Well, okay, it’s not just lunch that I’m grateful for today. Really, it’s the fact that delicious, nutritious food doesn’t have to be expensive. Because, you know, I’m a poor graduate student and can’t afford expensive food, and certainly can’t afford to eat out much. Since I’ve been here in Boston, I’ve been living on the smallest budget I can manage, and that on top of the fact that I’m pretty lazy when I’m just cooking for myself means that I’ve come to rely on some pretty cheap, easy meals. Most of which involve frozen veggies, because I don’t have to worry about them spoiling in my fridge. And I don’t have to cut them. So here are a couple of the silly, cheap, easy little meals that I make for myself pretty often:

Fried rice. I used boil-in-bag rice (which, by the way, is something I discovered up here. I like it because you simply can’t mess it up. Really. And I’m someone who has a hard time with minute rice) and a pepper-and-onion frozen stir fry mix. I sautee the frozen veggies in toasted sesame oil until the onions begin to caramelize and then I toss in my cooked rice and season and splash on a little soy sauce and stir it all up and wait for it to brown up a little. It’s tasty and super easy.

Old El Paso taco dinner kits. I pretty much keep one of these boxes in my pantry at all times. It started one day last semester when I was missing home a little and probably dreaming about the glories of Taco Tuesday at Rosa’s (Texas people, you know what I’m talking about). I had to pop in to CVS for something before lunch and happened to see the bright yellow box there and thought, Tacos sound good. Let’s face it: when do tacos not sound good? So I bought the box for a whopping $3 and change and was delighted to find that it was worth four meals–there are 12 taco shells in the pack.

I tend to eat tacos every couple of weeks. I rarely keep fresh tomatoes on hand because they tend to go bad before I can use them up, and because they require a trip to the real grocery store instead of the more convenient CVS, so instead I like to open up a can of Rotel to garnish my tacos. One can is good enough for all of my tacos. After I had been enjoying my regular taco meals for a while, I found that I usually ate up the shells before I used up all the meat. And one day I had a genius idea to toss the seasoned meat with a great frozen veggie mix and it was totally delicious. Now I’m sure to cook enough meat for this, and it’s like extending the taco box for a fifth meal. Nothing tastes better than a good deal. Thanks, Old El Paso!

Today, I took the taco-meat-and-vegetables one step further by cutting out the middle man food. I cooked some chicken and a little onion and used a package of McCormick taco seasoning, and then I added in my favorite veggie mix (it has broccoli, chickpeas, kidney beans, carrots, and other stuff that I either can’t remember or haven’t identified).

After it had cooked, I topped it with some Rotel and shredded cheddar and the dregs of a bag of tortilla chips. It would be really good with a bunch of crunchy tortilla strips in it. I don’t really know how to categorize it. It’s kind of like a salad, only hot. And delicious. I made enough for another meal, and I’m already looking forward to eating it again! But I’ll have to stop in at CVS for more tortilla chips.

So there it is. I’m thankful for these silly little meals that satisfy my appetite and taste buds as well as my sense of dragonish frugality.


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