Okay, so you’re 18 and on your own. You just moved out of your parents’ house, left state and are in a new city with new people and a new college where you have no idea how to clean yourself, clothe yourself, or more importantly feed yourself. I was there, and I spent two plus years trying to figure out how to pull it off before I fell into a decent routine that kept me breathing day in and day out.
But, let’s not forget the most important pieces. You’re poor, you’re probably living with a bunch of other people and you have no idea how to cook a damn anything. When your parents were preparing dinner you were entrenched in a pile of dirty clothes watching music videos or playing grand theft auto. Do you even own a pot?
Not a problem. There are a few basic things that anyone can put together with the willingness to spend a few minutes preparing and actually mixing ingredients together.
Your first recipe: Ramen Surprise
When you think of Ramen noodles, you think dry, full of salt and often too hot and soupy. They’re good but, they give you heartburn and cause dehydration. Well, these little noodly saviors are more than just a 120% of your daily allotment of sodium. They’re cheap as hell and extremely filling. But, you don’t have to eat them as is.
Head to the cheapest, biggest grocery store you can find and pick up ten of the little guys for a dollar, or if you’re really lucky they’ll be on sale for 20/$1. That’s five cents a piece for a full meals worth of noodles.
First off get rid of the seasoning packet. That’s where your salt comes from, and you can do better without it. Trust me. Whenever you open a packet, chuck that thing in the trash. Now, you have a brick of hard egg noodle goodness. And with this lovely building block, you can go ahead and start your meal.
First, boil it up and get those noodles ready to eat. Now, in another pan (or a bowl in a microwave if you’re in a dorm and sans cooking materials) sauté up some vegetables (gasp, vegetables?…yes) with butter or olive oil. Olive oil is expensive as hell, so you might want to stick with the butter, but don’t get carried away. Basically you throw butter in a pan with some broccoli and carrots, or whatever other easy, bagged vegetables you can find and turn it to medium, medium high and cook them until they’re soft. Takes 5 minutes at the most.
Now, take your noodles, and throw in your vegetables….that’s it.
Don’t complain about the meat being gone, because you’re not getting meat in those nasty seasoning packets either. Of course, if you’re feeling especially energetic, toss a few pieces of chicken in there. Chicken’s more or less the cheapest meat you’re going to find, so it’s the way to go with almost every meal.
The total cost of the meal: Ramen – 10 cents; Vegetables – $1; butter – 50 cents; chicken – $1
Vegetarian = $1.60
Meat = $2.60
It’s a wee bit cheaper than the usual junk from McDonald’s, and not quite as pain inducing as straight up ramen. Next up: spicing up Macaroni and Cheese.