I was thinking about it to myself, what are some things that are on the cheap but still good for you and has flavor during these COVID times? In my life I’ve had it in so many different ways; big food, little food, fast food, slow food, out of a can, military ration, NASA ice cream, and of course finest restaurants world-renowned. I’ve eaten around mold, and I’ve eaten some cheese that tasted like mold smells. What to do? I’ve knocked off ants, rescued crackers from roaches making a b-line, I’ve also ordered poetically a fine cut of imported, aged, grass-fed meat to a group of servers, and suggested the layout of the cut on their fine warmed, fragrant plate and the sequence of laying it down.
There are so many cultures around the world that know how to live off of very little. What they have in common are typically high-carbohydrates. Then vegetables and fruits. Finally animal fats. In that order is the pricing and availability to scarcity and cost. It’s far easier to store and create bread, tortillas, rice and noodles/pastas for instance.
On an independent film a few years back, I was sitting with a stunt man specialist in firearms and he was telling me about eating Top Ramen. I said, you know, for a dollar or a few more, you could much higher quality noodles from a Japanese market and have many times more nutrition in every dish.
Track back to a decade or so ago I watched a news story on maybe 60 Minutes about a village so poor they made “cakes” like “pancakes” of dirt and lived off the minerals and whatever else was in the dirt. The children on the program talking about it were alert and smart, not dead heads at all. They had no meat or vegetables. They mixed water and dirt for food. Daily.
I realize people outside of the United States may be reading this, please forgive me as I address the U.S. American audience with this blog post. To write something truly globally with justice, this article would have to be so much longer.
Now that you have my mental notes, USA, here is a short cut way to stay alive without much money.
Get full on little money. Try carbs. These are breads, noodles/pastas, rice. Without needing to spend big money, you can buy cornmeal for muffins and breads too. If you cook, working with flour you can make muffins, pizza dough, breads and more. Dumplings are actually really cheap fill up food!
Stay healthy on a low budget. Make sure you are eating protein. AVOID highly processed meats like bologna and hot dogs, please. You are better off even eating something like Spam. Do you realize you can buy a pound of hamburger and use it in all kinds of carb-based dishes from casseroles to lasagna, to spaghetti and meatballs, hamburgers, or bits on a pizza, tacos. Even cheap hamburger in bulk is still better than fast food hamburgers. It’s really just cheap steak and other areas of a cow chopped finely and pressed out. Don’t like beef? Buy chicken. My experience is that you may get more for your money buying bulk thighs or breasts than buying whole chickens. There is cheap tofu too. Don’t feel like cooking? Eat nuts. Walnuts are very healthy to chow down on, but in quantity not cheap at all. Cheap fresh fish is really great, but beware most fish are contaminated in some way. I don’t suggest eating loads of fish day in and out. Canned tuna is actually very healthy, but not cheap in quantity.
Balanced eating may bring you to the fruits and vegetables section of a market. Cheapest you can do in this area? Lettuce, apples, carrots, celery, oranges, bananas. Grapes? Expensive. You do not even need to eat this stuff every day, and not even in quantity to get loads of benefits.
Seasonings. You do not need to invest in singular spices, I suggest if you are on a budget, buy those big multi-spice/multi-purpose pre-mixed spice containers. You can get away even with just a chicken-type and use it on anything!
Though not the least expensive food, peanut butter is underrated for it’s health value. Same goes for ice cream. If you find yourself starved, malnourished and needing to get on your feet again, I highly suggest buying a quart of decent ice cream and eating that for a couple of days with or without other foods on your menu. With chocolate/cocoa even better for a boost, but your sleeping may be affected.
What can you buy for $20 here in the United States to keep you on your feet for a week? I’m sure homeless people have some ideas. Here are some of mine. Assuming you can drink tap water, I suggest buying bread ($3), meat (a pound of sliced ham and/or turkey $5-8) and a bag of apples($3-5), if you have left over, buy some candy you can suck on or chocolate. More money than this in a week? Buy a few bananas($2-4), granola or oats for cooking($3-6), cheese($2-5). This is not a sustainable amount week after week, but it may get one person through a rough week. Another thing you can do is invest in multivitamins ($8-20), a yogurt now and then($1-2). I’d stay clear of crackers, popcorn, potato chips, strong tasting vegetables—they may make you hungrier or wanting to eat more than you need.
Noodles/pastas and rice are underrated! You can use these with all kinds of meats and sauces, or even just spices and broths. If you are really low on money, do not get hung up on trying to make things taste “correct” or even “familiar”. I suggest even entertaining yourself combining really cheap stuff you wouldn’t normally. It’s an emotional booster to express a change, a creativity even if you are depressed. Remember, there are people on the same planet as you living off of eating dirt and water. I don’t suggest this in the United States and most urban and suburban areas, the ground is likely too contaminated with metals and fertilizers or pesticides.
In all honesty, I haven’t been starving at all lately, but sometimes I’ve been stressed out for weeks on end this year and not wanting to eat much. So in order just to eat something, I have studied prices and foods and eaten minimally.