Grocery Eve

By Gena Anderson |
Photos by Phillip C. Sunkel IV

With extreme consideration for the manner in which I crafted each letter, I begin my list.

First came the basic things needed for everyday survival: cranberry juice, bread, eggs, cheese, rice, carrots, apples, soy yogurt, pasta, Ramen and tortillas.

Next were the more extravagant purchases that I was hoping to find a good deal on: string cheese, pizza, muffins, country potatoes and frozen waffles.

Then finally, the most sought-after of all, the black nectar of life: coffee.

Grocery shopping has become my new Christmas. I formulate my list long before the date arrives. I include things I know are beyond my price range, but put them there, just in case, and wait in anticipation.

I enjoy reading over my list and editing it frequently. It gives me something to look forward to during those long dry spells of no groceries and no money.

No matter how character-building this whole borderline poverty gig is supposed to be, it isn’t always fun.

Most of the time it kind of sucks. It is especially unpleasant when you have to decide between food or gas to get to your job that doesn’t pay you enough but that you couldn’t survive without.

I hate waking up and wondering how I am going to feed myself that day, let alone finish my homework.

It takes a certain amount of creativity to eat on a tight budget. Some days that means I eat one meal a day consisting of rice and a carrot.

On other days, there is not enough free time to stare at the odd assortment of ingredients left in my kitchen and try to formulate a meal. This is when I can be found with three cups of Diet Coke, four French fries and two tortilla chips with salsa, considering them a balanced diet.

Moving off of campus was the worst thing I could have ever done as far as food is concerned. It made sense at first, the dining hall is overpriced and gross. Clearly I could do much better, right?

I didn’t take into consideration that the sheer volume of food the dining hall has to offer beats my really tasty small bowl of rice any day. Though I must say, everything I cook tastes better.

College is the best time to experience being too poor to buy food.

When in doubt, there is usually someone trying to bribe you with deliciousness. All you have to do is attend an event or to listen to them while they try to convince you to support a cause. Save the Earth and eat tasty vegan food? Sign me up.

The only hard part about free food is finding the time to hunt it down. For some reason, everyone wants to schedule events between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., during which I am conveniently in class.

There is genuinely no appeal in having to ignore your grumbling stomach because, at some point, electricity became more important than food.

As soon as that paycheck comes in, though, and you can go to the grocery store, the frustration washes away. You’re a small child again in a toy store staring wide eyed at the shelves filled with colorful boxes. It is paradise.

The absolute best part is going home, putting away the groceries, and getting to see the pantry and fridge filled with food. It’s my adult version of presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

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