I was at my friend Natasha’s house a couple weeks ago. She’s incredibly generous and always offers me food and drink when I visit. On this particular night, after she asked me if I’d like to eat, Natasha made a comment about her eating habits: “I eat hobo food.” She smiled seriously and continued, “You know food you eat out of a can. Ramen noodles. Shit like that. Hobo food.” She squinted when she said specific words to add emphasis, like “food,” “can,” and “shit.”
I smiled and said genuinely, “Whatever you have is fine.”
I got used to eating very cheaply while I was living in Australia. Making my road trip down the east coast, I was on an extremely restricted budget. My weekly expenditure could not exceed 400 AUD. Before I left for the journey, I remember telling a friend on the farm that my projected budget for the entire two months was less than 3000 AUD.
“Ha! I spent three grand in a weekend coming up the coast.” He laughed at me in his you’re-so-stupid way — the same way he laughed when we would banter back and forth.
Well, I followed my budget. It was difficult, but part of my success was a result of my transient food diet (the word “hobo” seems a bit off-color). On the cheapest of days I ate all my meals for 3 AUD (very low for Australia). My travel companion, Tiina, and I used to eat meat and cheese from the deli for a meal. Nothing else, just meat and cheese. Sometimes, we could eat a can of tuna — we’d add mayo and pepper if we could find it on a hostel’s “free shelf.” We ate like this because it was cheap, quickly prepared and easily consumed. Plus, since we couldn’t take leftovers with us and we were moving constantly all our food needed to be eaten within a day or two.
Even now, I’m still very much in travel-mode. Aside from the fact that I haven’t lived in one space for longer than 4 weeks since I came back to California, I know that I want to be traveling again soon, and so every penny must be used wisely. Thus, I’m still eating Transient Food.
And yet, I don’t want to simply eat meat and cheese, plain tuna, or ramen noodles; I want to eat nutritious, delicious, interesting, cheap food. Not just Transient Food, but Transient Food Gourmet!
With this in mind, tonight I made tacos. They are so simple to make and can support a myriad of substitutions including vegetarian-ization and vegan-ization.
For dinner I sauteed spicy beef sausages (really just spicy hotdogs), canned corn, canned beans, onion, green pepper, and green beans in butter with some “everyday” spices. I put the mix on warmed corn tortillas and topped them with lettuce and salsa. All of these ingredient are super cheap! Onion, green beans, lettuce and green pepper are probably the cheapest vegetables and keep well. The can of corn and beans were both under 1 USD and I can use them a spoonful or two at a time. If I had made the recipe vegetarian (without the sausage) or vegan (without butter) it would have been even cheaper. The spicy beef sausages were the most expensive, but still less than .50 USD each. Essentially, the foods I bought provide enough food for me to eat dinner for nearly a week and costs less than 10 USD total.
Tonight’s dinner: a total success. Every food group was covered and I enjoyed eating it.
Do you have a great Transient Food Gourmet recipe? Please share it in the comments. I’d love some new ideas!!