My husband and I were moved into temporary housing this weekend. Along with gaining more space (I didn’t know I’d missed it until it was back in my life) and scaring our cat into a weekend hiding under the bed, this new situation comes with a variety of frugal challenges; namely, feeding myself and generally living this summer without spending more money than I’d like.
A part of our unique living situation entails access to a dining hall during the school year. This is wonderful and amazing, and we’re very grateful for it, particularly considering our lack of a personal kitchen. This also means, however, that during the summer months we are on our own, food-wise. A word about my personal abilities: I am very good at things like organizing; cleaning; managing my life; making small clothing repairs; not spending money; silently judging people for spending too much money. I am not good at cooking. My repertoire, even with a kitchen, is limited to spaghetti, rice (if I’m feeling crazy), and making these little salmon cakes out of canned salmon from a recipe that’s been in my family for decades. That’s really it. I can barely put together a functional sandwich. It’s awful, and not something I’m proud of, but there it is.
I also hate spending money on things I’m not good at (see: cooking). So this summer, with no kitchen and a husband (who generally cooks for us and makes sure I’m not eating cereal for every meal) out of town for an internship, I decided I needed to figure this out ASAP. Luckily, I am very good at: depriving myself of things that cost money; living off of cereal for many meals at a time; figuring out how to eat as cheaply as possible without forming too many vitamin deficiencies. I’ve lived on my own before and dealt with it much in the way I found myself dealing with it this weekend. I bought $30 worth of easily assembled food items that require little to no skill (like tuna salad, bean salad, and some microwavable Trader Joe’s rice – bless Trader Joe’s for catering to the cheap and culinarily-challenged masses like myself). Then I spent an hour assembling said salads (because when you don’t have a kitchen, simple tasks like chopping an onion or draining beans become their own intense ordeal). I plopped those salads in bowls, stuck them in the fridge, and called my cooking done for the week.
We’ll see how my bean salad experiment goes. I’m hopeful that I won’t burn out too quickly, as I do have a few meals out with friends planned that should keep me sated with more substantial food. And I’m happy with how quickly I’ve reverted back to my cheap, live-alone-and-like-it ways. Yesterday I was heading out to run a few errands, and thought about what kind of snack I might pick up along the way. My internal voice immediately said, “BRING AN APPLE AND EAT THAT, YOU OVERSPENDING HAG” (my internal voice is very aggressive). And so, apple and refillable water bottle in hand (because “YOU DON’T NEED TO BUY AN ICED TEA RIGHT NOW, ABBY”), and bean salad chilling in the fridge, I went on my way.
How do you handle the cost of cooking?