Cooking Fresh and Cheap: Pasta Salad for Picky Eaters

(c) BarnImages,

(c) BarnImages,

One of the essays I always had my students write was a focused review. Rather than just saying if something was good or bad and why, they had to find an existing set of standards based on their audience, and review their subject against those standards. For example, they could write about any romantic comedy – as long as they compared it to the gender stereotypes of the time period in which it was made (I got a lot of confused reviews of Titanic and The Notebook by kids who didn’t completely understand the assignment.  Why it was always those two movies, I have no idea).

One of the most popular prompts on the assignment sheet was about food. I asked them to compare a meal from a fast food place and a meal from the prepared foods section of the supermarket on the standards of affordability, taste, nutritional content, and ease of acquiring it. This lead to some really excellent essays from many of my classes. A lot of them went into the paper with the assumption that nothing could beat fast food for affordability, taste, and ease. But getting fresh food from the grocery store turned out winning in most of their final drafts.

Granted, you can go too far with the fresh-vs-fast thing.  I have also had one of my teachers say that she couldn’t understand why so many poor people eat fast food. I quote: “a head of kale is only one dollar.”

I don’t even know where to start with that.

But since I’ve been on a pretty tight budget all year, I know what it’s like to need to eat on the cheap. Unfortunately, I also have to eat gluten free, so fast food isn’t usually an option for me.

What’s a GF girl who’s hungry but totally skint to do?

Here’s one of my favorite fresh and cheap meals – buy the ingredients for $10 or less, make it at home in less than 15 minutes, and have left overs for the next day (so it’s really $5 per meal). Plus, you know, healthy and gluten free.

Pasta Salad for Picky Eaters with Veggies and Chocolate Milk. This meal has all your bases covered – protein, dairy, healthy fat, carbs, and a little something sweet. Comfort food at it’s finest!

(c) healthyemily 2015

(c) healthyemily 2015

If you have a few more bucks, you can add any variety of yummy things to this base salad – olives, onion, celery…whatever you like. I like my pasta salad plain, obviously, so that’s what’s here.

Shopping List:

3 hardboiled eggs from the salad bar – $1.50

1 box gluten free Barilla pasta, preferably macaroni (16oz) – $2.50

2 single servings of plain Greek yogurt (6 oz each) – $2

fresh, crunchy veggies – $2 (you can usually find singles – like 1 carrot and 1 pepper. Whatever you like)

1 single serving size TrooMoo Chocolate Milk – $1.99


Keep the eggs and yogurt in the fridge until you need them.

If you are a picky eater like I am, wash the veggies and cut them. You’ll eat them raw, as a side dish. Yum! If you are not a picky eater, wash the veggies and dice them (aka cut them into tiny little cubes).

Cook the half the pasta in water, according to the package directions.

Drain it and let it sit, cooling off, for a few minutes. We’re making pasta salad, so you want it room temperature at minimum. Cooler if possible. Rinse it with cold water for a few seconds – that will help.

Dump the drained pasta into a bowl. Add all the Greek yogurt. Slice the eggs right into the bowl, too. If you have mustard, salt, and pepper on hand, put a little bit in. About a teaspoon of mustard and a few shakes of salt and pepper. If not, don’t worry about it.

Normal eaters, dump in the veggies.

Stir everything in the bowl together until it’s a big, gloopy mess. A serving of this salad is actually about one-third of what you’ve made. Personally, I love it so much that I eat half of it in one sitting. That’s just me. If you can restrain yourself, good for you.

If your veggies are on the side, munch away. YUM. Eat the rest of the pasta salad by the next day for optimum freshness.

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