Eating healthy while flat broke

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TheNorm05
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Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby TheNorm05 » Fri Sep 10, 2010 9:28 am UTC

I've been in dismay lately. I've been having trouble eating right on a regular basis, or more accurately, eating on a regular basis. I'm a broke college student and I can't really afford to eat fast food almost ever, and even if I could, I'm trying to be healthy and work out.. So I need good food. On top of that the nearest store is well over a mile away and when you have a large grocery list, the 3-4 mile round trip isn't very appealing. I was getting to the end of my rope when I realized, "You're Mexican, buy some beans moron!" They're cheap, lightweight, filling, and crazy healthy. I still need other things, but getting a large portion of my protein in this lightweight form makes it easier to shop for a few weeks worth of staple foods.

SO that's my story. I'm getting black beans, lentils, and Yogurt among other things in a few hours(when stores open for business). What cheap healthy food did you bring to the table?

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Coffee » Fri Sep 10, 2010 2:22 pm UTC

Mirepoix is a great thing to make. Onions(cheap), celery(cheap), and carrots(cheap). It's also a great foundation to build dishes off of. Start with those ingredients along with some salt and pepper (proportions are up to you) diced and sauteed in butter (or olive oil, but don't splurge on the evoo... just plain ol' olive oil) until the onions are translucent and the carrots just begin to soften. Now you can build your bean soup or lentil soup off this and trust me, you'll like it.

Of course, you could also add chilies. They're not too terribly expensive. Especially if you can grow your own.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby PAstrychef » Fri Sep 10, 2010 3:18 pm UTC

Other whole grains make your beans less boring. Wheat in bulgar or wheat berries, whole oats, rice, barley, quinoa and so on add variety and help with digestion.
If you can buy in bulk it's worth bumming a ride or calling a taxi to get 10 or 20# bags of stuff at ethnic markets where it's cheaper and fresher.
Frozen vegetables are great-picked and frozen before they have time to lose nutrients. They're also nice for people who otherwise would have half of everything going bad because they can't finish it all by themselves.
Invest in a slow cooker from the thrift store-they make cooking beans and grains easier and you can add in some really cheap-ass meats for flavor.
Have your equally flat broke friends over for dinner. It's amazing what 5 bucks a person can do for 6 people that it couldn't do for one.
Use coupons! some folks are inspired at this and effectively make a profit off of shopping for food.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Nath » Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:22 pm UTC

Carbs and fats are pretty cheap (a bag of rice and a bottle of oil); the tricky thing is getting cheap protein. You know about beans; I'm guessing you're getting them dried? Eggs are great. Milk can be pretty cheap, depending on where you live. Cottage cheese. Whey, if you order large quantities online (bonus: no need to bring it with you from the store). I buy frozen chicken in those large resealable bags, with the ice glaze to keep the pieces from sticking together. Cheap, but probably not ideal if you're going to be walking for 20 minutes. Ground beef or burger patties can be pretty cheap. As always, the more you buy, the cheaper it is in the long run, though on a student budget it's tempting to just get what you need and minimize the immediate cost.

Oh, and if you do get that crockpot, you can get giant chunks of beef or pork that you can just throw in with some liquid and seasonings. Great to freeze. You can do that on the stove as well, but you'll need to pay it a little more attention.

And yeah, frozen vegetables are pretty great. I also sometimes get a bag of frozen berries, and throw some in yogurt or oatmeal. The rest of my fruit I get fresh. Ditto for onions and chillies, when I get them.

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby TheNorm05 » Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:43 pm UTC

Went shopping. It was a trip because I hadn't slept all night and I went biking early to catch the bus(missed it and had to get the next one :P). Thought I'd share some of what I ended up getting.
Black beans(like 2.4 pounds, or a little over a kilo)
Lentils(3.2 pounds)
Roma tomatoes(about 7 pounds)
Gallon of Milk
Raisin Bran
10 pounds of Ground beef(it was only $8... God I love Texas)
Dozen eggs
about 100 corn tortillas
whole wheat bread
Pita bread
hummus
oh and I got some shredded cheese

I'm glad I took a second trip after a good nap other wise that would have crushed me. All in all I spent about 70 dollars today on groceries because I got a few other things I needed, and I hopefully won't need to blow that kind of money on food for a good while..

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Coffee » Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:11 am UTC

Speaking of Texas (Dallasite myself)... chili. The origins of chili, lost in time as they are, are those of poor people making great food out of cheap ingredients.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby TheNorm05 » Sat Sep 11, 2010 5:07 am UTC

Hmm I'd never thought of it, though since I was a kid I've had trouble between chili, and chilly peppers... now that I look at it neither word looks right, but yes. Not a huge chili fan, but I see what you're saying. Generally if I have the fixings for Chili, I'd rather make beast taco meat. =P

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Amarantha » Sat Sep 11, 2010 11:27 am UTC

In my uni student days, I ate tons of eggs and fresh veggies. Many meals of $INGREDIENT on toast. And things normally considered side dishes, like scalloped potatoes or cauliflower cheese, I would eat all by themselves.

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Rinsaikeru » Sun Sep 12, 2010 5:43 am UTC

I like making huge pots of soup--full of veggies and rice or noodles. Good warm food for winter--and I eat them with grilled cheese sammiches or crackers or all on their own. They freeze well too.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Thesh » Sun Sep 12, 2010 5:55 am UTC

Rinsaikeru wrote:I like making huge pots of soup--full of veggies and rice or noodles. Good warm food for winter--and I eat them with grilled cheese sammiches or crackers or all on their own. They freeze well too.


Try barley sometime. I make a chicken and barley soup that is basically, mirepoix, chicken thigh meat, and barley with store bought stock and water. Inexpensive, tastes good, fairly healthy.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Rinsaikeru » Sun Sep 12, 2010 5:59 am UTC

Good advice for OP but not for me--I've got Celiacs--(intolerance to wheat, rye, barley gluten). :D
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Thesh » Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:10 am UTC

Rinsaikeru wrote:Good advice for OP but not for me--I've got Celiacs--(intolerance to wheat, rye, barley gluten). :D


Another alternative, if you can find it, is buckwheat. Not sure how much it goes for, and I've never used it myself, but I have heard it can be used in soups.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Rinsaikeru » Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:26 am UTC

I've used buckwheat flour for making crepes before, I'm sure they sell it whole in the places I can get it ground.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby TheNorm05 » Sun Sep 12, 2010 9:49 am UTC

Yeah, good Ideas. Prepping some lentils for soup tomorrow. Gonna put some freshly diced tomatoes and some seasonings. Maybe some celery since I have a ton of it just sitting in the fridge. Today I made bean tacos again with the left over beans from a day ago, and used plain yogurt as sour creme. I found it to my liking.

Oh and for those wondering how I make taco meat from ground beef, it's really easy. You boil it with about half an onion chopped into 4 eighths with some salt. Some people fry it with different peppery seasonings, but I find that boiling it gives it a different flavor and removes a lot of the fat(which you have to skim off the top).

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby voidPtr » Mon Sep 13, 2010 6:05 pm UTC

I'm stretching my food budget a bit as well these days. Unfortunately, I personally don't have the space, but if I did, I would buy more bulk stuff and also have a garden or at least grow some herbs in the windows.

One thing I do frequently is slowcook a pork hock (very cheap here) with some peppercorns, sage, and roughly chopped veggies for a few hours, and then strain them. I use the pork hocks to make a couple of sandwiches, and then make a big batch of minestrone soup with the leftover broth using seasonal veggies, broken pasta, and beans.

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Thesh » Mon Sep 13, 2010 6:23 pm UTC

Another piece of advice, which may or may not apply to you. If you are like me where you cook occasionally with milk but don't do it often enough where you can even be sure you will open a carton of milk before it goes bad, buy canned evaporated milk instead. It will last a week after opening, and a long long time before opening. If you mix it 1:1 with water, it is the same as regular milk for cooking. If you can use all of the milk before it goes bad, it's cheaper to buy fresh milk.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Mon Sep 13, 2010 9:21 pm UTC

Oatmeal, if you are willing to cook it for five minutes (or fifteen if it is steel-cut), is very cheap, and a box/tin will last half a month even if you have it every morning.

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby bigglesworth » Mon Sep 13, 2010 9:23 pm UTC

Oats take less long to prepare if you leave them soaking in the water and milk the previous night.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Nath » Mon Sep 13, 2010 10:11 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:Another piece of advice, which may or may not apply to you. If you are like me where you cook occasionally with milk but don't do it often enough where you can even be sure you will open a carton of milk before it goes bad, buy canned evaporated milk instead. It will last a week after opening, and a long long time before opening. If you mix it 1:1 with water, it is the same as regular milk for cooking. If you can use all of the milk before it goes bad, it's cheaper to buy fresh milk.

Instant milk powder lasts basically forever, and is cheap. Doesn't taste quite the same as fresh milk, of course.

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby TheNorm05 » Mon Sep 13, 2010 10:30 pm UTC

I don't have any trouble downing a gallon of milk I the time span of a week(just got some the other day and it's almost gone now...). When we drove up to Dallas, I purposely left my slow cooker because it's bulky, and space in the van was limited, and now I'm regretting it a little bit. The biggest hit though was when my glass blender pitcher fell when I first got here and shattered all over the street. It was likely the best 13 dollars I'd ever spent in my life, and now I can't make the same stuff the same way anymore. It'll be a while before I have enough money to start replacing the things I'm missing or before I can just bring a few more things from home, but at least beans are gonna last me till the end of time... I don't think I'll run out for about a month.

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby pineapplepie » Sat Oct 30, 2010 4:10 am UTC

Rice is cheap... but you have to boil it, and find an Asian grocery store or something. It's pretty healthy, and filling as well. Usually people put broth (from boiling chicken or the like) or meat on it to make it taste better.
Actually, if you can get your friends to give you a ride, ethnic supermarkets in general have a lot of cheap stuff, as do farmer's markets.
Soup is always good, since it's mostly water and leftovers. Boiling things is also a good idea, since you can use the broth to flavor healthy things that don't taste good. Potatoes are good boiled, stewed, mashed, etc., cheap, and healthy. And everything tastes better with soy sauce.

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Thesh » Sat Oct 30, 2010 6:01 am UTC

For rice, get an inexpensive rice steamer. It will come out better, and make your life easier. How much cheaper is rice at asian markets than major grocery chains?
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby PAstrychef » Sun Oct 31, 2010 3:15 pm UTC

Depends on what kind of rice-if I get the newest, fanciest stuff at the Mitsuwa Japanese market I can pay plenty. But in general a 10# bag of cal-rose short grain is 25% cheaper than at the grocery store. It's also usually much fresher rice. Sometimes the local Food-4-Less will have basmati of a reasonable brand for very little, because they got a good deal on a rail-car full.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby el_loco_avs » Wed Nov 10, 2010 12:26 am UTC

Just practicing boiling rice properly in a regular pan can save you the amount of money a ricecooker costs. :D

Getting cheap basmati rice is great. So aromatic.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby savanik » Wed Nov 10, 2010 7:05 pm UTC

el_loco_avs wrote:Just practicing boiling rice properly in a regular pan can save you the amount of money a ricecooker costs. :D

Getting cheap basmati rice is great. So aromatic.


If you've had problems boiling rice, take a look at making risotto - it's really hard to overcook/undercook/burn. Downside, takes 30 minutes of constant attention, stirring, and gradually adding more water/broth.

Tasty, though. And you can throw pretty much whatever's leftovers at it and come up with a meal.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Blackhawk5367 » Sun Nov 14, 2010 7:16 am UTC

pasta with butter and/or parmesan or some sort of cheese
fairly healthy, as along as the butter/cheese is a reasonalbe amount
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby charolastra » Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:02 pm UTC

I basically eat 3 main food groups at this point- roasted chicken, whatever veggies are super cheap, and soup.

Roast chicken is delicious, pretty easy to make, and you can use ALL of it. Shred off the meat and keep it in a container and you can use it in stir fry, throw it on salad, just eat the breasts, make chicken salad, have it in pasta, etc etc.

I keep what my roommates refer to as the "big bag of disgusting" in the freezer which is where I place all the gizzards, carcasses, bones from when I make other parts of chicken (drumsticks tend to be really cheap and make for a DELICIOUS not-quite-40 clove chicken), and the juices left over from cooking. I don't have a huge stockpot yet so it does not take long for me to hit a critical mass where I have enough of the ickies for stock. That's pretty easy too - mirepoix (celery, carrots, onions), maybe a little garlic, a bay leaf, and maybe thyme if I have it on hand. Throw it all together with some water, boil for a long time, and shabam- deliciousness. It makes for a much more filling soup that store bought broth.

Between the stock from two chickens and a bag of .50c Goya split peas at the grocery store (I stock up when they're on sale), I can make a solid 10 meals worth of split pea soup. I add turkey bacon to that for some more protein, but it's not necessary. You could also use the stock for risotto too.

Of course, that means that you have to have the appropriate cooking supplies and fridge/freezer space already. I'm the only one of my roommate who cooks so that means I get a lot of space for food storage so I can stock up.

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby The Utilitarian » Mon Nov 15, 2010 3:22 am UTC

Green bell peppers are cheap and lightweight and go with a wide variety of foods,
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby CleverNamePending » Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:28 pm UTC

Sweet potatoes are physically heavy but they're very good for you and pretty cheap. They also last for a long time before going bad.

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Lagbert » Wed Jan 19, 2011 6:39 pm UTC

I'm going to second (or maybe third or fourth) the oatmeal suggestion. I'm not a big fan of pain oatmeal, but you can spruce it up pretty easy - whenever I go camping I mix up some oatmeal, powdered milk, and crasins. They keep well in a seal container, and all you have to do is measure out about half a cup and pour in a cup of boiling water and instant long lasting breakfast.

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby bigglesworth » Wed Jan 19, 2011 11:57 pm UTC

CleverNamePending wrote:Sweet potatoes are physically heavy but they're very good for you and pretty cheap. They also last for a long time before going bad.
They're also delicious.
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Cooking for the Poor: Turn any soup into a bigger meal.

Postby OllieGarkey » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:07 pm UTC

So you've got that campbells tomato soup, but you need to make it last. I've been in the same position. My secret? Spaetzle.

Spaetzle are common from Germany to Romania, and many other countries. They're proto-pasta and have been eaten for thousands of years. They're the perfect addition to any soup, or you could cover them in sauce. But more than just extra food, they can provide flavor. Basic recipee from http://www.squidoo.com/hungarian-spaetzle below, followed by my own personal favorite modification.

Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups of flour
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper

Preparation:
Add flour, salt and pepper to a large mixing bowl.
Next, add water, eggs, and melted butter.
Mix ingredients together until lumps are gone and it is like a batter.
Prepare a pot of water with salt to bring to a boil.
Spoon a portion of the batter onto a flat plate.

With a spoon, beginning cutting about a spoonful of batter at a time from the edge of the plate into the boiling water. Because of the small size of the spaetzle, they will rise fairly quickly to the surface. Spaetzle will only need a few minutes to cook in the boiling water once they have risen.

Remove the cooked spaetzle to a colander to drain.


Pizza Soup Using all the same ingredients from before plus two to four standard sized cans canned tomato soup, add to the Spaetzle recipe:

4 Tablespoons Italian Spices (Like Emeril's seasoning, or your own personal mix of Basil, Rosemary, Oregano, etc.)
1/4 cup diced pepperoni pieces.

Add to the soup:
1 Cup - 3 cups diced mozzarella (you don't want to use the pre-shredded stuff because it's more expensive and is covered in flour, which will thicken the soup unnecessarily)

Add whatever other ingredients you think would go on a pizza. Chorizo is a great substitute for pepperoni in the soup it'self, but it won't chop up and go into the Spaetzle.

Lemon Chicken Soup

Substitute some (or all) of the water for lemon juice to taste, add tarragon OR dill, but not both, to taste.

Even if you're not poor, making a huge batch of thiss is an easy way to stock your freezer with microwaveable soup. And remember, it's hard for soup to get freezer burned. That's because soup cooks down naturally. Freezer burn is removal of water from the food (at least that's my understanding. Feel free to educate me).

It would be like leaving the soup on the oven for an extra couple of minutes. A little less water is no problem.

Note: I overspice my food, so I'm lowballing my figures here. Experiment, and remember that unless you're baking, an ingredient list is usually a rough guideline. Unless you're making something that requires specific chemical reactions to occur, you're free to experiment.

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Re: Cooking for the Poor: Turn any soup into a bigger meal.

Postby Silastic » Wed Mar 23, 2011 3:30 pm UTC

This sounds like a great idea, I'll be trying it out! Thanks

Edit: I'm poor as hell so every little thing helps! :)

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Von Haus » Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:50 pm UTC

One thing I feel I should suggest for any uni (I'm English, feel free to insert your own relevant place of education) students is to check to see if your uni has some form of veg group. I know here we have a "fruit and veg co-operative" which for £3 you can get a massive bag of salad, fruit, stir-fry ish stuff or veg. And hardly any students are even aware of its existence. For £3 you can get quite a few onions, parsnips, carrots, a swede, a cauliflower, brocolli and a lot of potatoes. They're also selling ridiculous good nice bread for £1.50, with everything else taken in to account my daily food budget is about £1 and I'm eating well, though I have cut meat from my diet to keep things cheap, meat would probably bring it up a bit. And that's all quality stuff from that group and markets and the like as I've given up supermarkets for lent.
So yeah, look in to that, you may be suprised and find out your uni has something similar.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby torgos » Sat Mar 26, 2011 4:27 pm UTC

The secret ingredient is...love!? Who's been screwing with this thing?

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby TheNorm05 » Sun Mar 27, 2011 10:21 pm UTC

torgos wrote:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stigler_diet


That was pretty interesting to say the least. Although I think that's a little too extreme even for me, it's something to keep in mind. Have to go to the store for a few things today, namely oatmeal, and flour(probably some yeast as well as I'm craving bread lately o.o), and some random veggies.

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Re: Cooking for the Poor: Turn any soup into a bigger meal.

Postby OllieGarkey » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:31 pm UTC

Silastic wrote:This sounds like a great idea, I'll be trying it out! Thanks

Edit: I'm poor as hell so every little thing helps! :)


You're welcome! Let me know how it works out for you?

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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby torgos » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:44 pm UTC

TheNorm05 wrote:
torgos wrote:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stigler_diet


That was pretty interesting to say the least. Although I think that's a little too extreme even for me, it's something to keep in mind. Have to go to the store for a few things today, namely oatmeal, and flour(probably some yeast as well as I'm craving bread lately o.o), and some random veggies.


I've been considering adopting a slightly less extreme version of the diet, putting in restrictions that require a certain amount of 'additives'(e.g., hot sauce) to be met by the optimization algorithm, or only including things that could conceivably be merged into a palatable meal. It's nice to know, though, that I could feed myself at 'optimal' nutritional standards for an entire year on <80 hours of work at the federal minimum wage.
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Re: Eating healthy while flat broke

Postby Axman » Wed Apr 20, 2011 9:10 pm UTC

Learn to cook with raw ingredients. Flour is probably the cheapest and most flexible foodstuff ever. Make the Frugal Gourmet your new bible.

I wouldn't worry about healthy or otherwise. You're what, 20-ish? Seriously, focus on cost and quantity. Besides, when you cook from scratch, it's automatically one notch above junk food at the very least. Particularly on the cheap, because shit like cream and butter, steak and shellfish are expensive.


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