When I moved out here nearly two years ago I was too excited to think about the problems that I would encounter with living alone. Of course there is the whole missing-your-family and the fact that when you get sick you have to take care of yourself because Mama isn’t there anymore, but as soon as I ran out of graduation money I discovered the biggest problem of all: the food sucks.
I am blessed to be from a family of good cooks. Both my Nana and my Grams have kept me well fed throughout my life, my Mama makes better food than anyone except those two, and there is no barbecue in the world that can compete with my Daddy’s. Fortunately, they taught me how to cook, but that didn’t help me much when the only kitchen I had was a mini-fridge and a microwave. Freshman year was spent eating in dining halls across campus. I did happen to live in the complex with the best dining hall at Tech, but even the best food in a place gets old when it is all you eat every single day. When I started working at Dion’s, I got free food a couple times every week, but pizza and subs every day isn’t very substantial. I moved into an apartment last summer and was so excited to have a full kitchen to use. However, I still had a couple of problems: 1) it is difficult to cook for just one person; 2) it’s hard to buy food for a reasonable price that won’t go bad before you have a chance to use it; 3) I didn’t really know what groceries to buy for myself; 4) it is so much more convenient to stop by Taco Bell on the way home than to have to cook.
Living off of fast food didn’t last me very long either- I soon discovered that it isn’t nearly as cheap as I thought. I tried Ramen, but no matter what I added to it I just couldn’t make it edible. I finally discovered Velveeta microwavable mac-n-cheese and Banquet pot pies. I also figured out that Chef Boyardee is pretty cheap. I survived off of those three things for months. Then I made a deal with a friend that they could use my Netflix account all they wanted and they would feed me a couple times a month- and they are really good cooks too, so that was probably one of the best arrangements I have ever made. I started working more shifts that allowed me to get free food, so that helped. But there were still times that I was completely broke and not really sure what I was going to eat next. I remember one day I took a jar of peanut butter to campus with me to eat at lunch time- I had also eaten it for breakfast and I found some chicken nuggets in the back of the freezer for supper.
The best part of going home the entire time that I have been in college is that I always know that Mama will make me biscuits and gravy or Nana will already have waffle and hamburger stuff bought in preparation for my visit- Nana’s waffles and Mama’s/Grams’s biscuits and gravy are my two favorite things in the whole world, so I ALWAYS get them. I also make sure to learn some new recipe or food tip nearly every time I’m home.
This summer I finally got sick of living off of the same old things and started experimenting. The best discovery that I have ever made is that two pork chops cost about three bucks and an ear of corn is twenty cents. That means that I can have two meals for $3.20. Amazing. I also started buying hamburger meat in bulk, portioning it out and freezing it so that I can have it when I need it. I still eat out at least once a week, mostly as a treat, but tonight I found myself wishing that there were more options because I am so sick of everything that there is; I guess I have just burnt myself out on all of the good fast food (Taco Bell, Whataburger, Rosa’s, Cane’s, Wing Stop) and I am not willing to lower my standards. I know that I still have a lot to learn about feeding one person on a budget and I welcome any and all advice that I can get. I just know that I am glad that I have decided to start experimenting more so that I can have more variety and hopefully some healthier meals without going completely broke.