As a College student living in residence, I had to stretch my cash many a month and it got hard to afford real food near the end. We’ve all had times in our life when we’ve had to get creative and an relate to this one. How did we do it? I stumbled on a blog post recently that shared folks’ ‘Struggle Meals’…
Okay, the obvious candidate, here, and one I used a lot, is the ubiquitous Ramen Bowl. I had a friend in rez who was from a Chinese family that had a string of restaurants on the East Coast and also sold packaged foods – including Ramen. Phil Chan, bless his heart, not only introduced me to Ramen bowls but kept me supplied, even when my cash was at its shortest!
Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese Dinner was a universal favourite. When I first went out on my own, you could often get it on three-for-a-dollar sales and one guy I knew in rez bought it by the case! KD and the bargain sandwiches they sold at the not-for-profit Student Union Coffee Shop kept him alive and more or less happy for four years.
A number of folks who replied to the blog mentioned Hot Dogs. They remain the cheapest ‘protein’ you can take home from the store, even though they have tripled in price, or more for some brands, since I was in College. They may not be the healthiest Meat in the cooler, but they are at least made under sanitary, wholesome conditions, now-a-days…
Bread and Bread Products also came in high on the list of Struggle Foods. Plain Old Bread and Butter was well-represented, as was the Bread and American (Processed) Cheese Slice Sandwich.
One really desperate contributor to the blog actually told of keeping the Water from boiling Hot Dogs and adding crackers later for soup.
Some of my own…
When I first started out on my own, in my first job with my first apartment, I often had Boiled Brown Rice with Frozen Peas and Corn and and would add A chopped Boiled Egg or julienned Cooked Ham or some Cheese chunks when I could afford them.
Back then, in the 1970s, Ham and Cheese were dirt cheap compared to what they cost today. Oddly… Eggs back then were about $0.25 apiece and you can still get Grade A Large Hen Fruit for about the same price!
Canned Soups, Chilli and Stews showed up, but not that often. That’s surprising since, as I recall, Canned Soups cost from $0.29 to $0.39, depending on the variety, and were easy to heat and eat. But, at the same time, you could get a McDonald’s Hamburger and Fries for the same outlay.
McDonald’s was fairly new in Canada, then. Hamburgers for $0.20 and Cheeseburgers for $0.25 were an irresistible temptation for young folks short on cash.
To cap off my personal recollections of Struggle Meals… There was a time when I had what I called a Bare Salad once or twice a week. That was really a stripped-down Panzanella with Lettuce, Tomato, Cheese and lots of stale Bread, but no dressing. Back then, I didn’t know how to make it myself and didn’t even have the makings in my tiny pantry. And I thought I was too busy. But it was relatively expensive, so I did without. Tomatoes, back then, cost about a nickel each and Leafy Greens could be had for $0.25 per head. Really.
Just so you know… My first real job in journalism paid $18.5 k a year!
I know… It all sounds crazy today.
~ Maggie J.