Eating on a budget in residency

November 2021

You need to budget better. Stop eating out. You need to cook for yourself more. Have you ever tried meal prepping.

Listen, I’m a fantastic cook. And I’m not talking your run-of-mill ‘dude who knows how to cook chicken and rice and boil noodles’. I can cook. This winter on separate occasions I made a seafood and chorizo paella (absolutely splurged on the saffron) and I also cooked a batch of my Italian grandmother’s sauce from scratch. Took me an entire Sunday. I was really proud of that. And I deserved to be — they were damn good. They were both fantastic. I can cook.

And I love cooking. But. Try waking up in complete darkness and being the first car to leave the apartment parking garage in the morning. Getting home from the hospital anywhere between 6 and 9 pm. And only in my wildest fantasy do I get home at 6 pm every day. When I do get home, I am mentally and physically exhausted. Brain feels like applesauce. Hips feel like a twelve year old Labrador. I want to sit and involute on my couch. I don’t want to speak to anyone. I don’t want to text anyone. I want to do something mindless because I spent the entire day thinking and stressing and pacing around under bright fluorescent lights. I want to dissolve. I do not want another task. Another chore. I don’t want to spend any effort preparing a halfway decent meal, cooking it, eating, cleaning the dishes, and so on. Can you imagine. Twelve plus hour day, you cook a good meal, then, my lord – the dishes. Hang me.

So what then. Infamous “just meal prep”. Okay so I get a couple pounds of chicken, marinate it, cook it. Perhaps make some rice, broccoli, or some other side. Wonderful. Good the first night. Leftovers are fine the second night. How long is anyone supposed to do this. 

The hospital food is grool and I hardly ever have time to even sit down and eat it so I’m always running on a calorie deficit. So when I get off instead of cooking I get chipotle or chic-fil-a or whatever which I am so, so sick of. But all I can think about is what’s cheap and will give me calories. Jesus, I’ve gone through a McDonald’s drive through more times since starting residency than I ever have cumulatively in my entire life. Because some days I’m so beat I literally cannot see beyond hungry-sustenance-cheap. 

When I do get actual take out, it always sucks. I spend $31 on a shitty meal in a styrofoam container, cold by the time I eat it. Soggy. Or get this. $29 for the chicken fajitas from a Yelp 4.6 star restaurant. You literally can’t mess up chicken fajitas. So I drive there, pick it up, get home and open it and it’s literally chicken, onions and peppers in a styrofoam container. No tortillas. No rice and beans, no lettuce, pico, cheese, guac – nothing. Shoot me to the moon. And for the record chicken fajitas are a stupid thing to order takeout because the allure is tied to watching your server walk to your table with the hissing skillet of meat and peppers in hand (be careful, it’s hot, they say). I would call and ask for the rest of the meal but I don’t have the energy to call them back let alone actually get up and leave my apartment again. Just give them my money. I am so broke haha. 

BUT – when all hope was lost, after 20 swings and misses, I found a wonderful little Peruvian place that is actually within a reasonable price range. So good and affordable that I actually texted my mom to tell her. This is the highlight of my week. Second time I get it, the fucking food had gravel in it. I kid you not. Rocks. Unmistakably hard bits of matter that would break my teeth if I actually tried to chew it. I spit it out. Inspected it. It was a small rock: gravel. A hair? I mean I can live with that; chalk it up as a mulligan. But rocks. How? God. Why.

There’s a good pho place but by the time you factor in the mandatory DoorDash/Grubhub/whatever takeout fees ( if I eversuccumb to paying the double delivery fees) it’s over twenty five bucks for what amounts to a bowl of soup.

What about pizza. Yeah, what about pizza. Hard to mess that up, too. One of my comfort things is cozying up on a Sunday with some football and a few slices of pie with buffalo wings or something. I’ve tried nearly 10 local pizza places and they all taste like shopping mall Sbarro. Or I try a Yelp 4.8 star “hot and trendy” artisanal place, pay like thirty dollars for a ten inch pizza. Tastes good but it’s so thin and small that you can finish the whole thing and it feels like you ate a handful of communion wafers at a Catholic Church. Oh it has a basil leaf garnish though, how photogenic. When I eat pizza I want to feel like trash afterwards. Carb loaded with the energy to do like 10 sets of squats the next day. Not “ah yes that was a delightful, pleasant little pizza”. Christ. 

And some people here – they just live in an entirely different univervise. “Ohhhh you just haven’t tried the good places” (read: expensive) then they proceed to list restaurants that serve 300cal dressed up instagram-worthy presentation dishes that are no less than sixty dollars. Who do you think I am. I can’t afford that. That’s not even a date meal to me. That’s like: I’m in love with you, let’s indulge type of meal.

This is what I get for scoffing at all the healthy and delicious homemade meals my mother and grandmother would make me as a child. Ew, gross, I’d say. Well, look at you now. 

Way to go, idiot.

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