Creative cooking for stingy students

When I wrote An Insider’s Guide, my editor suggested that I change the references to ‘the $2-a-meal-rule’. It was outdated, she said, and surely needed to be adjusted for inflation. No, I said.

While I was happy to take her advice on most parts of the book, I remained resolute about the $2-a-meal-rule. It was, and remains, perfectly realistic. Even though I’m now officially a professional (full teaching registration having just been confirmed – hoorah!!), overdue grocery trips, credit bills and savings goals mean that there are days on which I still follow the rule. Just this week, for example, I’ve whipped up:

Cajun wraps: leek (on special), bacon (bulk frozen) and chickpeas ($1 a can) – sauteed with salt, pepper and herbs and served with salad in pita pockets (from the freezer). 

Moroccan salad: grated carrot (last one of a big bag), couscous (in the pantry since ages ago) and olives (cheapo brand but still good for cooking) – mixed with mint from the garden, almonds from the baking shelf and spices.

Stuffed slow-cooked spuds: onion (pantry staple), silverbeet ($1.99 for  a massive bag), tinned tomato, tuna (in a can) – cooked with Worcester sauce, seasonings and chilli and served on a baked spud.

Mussel fritters: steamed chopped mussels ($2.79 a kilo), egg, flour, herbs and seasonings, beaten together and then pan fried and served with salad.

Vege lasagna: lentils, leftover veges, tinned tomato and spices slow cooked, layered with pasta and cheese sauce, and then baked.

All of these meals have been delicious and healthy and filling. All of these meals have come well under $2 a meal. Student cooking isn’t about cooking crap; it’s about being creative with what you have. It’s about trying anything, wasting nothing, and never being tied to the constraints of a recipe. It’s not about fancy ingredients or expensive cookbooks, it’s about using the very creativity and independent thinking that your BA is all about.