A Starving Artist’s Restaurant Guide

17 12 2011

As a continuation on the blog post back in October, titled “The Care and Feeding of a Starving Artist“, I’d like to take this opportunity to dish up a list of cheap eats for starving artists. (I can only compare my eating habits to those of my friends, and I would say that based on that, most of these recommendations will work for light to medium eaters. People who eat more in one sitting will obviously spend more money on food on average.)

Embrace Water
Water is boring, and trust me, if you know me well at all, you know I despise drinking water. But it’s cheap, and adding a little lemon to it can make it more palatable. Besides, soda (being full of sugar and nothing else) has a tendency to make me hungrier again sooner than if I had skipped it altogether.

Fast Food Joints
Think McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, etc. I try not to indulge in fast food often because, well, it keeps you upright and filled with calories, but defining it as “food” seems a bit of a stretch. That being said, items from the Value Menus at fast food joints can fill most tummies for $5 or less, especially if you’re willing to go with a small drink or a water to drink.

Chinese Food
Most Chinese places are reasonably priced. If you’re totally on the cheap though, a bowl of egg drop soup can be had for less than $3.00, and adding an egg roll to that usually won’t take you above $5 or $6 total. Hot stuff – tea, soup, broth, etc. are a great way to trick an empty stomach into believing that it’s consumed more food and calories than it actually has.

Costco
Yes, you’ve either got to have a membership or a friend that will let you tag along, but at the food kiosk a piece of pizza (they’re huge – one piece fills me for 6 hours or so) and a drink will run you about $2.75.

Chipotle
A friend of mine (thanks, Richard!) introduced me to this on the road to the TN Renaissance Festival this year. Most of their meals run between $5-7 plus tax. Assuming you have a fridge within a reasonable driving distance, a regular burrito loaded up with everything that they will let you have on it can feed a light to medium eater for two meals.

Subway
Cheapskate alert: All of Subway’s footlong sandwiches are a better deal in terms of amount for price, and if you’re not feeling like you could eat the entire town in one sitting, take the other half of the sandwich home – it will give you a second meal at some point.

We’re closing in 10 minutes and…
This tactic relies on luck and knowing your local places’ habits more than anything, but over the years I’ve been able to make out like a bandit when kismet presents an opportunity. Both our local grocery store and a Cici’s Pizza we used to frequent offer special discounts just before they close, because store policy is to throw anything out that’s left at the night’s end. So I’ve gotten entire pizzas for free from the CiCi’s pizza buffet, and about a 50% discount on a bucket of fried chicken from the grocery store deli all because of timing.

God bless my great grandmother
She raised two kids during the Depression, and while I can unequivocally state that I have never been this ballsy, my great grandmother used to take an overlarge purse and a couple of ziploc baggies to any wedding reception or party she was attending, and sneak whatever caught her eye and could fit in a ziploc into her purse for a later meal.

So happy cheap eating. And to all my starving artist kin out there, I very much remember the day (August 12th, 2011 to be exact) when I could afford a meal out at a “real restaurant”… which I define as one of those places where the waitress actually takes your money instead of paying at a cash register. I hope that day finds you soon.

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