Thursday, June 23, 2011

$4 dinners in New York City: Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

I’m writing this post because I ran out of peanut butter. That’s a euphemism for “dinner.” You see, since I moved to New York on Saturday, my dinners have consisted only of the 4 major (Whole) Foods groups:

peanut butter
organic whole wheat sourdough
baby carrots
plain nonfat non-rBGH yogurt

The bread is my carbohydrates; the peanut butter my protein; the yogurt and carrots my vitamins. I never expected that they would satiate my hunger, but the crazy thing is, eating 2 slices of bread, 4 tablespoons of peanut butter, 30 baby carrots, and 10 ounces of yogurt every night makes me more full than the all-out buffet dinners back in college.

It’s also amazing how little money each costs. All together, they were $20. That’s $4 a day for dinner. Insane! I attribute it to the peanut butter: my 18 oz jar (slightly bigger than a Coke can) packs 3200 calories, 128 grams of protein, and 32 grams of fiber. For $3!

For breakfast every day, I quaff two packets of instant oatmeal in my Berkeley 2011 mug. I’ll eat an apple around 10:30am. Lunch, I admit, I go out for – Chipotle, Hale and Hearty, the Mexican truck, a $1 pizza place. But that’s it, I promise.

$4 a day on dinner. $8 on lunch. $1.50 on breakfast. $13.50 a day in NYC? Not bad, right?

Right now, I’m finding an almost perverse joy from spending as little on food as possible. Part of it’s my nature, but part of it’s also counterbalancing the first two weeks of this internship, when I was still living in New Haven. Because of the commute and the lack of viable supermarkets, I bought meals three times a day: 2 parfaits ($7.56) for breakfast; something fatty for lunch ($8); and something oversaturated for dinner ($8). I felt slightly profligate, and wasn’t convinced the food wasn’t somewhat noxious to my immune system. It got so bad I started waking up in the middle of the night to pinch my stomach, convinced my body fat index was increasing (kidding! But I did start pinching myself. I’ve stopped now). Moving to NYC, and taking a trip to the Whole Foods, was my salubrious solution (did I use that word right?).

My austere dinners are soon going to be untenable. They feel variegated enough right now, but I know it’ll become unbearable in a week. Until then, I’ll going to try and save even more money. For example, if I made my own salads, that’s another $4 shaved off. But breakfast and dinner – I can’t see a way to cut prices without sacrificing my health. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Oh, and weekends are exempt. Stomach, get ready for some ramen tomorrow. Mmmmm.

Friday update: after peanut butter week, I went to Totto and Ippudo for lunch and dinner. Two of the best ramen shops  in New York (Ippudo has 2756 reviews; 4-stars). Ippudo was like, 1.5x better than Totto (noodle consistency/stringiness, broth saltiness, temperature). Totto was $12. Ippudo was $26. $38 in a day -- that's more like NY living, right?

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