On the Menu

Summer Eats: Making the Best of Your Time and Money



To the fair denizens of Isla Vista: now that summer is upon the us all, I present a challenge.

Get out of your everyday eating patterns. As much as you love your burritos and burgers, it’s time for a change. Why not use the extra time you have over the summer to explore what it’s like to actually prepare something in the kitchen? Even if it’s just heating up food that’s already been prepared, pressing those microwave buttons like a boss still counts.

“Why should I do this?” you ask. “Why should I give up my quesorritos and Deli Mart shawarma and venture outside my physical and culinary comfort zone and make an effort to feed myself?”Well, dear reader. As much as you hate to think of it, Isla Vista will not be your home forever. You will not always live in a town where you can purchase food at 3 a.m. You’re going to have to stock up and throw some stuff together in your own kitchen when you’re hungry.

Of course, I could simply present a list of recipes here and let you have at it, but let’s ease you into this‘fending for yourself’business. Goleta is home to two of the greatest grocery chains ever: Trader Joe’s and Costco. From within the hallowed aisles of these American staples, one can stock up on easily consumed food without breaking the bank.

Founded in 1983 in Kirkland, Washington, (does Kirkland Signature make sense now?) Costco is the seventh largest retailer in the world. Why is Costco amazing? If you didn’t already know, Costco sells items in bulk. You may end up buying thirty pounds of chicken, but dammit, that’s gunna be the cheapest thirty pounds of chicken you’ll ever find. You’ll be able to buy enough toilet paper for your whole apartment building in one trip. And if you’ve ever been inside of a Costco before, you’ll know about the sample. Oh the glorious, wonderful promised land of samples. Go shopping at Costco on the weekend, and you’ve got a free meal right there. And, oh yeah, the Costco Food Court. This oft-forgotten budget-food heaven should not be overlooked. The dollar-fifty price for a hot dog and drink hasn’t raised in 21 years, and the ten buck huge pizza will tempt your wallet in a manner that can’t be ignored. And don’t you dare forget about the hand-dipped ice cream bars.

Now for the downside of Costco. Yes, even in all of its American buy-too- much-of-everything-you-need glory, there is indeed a downside. Costco is a business, and it must turn a profit, and it does that by charging a membership fee. No card? Good luck getting in. You borrowed a card from a friend? Good luck making a purchase without getting plastic surgery to look like the picture on the card. Short of dragging a friend with a card down to Costco with you, the only choice you have is to either fork over the 55 dollars a year for a single membership, or get a Costco Cash gift card (which, incidentally, can only be purchased by Costco members). Once you’ve gotten past the doors and you’re standing in line to checkout, I must remind you that Costco pushes their own American Express credit card heavily, and they don’t take any credit card other than their own. This limits your options to either debit or cash. Don’t forget this, ever.

Now while there are some issues getting into and shopping at Costco, don’t let that detract from your overall view of it. The endless freezers of Costco are stocked deep with culinary gold at reasonable prices, as the free samples will stave you over until you get outside to the Food Court, or back home to feast on your bounty. And, oh yeah, they have Dino Nuggets.

Trader Joe’s first began as a series of LA county convenience stores. Rather than continue to face competition with 7-Eleven, the owner Joe Coulombe began to stock his shelves with exotic overseas-themed foods to create a niche in the market for himself. Not much about Trader Joe’s has changed since 1958, with the chain still stocking a small selection of high-quality foods that can’t be found in a standard grocery store. What really stands out about Trader Joe’s, though, is its small portions and low prices. The freezers overfloweth with frozen foods that are portioned for one or two people, or meals. This means that your fridge and wallet will allow you to go for variety, instead of just sheer quantity. The chain also has a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan options (try the chickenless nuggets) for those of you who live such a lifestyle. They also stock some really good cereal and are the sole retailer of Charles Shaw “Two Buck Chuck” wine. But like I said earlier, the real gem of Trader Joe’s is their price and portioning. Most of the foods they stock can be easily prepared with just a few minutes in the microwave, and when you’re done devour- ing them, you can just throw away the packaging that they come in. Quick and easy for a busy I.V. life.

Everything that is sold under the Trader Joe’s brand name is guaranteed to contain no artificial colors or flavors, preservatives, MSG or trans fats. Additionally, all ingredients are non-genetically modified. While smaller and quirkier than the run-of-the-mill megamart supermarket, Trader Joe’s has the right portions and pricing that make it perfect not only for a col- lege student looking to get away from purchasing food everyday, but also for any small household.

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