cheap eats- top 10 under $10

30 07 2010

ok, i’m done with my hopeless wallowing from yesterday.  i’m still feeling hopeless, but i’m taking a break from wallowing for a while, at least publicly. the brilliant @amycasey (worth the follow for you twitter geeks out there) recently suggested that i try the “small changes” plan, and i’m starting to think that it might be a good idea. perhaps if i can just force myself to focus on succeeding at one small element of life, i can use that momentum to pick up other small things as i go- eventually resulting in me actually having accomplished some of my goals (e.g.,having 2 month’s pay in my savings account, and fitting back into my size 8 jeans).

small task #1: stop spending so much goddamn money on eating out. i love eating out, and hells no i’m not going to stop, but i have decided that it’s time for me to take a big vacation from pricey pig-fests.  for the next month, unless it is a very special occasion (sort of like a very special episode, but with more gluttony and less emotional breakdowns), i’m going to try to keep my eating out budget to $10 or less. daunting, yes. but the benefits are two-fold! i will both A) spend less money, and B) by cutting out extras like appetizers, desserts, & booze… i should cut some calories as well. at least i hope so, because these size 12s are at MAX CAPACITY, and i will get back alley liposuction before i allow myself to go up another pants size.

in honor of this historic decision, i have decided to list my top ten things in town that are worth eating for under $10. not necessarily full meals, and definitely not always high end, but goddamn delicious and easily accessible.   i will probably be calling on this list fairly often over the next few weeks, so help a girl out, and gimme some more recommendations.

1. amatosbreakfast sandwich $2.29: cheap and dirty (and so simple, but shockingly delicious), but my absolute go-to whenever i’m broke and starving. it’s sort of like when i smoked, and cigarettes were only $2. you can always find enough couch/purse/street change to get a breakfast sandwich, and if you get them on toast (delicious non-wonderbread italian toast), it is both bigger, and better.

2. micuccisicilian slab $4.50: we’ve all heard what i have to say about the miraculous qualities of the sicilian slab. cliff’s notes version- shit is GOOD, and 1 piece will fill you up for at least two meals. also, totally worth getting into a noisy altercation with a stranger.

3. gilbert’s chower house grilled cheese $3.25: basically, this is what i get when i’m hungrier for more than just a breakfast sandwich.  simple and unpretentious, it’s got like an inch of cheese and really good bread. oh, and it comes with chips.

4. caiola’spolenta fries $5.95: caiola’s is my favorite restaurant in portland, perhaps anywhere. i have never had a bad meal there ever (from their superb sangria to that salty caramel cake that haunts my dreams), but if i had to choose only one food to eat for the rest of my life, it would probably be their polenta fries. no florid description of their crispy perfection and accompanying red chutney stuff could really do them justice. i know they’re not even close to a whole meal, but seriously, GO EAT THEM RIGHT NOW.

5. green elephantspicy vegetable medley stir fry $9: along with being the only 100% vegetarian restaurant in town, the green elephant is both totally tasty and extremely reasonable. they have a multitude of $9 entrees on the menu, but the spicy veggie medley is my favorite. but if you’re in the mood for something a little less healthy, i also recommend the king oyster mushroom tempura- rock ’em sock ’em fried mushroom action.

6. the maine squeezeamanda berry $5: i have a bigtime starch and fat problem. potatoes, bread, pasta… butter, cheese, cream sauce… you might notice that the majority of my top 10 faves are a combination of those very elements. however, every now and again even i hit the wall, and i start to feel like if i don’t get some fruits and veggies fast- i might die. maine squeeze will make you a giant-ass smoothie of delicious healthfulness for a mere five bucks. the amanda berry has the distinction of being one of the few smoothies on the menu without bananas (my arch nemesis), but you should eat them, they’re full of potassium and they’re good for leg cramps.

7. kamasouptraloaded baked potato soup $5.50: again, you’ve heard me do the dance of love for these guys, so i’ll keep it brief. a bowl of incredible soup (at a place that has more veg options than meat options) + a piece of bread roughly the size of small watermelon.

8. norm’s mashed potatoes $2.50: norm’s is tricky for me because it’s a BBQ joint (meat fiesta!), but the trick is in the side orders. a cereal bowl filled with buttery garlicy mashed potatoes and/or a hunk of home made corn bread that can double as a personal flotation device are only a few of the tasty, filling, and dirt cheap options on their side order menu. there might even be some vegetables in there, but who gives a crap about those?

9. otto–  cauliflower & mushroom pizza $3.00: i sing a lot of (well deserved) praises about micucci, but in the land of the thin crust, otto reigns supreme. innovative and flavorful, with a rotating cast of flavors from mashed potato to cheese tortellini, 3 big slices for 9 small dollars is a dinner to be proud of. actually, it’s kind of freaky that maine has such kick ass pizza. i thought we could only make lobster rolls and whoopie pies?

10. corner roompapparadelle & mushroom pasta $9: i can easily take down $60+ worth of food and beverage at the corner room without even thinking about it, but the beauty is that assuming i lay off the booze & desserts (although their stiletto & tiramisu are positively worth shanking for), i can get a perfectly serviceable and incredibly delicious dinner for just $9. all their pasta options come in whole or half orders ($15/$9), and the half order portions are more than enough food to constitute a full meal (especially if you ask for extra bread). the papparadelle dish is full of perfect home made hand cut pasta (double wide), floating in the kind of pitch perfect cream sauce that grocery store pasta dreams about.

HONORABLE MENTION hot suppa– fried green tomato eggs benedict ???: i’m fairly certain that it’s less than $10, but i couldn’t confirm, so i don’t feel like it’s fair to put it on the official list. regardless, even if you’re a canadian bacon loving carnivore, this is still one of the very best things to eat on the peninsula at ANY PRICE. it has the perfect balance of salt and fat and acid, and by far the best benedict i’ve ever had anywhere ever (and if there’s benedict, i will eat it).

cheap eats- micucci love.

30 12 2009

apparently, the michelin man has high end tastes. i stumbled upon this video on today, and it made me think about all the really great food out there that isn’t being appropriately appreciated because it isn’t expensive. higher cost does not necessarily always mean higher quality- especially when it comes to food.  now, i am a girl who will pay $50 or more for a really good meal and not bat an eyelash (food is one of the things that makes life worth living, and i won’t sacrifice!)- but there are also some amazing finds in this town that will knock you stupid with their deliciousness without robbing you completely blind.

for my first love fest, i would like to recognize not only the best pizza in town, but the best pizza i’ve ever had- EVER. and frankly, some of the very best food in general that Portland has to offer. of course, i am referring to the notorious “sicilian slab” at the micucci grocery store on india st.

micucci’s is a great place to visit if you’re in the neighborhood, with it’s incredible selection of italian foods from pickled eggplant to spumoni. they even have their own deli. they also make the only passable cannolis i’ve ever found in maine (anyone help me out here?). however, if you’re not in the mood for browsing the torrone- take a right at the meat slicer, and head on back to the bakery area. there you will find 2 very small tables, and one large metal rack full of deliciousness. or possibly not- shit sells out LIGHTNING FAST! be prepared to wait in line. be prepared for people pick a fight with anyone suspected of cutting in that line, or taking more pieces than they deserve. the sicilian slab is so amazing, that it makes people batshit crazy. some things you should know to avoid any potential fist fights or faux pas:

1. the sicilian slab comes in one flavor- plain cheese. you don’t need anything else.  under no circumstance should you complain about this- and for the love of god,  don’t ask for toppings!

2. do not ask the micucci staff to reheat the pizza if it is cold. it is almost as good cold as it is warm, but if you really want it hot- get your ass there early and wait in line (usually, the only cold ones happen at the very end of the day). or, get a cold one and reheat it yourself (you lazy jerk).

3.  if there is a line when you arrive, quietly go to the back. a paper plate on the pizza rack will tell you how much time you have to wait. under no circumstance should you ask the chef or kitchen staff when things will be ready.

4. if you are at the front of the line, take the first piece of pizza that comes out- no matter what. i’m sorry if the next piece looks better- they’re all delicious, suck it up and move along.

5. if you need more than 2 slices, make your friends come with you to get their own- or call ahead to order a whole pie. if you would like to try to grab more than 2 (especially around lunch time when the lines are the longest)- go ahead, get shanked, be my guest…

i don’t lie. words can not describe how supernaturally amazing this pizza tastes. it’s not a meal, it’s a fucking religious experience. actually, it’s also a meal- a big meal that will last you all day. and for the low low price of $4.50, i defy you to find a lunch on the peninsula that tastes better.

*go! go now!!*

Micucci's Italian Grocery on Urbanspoon

fine tooth comb.

1 11 2009

raceug. trapped again. my cvs advisory panel extrabucks are expiring this week, and i need to roll them or lose them. no surprise that the cvs deals this week suck hardcore. blood sugar monitors as far as the eye can see… maybe a little metamucil on the side. anyway, after very very carefully sorting through this week’s cvs flier over the course of the entire first friday the 13th movie (FYI- way more boring/ridiculous than i remember from when i was 8), this is all i could find:

fruitopia & viologie hair care are on sale 2/$5. using 2 of the $2/1 coupons (one each for viologie & fruitopia) that i pilfered from the stack of loose “reinventing beauty” coupons hanging out at the forest ave. store= $.50 each.

softsoap ensembles- not sure of the price, but at they’re listed as $5.99 for the pump, $2.79 for the refill… if that’s true, and i use the $2/1 coupon from the “reinventing beauty” mag + that buy one pump, get $3 off the refill from the 10/25 smartsource… $4 extrabucks = $.22 profit (unless of course the prices are wrong or if they adjust down the $3/1 coupon). basically, it’s risky, and likely not too work.

if there are good coupons in the paper this weekend, i could possibly also go for some cheap gillette razors, and (if i can score 3 more $1/1) 4 oral b toothbrushes for $1.76. still, weak cvs! weak!

weekend pickthrough- albino edition

24 10 2009

white asparagusthings are happening! 

harvest on the harbor is happening all weekend, and is a hotbed for free samples! sure you can pay $35 bucks to go to some of the fancier events, but why bother when there’s cool stuff happening for free. load up!

$5 printmaking workshop at space gallery. everything they do is beautiful (their current window exhibit is all sorts of stunning). make something to show at next week’s first friday. be an art star!

hot goods! maybe ebay isn’t dangerous enough for you? your good buy girl has alerted me to the existence of the property room. those stolen goods have to go somewhere after case closed. your house?

also via good buy girl- trade stocks with pretend money! maybe you don’t have the money right now exactly, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn how to play the stock market like the big boys.  

rite aid as usual has some kick ass SCR deals, and just some goddamn good prices on things that might actually be useful. free light bulbs, kotex, moneymaking vaseline lotion, and not that anyone cares, but my beloved omeprazole is on sale for $11.99 (with in ad coupon).

cvs is a little weak this week (another blood glucose monitor? seriously?), but i did notice a hardcore deal possibility in the dove & degree deodorant aisle. $10 extrabucks back when you buy $20 worth of select products. dove is my brand! buy six (2 dove, 4 degree) for $21. i have 4 $1/1 degree coupons, and one $1.50/2 dove coupons, which after extrabucks, makes 5 deodorants for $4.50. and maybe you still have one of those $5/$25 coupons from the flu quiz… i know if you want it bad enough- you can probably get them for free. 

shaw’s. white asparagus never goes on sale ($1.88)!!! also, $1 avocados, and i’m pretty sure you can get free halloween candy when you buy an itunes gift card. 

coupon goddess knows how to keep it classy– even when she’s sarcastically eviscerating a constipated check out lady. i love knowing that moms in sweater sets and keds want to punch people in the face sometimes too.

the great wash out.

22 10 2009

DSCN2159oh. so that’s why they call it whole paycheck. i have a bad habit of letting my best laid plans disintegrate the moment i get tired or lazy (or sad, or angry, or grumpy…). planned for tonight- soy sausage jambalaya. after a long day at work chased with a pilates reformer session– i decide that i don’t feel like cooking and that a trip to the whole foods for dinner is the right thing to do. maybe right by my diet standards, but not so much for my wallet.

earlier this week, i sold a bosu balance trainer (that i had recieved as a gift and never taken out of the box because i will never exercise at home no matter how much i want to or think it’s a good idea) for $40 on craigslist. sweet. $40 up on my budgetary deficit for this month. except that i owed $20 to the street change jar from a prior time that i was busted and needed a loan. down to $20 which rested quietly in my purse all week…

and on to the fucking whole foods:

1 cup of corn chowder- $2.99
1 small green salad- $4.82
1 whole wheat roll- $.69
1 package paul newman peanut butter cups- $1.49

and then i get bored waiting for the boyfriend to pick a gelato… (and some sort of werewolf beer from lithuania) …. and i decide to pick up a few things that i always want but can’t get at the regular supermarket:

2 whole foods brand frozen tofu pad thais (best frozen meal i’ve ever had) @ $2.99/ea.

2 amy’s summer corn soups @ $2.34/ea. (it’s my very favorite flavor, and nobody carries it- and the coupons i scored for writing to amy’s and complaining about how they never have coupons are looong gooone).

total after tax: $21.32 (total profit remaining from craigslist sale- $0)

boo-urns! that is almost as much as i spent on groceries for the whole week! i did pocket a copy of “the whole deal“, which has a lot of great whole foods coupons that can be doubled up with other manufacturers coupons for reasonable deals (baton rouge mommy always has the most comprehensive whole foods round up). still, i’m really disappointed in myself. will i ever be good at this!?

money journal days 6 & 5. weekend edition.

5 10 2009

stuffso i had this brilliant idea that i was going to spend only the $65 that i had left from my craiglist sales this weekend… and yesterday was somewhat hopeful:

1. $1.04 really nice copy of middlemarch by george eliot @ goodwill. i’m trying to collect all 1001 books on this list.

2. giant metal peanut shaped peanut dish @ $1.04 + $1 donation to another goodwill. $2.04.

3. $6.45 micucci’s pizza and limonata.

4. $15.40 2 ferry tickets to go see sacred & profane on peak’s island.

5. $3.00 my half of a box of morningstar riblets & some rice pilaf for dinner.


$37.07 remaining. actually, $35 and some loose change.

apple lunchdecided this morning to get another $20 out of the ATM, because we were planning on hitting some cash-only flea markets, and i wanted to be prepared. unfortunately, it prepared me mostly for spending money that i shouldn’t, on things that are transient.

1. $12.65 for breakfast at hot suppa (fried green tomato benedict is the best thing on earth).

2. $10.00 to the bf for gas money for our adventure to the fairfield antiques mall and beyond.

3. $5.00 for u-pick apples, and $8.00 for a grilled cheese, apple turnover (warm), and a single size bottle of cider @ kents hill orchards.

4. finally found something worth buying in the form of 2 kathy allen nurse series books @ the lakeside antiques- $6.50.

5. $20.00 for giant sushi dinner at fuji.

6. 2 sunday papers- $3.50.

total for today: $57.65

plus yesterday: $85.58 almost all of it consumed. no wonder i’ve put on 30 lbs.

money diary day 4. in-and-out burger.

2 10 2009

ppp-brian-boruunremarkable spending day. a complete wash almost. sold a vintage shelf on craigslist for $25, and then spent $20 on a mediocre tom collins and portland’s very worst veggie burger at brian boru.  i was there under obligation for a birthday party, so it was somewhat unavoidable spending- but it’s kind of a bummer that my food sucked. i should have gotten the tomato soup with the tiny grilled cheese on top. i definitely should have known better than to order vegetarian fare at an irish pub.

non-essential spending- $20

money earned- $25

+$5. better than nothin.

money diary day 3. stuffed.

1 10 2009

tBlueSpoonRestaurantoday was a big spending day of the mostly essential purchase variety, with a small (but very delicious detour). finally had to give the boyfriend the $15 from yesterday, which i picked up at the rite aid along with my $17.87 (after tax) of granola bar and zyrtec. post-pilates i met a friend for dinner at my very favorite east-end restaurant, the blue spoon, and vacuumed up 2 cocktails (try the “bees knees”, it’s life-altering) and an order of the hand-rolled linguini w/mushrooms & truffle oil. my friend is leaving for CA (hopefully not forever Jenna!) next week, so i picked up her part of the tab as well (a prudent single drink & beet salad). $49.20. 

essential expenses: $5 gas money, and $16.99 for the zyrtec. i also paid my credit cards- $435, and one of my student loans $50.

non-essential expenses: $10 for yesterday’s grilled cheese and onion rings at fat boy, $.88 for the granola bar, and $49.20 for blue spoon deliciousness. 

earned: $14.00 SCRs from rite aid, and $.01 found on the ground. 

total damage: $553.06

money diary day 2. on credit.

30 09 2009

didn’t get a chance to hit the ATM before going to fat boy yesterday, so had to borrow from the bf. also, supposed to pony up some gas money for some burlesque oriented travel (3 hours in the storage locker pulling costumes). all in all $15 owed to boyfriend. $0 delivered. will distribute today, along with scoring what i think will be a sweet sweet zyrtec deal (to be detailed later) at rite aid.