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How to Survive on $6 a Day in San Francisco

A Guide to Dining on the Cheap

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Commentary, John Handley Posted: Feb 28, 2009

Editors Note: A young father struggles to find his next meal as he searches for work in a recession. The 24 year old recently moved to the Bay Area and has been living with family and friends. John Handley is a contributor to YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.

SAN FRANCISCO -- I'm in the market for a steady job, so spending money always comes down to the nickels, dimes and pennies. Having no money can suck when you are hungry, but if there is one thing you should always be able to get it is food. But the way our economy is looking these days, it can seem like a full-time job just getting that next meal.

In order for me to not die of malnutrition, I have to use every resource I know. I'm not saying I couldn't starve myself for a little bit I learned how to do that when I was 7 years old. I grew up in a foster care house of five kids that was run by a really sweet lady named Sue. She collected checks at the first of the month for our food and clothing, but that didnt always seem to last all month. I remember hiding food from my brothers and sisters before they could hide it from me.

Then when I was a teenager, I used to go out to Chico, Calif. about 30 miles away from where I lived to skate. I would take the bus out there with $5 in my pocket and stay about a month, crashing on couches. Food was always an issue. I remember one time I hadnt eaten anything substantial in like three days. I mean my tank was on straight empty.

I felt drained, my vision started getting blurry and I started getting the shakes. My thoughts were not clear and my balance was way off. I knew at that point it was time to go home to eat and sleep for about five days. When I got home, my mother said that I looked like a zombie. I was weak, pale, and confused.

So, Im no stranger to hunger, but now Ive gotten better at making sure Im fed.

For example, I walked into a taqueria one day and asked the lady what I can get with my two dollars. She told me a bean and rice burrito. That's it. I wasn't disappointed at all, because to the left of me was the biggest salsa bar I had ever seen. So I did what any hungry man would do: filled up 10 plastics cups with salsa, jalapenos, pickled carrots and tortilla chips. I only had $2 and I was eating like royalty. Any place that has a free condiment bar is great for hard times.

Of course, the McDonalds dollar menu is the old standby. I have to say that chicken sandwiches never get old to me. I mean, with a little extra barbecue sauce, salt and pepper, it can be an everyday occurrence. I really hope someday I will be able to afford the nutritious salad they have, which ranges from $3 to $4.50. But until then, it is the McChicken. But I went about a week straight just eating off the dollar menu and trust me, there was nothing nice about how it was affecting my health. I was getting bad skin, and I was feeling weak and bloated.

Back when I was living with my lady and my son, we were collecting food stamps and that was the time I felt like I was eating the best. I would receive about $683 a month, so I would be at the store every day getting ingredients for each meal I would prepare for my family. I always had a taste for Italian food and shrimp pastas were always a favorite in my household. I would just go crazy shopping for the real food. I was consuming healthy salads and juices every day. I bought a cookbook and I just went culinary crazy.

Girlfriends are definitely a resource that never can go sour, unless they are mad at me for some odd reason. You know what they say: The best way to a man's heart is through his stomach. During hard times, good eating keeps me next to a nice lady. Its not like Im a mean guy, but Im more than an angel when we are going through the drive-thru. I have developed some good relationships with certain women, because of their generosity when it comes to food.

I also love going to family gatherings, because for one I love my family, and for the simple fact that there are never-ending tables of food at each one: turkey, mashed potato, steak, salads and much more. Thanks, Aunt Rita. I'm frequently invited to my friend's functions, which are always a plus for my stomach. I have always stuck around to help clean up the wreckage of unfinished plates and empty drinks, so I am always welcomed back with a kiss.

At a recent family reunion, I started feeling a little out of place, because I didnt know half of them. I didnt really trip because that just meant more different kinds of food. So I began getting down on the food. Well, halfway through my feasting session, I started to realize I didnt know anyone. Oops, I was in the wrong banquet hall. It must have been the wine.

You know if all else fails, I dont see anything wrong with just plain stealing. I dont think there should be any moral judgment on stealing food. I mean, I watch the Animal Channel and hyenas steal all the time. Hunger means get it in your stomach at all cost even if you have to act like a wild animal. Grrrrr! I used to sit by the door at Dennys and order the Italian chicken sandwich meal and love every bite, because I knew that I had to do a little bit of running when I was done. My bad.

When the dollar menu starts looking expensive, these methods of getting a bite to eat and staying away from starvation are accessible most of the time. When you are on your dimes, these tips may help you get through the day.

Related Articles:

Denny's Grand Slam Levels the Playing Field

How to Survive in New York on Mickey D's Coupons

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