i am the queen of cheap eats

brown-beech-mushrooms-pola

I went to 99 Ranch for all my groceries this weekend. Partly because it was raining on Friday and I didn’t want to have to come all the way home with groceries in the rain; partly because I was planning to make pad thai and I had to go there anway.

Once again: Damn, why don’t I shop there for staples more often? A whole week’s worth of groceries was like $40, literally half of what I would spend at Safeway, and about $20 less than Trader Joe’s. But because I can’t get like, a loaf of wheat sandwich bread there (although they do get deliveries from a local bakery and have some very nice artisan bread), I tend to think of it as a place to pop in for milk on a weeknight, or when I need to stock up on frozen dumplings and Pocky.

I also discovered a very nice, dirt cheap meal, good for a quick lunch or those nights when the fridge is kind of bare: Take ramen noodles (usually 4 for $1), and boil them in a 14.5 oz can of chicken broth (2 for $0.98). Throw out the “seasoning” packet, which is usually pure sodium, and flavor with chili oil, a pinch of salt, and some rice or white vinegar. (Hint: Ramen with the word “spicy” in the name will come with its own little packet of chili oil, but western supermarkets usually only carry Maruchan brand.) Then beat half an egg (you can reserve the other half in an airtight container, but try to use it within a couple of days) into the hot soup until shreds of cooked egg float to the surface.

It’s delicious, and costs about a buck, if you already have chili oil and vinegar on hand, which you should. (And I ALWAYS have eggs in the fridge.  Like peanut butter, it’s cheap protein.) One of the keys to eating cheap is to invest in things like oils, vinegars, and spices. They’ll keep for months (years, in some cases), and can gussy up even the plainest fare.

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