When I was in school I was pretty broke.
I went to class during the day, bartended nights and lived as cheaply as possible— which typically involved sleeping on a futon in a “room” that was once a shed or a closet, getting around on a salvaged bike with one working brake (spicy!) and pocketing every condiment packet left foolishly unattended by fast food restaurants.
(A special shout out here to Starbucks for regularly leaving honey packs out, and to Panera for its tasty spicy brown mustard!)
A typical “Anna” dinner consisted of reduced-for-quick-sell-as-tomorrow-will-definitely-be-rotten produce from a nearby ChinaTown stall (a mix of mostly unrecognizable foreign vegetables in a clear plastic bag marked with a big red “X”) “sautéed” with a stolen packet of soy or sweet and sour sauce, served over ramen noodles.
Total cost: $1.33. Win.
One day I came across Ensure and it totally blew my mind: an entire meal’s worth of nutrition in a can for less than $1? !!!
I bought two 6-packs of no-name Chocolate Royale and proceeded to drink one for lunch and dinner every day. Sometimes I even got fancy and blended it with a banana.
It worked out really well…until I got really sick.
(It turns out that even hospitals supplement Ensure with actual food)
My next brilliant money-saving food epiphany happened while digging through the reduced bin at the local grocery store:
A small container filled with organic steak, potatoes and greens.
No preservatives. No salt or sugars added. Only 50 cents!
I threw the small jar into my basket and practically ran to the baby aisle–an aisle I had, until this fateful day, ignorantly passed over–where I discovered, in stacks and stacks along the wall, hundreds of jars of nutritionally balanced, pureed meals, each for less than a cup of coffee.
I selected the fanciest ones—salmon, rice and green beans, filet minion, chicken parmesan and pasta—and smiled all the way home at my savvy discovery and the feast I would have that night.
Now…I’m not sure how many of you have actually tried baby food…
And it is TERRIBLE.
Seriously. I am not surprised babies spit that stuff up: it is absolutely disgusting.
And I really tried to like it: I heated it up, added salt and pepper, mixed ketchup into it…but it was just totally inedible.
What a disappointment.
Fast-forward about a million years to today: I have grown into a responsible adult with a responsible adult job. I live in a responsible adult house and drive a responsible adult car*. I buy fancy, not-from-concentrate orange juice and wear comfortable shoes.
And I have about 100 little packets of ketchup in my fridge.
Because even though I am responsible adult, I still take condiment packets from restaurants. Even if I have access to the full-sized versions: if there are raspberry jam packets on the table (not jelly, not marmalade) at least one will be coming home with me in my pocket. Who knows when you will need a shot of vinegar, soy sauce or yellow mustard on the go? Or peanut butter? Or mayonnaise?
Hello, my name is Anna and I am a single-serve condiment addict.
Maybe one day I will grow out of my condiment hoarding.
And maybe one day I will be able to smell baby food again without gagging.
^ In my fridge
(Yes, I am crazy and bag and label my stolen condiments…dont judge me.)