Squeezing Bread From The Air

Can’t stand eating ramen Noodles anymore?  Here’s a few things to consider when downsizing the cupboards.

There are five factors to think about when buying food when you are poor

1) shelf life/expiration dates.

2) Price.

3) Economy (number of meals you can get out of it).

4) Nutrition.

5) Tolerance for eating the same thing day in and out.

First off, you are only going to drink water.  Consider milk or orange juice a luxury item.  Since you don’t know when the next time you’re going to get paid, you’re going to need to eat things without expiration dates, which usually involves massive amounts of sodium.  However, you can usually bypass the health concerns about heavily salted food by drinking gallons of water.  Since every meal and dollar counts, you have to abandon the philosophy of deserving to splurge.  It’s good to adopt a staple you can spice up and eat morning noon and night—something you can make a lot of once and microwave as needed. Pasta is a good idea, but find an alternative to pasta sauces, as they tend to run expensive and not last very long, as well as having a limited shelf life.  It’s also not a good time to start experimenting.  It’s also important to cover your nutritional bases: You don’t want scurvy.  Canned soups at first seem to be an easy solution, but alas, they are rather expensive and don’t have a high calorie count.  No milk, no eggs, and no fresh meat.  Canned tuna can come in handy, but most other canned fish is disgusting.  An old urban legend is to eat dog food, but these days it is actually more expensive than people food, and the salt content is not fit for human consumption.

Spices are essential to creating a decent understanding of how taste works.  Oregano, Basil, Garlic, Black Pepper, onion powder, and Sugar are always in my cupboard.  Hot-palette spices like red pepper or black pepper can give you the sensation of being full on very little, but might not be for everyone.  If you are only slightly hungry, down a shot of apple vinegar to curb hunger.  It’s surprisingly filling.

The right combination of spices can substitute for more expensive versions of your staple-of-choice.  Rather than get the rice in a box, you can create your own blend at half the price.  I knew a friend who lived off Old Bay seasoning and ramen for months and ditched the sodium bomb spice packet.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid spending more than $3 on any given item.  A well rounded pasta salad (cold or hot) can last for days and provide decent nutrition.  Deli sliced Ham sandwiches with sliced cheese on whole wheat bread will not last as long as you think, as eating a single sandwich three times a day will not sufficiently stave off hunger—easing you up to potentially more sandwiches per day.

Fat content is another angle.  If you have absolutely no fat in your diet for several days and your body begins to cannibalize your reserves.  You might think that’s great for bikini season—but when you have the heat turned off, you will get cold very quickly…and your body will send you signals that you are still starving which can lead to some very uncomfortable mental states.  Furthermore, your brain requires fat to think, which you will need to sufficiently find a clever way out of your destitution.

Fruits tend not to fill you up, go bad, run on the pricey side, and consumed quickly which makes them a poor choice for your current situation.  Vegetables, however, are usually cooked and diluted you’re your starch staple, making them last longer.  Edible density is another factor to consider:  a green pepper is mostly air and corn on the cob is mostly cob, whereas an onion or a potato is all vegetable (or legume for you assholes out there).  Lettuce has very little nutritional value, tends to spoil quickly, and go fast.

However, don’t force yourself to eat something you detest only because it’s cheap;  It will only make you lose your appetite and still be hungry, and when you are already in a state of anxiety, it will only make you more depressed.  Find a favorite starch and stick to it.  Rather than search the sauce isle, go to salad dressings.  They are significantly cheaper, more flexible, and have a decent shelf life.

The mental state required to squeeze bread from the air is one of self-control.  Only eat enough to not be hungry and distance yourself from ever feeling “full”.  There will be days when even walking through the frozen foods section will seem like the devil himself is tempting you, but those foods are for people who can pay their bills.

Eating out is a possibility if approached in similar fashions.  If you are on the move and your grumbling stomach is limiting your concentration, it might be wise to shave a buck out of the wallet.  In New York, there are many places where you can buy a slice of cheese pizza for a dollar, but don’t get the can of soda that’s a $1.25.  A plain hamburger from McDonalds is not filling, healthy, or even really edible, but it can be the difference between a nagging hunger and a clear head.

Chances are, when you actually get out of your slump, you’ll discover that your ability to scrape together a decent meal with real ingredients, you’ll seem like a master chef.  Bon Appétit!

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