- Ken Ilgunas
Eating Part II: The Spartan Student Cook Book
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2007 the average person spent $6.47 on food a day. After a month and a half of radical living, I’ve calculated that I’m spending an average of $4.71 a day on food, which, given my large appetite, is pretty damn good.
Fortuitously, buying lots of expensive foods isn’t even an option for me. Because I don’t have a fridge, foods like meats, juices, some dairy, and veggies, never make it into my shopping cart.
Instead, I’ve resorted to dry bulk foods, which are oftentimes the cheapest. I picked up large bags of spaghetti, macaroni, rice, beans and oatmeal.
But more than just eating cheap, I wanted to see how far I could push my hunger. If I could eat frugally, just as I shopped frugally, I thought I could save hundreds of dollars over a given year.
My first two weeks were the toughest. I deliberately ate as little as I could: oatmeal in the morning, a sandwich in the afternoon, and then an evening pasta dish.
After the first week I was five pounds lighter and I could start to see my abdominal muscles for the first time in years. As much as I would have liked to one day admire a set of chiseled, baby-smooth abs, I realized (when coming across a bunny on the campus lawn and pondering if I should strike it with a rock and devour it raw) that I needed to start eating more.
Conscious of my nutritional wellbeing, I started to buy cereals, fruits, veggies and a few other items which have become staples of my diet. Now, between frequent visits to the gym and my healthy diet, I might be in the best shape of my life.
In the past month and a half I’ve inadvertently accomplished two personal milestones: 1. I haven’t had meat (the longest streak of my life) and 2. I haven’t had a beer (perhaps the longest streak of my adult life). Between my low-fat, low-sugar and physically active lifestyle, I’ve discovered an invaluable benefit to radical living.
Though I am by no means a talented chef, I find that that the following meals nicely blend my needs for nutrition, economy, and taste.
Bowl of cereal
As you can see, I am passionate about my cereal. I don’t know why, but whenever I shop I feel that I must purchase food in such great quantities as if to prepare myself for an impending nuclear holocaust.
Obviously I can’t keep regular milk, so I have it in powdered form. To be honest, I can’t tell the difference between powdered and real milk. Sprinkle a little powder, mix in some cold water and it tastes like it just came out the supermarket fridge.
Ingredients: Cereal with milk Cost: 75 cents a bowl
Oatmeal is super-healthy, easy to make, but exceptionally boring and tasteless. I mix in a glob of peanut butter to give it flavor or I just hope that the remnants of my previous night’s dinner give it a little pizzazz. I’ve also found that oatmeal does an incredible job cleaning out the dish, so sometimes I cook it for that reason alone. If anyone has any ideas on how to liven up my oatmeal, let me know!
Ingredients: Oatmeal with peanut butter Cost: 77 cents
Because jelly needs refrigeration I just subtracted the “J” from a “PB & J” sandwich and eat it plain. Sometimes I’ll stuff a banana in there as I did here. Usually, I’ll take other typical lunch items to campus with me like apples or bagels.
Ingredients: PB sandwich with a banana Cost: $1.14
Rice and Bean Tacos
I like to have a feast almost every night. My favorite night—hands down—is taco night. I let the red beans soak while I’m on campus and then cook it with rice, wrapping it all in a tortilla usually with some tomato and onion. It’s my theory that anything will taste good in a tortilla. Moreover, anything wrapped in a tortilla with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce will taste exquisite. I could wrap a turd in a tortilla, douse it with a little Frank’s and probably enjoy it.
(If the people of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce Inc. are reading and are seeking an online persona to shamelessly headline a new ad campaign, the Spartan Student will say just about anything for a few cases of that heavenly cayenne nectar.)
Ingredients: Rice, beans, tortilla and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce Cost: $1.40 ($1.72 with onion and tomato)
I have a spaghetti or macaroni meal several nights a week. I used to make the sauce in a separate pan but that just creates more of a mess. Instead, I have a spaghetti stew with everything going into one pot. Always a delicious and filling meal.
Ingredients: Spaghetti noodles, seasoning packet, can of tomato paste, and tomato and onion Cost: $1.95
Peanut Butter Vegetable Stew
Many vegetables won’t last long without refrigeration so after shopping I’ll make a big vegetable stew. It was quite boring until I added a glob of peanut butter, which does wonders for soups. Now I even put it in my spaghetti. I got the bread roll from the discount rack at Krogers, which they were practically giving away for free.
Ingredients: Potato, carrot, onion, green beans, macaroni, Italian seasoning, peanut butter, dinner roll. Cost: $3.44
Peanut butter and cereal tortilla
Again, anything tastes good in a tortilla. I slather some peanut butter on there and then sprinkle some high-sugared granola cereal on top. Superb.
Ingredients: Tortilla, peanut butter, cereal Cost: 93 cents
Other meals that I’ve left out: homemade macaroni and cheese, Thanksgiving stuffing tacos, and powdered mashed potatoes and gravy. Feel free to recommend other nutritious and low-price meals in the comment section.