THE IDIOT’S GUIDE: Eating Well for Pennies at Tufts
College students are frequently stereotyped as a demographic with neither an abundance of spending money nor especially gourmet tastes in food. While the former will probably remain true until the end of time, a growing cultural interest in good food has led many students to expand their diets beyond the perennial staples of instant ramen and cheap delivery pizza. Below are a few simple tips on how to shop for delicious home-cooked meals on a college budget. There are a few recipes included at the bottom of the article as well to give you ideas on how to put your new-found skills to use!
1) Maximize your dining hall experience
I do not advocate for stealing, and encourage only the most respectful behavior toward those at Dining Services who work hard to give Tufts such a diverse and excellent repertoire of gastronomic options. That said, sometimes one may feel inclined to use their meal plan to foster the creation of a home-cooked dinner, and Dewick and Carmichael are both rich with great ingredients. For example, the salad bar is full of vegetables that, in addition to adding interesting character to a salad when raw, can also be incorporated into an excellent stir-fry, stew, or pasta dish. Items that may merit particular attention are raw broccoli and cauliflower, sliced bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, and tofu. Get creative with your menu ideas—there are a lot of potential ingredients in the dining halls, from vegetables to peanut butter to chocolate chips on Sundae Sundays. Above all, be moderate and discreet when gathering your ingredients.
Additionally, while many students may hold a preconception of Hodgdon as a source only for mixers, candy, and burritos, the downhill establishment holds a few gems that should appeal to even those without an unlimited meal plan. In particular, you can buy entire loaves of freshly-baked bread for a mere $2.50. Buy bread with JumboCash, or use a lunch or dinner meal to get three loaves and have sandwiches and bread pudding for weeks. Look out for days when good breads are on the menu in Dewick—it’ll be on sale in Hodgdon as well. The Istanbul Cinnamon Bread and the Herb Bread are my personal favorites, but the rotating selection will doubtlessly include options to satisfy most tastes.
2) Patronize Indian grocers
In addition to the stalwarts of Shaw’s, Whole Foods, and Foodmaster, the area around Tufts, especially right around Teele Square, is peppered with small grocers owned by Indian families. These small stores offer standard staples and exotic spices for shockingly low prices. Highlights of my Indian-grocer experience include ten-pound bags of rice for twelve dollars and huge bags of spices—cumin, turmeric, chili powder, garam masala—for two or three bucks. Spices tend to be very expensive at regular supermarkets, but that doesn’t mean that dishes with rich, complex flavor should be impossible for those on a tight budget to cook.
3) Shop in season
While the environmental, social, and taste benefits of buying local, seasonal food have been touted by locavores since Michael Pollan first published The Omnivore’s Dilemma, another, more pragmatic perk of seasonal shopping is that locally-grown produce tends to be cheaper than out-of-season fruits and vegetables flown in from Chile. For example, over the last few weeks, Whole Foods has been selling bags of fresh apples from New England orchards for 79 cents a pound. That’s right—you can even be frugal at Whole Foods, if you know where to look. (Additionally, there are almost always free samples set out around the store if you’re just looking for a snack.) For less than the price of a cappuccino at Diesel Café you can buy enough apples for a pie and half—but they won’t be around for much longer!
CHECK OUT RECIPES BELOW!
– Devyn Powell