We are big fans of food around here, but we’re also big fans of being budget conscious. Keeping a good handle on your finances is an important part of managing med school. Quality of life is sort of the other side of that. Here are a few of our secrets to upgrading your food without blowing your money!
Go to a Tortilleria
Tortillas are awesome and can work with a variety of dishes. You’re probably picking yours up at the local grocery store, and they might be alright, but try exploring the tortillerias in your area. Our favorite place sells 3 dozen corn tortillas for under $1 and they’re amazing. They also sell masa harina, which is the corn flour used to make tortillas at home. Just add a bit of water, roll out and cook up! Simple way to really upgrade your life. Oh! And if you’re not, you really need to be pan frying your tortillas before eating – all of them.
Look for Good Deals and Specials
100%, it’s not a good idea to eat out, but sometimes you need to indulge yourself a bit. There are ways to do this for relatively cheap and make it stretch, too. We have a favorite place uptown that has super cheap south asian food. We cook up a little rice with it and it goes a long way. Similarly, we can pick up a gym shoe (an amazing south side sandwich that deserves it’s own post) and get the XL for $15. We let the kid have the fries and some of the sandwich, split the rest and that’s enough to feed all 3 of us.
Buy for the Week, Not for the Meal
A common mistake is to start your meal planning with the things that you want, not with what you can make. Rotisserie chickens are amazing. They are cheap, and you cut them up and make that protein last all week. Eat off of it the first night, save the breasts to cut up for a pasta or something the next night. Then you can shred the rest up to use in soup or maybe a wrap. If you build off the ingredients, you can come up with options like this. If you think of meals then decide what ingredients you need to pick up, you tend to have less flexibility.
Make Your Own Sauces
Oh, man. There are so many things you can do when you start to get sauces down. Tomato paste can get cooked up into a tremendous amount of possibilities. Knowing the basic Asian combo of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame seed oil was mind blowing for me. There are building blocks to sauces that once you have, you just tweak for whatever flavor profile you want. Sauces can redress some basic ingredients in no time.
This sort of goes back to the tortilla thing, but flat breads are super easy to make. They are definitely difficult to master, though, I’m still working on my chapati. However, flour is cheap, flat breads are both basic and quick, and a little bit of carbs goes a long way in stretching a meal.
Buy Dried Beans
Canned are much easier, but dried is much cheaper. And straight up, once you start making your own beans and learn how to enhance the flavor with a bit of salt, butter or whatever is needed, the canned ones taste bland and boring.
None of these add any money to your budget, and in fact, most will help you save in the long run. Being poor and eating poor don’t necessarily have to be the same thing, but being conscious of your food budget is incredibly important. Study hard, but also eat well and be well!