Empty Wallet, Full Stomach
It’s always been a dream of mine to move to New York. That’s why when two months ago I received the notification that I had been accepted as a transfer student to the school of my dreams in my all-time favorite city, I was over the moon. I had been to NYC for a visit here and a summer program there, but had never stayed for longer than two weeks, and anybody who knows New York knows that in terms of experiencing the city, two weeks can give you only enough time to see a fraction of the culture—and that's even if you plan your days really well. I fully planned on dedicating whatever free time I had to the exploration of the food culture that the city has to offer.
Now I had been warned (more times than I’d like to count) to be careful, and told that the city is ruthless and hungry, and it would take a bite out of me, chew me up, and spit me out, taking all of my money along with it. To prepare myself, I saved up as much as I could over winter break and started searching for a job as soon as the new year rolled around. I thought I was prepared, but truly nothing can prepare one for living in New York until you're actually here. It’s safe to say that the majority of the money I’ve spent here so far has been on food, making my way slowly through the most notable bites that the city has to offer. Joe’s Pizza, Baz’s Bagels, Clinton Street Baking Company—they can take all of my money!
Three weeks into the semester I was still jobless, but I was eating goooood. Much to my dismay, my stomach was full but my wallet grew thinner and thinner until I realized that if I was interested in continuing eating my way through the city Pac-Man-style, I needed to learn how to budget. It was time to learn how to utilize the resources I had in my new dorm. At my last school, the dorm did not have a kitchen, so while I love to cook, I never got the chance to do so and didn’t know what it was like to be responsible for buying my own groceries.
From what I've experienced this past month and a half, here's the advice that I wish someone had told me before I moved to the city:
1. Go to Trader Joe's. I was hesitant at first because the Trader Joe's in my hometown is wildly expensive, so I was expecting the same here, but I was surprised to find that it’s actually considerably cheaper than a lot of other grocery stores around. The food is high quality, and for the most part very nutritious.
2. A little salt goes a long way! Season, season, season—and season aggressively.
3. My top four kitchen necessities are salt, olive oil, garlic, and lemon. These all go a long way when cooking, and when used correctly can add a high-quality taste to normal everyday foods.
4. When you go grocery shopping, choose the most versatile and long-lasting items. My favorites include canned black beans, eggs, peanut butter, grains, pasta, tomato sauce, etc. These items are foundational for many dishes and if you’re creative, they can be mixed in enough ways to give you consistently different meals.
5. Don’t be afraid to experiment! If you’re comfortable in the kitchen, try mixing and matching some foods that you think will go together. You never know what combination of food you'll find to satiate your tastebuds! If you're not too comfortable in the kitchen, find some easy, low-maintenance recipes to follow.
If you're a major foodie like me who can't hold back from buying the best bites, just learn how to budget yourself so that you can still taste the city without going completely into debt. I'm definitely not going to stop eating my way through the city, and hopefully these tips help you do the same. Happy eating!