Part one is here.
I see today the newspaper Adevarul has a new new article for their “Living on a minimum wage salary” series.
Unsurprisingly, the four boys are almost completely out of food. After literally wasting money right and left at the grocery store, they’re down to eating bread and butter, which is apparently “affecting” their studies.
Ridiculous to the extreme, especially looking at these photos. One of those guys is QUITE LARGE as in overweight. Not criticizing the guy, just saying he’s been eating extraordinarily poorly for years. It’s no wonder a small interruption in his diet is having a powerful effect.
I see also these monkeys bought a suc, which probably means a soft drink (cola). Huge waste of money! Then he eats “3 pretzels”, which in Cluj probably means the ones from the little sidewalk stands, running at 1 lei apiece for a total of 3 lei.
Three lei! Easily buy two kilograms of potatoes for that.
Furthermore, due to my cats’ diet, I’ve been trolling around the local meat shops here in town and there is a TON of cheap chicken for sale. Will it be the “nice” bits like boneless chicken breast? No. But there is both tacam de pui as well as other bits of chicken, which could be used to make soups and stocks for rice and other dishes.
Yes I realize the minimum wage is supposed to cover things like housing, clothes and transportation and those are clearly expensive. Yet for days I’ve seen these “university students” make horrendous budgetary choices. They could be eating quite well AND in volume for 100 lei a month – I’m absolutely convinced about it.
I’m going to assume these hefty boys have no stove whatsoever. I will assume that they have access to a microwave.
Instead of just criticizing them and picking on their choices, here’s a few options out there for them (if they ever read this article).
Drinks – These are always going to be expensive, ESPECIALLY if you’re drinking soda. Also, having a drink while in a bar/cafe/restaurant is also going to be quite expensive and will murder your budget.
Solution: Learn how to drink water. It’s cheap, it’s good for you and it’s healthy. It’s usually free to get a glass of water from the tap (Rom: robinet) with a slice of lemon in it from just about any bartender in town. That way you can hang out with your friends and have a drink but not be depleting your budget.
At home you can also make your own JUICE. For just a few bani you can get a storcator de citrice, a kind of plastic device to squeeze orange and other citrus fruits. Oranges sell for 4 lei a kilo these days in Cluj.
If you absolutely MUST have a hot drink, especially coffee, the big stores sell large cans of ness or instant powder. This is by far the most economical (per cup).
Making your own soft drinks (not cola flavored, but other flavors) at home is also extremely easy. All you need is some juice and some yeast and a jar with a tight lid, something sold everywhere in Cluj for 1 leu or so.
Breakfast – While hot food is nice, it’s super easy to eat a varied and nutritious breakfast completely without cooking. A few slices of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and whatever other bits you like make for a superb breakfast.
Lunch – Easy to go with sandwiches, as bread is cheap. But instead of EXPENSIVE ingredients (like butter), make it a vegetable pile-up – lettuce (Rom: salata verde), onions, mustard, whatever works for you.
Dinner – A few things can be cooked very easily in the microwave, including pasta, rice and soups. Simply adding these together plus water plus heat over a period of time could not be easier. Large batches of these can be made at one time, leaving you with several meals.
Potatoes can also be microwaved “as is”, just poke some holes in them and zap them.
If you absolutely “must” have cheese, this is far cheaper by bulk (Rom: vrac) either at the hypermarkets or the piata. Instead of eating it “plain”, mix it in with either your breakfast fruit/veg platter or else melt it into some rice/pasta dishes for dinner.
As I noted, meat is very cheap if you get the “ugly” bits. I saw a huge sack of chicken bones for just a few lei down at the grocery store and that would make a wonderful soup/rice stock. Eating a bunch of salami/pastrami is absolutely the worst mistake to make (budget-wise) as it is far too expensive.
There are also plenty of FREE things you can take advantage of here in Romania.
- Every hypermarket has free samples of food for customers. Eat these! It may not be a full meal but free food is free food.
- Every cafe, bar and restaurant I know give away sugar packets by the handful. Save these and you’ve got free sugar to use at home.
- If you’re truly on a reduced budget, the Romanian government has food assistance.
- Many sellers of food at the piata will let you take a bite of their products for free. Again it isn’t much but it’s free.
- Every restaurant I know puts little containers of oil and vinegar and salt/pepper on the table, free for the customers to use. While not quite ethical, one could easily bring a jar or two with them and pour out some of these items to take home.
- Do some exercise! (Rom: sport). Jeez, not only does this help you keep energized but it also gets your body in shape, more efficiently using the nutrients in your food.
Likewise, you can get free napkins at many restaurants, including at the international fast-food conglomerates. You can also easily get toilet paper and hand towels at various public bathrooms around town.
And this is only the beginning.
I’ve been living here in Cluj for years (and Timisoara, earlier), a university town, and I’ve seen students waste all their money for years. It’s nothing new nor is it particularly shocking.
What galls me is that these guys are apparently using their experience to append to some big academic report, including information on their diet from real professionals and the like. Seems a damn shame to waste such a noble effort on these four slackers.
BTW anyone besides me think that the fattest of the students looks like the big guy in BUG Mafia?