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DarkSenay
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Yeah, big thanks to Duelus for that coupon. Good find on that one man. It seriously redeemed that week. And yeah, I can do some ramen stuff sometime. As of right now I'm looking into a cooking with grandma show. Since really nobody knows how to cook cheaper than grandparents. So yeah.

Thanks for the input, and keep it coming.

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Nice ep, Derek. Good topic to plau with, even though you cheated for the dinner bit. :) Oh, and you forgot to mention how much you had as leftovers afterwards.

Some thoughts that might allow you to stretch the budget even further:

Spaghetti Sauce:

You both got cans of spaghetti sauce. Over here at least we have these cartons of puree'd tomatos. Add some spices to it and you've got the same thing, but probably for less. Using a pound of minced meat and the above-mentioned sauce I can make over 5 days worth of most tastful spaghetti sauce. A kilo of minced meat I recently bought was just shy of 3,70.

Spaghetti:

The box looked a bit too colorful which leads me to think you can go cheaper on that.

Rice:

Buy *BIG* bundles. Like those enormous bags of rice that are, like, 10 kilos. The local Toko sells these things for sure. The cool bit here is that rice at the Toko tends to be really good quality, and even the special type rice (like for instance the tasty Pandan rice) tends to be cheaper than the regular cheap stuff at the supermarket. So, tastier rice for less. Also, I was told you could make a breakfast out of leftover rice by simply putting it in a bowl with some milk overnight allowing it to get a bit soggy. Microwave the sucker the next morning and throw on some sugar and cinnamon for extra flavoring.

Never tried this myself, though.

Beans and onions:

Typically the staple of a low budget meal. I was a bit surprised they weren't in there. If you take some minced meat, say the pound you have left over after the spaghetti, and bake it up with some onions and dunk in some spices (powdered pepper, garlic and a bit of salt) then turn down the heat and add the beans. Heat everything up and let some of the water the beans were kept in evaporate so the 'sauce' thickens. Serve with rice and include a jar of sambal (one of those staple things if you ak me, but otherwise just serve up the jar of powdered pepper) so people can spice it up to taste. That alone is HELL of a meal, and probably enough to last you another 3-4 days. Just package the leftovers (that's the bean mixture. I wouldn't do this with the rice) and dump them in the freezer for later.

Pancakes:

People tend to buy them prefab, but you can easily and much more cheaply make your own. Mix a pound of flour with a litre of milk until you've got a smooth mixture (either do it slowly so you don't get lumps, or mix it up using a foodprocessor). Add 3 eggs and 150 grams of molten butter. Use two spoolfuls (30 ml) of this batter per pancake. You should end up with about 30 pancakes. They're also quite tasty cold, making them good breakfast material. A litre of milk is like 50 cents but probably less. I think a kilo of flour is like 70 cents, but probably less too.

Tosti:

This is at least the local name for two slices of bread with young cheese and ham between them after having spent a few minutes in a toaster. The sliced ham is like 1,20 to about 12 slices. The cheese to take here is the ultra-cheap type as it tends to melt better. No idea what the price here is.

Drinks:

You mentioned that because you didn't buy any drinks, you only drank water and some coffee. When you're at the Toko for the rice, take some of their larger packets of tea. Again, better taste than the super market stuff, and typically cheaper too. Alternatively, grab some lemons and make your own Lemonade (Recipe here). In episode 1x05 of Patrolling, about halfway through the show, Sean Kennedy shows how to make a fasting drink using a recipe not unlike making Lemonade. Basically he substitutes the suger with natural maple syrup (it has to be natural "number 2" maple syrup as that contains nutrients and other important elements. The "number 1" maple syrup goes onto your pancakes, and is just the sugar) and adds some organic powdered cayenne pepper or "organic crack" as he describes it. The thing to remember here is that your typical low-budget meal tends to score low on the vitamins and nutrients scale. Use some home-made lemonade to counter that.

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Cooper, thanks so much for the input man. I would have bought larger quantities of shit, but yeah, like i said in the ep, this would be what you could buy and make if your cupboard was basically empty and you only had 10 bucks.

I will probably be doing some traditional cooking in the near future. Recipes from my grandparents and such. Uber cheap btw.

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Okay, this whole episode has gotten me thinking and tinkering like you wouldn't believe. I'm just totally convinced that you could've done a LOT better with some more preparation. At least given the prices at my local grocer.

My local grocer is a pretty large Albert Heijn, which tends to be the one other shops compare themselves to, and tends to be the more expensive of the various brands that exist.

The cool thing about this particular shop is that they have basically 2 home brands on top of the more known food item brands. These brands are the AH home brand, which tends to cater to the more price-concious buyer. Quality is still pretty high but prices are decidedly below what the name brands do. The second brand is mostly Euro Shopper, or if that brand doesn't carry that particular type of product, some no-name ultra-cheap brand. The stuff sold under these brands aim for the lowest possible price, even if that means quality may suffer a bit. This kinda shows with products like nuts or strawberry jams. Maybe the packet of nuts I tried was a bad batch, and the strawberries used in this jam were grown near Tsjernobyl, but either way the taste on both was awful.

I think the way you should deal with this is to just buy the cheapest, and go up the quality (and thus, price) range until you find the point where the quality is acceptable.

Let's start with the prerequisites:

A fairly big FREEZER - If you live alone as I do (yes, I'm sad) you'll want to cook once in a while, make a big batch, eat one portion and store the rest for later. Allows you to buy bulk which has financial benefits, and to just microwave your food for the evening to a decent temperature saving you time.

Freezer-safe containers - Not everything works well in a freezer, and because of this the containers you use in there must either be really tough, or really flexible. A nearby fruits and vegetables shop has some pre-made salads for sale that they scoop into flimsy plastic containers. These containers are *EXCELLENT* for storing stuff in the freezer. The lid is air-tight, and because of the flimsyness they can take the 'working' of the product as it freezes. Just make sure you only use them for storage and not let them wind up in the microwave along with your food, wash them thoroughly after use, and throw them out when the clear plastic starts to get a bit matte.

Pots, pans, knives, etc. - I would recommend getting a wok and a soup pan aswell. Remember that for the most part you'll be making large meals, so don't bother with small pans. Most are for sauces anyways, and we won't be dicking around with that at this stage in life. For knives, get one of those big chef's knives, and a sharp cerraded knife as the bare minimum. You'll obviously also need a cutting block of sorts.

A stove - Or whatever your cooking area is called. Preferably gas as you can vary the flame better and get a quicker response (ie when it's off, it's off).

A microwave - For heating up the meals you made earlier. For some dishes having an oven is preferred, and it's not very expensive to get a combi-microwave that includes a hot-air oven mode. Very useful for the odd pizza.

Next up, ingredients you should always have:

Olive oil - Can be used for EVERYTHING. I use the AH brand. 2,70 for half a litre which tends to last me about 4-6 months. The stuff lasts forever, so feel free to buy enormous quantities.

Cheese - The younger the better, though it's a bit of an acquired taste. Younger cheese melts better, making it a better fit for pizza and such. Buy a single block, and get a cheese grater that will allow you to cleanly use up all of it. 4,90 per kilo. A single kilo will cover with ease 30 sandwitches as well as a number of pizza's. Keep an eye on it though as this product can and will spoil. Usually it will suffice to cut off the woolly bits (hey don't gross out on me, the french actually eat that shit!) but consider the appearance of that stuff a swift reminder that you might want to use more of it in the next few days.

Sambal Oelek - Adds spice to the meals that need it, but can also be used on your bread. Great for those (hopefully rare) times where you fuck up the cooking process, and have no choice but to eat what's there and thus you want to burn off your taste buds. The Oelek is the sweeter kind, and typically when it comes to Sambal Oelek the cheaper the brand, the better the taste. You pay about 0.56 for a 200 gram jar (biggest available) that will last you forever.

Peanut butter - There's no denying that pretty much everybody eats peanut butter, and has an almost religious fanaticism to their favourite brand. Just make sure you buy the biggest pot you can find, which in my case is a 600 grams pot costing 3,29 but will once again last you a very long time.

Sugar, salt, pepper, spices - I'm not gonna count these to the budget as they tend to last for quite a while, and for the most part are so cheap that they might only add a single cent to the total cost of a serving.

So with all that we're already at 11,45 spent, let's see where this leads us:

Bread

When you buy a loaf of bread in the store, prices start at 1 euro. However, you can purchase bread mix which is basically the ideal combination of wheat, flour and presumably baking soda. All you need to add is water, and some of your time. They sell this in packages of 1 kg for 1 euro and you only need half that to make a full-sized bread. My sister lives nearby a working mill that actually still sells freshly ground wheat and flour in bulk for a great price. Since she's got 5 additional mouths to feed, a single loaf over there doesn't even last a single day. She bought a bread maker, which has the added benefit of a timer, so at, like, 4 am the thing flicks on and starts to make the bread, and by the time she's up the whole house smells like freshly baked bread. And she's saving in exces of 50 cents per day. She'll recoup the bread machine in a little under 1.5 years.

We don't have a bread machine though, so use a little elbow grease to get the same effect. As an alternative, you can use some dried yeast and flour to make a single bread. Using just flour makes for a really white, dry bread though, and while cheaper (20 cents a kg) you need to add yeast (27 cents per packet) which will kill most of the profits this route could yield.

When you make your own bread, remember that you can use the dough in more ways. Add some garlic to make nice garlic bread. Um, please use actual garlic. Garlic salt doesn't really work here.

In summary, 50 cents per loaf, which will give about 20 slices that will provide me breakfast and lunch for 5 days. Cover them with cheese, toast them, add peanut butter or invest in cheap chocolate flakes or a nice jam. Your breakfast and lunch combined will cost about 15-20 cents per day.

On to dinner. We've already seen spaghetti mentioned in the ep. Here's my way of doing Spaghetti. Get half a pound of minced meat (1,85), some onions (1 euro per kilo. You'll use at most 10 cents of it), and cook 'em up in a bit of olive oil. Get some peeled tomatoes (I'd prefer the puree'd ones, but they weren't available at this time so I couldn't get a price on those. The peeled tomatoes were 20 cents for a 400 gram can) and puree the suckers, add to the pan and drop in some spices. Specifically, garlic and salt. Stir a few times and you're done. This is the sauce for 5 servings, at a total cost of 2,15 or 0,43 per serving.

But then there's the pasta. An average adult eats about 125 grams of pasta for a meal. Pasta is 0,30 per kg, so let's round up and say 4 cents of pasta per serving.

End total: 0,47 per serving.

On to soup. The only soup I know that to me actually qualifies as a meal is Pea soup. Lucky, this is again a really easy to make dish, and cheap as hell too. Get 500 grams of dried split peas (0,36) and 2.5 litres of water. You'll probably want to add some onion and/or potato to this stuff to taste. At most 10 cents of onion. Potato is 50 cents per kilo if you buy 5 kg bags, so let's say another 5 cents of potato. Traditionally "rookworst" (literally: smoked sausage. Think 250 gram hotdog. Price: 0,71) needs to be in there for the meat component. This should be another 4-5 servings and cost a mere 1,22 or about 30 cents per serving.

Pancakes. To make about 30 of them, which would be enough for 3 servings and hopefully leave something for breakfast the next morning, you need just a pound of flour (10 cents), a litre of milk (48 cents), 3 eggs (29 cents) and 150 grams of butter (12 cents). Total amount: 99 cents or 33 cents per serving. You'd need to put something ON the pancake of course, so we better up that to about 40 cents per. Stuff on the pancake can be just plain sugar, sugar with cinnamon, apple chunks (during baking), possibly some onion? Garlic? Experiment with what you've got.

Still we're sticking with 40 cents per serving.

We still have another pound of minced meat to work through (leftover from the spaghetti sauce. 1,85) so we dunk that in a pan with another 10 cents of onions. Add a pound of canned beans (29 cents) and some spices and you have another dish that can serve 4-5 people. Total spent: 2,24 or about 50 cents per serving. This dish combines well with rice (2,49 for 4.5 kg), and you need to accound for about 125 grams per serving (7 cents) making the end total for this dish 57 cents per serving.

Drinks! Let's not forget our liquids. Tea is a mere 1.5 cents per tea bag (29 cents for 20) that can flavour about half a litre of water. Then there's the lemonade. 3 lemons cost 1 euro, and once juiced, combine with half a litre of water to give you the lemonade. It's good thing it's healthy, because the average carbonated drink is cheaper. So instead, let's make orangeade. For 2,69 you get a 2 kilo net of oranges. The ration juice / sugarwater should be about 1:4 I'm pretty sure you can get a litre of liquid from those oranges. So you end up with 5 litres of fairly healthy drink (your dentist will kill you over the sugar though). Another idea to try is diluting a fruit syrup in water for flavour. If you do this, pre-mix a large quantity as people, and kids in particular, will throw in ENORMOUS amounts of syrup if they were given a say in it.

Throw in more cheap dish ideas if you have them. I'm cutting this post off as it's getting late and this thing is starting to get REALLY long, but some things I'll write up later:

Hash - beef, onions, potatoes. Done!

Carrot and Onions - A stew if you will of carrots, onions, potato and the remainder of the beef.

Ways of preparing a potato.

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After watching this, I was out food shopping, and found myself looking at burritos.

I did more than look and they were good.

My god, Cooper, you are truly inspired. :)

Got me rethinking my food prep.

I was pretty sure minced meat was hamburger, but had to look up Sambal Oelek. Is that anything like salsa?

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I was pretty sure minced meat was hamburger

Looked it up. The english word for the product is Ground Beef, but minced meat is apparently a not very common synonym.

The thing to remember is that this product comes in various variations. You have the pure ground beef, which will still be cheaper than regular beef as they can just take the leftover parts and grind that down, and there is "half om half" (translates to something like 50/50) where half the meat is beef and the remainder is (generally) pork. This variation tends to be cheaper still, as pork meat is less expensive than beef.

but had to look up Sambal Oelek. Is that anything like salsa?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambal

It's a thick chili sauce / pepper concentrate. Salsa tends to be a lot more watery, and contain vegetables of sorts.

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Right, let's keep going and see what else we can do.

I noted before that potatoes are 50 cents a kilo as long as you buy a 5 kilo bag. If you store them in a cool, dark and dry place they will easily last you a week, but after that the things go bad fairly quickly. The best way to deal with this is to put aside the amount of potatoes you'll use over the next week and make mashed potatoes from the remainder. You can simply freeze the mashed potatoes and use them whenever it's convenient. I can highly recommend using freezer-proof bags for this, as it will allow you to put your portions in the various nooks and crannies that still exist in your freezer.

My standard recipe for mashed potatoes calls for a kilo of potatoes (50 cents), some onions (10 cents) and I like to throw in some apples (2 euro for 2 kg. 2 kg is about 16 apples, and 2 is enough, so 25 cents used) to sweeten it up a bit. People sometimes want to add some milk and/or butter to make the stuff a little smoother, but since you don't need to do that, I won't include it in this calculation. This will give you at least 5 servings and cost a total of 85 cents making it 17 cents per serving.

So now we're left with the potatoes that we'll eat throughout the week. These should fall into 3 different categories:

- Large potatoes. Fairly smooth and oval. We'll make oven fries out of these.

- Small potatoes. We're gonna run these through the oven aswell.

- The rest. You can just plain cook them up or turn them into mashed potatoes.

Let's start with the large potatoes. Peel them, then cut them up into fries-size pieces. About twice the size of a french fry. When you get an oven, it normally comes with both a roster and a sled. If you only have a roster, you'll need to get a "furnace scale" to hold the potatoes, otherwise you use the sled. Put a _bit_ of oil on the bottom of the sled, then spread the potato parts out over it and add some more oil over them. Try to get none of the potatoes to overlap. Let 'er rip and you end up with some great tasting fries that tend to be healthier than the usual fries to boot. Throw on some salt prior to serving. We're talking about 175 grams of potato per serving here, so this is just under 9 cents per serving.

The small potatoes get a similar fate, however rather than peeling these suckers, we only scrub them down a to get the dirt off. Use a specific brush for this (finger brushes or even dish washing or tooth brushes are fine) and just cut them up into evenly sized parts. Run them through the oven much like the fries mentioned above. Keeping the peel is actually healthier than the fries above. You could grow some parsley indoors, cut some of that up and add them to the potatoes after chucking it into the oven, or put some spices like paprika powder over them. And we're still talking just 9 cents per serving.

For the remainder, you can cook them up, eat some and store the remainder in the fridge like that. Then the next day, slice them up and bake them for a chip-like result, or make Rösti by slicing them up into finer parts and frying them with some onion.

But back to the mashed potatoes. Since we're making a _LOT_ of it above, some things you can do with it to make the constant eating of mashed potatoes not a terrible drag:

Hash. Yes, I'm from the Netherlands, and no, that's not the type of hash I'm talking about. To make Hash you take some beef, typically from around the rib area of the cow, and some onions. Put some butter in a large pan, bake the beef and onions briefly, then add some water to it, throw the lid on and turn the heat way down. Slow-cook the beef/onion mixture for about an hour. Serve up with mashed potatoes. The beef is 6,75 for a kilo, but that makes a _LOT_ of hash. You'll probably include the full kilo of onions with this, and wind up with 12 servings easily. End result: 65 cents per serving, which comes to 82 cents per serving once you account for the mashed potatoes.

Carrot and onions is a well-known winter stew here in the netherlands. Winter time is carrot season so they're pretty cheap then. 80 cents a kilo. What you do is you take a kilo of carrot, about 300 grams of onion and 1.3 kilo of potatoes. Cook this stuff up as you would do just the potatoes when making mashed potatoes. When done, mash it all up and add half a kilo of beef that got the same treatment like with the hash (just without the onions, though you can given the onions that treatment aswell for an interesting taste variation). This should be enough at least 7 servings, and at a total cost of 5,12 a single serving cost just 73 cents.

Now I mentioned adding apples to the mashed potatoes for some nice taste. It makes great sense to keep a few apples lying around as a healthy snack (same goes for the carrot by the way. Just scrape off the skin and chuck it in the fridge. Stays well for several days that way, and a nice sweet snack) but when you buy a 2 kg bag, you're going to need to eat a _lot_ of apples in a fairly short time to prevent them from rotting on you. so instead, we're going to make apple compote. If you don't like the apple chunks that are common for compote, just mash it up and you end up with applesauce. Boil 225 grams of sugar in 285 ml of water until you end up with a thick syrup. Peel 6 ripe apples and cut out the cores, then chop them up into parts as fine as you want them to be in your compote, and add them to the syrup. Allow it all to gently simmer until the apple parts are tender. If at this point the compote is too runny for your taste, scoop out the apple chunks, and then turn up the heat a bit, reducing the syrup until you've got the right consistency. pour the syrup over the apples and mix it a bit. Add some cinnamon to taste. The apples used total at 75 cents. You can't really compute servings for this as this is typically a side dish or something you add to the plate to provide some extra sweetness (popular with kids to mix up with vegetables they don't like, to take the taste away). As always, this stuff can be easily frozen, so just keep in the fridge what you'll use in the next, say, 3 days, and freeze up the rest.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but the way I see it we could spend about 25 euros on top of the 11.45 on prerequisite ingredients, and should be able to keep ourselves fed for pretty close to a month, if not longer. We're averaging 55 cents per dinner dish, and 20 cents for breakfast and lunch combined. That means that in 31 days you'll spend just 23,25 on food. And eat a fairly balanced, healthy and varied meal every day.

What's the point of the Ramen noodles again?

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