survival strategies

There’s a lot of things about summer internships that are analogous to summer camp. The uncomfortable beds, the in-the-trenches camaraderie with your fellows, the mentors that seem impossibly mature despite being only five years older, the bonfires and weenie roasts, etc. But unlike Camp Firstbasawassa, internships do not have a mess hall where you can line up for your thrice-daily dose of chicken tenders and chocolate milk. And if you’re working hard, and also broke, it’s hard to afford or remember to eat.

This is bad! You need to do it! What would the cool counselor with a hair wrap and camp-mandated long socks to hide her ankle tattoo say if she knew you were getting by on free break-room coffee and single-serving bags of Pirate’s Booty? You can’t be at the top of your interning game if you are starving. Maintaining stable blood sugar (and caffeine levels) is very important, but also very hard on a tiny budget and a sublet/dorm kitchen. I love cooking, but for whatever reason, having an Actual Job saps me of any desire to make stuff. But don’t let something like that stop you! Your resume says you’re detail-oriented and resourceful, after all.

you too can eat food that is not processed or disgusting or from a street cart!

You are going to have to cook for yourself, but in this case “cooking” means “chopping and occasionally boiling something or opening a can.” All you will really need is a way to boil water, a sharp knife, and assorted vessels to hold things (bonus points for a frying pan, but not strictly necessary). Take this shopping list as a template (meaning add in things you like and swap out stuff you hate) and watch it morph into many flexible meals. It’s also vegetarian, for simplicity’s sake, but if you really need meat, throw in some deli slices or precooked sausages or whatever. It will be more expensive, though.

  • Ground coffee
  • Milk of choice
  • Eggs
  • [Greek] yogurt
  • Bread product of choice (bagels, sandwich, pita, baguette, etc.)
  • Grain product of choice (rice, quinoa, couscous, bulgur, etc. Trader Joe’s sells some that are pre-cooked and frozen, if all you have is a microwave)
  • Legume protein of choice (beans, chickpeas, edamame, etc.)
  • Assorted vegetables you like to eat raw (tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, bell peppers, salad greens, etc. This would be something you could get at the farmers’ market)
  • Fruit types for snacks (again, farmers’ market! It is the cheapest and also best)
  • Lemons
  • Parsley, cilantro, dill, or another herb you like for salads
  • Cheese (I like having feta or goat for salads and also cheddar to just eat pieces of)
  • Avocado (optional but delicious)
  • Olive oil & salt & pepper (you may already possess)

Okay, see? Not too much! The gameplan is thus: a salad that will feed you for days. The formula is as follows:

[protein] + [grain] + [chopped vegetables] + [something creamy] + [chopped herb] + [lemon juice] + [oil, salt, pepper]

Not hard! Follow my lead. The hardest part is cooking up four-five servings of your grain (but see above re: prefab options). “Something creamy” refers to cheese or avocado, depending on what I have on hand. Also, sometimes I forget the herb altogether. Here are some combinations I have done:

  • Edamame, brown rice, radishes, cucumbers, avocado
  • Chickpeas, quinoa, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta
  • Black beans, brown rice, bell peppers, scallions, avocado
  • Hard-boiled eggs, quinoa, cherry tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, arugula
  • Black-eyed peas, cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, haberneros (!!) (pictured above)
Once you have produced this several-portioned salad, pack it up in leftover takeout containers and stash it in your office fridge. Take advantage of that thing–lunch will await you there! I also keep my yogurt and fruit there so I can eat something quickly at 12:30 and put off lunch for three more hours while I fact-check. And! If you go to the farmers’ market en route to work, you can keep your kale in the fridge all day and no one will think you’re weird (yes they will)
As for the other meals in your life, I’ve covered breakfast elsewhere, and dinner can be whatever you have left at home that you haven’t yet eaten that day (scrambled eggs on toast! A grilled cheese sandwich! Frozen potstickers with that kale you bought! A bowl of popcorn and some whiskey!) Or, if you want to rationalize eating out, packing your lunch is a good way to do it. It’ll be expensive, but still better than the steam-table chicken nuggets of your youth.

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