Dear 100 Hour Board,
As a fellow college student, I am curious as to whether any of you guys have ever been through "The Struggle." A time in one's college career where you do not have a lot money to be buying good food, and have to resort to desperate or embarrassing measures. Like... Surviving off of ramen for a couple of weeks, or experimenting with cream corn sandwiches... Yeah... We're going down that route. Tell us your guys' interesting stories about "The Struggle," and if you have any wisdom on how to survive through, please share!
- Hello, My Name is...
One app that I found very useful when I reached the struggle was the LunchBox app. This app tells you about events on campus that will be giving away free food. I can't tell you how many introductory meetings my roommates and I sat through to get some free pizza for dinner that night. Am I proud of this? No. Would I do it again if I had to? Probably.
Okay, first of all, don't spend your limited money on creamed corn. Buy literally anything else with that money instead, and you will never have to eat creamed corn sandwiches again.
Foods I like to eat when I'm low on grocery money include...
- Tuna on saltines. Both of them are dirt cheap, and it's a fairly nutritious and easy meal. Plus tuna is surprisingly good with a dash of cinnamon mixed in, and I know you're looking at your screen skeptically right now, but you just have to try it.
- Canned soup (especially Amy's Hearty Organic brand—it's cheap but nutritious and filling)
- Cottage cheese
- Oatmeal. And if you're too poor to afford milk, you can even make it with water, as long as you have some cinnamon to mix in to add flavor (I just really like cinnamon, okay?)
- Tortillas, especially if you splurge on some cheese and cans of refried beans, because then you can make really delicious quesadillas.
- Rice and beans--both of these ingredients are cheaper than cheap, you can buy them in bulk, and they don't taste bad.
- Frozen or canned veggies (NOT including creamed corn)
Also, you can buy groceries at the dollar store (at least at the one by Macey's). Like, maybe not if you want to preserve your dignity, but if you're looking to stretch your money as far as it will go, you buy those dollar store groceries! Mostly they just have junk food, but they also usually have giant bags of pasta and some other actually useful food sources, all for a dollar.
I don't really have any great stories of my struggle, because I've always made food a priority. Maybe I've just been exceptionally blessed to always have money to buy basic food, but I really think it's possible to eat at least fairly well through college as long as you have that priority. I mean, I've had my weeks of oatmeal and tortillas, but nothing too extreme.
Actually, on second thought, the first week of my mission I lived off of one avocado and some stale rolls, because I didn't understand how buying food at corner markets worked, and I was too embarrassed to tell my companion that I didn't have any food, and everyone who was supposed to give us lunch kept cancelling. I'm happy to say I've never had to relive that experience.
Good luck getting through your struggle! Hold onto the hope that Thanksgiving is just a couple weeks away, and you can hopefully mooch food off of family/ward members.
I make more breakfast burritos and quesadillas with beans + cheese when my bank account is sad - tortillas and no meat make eating much cheaper. Also, it feels weird to write this out, but I have occasionally moved fast Sundays (or added an extra one) to low-money weekends to make not eating seem purposeful and save a couple of bucks until payday.
Also, I second what Alta said - please don't spend your money on creamed corn.
Going against Alta and Sheebs's sound advice, I suggest you spend all your money on creamed corn. You'd be a legend, a hero! Not the hero college students need right now... but the one they deserve.
One idea I've used to get a bunch of food at the end of a semester (you know, as people are moving away) is to place a box or something out at your apartment complex with a sign saying something like "Feed your friends, not the landfill" and encourage people to leave or take whatever they need. If it's well-placed and people know about it, you can end up with quite a bit of food. I've gone through this process a couple of times with decent results. I tried leaving a box at various freshman housing places at the end of fall semester this one time, but that was no good. The times that worked best were when I made people aware of the box—perhaps through an apartment or ward Facebook page—something like this will probably help you reap a lot more. No matter what, people will end up throwing away a lot of food when they move, especially in the spring. There's a lot of perfectly sealed, perfectly safe food sitting out around dumpsters, but we'll talk more about that in a second.
If you happen to visit Salt Lake City—not really sure where you are—you can find amazingly cheap groceries at NPS Market Square, a place that deals in surplus and returned goods, as well as food nearing or sometimes past its freshest-by date. It's still safe, but just watch the dates on stuff if that bothers you. The selection can be a bit random and not everything is a good deal, but you can find 12-pack 5.3 oz flats of Greek yogurt for a dollar, bags of chips for a quarter, bars of Ghirardelli white baking chocolate for fifty cents (I have one sitting by me right now) and all kinds of other random stuff. There's also an unusual number of Eastern European products there. You'll notice from the Yelp reviews it's not everyone's favorite place, but maybe it's the sort of place you could find, say, three hundred slightly dented cans of creamed corn.
On a similar note, and as promised, I discuss my deep and abiding love for dumpster diving in Board Question #82587. In the words of Sheryl Crow in that song about soaking up the sun or something, "It's not eating what you want, it's eating what you've got." And what glorious things there are to be had, feral Sheryl. What glorious things...
As a sad update to that dumpster diving question, I've since lost my beautiful life-size cardboard cutout of Fabio.
Nor have I been able to to find the creepy, yet cuddly Juan Alejandro.
I suspect they were murdered by persons close to me and unceremoniously left in the dumpsters where we first met (rest in pieces, gentlemen). Suffice it to say these are dark times, amigo. Dark times indeed.
P.S. If you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I have another story I think you'd enjoy. I'd share it here, but... reasons. Also I love talking about this kind of stuff, so feel free to email any time you want to talk shop. Talk food. Talk dumpster and culinary strategy. Savvy?
P.P.S. If you just have a couple random ingredients sitting in your house and are trying to figure out how to use them, check out SuperCook.com, which lets you enter whatever stuff you've got and then finds recipes that use them. A disclaimer: When I entered in "nutella" and "ketchup" and "tortillas" it didn't suggest "Delicious Ketchup Nutella-dillas," so clearly the system is not without its limitations.
Anne, Certainly suggests Allrecipes.com's ingredient search function in Board Question #82676. i I gave it a whirl and found a number of recipes for creamed corn, which I'm actually beginning to wish I had. Mostly because it reminds me BYU's Thai Corn Chowder recipe, which would probably be decent even if I only had half of those ingredients.
If you're looking for a filling and cheap source of nutrition, potatoes are okay. I mean, if that Mars-related Matt Damon movie was proof of anything, it's that you can survive off of potatoes if you really want to (and that I am not good at remembering the name of Matt Damon movies). Plus, all you have to do is add some cheese, tomatoes, olives, and ham—all of which are cheap enough to keep the cost around $1-2 per meal—and they taste good, too.
Spaghetti's also useful for when you can't afford much. You can buy eight servings for about a dollar and then get a can of pasta sauce to go with it for about $1.50. Sprinkle some cheese on that and you've got yourself eight cheap, delicious meals. And leftover spaghetti's always better tasting than freshly-cooked spaghetti so that's even better.
Canned soups, particularly those marked as "hearty" like chowders or chilis, are cheap and filling. Add some crackers and you have got yourself a meal. You may notice that I keep referring to food recommendations as "filling" and that's because ideally, the food you buy when you have to be frugal should keep you full. That way, you can buy less and avoid feeling grumpy. If you absolutely have to buy ramen, add a scrambled egg in so it's at least semi-nutritional.
Good luck and hope food-related things start turning up for you... or at least get better than creamed corn sandwiches, that sounds like a nightmare. For more cheap, college-friendly food recipes, try here. This is a vegetarian/vegan-friendly alternative and this is a paleo one, if either of those are your thing. And here's one if you live on a gluten-free diet.
Dear Nice to meet you,
As the other writers pointed out, canned cream corn is not your best option. However, you may have a mountain of cream corn in your pantry that you can't return, so here are some things you can do with it that aren't cream corn sandwiches:
I think you'll find these recipes to be a-maize-ing. What? Too corny? These jokes are the cream of the crop!
Well, I feel like I'm currently in The Struggle. But it's more because I haven't been grocery shopping for a month, thanks to not having a car, and having the kind of schedule that's practically impossible to mesh with anyone else's.
Currently what I'm doing is eating a couple of tortillas with hummus for dinner (except now all my tortillas are gone, so I'll have to find something else to subsist off of for tomorrow), and scrounging for free food in the Talmage. Somewhat surprisingly, I don't think there has been a single week this semester where I haven't gotten at least one free meal from some event or other on campus. I'm also planning on using my long expired milk to make biscuits tonight so I can survive off of those for the remainder of the week. And I have popcorn kernels, so I can eat popcorn.
If I still don't make it to the grocery store in the near future, I suppose I can... learn how to photosynthesize? Without ever actually spending time in the sun?
~Anathema, who is currently just about ready to eat her month-old apples with all the suspiciously worm-like holes in them