cream (i love that stuff) and bust out those taco bell hot sauce packets that have been sitting in your fridge forever.  (seriously, if you’ve ever been to taco bell you know, they give you about seventeen packets of hot sauce for each taco you order.  If you’ve never been to taco bell, I’m so sorry).

Just look at this yumtastic salad!  Keep in mind this is just an idea that can be modified in about infinity ways.  Green onions not on sale this week? no problem.  You could dig up the extra carrots you have left over from MnCnT night and grate some of those into the salad.  Anytime’s a great time to clean out the produce drawer into a bowl and smother it in sour cream, fritos, and chili beans!

Even ani was a little less bothered by the fact that, yet again, I have my camera pointing in her direction, because this time it means she gets to be having taco salad!

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Party!

Being in a recesh can get you down, because let’s be honest the, the entertainment budget is usually the first thing to get slashed.  But that doesn’t mean you have to sit at home all day.  Sitting at home is free, i’ll give you that, but it’s not all that fun. 

So, you can try to get yourself invited to other people’s parties, that is free… but can you throw a party at your place for little to no money?  Of course you can.  And you can have a very fun party.  Possibly the most fun party of all time.

The bulk of a party’s budget goes to buying food for your guests.  So, why not trick your guests into bringing the food.  While you’re at it, why not trick them into cooking the food for themselves so you don’t have too.  How is that even possible?

It’s a Cook-off Party! and this is how it works.  Just ask each of your guests to bring one ingredient for the meal.  (See, you just saved yourself a bundle and you only asked each of your guest to spend a few bucks).  If you want to make sure you end up with a cohesive meal, you can assign ingredients.  (for example, mexican is a really simple theme to organize.  Keighty brings tomatoes, Jerry brings onions, Liz brings cheese, Raul brings sour cream, Richie (your friend with the big bucks, who still has his job) can bring some chicken, Ani brings tortillas, etc. until all necessary ingredes are accounted for.  The more folks that come the better variety of foods you get to have).  If you want a more challenging cook-off let your guests bring whatever ingredient they want!

When your guests arrive with the bounty, throw all the food onto the kitchen table.  Then divide your buddies into two teams. You can draw names from a hat, divide up girls vs. boys, or have two team captains choose sides old school style.  Then, and here’s the exciting part, divide up the ingredients.  One member of each team takes turns rolling a dice.  If they roll an even number they pick an ingrede off the table.  If they roll an odd number they get to steal an ingredient from the other team.  (Once a specific item has been stolen three times it is frozen, and cannot be stolen again).  Once all the ingredes are doled out.  The cooking begins!

forks2Set a time limit, you have to eat some time.  An hour is probably enough time.  Depending on the rowdiness of your guests, other rules can be set.  E.g. No knife-fights in the kitchen.  Each team has to come up with a couple of dishes, and over dinner, you can all argue about who cooked the better food!

BONUS:  Now that you have tricked your friends into buying the food and cooking it themselves, let’s take this to a whole new level.  The losing team has to wash the dishes!!!

And that is how you throw a party without spending loads of cash.  All you have to do is clean the kitchen before your guests arrive.  If you’re as good of a cook as you say you are… you won’t even have to do dishes!

✩yummy veg photo by eseering.  Thanks.

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Filed under Party Tip

Mac ‘n Cheeze ‘n Tuna!

i’m thinking, i will share $5 meal ideas.  I know, anyone can eat a meal for under $5 (happy meal!) but I want to find ways to feed THREE people for under five dollars!  Crazy, I know.  Why three people?  Mostly because around here we’re often cooking for three (lokate, ani and brian. that’s me, my sis and her bf).  Also, i think three people is a good number of folks to cook for, cause you can invite over two friends (and it’s not awkward, like a date) or, if you’re super hungry, you can get really full all by yourself!

For my first $5 meal.  I proudly bring you my all time fave thrifty meal!  Mac ‘n Cheese ‘n Tuna!

This one’s super simple.  First you make one box of Mac ‘n Cheese.  Then while it’s all made and still in the pot, mix in exactly one li’l can of tuna!  This is one of those “you have to try it to believe it” kind of meals.  I watched in disgust as my roommate (thanks keighty!) ate this meal at least twice before i dared try it, and now i’m hooked.  If i could invite the whole world over to my apartment and make them this meal i would, because everyone needs to know how great this tastes.

A word about Mac ‘n Cheese quality.  Since learning this recipe from Keighty, i have become somewhat of an expert on MnC brands.  Happily, most store brands of MnC are totally decent!   While i’ll always grab a box of the good ol’ Kraft orig if it’s on sale (currently 49¢ at Lucky’s!), I usually get store brand.  So far i have found Safeway and Lucky’s to have good generic brands. Now, A WORD OF WARNING:  At Fred Meyer they carry FMV Mac ‘n Cheese, and it is usually 33¢ a box (so tempting, right?) but it is NOT GOOD.  Too bad, cause that’s quite a deal.  (i’d like to take a moment to say don’t turn your back completely on FMV brand.  If you have the privilege of living near a Fred Meyer, I totally recommend FMV Corn Flakes, 99¢ a box and so delish!)  I just cook the MnC following the box directions, but i usually don’t have milk to mix in and it’s usually NBD*.  Also, you can cut the amount of butter in half, to keep it healthier.  It’s pretty hard to mess up MnC.

Now, tuna talk.  Just open up the can, pour out the extra water and mix it right in.  I usually get chunk light tuna in water, 5oz., whatever brand is on sale.  My sister is big into albacore tuna, but for mixin’ into MnC, chunk light is cheaper and just as tasty!

So far:
Mac n’ Cheese $1 (and that’s for kraft orig not on sale!)
Chunk light tuna $1

We’re only at $2 and three people are pretty full.  So why not pick up some carrots for a side and three apples for dessert.

Carrots $1 (for one pound according to safeway.com, these are not peeled, but honestly, you made mac ‘n cheese ‘n tuna for dinner, you can take the time to peel the carrots).
Apples $1.5 (fuji apples are 50¢ each on safeway.com, i don’t get groceries online, i’m just using it to check prices.  Also note, if you cut the apples into slices for your friends or roommates, it makes having apples as dessert seem a lot more fancy!)

Grand Total $4.50

Three people fed and extremely happy.  Enjoy!

(do you have a personal fave MnC modification recipe? please leave a comment)

*does it seem like maybe some of these words aren’t in english… czech out my abbreve guide

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Filed under $5 meals