I am often asked how I can afford to live like I do considering that I’m a student and even with multiple jobs, not truly generating income. During the summer and especially during the fall, the simple answer to that is: farmer’s markets.
The more complicated answer to that is that my lifestyle is not more expensive than yours, but there’s a lot of comparison we have to do on a larger level. Some of the bulk items I buy are more expensive in one sitting but last me a long while. I am willing to pay more for organic, because by and large it is nutritionally and environmentally superior to non-organic produce, and while a few cents here and there add up quickly, so do hospital bills… Which brings me to my next point, in that I have not had to go to a doctor in a million, gazillion years. The only physicians I’ve seen in years have been specialized (a dentist here, a trigger point therapist there, and of course, the occasional physical, which is always a good idea). Point being that I’d rather pay for and invest in my health up front as it is rather expensive to figure out you have an internal problem later and you may or may not be able to fix it. Can diet cure any and all health problems? I think some would try to argue yes… I will argue that you could have a great fitness routine and stress management under control and supportive family and friends, but if you eat like shit, you are not running on all cylinders, so to speak (and most likely taxing your body in some pretty nasty ways). It may take longer for you to realize this because other things are going quite well, but it’ll catch up. How? I don’t know. It could be in the form of acne, of internal pain that you can’t identify, in fatigue, in hair loss, etc. But that’s for you to figure out. Another conversation for another time.
Getting back to the point: FOOD.
I’ve been in and out of town these past couple of weeks and have managed to hit up and take advantage of farmer’s markets the entire way. My cheapest farmer’s market bill to date is $6. My most expensive: $20. Not. Bad. Both fed me for the week and then some. The $6 trip included lots of squash, which not only keeps better but yields TONS of servings.
I do, however, make a lot of dry goods at home that I can add to things. This week I made a batch of plain quinoa that I was then able to use for both sweet and savory things as needed. I also made a batch of black bean/kale/whatever’s-in-the-refrigerator-soup. Doing things like this, whether it’s making a big pot of lentils, or beans, grains or rice, every so often will speed up prep and will ensure that you won’t go hungry.
What you’ll find in my refrigerator today:
A broken shelf. I told the landlord. Will never be fixed. Can’t put heavy stuff on it. Fine.
Ground flax seeds
Mini-cabbage (which I called brussel sprouts at the farmer’s market and a nice little 12 year old corrected me… to which I said “same diff, kid”)
MORE ROMA TOMATOES (Guess who’s on a roasted tomato kick over here? Guess who also has no garlic… it’s a tragedy)
Black bean/kale soup
Washed, chopped, and ready-to-eat kale (washed and chopped by yours truly)
Macintosh apples! ‘Tis the season…
Chocolate chips (not from the farmer’s market… but vegan…)
Half an onion
Block and a ¼ tofu
There are far less greens than I prefer on a regular basis, but I try to get those when a) I can afford to really mix up my choices, and b) when I go out to eat (a rarity, but it’s a good time to try new foods, especially if the restaurant prepares greens in interesting ways!). As the season wears on, more delicate vegetables and fruits aren’t available (greens, berries, etc.), so you have to roll with it. Greens are really the only exception for me in terms of buying things out of season. They’re just too fantastic for you, and I love eating most greens raw, using them as wraps, or sauteing them.
Last thing to note: ORGANIC, minimally-processed tofu is often sold for only $1.99 a block. I like to switch it up and not rely on tofu as a protein source, but once you know how to work with it, it becomes a quick and inexpensive way to bulk up your food in a rush.
Here’s some food porn for you (soft core, though, because I am a bad photographer):
And, here’s a Noonan: