Eating 2000 calories a day, on a budget. A serious budget.

Well, here's the scoop guys. I'm a student and legislative Intern with the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. Hooray for that, because the career opportunities are immense. Here's the problem; It's unpaid. To make a long story short, after rent, metro passes, and tuition payments, I have $880 to live on until April. I've been buying Progresso beef stew/canned chili on sale at target, and packets of instant rice, also at Target, and these items generally run under $2 each. I'll eat oatmeal and have a tall glass of whole milk at breakfast, which means I'm spending under $5 a day on food. Unfortunately I'm still not consuming enough calories, and i don't believe that this diet is very healthy either. To make things even harder, I have no stove or oven in my apartment, only a microwave, sink, and small refrigerator.

I've been looking at buying black beans/pinto beans in bulk, but I feel like it would be a serious hassle to cook, because all online recipes call for 35 minutes or longer cook time in the microwave, not to mention 8 to 10 hours soaking. I'm also considering buying potatoes, but iI'm unsure of how i would store them, or how easily i could cook them in the microwave.

I'm interested in hearing any ideas about how to make this work. I'm trying to plan a diet that will meet basic nutrition requirements, provide me with 3 meals a day, and cost less than $6 per day, without the use of an oven or stovetop.

I appreciate the help, and I'm really hoping that i can plan a healthy and filling diet.


Tags: Budget, Diet, Eating, Student

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Girlfriend who works in a restaurant? 

Hmm... I'll have to ponder. 

Unfortunately the GF lives back in San Francisco! But otherwise, excellent idea.

I wonder if you can get or borrow a hot plate.  Because for me, microwaves aren't for cooking, they're for reheating.

Don't worry about the soak time for dried beans:  yes, you have to do it, but it's not that hard -- you just have to do it the day before.

My wife's a smart shopper.  In addition to sales, she checks for things that are marked down, so we'll get a loaf of bread for 50c, e.g.  It's hit or miss, but it does happen.

A nutritionist told me once that if you eat brown rice, that's pretty much all you need -- just add fruit now and then.  You may be bored out of your mind, but you're getting the goods.  You can buy a big bag of that.

Two sites I just found: (scroll to the last parts)

1.  look for a used rice cooker on ebay, etc.  Should get one for about $10.  A bag of brown rice costs under $1 and will make enough rice for 3 - 4 days. Dump in the rice and go.  Also, haven't tried it with other grains, but should also be able to make quinao and millet in one, which are amazing grains.  Might even be able to boil some eggs in it!

2.  similar with a crockpot.  Get a used one, somewhere.  Make your own stews:  beef, chicken, veg. whatever.  Takes some practice so you don't just get a plate of nasty mush, but if you keep it simple, you can make some amazing, hearty, manly meals in a crockpot.  Just dump the stuff in and go.

3.  consider joining a food coop, you get discounts if you put in a few hours a month stocking shelves, and can buy in bulk.

4.  If you can find a used electric steamer, they are also amazing.  Cooks veg very fast and doesn't kill them the way a microwave will.

$6 a day should be easy if you get the system set up right.  Got a birthday coming on? Ask for these appliances!

Try to avoid the pasta trap, it's cheap food but empty calories, and we all deserve better.  

Good luck, and let us know how it goes.


Thanks for the advice Jay, i picked up a small rice cooker used on Amazon for $14, and i've been experimenting making brown rice, barley, and Quinoa

From the writer Edward Abbey, who ate on $300.00 per year (1970s dollars).

19 May 1973

Dear Victoria,

Herewith my bit for your cookbook. This recipe is not original but a variation on an old (perhaps ancient) Southwestern dish. It has also been a favorite of mine and was for many years the staple, the sole staple, of my personal nutritional program. (I am six feet three and weigh 190 pounds, sober.)

I call it Hardcase Survival Pinto Bean Sludge.

1. Take one fifty-pound sack Colorado pinto beans. Remove stones, cockleburs, horseshit, ants, lizards, etc. Wash in clear cold crick water. Soak for twenty-four hours in iron kettle or earthenware cooking pot. (DO NOT USE TEFLON, ALUMINUM OR PYREX CONTAINER. THIS WARNING CANNOT BE OVERSTRESSED.)

2. Place kettle or pot with entire fifty lbs. of pinto beans on low fire and simmer for twenty-four hours. (DO NOT POUR OFF WATER IN WHICH BEANS HAVE BEEN IMMERSED. THIS IS IMPORTANT.) Fire must be of juniper, pinyon pine, mesquite or ironwood; other fuels tend to modify the subtle flavor and delicate aroma of Pinto Bean Sludge.



5. After simmering on low fire for twenty-four hours, add one gallon green chile peppers. Stir vigorously. Add one quart natural (non-iodized) pure sea salt. Add black pepper. Stir some more and throw in additional flavoring materials, as desired, such as old bacon rinds, corncobs, salt pork, hog jowls, kidney stones, ham hocks, sowbelly, saddle blankets, jungle boots, worn-out tennis shoes, cinch straps, whatnot, use your own judgment. Simmer an additional twenty-four hours.

6. Now ladle as many servings as desired from pot but do not remove pot from fire. Allow to simmer continuously for hours, days or weeks if necessary, until all contents have been thoroughly consumed. Continue to stir vigorously, whenever in vicinity or whenever you think of it.

7. Serve Pinto Bean Sludge on large flat stones or on any convenient fairly level surface. Garnish liberally with parsley flakes. Slather generously with raw ketchup. Sprinkle with endive, anchovy crumbs and boiled cruets and eat hearty.

8. One potful Pinto Bean Sludge, as above specified, will feed one poet for two full weeks at a cost of about $11.45 at current prices. Annual costs less than $300.

9. The philosopher Pythagoras found flatulence incompatible with meditation and therefore urged his followers not to eat beans. I have found, however, that custom and thorough cooking will alleviate this problem.

Yrs, Edward Abbey—Tucson

Why not moonlight delivering pizzas or something?  A few hundred bucks a month completely changes your life right now.  Hell ... you can make a hundred a week or more just waiting tables a night or two a week.  That's enough to eat a lot better than you're talking about here.  I was making $60-$80 a night at Outback Steakhouse 10+-years-ago -- and I was a terrible waiter.  That kind of money would make your life a lot easier.  (And, restaurants usually discount meals for the staff).

I'd rather work a second job for the supplemental income -- even if its a crappy job -- than live like that.  It'll burn you out ... but its only a few months.  You'll live.


A lot of federal positions have severe restrictions on secondary employment, how much and what type (in some cases what employers!) of second job can preclude that option.

I'm definitely open to this, i've filled out a few job apps in the area, and signed up on a local tutoring website as a history and english tutor. I'll keep at it, and hopefully find something to supplement my income

I'm starting to hate writing here. When the signal I get for internet is weak my post doesn't go up and I have to write it again.

Short form.

1. do you have a stovetop or hotplate? Do you have a freezer?

2. buy rice in bulk and cook it on stovetop. All you need is water and a pot with a lid.

3. If you buy meat like chicken then buy it in bulk, cook it all in oven, and store it in baggies in the freezer.

4. Make a big pot of chili or stew (get a recipe online). Let it cool. Divide it into portion sizes and put each into a freezer-proof baggie. Freeze it. Then when you want chili for supper you have a portion size you can grab and thaw out.

5. Wash your socks, and underwear in the sink (cheaper than a laundromat).

6. You can microwave potatoes. Rinse the potatoes with water and pierce the skin with a few pokes of a fork on each side. Put in microwave safe bowl. Nuke for 3-4min and then flip it over and nuke for another 3-4min. If you have several in the bowl, when you flip you should move the ones on the bottom of the bowl to the top. Serve with butter, pesto, cheese, tuna, etc. Works for many meals and is cheap.

Go to the thrift store (salvation army, etc) for a hot plate.

What you need to round out your diet is carrots, and leafy greens, all of which store at room temp. Cabbage is cheep, cook it with a little butter and garlic.

A cheep protein source is also  lentils.


1.  Ramen Noodles.

2.  You do need to get some fruit & veggies.  Back in college, I knew a guy who ate pretty much like you describe, he avoided fruit or veggies at the dorm dining commons.  After a couple of months, he complained about his mouth hurting.  He'd managed to give himself SCURVY.

3.  Logistics.  Do you have a CostCo or Sam's Club membership available to you?  Works quite well for acquiring dry staples in bulk.  You don't need the membership yourself, just piggyback on a friend or relative's trip to the warehouse club. 



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