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Food (Eating Healthy, Cheaply, and Quickly)


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In undergrad, I had the poor habit of just not eating while studying or while out. I don't enjoy spending a lot of time on meal prep, but I also do not want to spend much money on food. I've been considering making meals on the weekend and freezing them for the week. What are some ways that you have found to keep the costs down, eat healthy, and not spend too much time making food? Recommendations for good, on-the-go foods are appreciated as well. 

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Making meals and freezing them is a good idea. Here are some ideas I've gathered and practiced for (keep in mind that YMMV based on your location, lifestyle, diet, enjoyment of cooking, etc.):

1) Buy in bulk, but don't waste.  In addition to places like Sam's Club or Cotsco, you can usually find a lot of food at fair prices at salvage or discount grocery stores, which I'm given to understand are becoming increasingly common. Farmer's markets sometimes offer good deals if you buy in bulk too. And farming co-ops, if you live near them, will often times give you a lot of crops for what you pay -- sometimes you can even work for them instead of paying, saving more money (but costing time). If you're a meat-eater, buying large, undivided cuts of meat or more esoteric cuts (including offal) from a butcher's shop or Sam's Club can save. If you like spices, you can buy them in bulk online or through ethnic food stores. If you bake (bread or pastries), Baker's Authority sells ingredients at a very low price per unit, although shipping can be brutal if you don't pick them up yourself. The important thing with this is to let as little food go to waste as possible. Aside from the environmental and ethical issues of food waste, you will see your costs per unit rapidly increase. You'll want to look into preserving foods (freezing, or see below). Related to this, use everything. You can make stock or broth with parts of vegetables or meat you would otherwise throw away, for instance.


2) Look into recipes that are highly passive. Braising, smoking if you have a yard or patio, slow-cooking, and many kinds of baking with leavening are good examples of this. There are thousands of good slow cooking recipes online, and you can fake the majority of them with an oven and a good braising pan or oven bag if you don't want a slow cooker. The central idea is, whether you're cooking for the week or for the day, you minimize the amount of time you actually spend cooking while remaining in control of flavor and nutrition.


3) Preserve. Cooking a meal for the week and freezing it is a good idea, but you can also freeze raw ingredients to vastly extend their shelf-life. I personally can and pickle foods, and I highly recommend this to maximize the length of produce, especially if you can get it organic and fresh (but make sure to follow only USDA approved methods and recipes for canning and pickling, so you don't get botulism). There are other ways to preserve foods without refrigeration, including drying and curing, which I'm not as familiar with. I admit the advice here is quite esoteric, but I've personally found it fun and cost-saving in the long term. I hope this helps!

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If you are a meat eater and can spare some money, I definitely recommend getting a sous vide machine.

Sometimes you can get one for less than $100 on Amazon and it yields great results with minimum effort

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