I fall asleep in weird places, get my hair all over everything, and sit around yowling until my roommates hand over their leftovers.
Since evolving past the safety of my parents’ pantries and the protective embrace of a Chartwells meal plan, I’ve developed these necessary survival habits.
Hunting and gathering
When your wallet’s as empty as your stomach and you’re waiting for that next minimum wage paycheck to come through, it’s time to hunt and forage.
Before college, I had never eaten anything I found on the ground. In fact, I had never been acquainted with someone who ate things they found on the ground. Then I met Jake Scott, and discovered his survival habit of calling finders keepers on any edible item he stumbled upon.
He had no problem with being revealed in this column. “Include my name and secure my legacy,” he demanded. “Don’t forget to mention that the orange had a peel on it, and the cheesecake and brownies were both in paper bowls. Also, I didn’t get sick and die.”
Before long, I was peer pressured into these bottom-feeding tendencies. When you’re in downtown Chicago, and you want a snack, and someone miraculously finds a bag of Potbelly’s oatmeal chocolate cookies on top of a parking meter, how are you supposed to turn them down?
The coupon clipper
“Are you playing The Game?” the Jewel-Osco cashier asks as she rips off my receipt. The manic gleam in my eye answers her question. Yes, I am playing The Game! Of course I am playing The Game! Why on earth would I be in this god-forsaken store if I wasn’t playing The Game?
Jewel’s new holiday game is essentially like McDonald’s Monopoly, but instead of collecting Boardwalk and Park Place you hunt for Coffee-mate and Velveeta. It’s all wrapped up under the snappy title of “Wish Big Win Big Holiday Giveaway,” but everyone’s shortened it to The Game, capitalized like some capitalistic deity.
Our house shares a game board, and my roommate Paige and I have become obsessed with winning at least one of the lesser prizes.
After every shopping trip, we hunch over the kitchen table and bicker like two middle-aged divorcees. Each pack of stickers comes with a coupon, and even though they are literally the worst discounts I’ve ever heard of, we still argue over who gets to use them.
“Twenty-five cents off water chestnuts? Give that to me! If you take that baby wipes coupon, I will set your bed on fire!”
We don’t need these things, and we don’t even want them. But we’re wrapped up in The Game, and we answer to its whims.
The artful snacker
The key to this tip is to be as unabashedly like Liz Lemon as possible.
There is bountiful free food to be had on campus, if you are a little bit sneaky and completely free of shame.
Sure, you can roll through a campus event and nibble on the fruit tray.
Or, you can wait ‘til everyone else leaves and load your backpack up with cheddar cubes.
At the end of a journalism conference, I weighed my backpack down with leftover cans of Diet Coke. After a poetry slam, I scooped snack mix straight into my jacket pocket. After an Honors Society induction, I filled empty coffee cups with a week’s worth of cheese rations, muttering his transparent lie: “Oh, I live with four other girls!”
That gouda was not for sharing. That gouda was all for me.