With all the food background I have, I've never used it so much as I do these days. Not in sauteing and saucier stations, but as a fixed-income foodie. It's not easy to stretch the food bucks at the end of the month but I've found that the internet can serve up some rad (and some really repulsive) ideas.
For instance, I have canned tuna, ramen noodles and frozen spinach. In itself, not so great. But put it all in the Yahoo search engine, and a surprising college student recipe site pops up:
http://www.mattfischer.com/ramen/ This is helpful; when stress taps out creativity, find help in what's not taxing on your head. No, nothing will rival Escoffier, but we don't have his food budget.
Buy things on sale and in bulk departments. I can't stress this enough; what you put away will keep you from hunger. Always have the staples- flour, salt, sugar (or whatever sweet you use), eggs, baking powder and some kind of fat. Herbs and spices are affordable when you buy them loose in any bulk dept. Usually, you can get rice, pasta, flour and dried fruits in these areas, too. It's much cheaper to buy things unpackaged.
It's at this point that the purchases you made to fill your pantry come into play. No fresh milk? How about the evaporated milk you squirreled away? It's kinda nasty when diluted and poured over cereal, but it's fine in coffee or tea (Tip: Boxed mac n cheese does taste more like cheese when the milk's left out). Those baked beans you bought on sale can be pureed into soup, then seasoned. Cheap frozen waffles make unusual sandwich bread. If you have flour, evaporated milk and any kind of shortening, make scones. They're easy, fast, and ridiculously cheap to make. What you'd pay 2-3 bucks for in a bakery is a few pennies in cost and a half hour of making. It cheers you to have treats, so don't forget you need that as much as nutrition.
If you get stuck, you can always email me. I'm happy to help. And most of the time I can come up with something good from any 3 food ingredients... even if I find it on a ramen noodle website :).
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