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Saturday, August 23, 2008

A frugal recipe, especially for poor students

Frugal eating!

Especially good for students with limited time, money, and equipment

Burritos with potatoes

I got the idea for this from a McDonald’s free offer a while back. McDonald’s offered a free breakfast burrito with purchase of a medium drink. So my dear husband and I stopped by en route to work and ordered a medium coffee. The woman in front of us ordered a medium drink and was offered the burrito by the nice cashier. The customer said no thanks…and I moved in for the kill. She was so happy to give me her burrito!

I love burritos with potatoes, preferably home-fry type. But there’s nothing more tedious than peeling potatoes (hate it!), cutting them (hate it!), and frying them (takes a long time). It’s even worse if you’re cooking in a tiny college cooking facility. The room gets smoky …etc.

You can buy a bag of home-fried potatoes in the frozen section at most grocery stores. I got mine at Dollar Tree (two pounds for $1) but they should be relatively cheap at any grocery chain. I also had a tube of frozen breakfast sausage (which I got for $1 on sale) and eggs.

This is a very high fat recipe—only suitable for active college students ON RARE occasions. It is a sub for fast food, not for vegetables!

There really aren’t any particular things you need to do; this recipe is nearly fool-proof! Throw the potatoes in a pan with some of the sausage. Break up the sausage into pieces and cook the two together. Once the potatoes and sausage are browned to your satisfaction, break the eggs into the pan and cook up with sausage fat. Lastly, wrap it in a flour tortilla (the Mi Casa brand tortillas at the dreaded Wal-Mart are actually quite good and cheap) and serve. Your portion size can vary: I’d probably only use one egg and a small bit of sausage but my hungry son can easily eat a two egg burrito. A general rule of thumb is that one egg makes enough filling for one tortilla.

This is really a no-stress recipe so have fun with it! Some variations you can try: throw in some beans, black, kidney, or pinto (if you use a can of beans, make sure to drain them). If you want to make the recipe a little healthier you could substitute mashed up beans for the sausage or for the eggs.

Oh! This is critical: don’t forget the salsa! Salsa is a rip-off, by the way. Try a can of diced tomatoes and chilies—the brand that’s cheapest in my area is Rotel but any generic equivalent will do—in lieu of salsa.

Even if you shop at the dreaded Wal-Mart at their regular prices, you can feed a bunch of people two burritos apiece for under $1 each. Maybe even three each if you’re the hungry college type like my dear son.

Bon appetit!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Why Me?: A Pathologically Frugal Professor Starts Her Blog

Why me indeed! Because I LOVE being frugal! Because I’ve always wanted to do this, first when I read The Tightwad Gazette and thought “I should do something like that!” Now when I read the zillions of personal finance/frugality blogs, I still think “I should do that!”

As my dear spouse says, quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty." In other words, do it.

Still, why me. Well, I am a teacher, and teachers--in addition to their credentials--are bossy and advice-giving.

Sometimes, to see what’s been going on in my life, I read the letters my dear husband writes his father. In one he described how we ate dinner in the cafeteria with my son and his college friends, who seem to like our visits. He described me as “giving advice and powerful exhortations” to the students. Really? Is that me?

The great Emily Toth, a professor at LSU best known for her work on Kate Chopin who told me years ago that she was interested in women advice givers from Dear Abby, Ann Landers, to herself, writes the Ms. Mentor column for the Chronicle of Higher Education. I was lucky enough to encounter Ms. Mentor in person in my early years at my present job; because of her advice and powerful exhortations I am still here.

On the job, in addition to teaching the likes of Shakespeare and company, I find myself advising spendthrift/debt-ridden colleagues on the existence of flex plans and Roth IRAs. Sometimes my students lament their accumulating debt and I pass on tips to them too. I also am often called on to deliver frugal tips to my children’s friends, who seem amazingly interested in the topic.

So yes, I guess I am a scholar. But in addition to reading the latest thoughts of various theorists and to adding my own tiny contributions to the scholarship in my field, I enjoy reading—and re-reading—the great classics of frugality: Your Money or Your Life, The Millionaire Next Door, etc. I used to be embarrassed about this—that I was devoting a good bit of time to what seemed to me trivia in comparison to the great works of Homer. Then my dear spouse opined “Proust says that life is trivia.” I’m not sure where Proust said that, but since my dear spouse has read ALL of the master NUMEROUS times (en fran├žais as well as in translation), I must say that I believe it’s in there somewhere.

Therefore, onto some trivia. I am a great reader and know all sorts of things about, for instance, cooking and children’s books. What these (and other things) have to do with frugality, I hope to show….