The biggest shock to my system of going back to school will be and already has been going back to the college student food budget.
It’s already been a trip down a sad culinary memory lane.
One of my favorite snacks from college that I’ve returned to eating daily almost immediately is a good ol’ Lender’s onion bagel with cream cheese and a side of spicy hot V8. You dip the bagel in the V8 like savory cookies and milk. It possibly sounds weird, I know, but it’s purely addictive. Not to mention, you can get two weeks worth of bagels, cream cheese, and spicy hot V8 for about 8 bucks.
To avoid completely returning to a diet that consisted mostly of the ramen, grilled cheese, and Totino’s pizza food groups, I’ve been Pinterest-ing a lot of different budget whole food grocery lists.
“how to live on 20 dollars a week for two people”
“how to feed a family on $40 a week”
“how to make 7 healthy meals for under $35”
The ease with which you can find these types of posts illustrates how truly widespread the problem of food insecurity is even among the people well off enough to have home internet and use it for craft project ideas. Not that merely having home internet and liking crafts is any kind of hallmark of being wealthy, but there are plenty of people even in America who live completely cut off and left out from our tech-driven society and pop culture. I feel quite blessed that my budget worries are along the lines of “Damn I can’t afford to get takeout this week” instead of “Damn I won’t have running water for the next month”
Still, the hardest part, for me, of living on a budget is that it is so difficult to shop ethically.
I try to avoid some food groups altogether when I can’t buy the sustainable option, but it is really, really tough The other problem is that even a good bit of the sustainable, organic stuff still comes in at least partially plastic packaging. What’s the point of some “green” product when it’s in a non-recyclable plastic bottle?? Every piece of plastic I place in my cart, even the plastic handle on my cart, gives me a bleak vision of the dead spots in our oceans swarmed with little plastic pieces all because of humanity’s brilliant idea to put one-time-use products in packages that last practically forever in earth’s ecosystem.
The question quickly becomes: do I spend the extra money to only get ethically sourced products in glass, aluminum, and paper packaging? Do I shop only at Sunshine Health Foods and Vitamins Plus where these things are more expensive but I’m supporting local business? Or do I say “F**k my principles, I’m broke as hell” and feed myself for a longer amount of time on less money with cheap processed crap in plastic wrappers and bottles? I’m ashamed at how often I pick the latter.
Still, when these are the only options, is it any wonder that the US is still so dreadfully behind the rest of the first world when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint? The misleading messages from the media about the science community being “divided” on the causes of climate change certainly do not help, but even those among us who are painfully aware of the devastation are still trapped in bad purchasing habits because times are tough and even dry beans and dry rice come in goddamn plastic bags and farmer’s markets seem to always only be open when I’m at work. Can we get a late night farmer’s market, y’all? Not everyone is off on Saturday mornings.
If you have any ideas for shopping the responsible, sustainable way on a pitiful student budget, I’d love to hear them.