Am in no position at all to make recommendations, BUT, if I were to leave recommendations here for any folks who have had a similar amount of cooking experience as myself, I'd say something like the following...
1. 99 cent bags of pasta, available in the frozen foods section.
- It's cheap.
- You boil the water, you put in the pasta.
- Typically, you take it out before it's too soft, otherwise, it'll just get soggy.
- Comes in many varieties. Watch for the ravioli or tortellini, they're a bit salty, so don't add any.
2. Tomato Sauce: 39 cents or so per can.
- about one can of sauce per 99 cent bag.
- Yes, Ragu and other thicker sauces may be tastier or more nutritious. But we're talking budget eating here.
- If you don't have sauce (like me, right now), try pouring olive oil over the pasta, and then adding seasoning like salt/pepper/basil/oregano. Better than just eating the stuff with nothing on it.
3. Vegetable on hand and on demand.
- Frozen packs: 99 cents, again, probably cheaper than the canned variety.
- Same principle as pasta when it comes to cooking.
- You laugh, you cry, but ultimately, it will let you eat.
- For whatever reason, at home in the Philippines, it was common practice to
fry slices of spam and have them with fried rice for breakfast or lunch.
Since this never induced a spam-gag reaction from anyone in that context, I
did not import it back over to this side of the pacific.
5. Carbohydrates (also on demand)
- I tried to get away from rice when I came to college. Then I realized, it costs
less than going to McDonald's once. And it'll feed you for a while.
- You boil it.
- Mashed potatoes:
- If you're something of a purist, the big can full of flakes is a sin, BUT,
when you don't have time to boil and whip fresh potatoes, this will fill the
stomach craving moderately well. Especially if you've gotten tired of rice.
- This is where it gets tricky. There are few ways to quickly, easily cook meat, and if you take the boil water-put-it-in approach, like for most of the materials above, you will be sorely disappointed and hungry for at least an hour or more to come.
- My brother Mike once described the "stir fry" as the bachelor's best friend-- if you want to cook meat quickly, that or broiling may be the best option. Fry it in a pan, but under low heat so that you don't scorch the outside without cooking the inside.
- Lesson I learned from cooking in Walsh: Do not expect to take a frozen steak, defrost it, and fry it all in one go. These things take time. Also, when making chili, don't buy dried kidney beans.
7. Hamburger Helper, other prepared foods...
- Like anything here, probably not great on the health spectrum, and I'm guessing they cost more. Doesn't mean it doesn't taste good.
8. Wine or Beer
- Particularly the wine...makes whatever your eating...feel slightly classier. Some sort of bottle if you do that sort of thing, a hefty box of Franzia if you're looking towards a more long term (and economically sound) investment.