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Eat smart, eat well, eat cheap

There are two things to know about me. The first is that I work for The Daily Targum and therefore have no life. The second is that I am constantly in a state of insatiable hunger.

It sounds amusing, but being hungry at my rate usually means I turn into an obsessed monster constantly in pursuit of something.

I can tell you the exact contents of my house's refrigerator, starting with the condiments and ending with my housemates' leftovers. My favorite question to ask people is, "What did you have for dinner?" and "What are you making?" When someone starts eating in the office, I'm immediately there and asking if I can try it, steal a bite, smell it.

And when I get food? It's down the gullet without a second thought. If I'm especially hungry or eating something delicious, I tend to unconsciously emit little noises of pleasure. Which sounds dirty, I know, but it's true. I'm often told it's quite disgusting and even disturbing, but I don't care because I love food.

There's only one problem I run into in my pursuit of food-related happiness — money.

Since it's safe to say I don't get paid very much and don't have time for another job, I'm usually consumed by two concerns: How much money I have and what I can eat that day.

When not paying attention in class, I'm either budgeting my impending monetary affairs or writing a grocery list.

After living off-campus for six months (and cutting my checks without parental assistance), I've developed a handy system of making sure I can afford rent and utilities every month. I call this plan Don't Spend Anything.

OK, I admit this is impossible. But I make it my goal to not spend anything if I don't have to. This means when I shop for food I usually search out the cheapest and most generic of items.

Do you pay attention to the price-per-ounce amount next to the price tag? I do. It sounds anal and tedious, but it makes me feel better knowing I've saved a couple of dollars.

No joke, the discount aisle makes my heart race with anticipation. It's surprising to see how much you can save by checking the sales and special offers. I remember with pride the month Stop and Shop had Ocean Spray Cran-Grape juice on sale, buy one get one free.

I tend to buy things that will last and produce multiple meals — frozen chicken and boxes of pasta as opposed to more expensive and easily consumed items like pizza bagels and frozen dinners.

The secret is to actually cook the food. Seriously. Processed foods tend to be pricey and terrible for you anyway.

It only takes about 15 minutes to chop up a chicken breast, steam a cup of rice and cook the meat to make a decent stir-fry. (It's all about the sauce. I use sesame garlic and people always compliment on how good it smells.)

Then again, sometimes there isn't time. The Daily Targum's office doesn't have a stove, but it has a microwave. Items like Chef Boyardee and Cup of Noodle are usually 10 for $10 and three for $1. On days when I'm too tired or running late, I just grab a can from the pantry and go.

My other method of cheap eating is taking advantage of my nine female housemates. (Crazy, right?) Well, imagine about five of them enjoy to bake — especially one super-baker, who I know is baking a carrot cake as I type.

It's a dream come true to return home after four hours of classes and find a loaf of banana bread you can cut a slice from before rushing back out the door for work. As long as the food isn't off-limits, don't be afraid to take a share.

If your housemates don't bake, I'll bet they get takeout. As I said earlier, I know there are at least three boxes of leftovers in the fridge. If you wait long enough, the original owner might decide they don't want them anymore. This is your chance to pounce.

Just be wary. Some foods do not age well, and a meal is always better going down than coming back up. And try not to be too annoying about asking. I know my housemates must be sick of my obsession by now, but I really do hate wasting food.

That's pretty much how I save money and feed myself. It's not luxurious and it's not always easy, but it keeps me from having to pay late fees or beg my parents for money.

In the words of Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.

Taylere Peterson is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and English with a minor in art history. She is design editor of The Daily Targum.

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