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ISSUE 121 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/12/2007

Find cheap dining close to home

By Michael Hovde
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 12, 2007

Most people aren't aware of this, but as college students, we're actually legally obligated to be poor. College students, recent college graduates, corporate interns, aspiring actors and parents of college students are just a few of the groups that society normally does not expect to have a lot of spare cash. After living in my own apartment this summer, making just over minimum wage, I've realized that it's difficult to feed, clothe and shelter yourself when you're not making a lot of money.

Luckily, I happen to be into punk music, and punks have even less money than college students, so I had plenty of friends to give me advice on how to find cheap food. This being my sophomore year at St. Olaf, I've figured out that the majority of students here are not punks and don't have the same resources that I do. All is not lost. I'm here to tell you how to eat for cheap.

One of the great things about going to St. Olaf is the school's top-notch cafeteria, but Stav Hall isn't necessarily open any time hunger strikes, and depending on where you live, laziness can sometimes overpower the desire for food. Skipping meals will certainly result in hunger later, but there are a number of ways to combat this besides spending a fortune at Erberts and Gerbert's, Domino's, Basil's or B&L. The Pause is one option, but some of the items on their menu aren't quite worth the cost.

If you go about it the right way, however, The Pause can fill up your stomach without emptying your wallet. The best option is to order a large, one topping Pause pizza; it's eight bucks, doesn't taste too bad, and you can even get it delivered if you're really feeling lazy.

One major problem with The Pause (even considering the delivery option) and the Caf is that they both have a closing time, so when you're up until 4 a.m. working on a paper, and you're starting to get hungry, you have to find another source of food.

The best way I've found to make sure I have food on hand at all times is stealing food from the Caf during normal meal times. I know, how terrible of me, right? I figure with how much I spend on tuition, how much I spend on room and board, and how rarely I actually use all fourteen of my meals in a given week, there's no real "stealing" involved.

I've perfected my thieving strategy and food preferences over time, so I'll give you a few pointers on technique and your best options for what to take. I find that sandwiches are one of the easiest things for which to steal materials, although bread is definitely one of the most difficult things to smuggle out. As for the meat, cheese and various other toppings, there's almost no preparation required.

Bring a few Ziploc baggies with you, stand in line for your actual meal, load up a plate with your meat and cheese of choice, sit down and eat, stuff your bounty in the baggies, put the baggies in your pocket and walk out of the Caf.

If you don't want to buy bread for your sandwiches, you can get a loaf out of the Caf, but you're going to look a little awkward. I just grab a loaf and bring it to my seat. When I'm ready to leave, I open my sweatshirt or jacket, stick the loaf inside and zip myself up. This works best if you go to eat just before the Caf closes; it's less likely that they'll have somebody posted at the exit to ask you why you look like there's a loaf of bread in your shirt.

If you want to have food in your room without stealing from the Caf, paying for delivery or stocking up on Cage meals to go, there's always the option of actually buying groceries. If you live in an apartment or house, groceries aren't even an option, they're a necessity.

You will not be able to eat out constantly if you want to live on your own. Making your own food is relatively easy, rather fun and definitely the cheapest way to eat. Almost anybody can make noodles, soup, hamburgers, steak, salad, pizza, bread, cookies, mashed potatoes, pancakes, eggs, cooked vegetables, stir-fry or french fries. Buying your own groceries is certainly the cheapest, and can be the most delicious way to eat for cheap. There are definitely other options, but these are a few that have worked best for me.

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