Living in another country can be tough. Jobs are hard to find, and money doesn’t grow on trees. Luckily for all of you readers out there, I’ve been poor my entire life! So, today I am going to tell you how to keep yourself fed until payday comes.
There are a few rules when it comes to eating cheaply. The first is to learn how to actually cook things. You can either save money, or you can be lazy; you can’t do both! Food is so much cheaper when bought in its fundamental parts. The second rule is to get creative and have fun with it. That is, unless you enjoy eating the exact same thing for every meal.
I would suggest buying the building blocks of different dishes (PASTA IS YOUR BEST FRIEND). Buy flour, yeast, and salt (which you could get all of for less than 1EURO) and suddenly you have what you need to make your own bread! By a can of diced tomatoes and maybe and onion, and, with time, you could make a delicious pasta sauce to go with your 39 cent spaghetti. If there is a dish you want to eat, then get the things to make it from scratch.
So, now I will give you a couple of recipes that I enjoy. The first is a classic pasta dish called Cacio e Pepe, which is Italian for “cheese and pepper”.
What you will need: Spaghetti (or any other long pasta, ie. fetuccini), olive oil (this is one of the ingredients you don’t want to skimp on. Just get a big bottle for like 5EURO), pecorino and/or parmigiano reggiano cheese, and fresh ground black pepper. That’s it; 4 whole ingredients.
To cook it, you will boil your spaghetti till it’s al dente (that means it’s not totally soft. It’s still got some bite to it.). A couple of minutes before your pasta is done, heat up about a quarter cup of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, grind in a whole lot of black pepper. It should get really fragrant and peppery, but be careful, because it will burn if you’re not careful. Once the pasta is done, toss it into the oil and pepper (be sure to save a cup of the pasta water!). Next, toss in a small handful of the cheese. Mix it around and get it all nice and melty. At this point you’re probably saying to yourself, “It’s just sticking together and getting all clumpy. What the heck?”. That is exactly why we save the pasta water. Dump some of the salty starchy pasta water in and mix it up. You will see that this helps the cheese and oil stick together to become a sauce. You really just have to eyeball it. Once it is mixed to your liking, put it on a plate and eat it! That just took about ten minutes and now you’re fed.
Ok, so you can’t eat cacio e pepe everyday, but you still have a whole pound of pasta. Here’s what you do; dice up some onions and throw them in a hot pan so they can start to caramelize. Once they’re at your desired done-ness, dump in a can of diced tomatoes. Add some spices too it. My favorites are cummin, chili flakes, and oregano. And here’s a tip; the tomatoes can be quite acidic, so I usually add 3/4 teaspoon of honey or sugar to it. Once this is in the pan, just let it cook down. You will start to notice it get thicker. You can stop sooner if you like your sauce a little more sauce or you can cook it down to almost a paste, which is what I like to do. Either way, you just made a pretty tasty sauce from less than a dollars worth of ingredients.
Well, this post is getting kind of long, so I think I will turn it into a two-part-er. Stay tuned for next time, when I tell you have to make flat bread with only three or four ingredients!