How to Expat: Five Cheap and Easy Meals

If you have any subjects you are curious about, feel free to ask me questions in the comments and I will write articles on those topics.

[An expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of their citizenship. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“country, fatherland”).] – wikipedia

When you get to Antigua (or any developing country) everything seems really cheap.  It takes a while to understand the new currency’s buying power.  A hamburger for 60 Quetzals = $7.82 doesn’t seem like much until you learn that a day’s work gets you about 120Q.  So working all day will yield you breakfast, lunch and dinner.  What about rent, clothes, entertainment, future travel?  There must be a way…


A banana plant in my back yard gave birth.  One of the perks of living in Central America.


With no idea of what to do with 100 pounds of bananas, I broke them into “hands” and scattered them around the house.  Are there any banana experts out there???  If you have any ideas, please share them in the comments. 


The day before I was going to go to the ATM, I lost my wallet.  With only 120Q to last me until payday (6 days away), I had to come up with a plan.  Everyone knows that crisis leads to innovation.  The most content times of my life have been when I was broke.  I guess it’s the lack of options that makes everything so crystal clear.

DSC_0021One of a hundred stands at the mercado.

DSC_0354Broccoli, carrots, beets, tomatoes, and a papaya for 8.5Q = $1.10


Cooking for Americans

It can be hard to resist that strange cafe on the corner.  Sometimes you just want a taste of home.  It’s always a good time for ____________.  We need to manage these external cravings if we want live sustainably.  Antigua, being perhaps the most densely cosmopolitan city in Central America, has no shortage of new restaurants and bars to explore.  Most restaurants are priced for short-term travelers.  If you start out making local wages have to either eat at budget restaurants or cook.

Here are some simple cooking methods for Americans and other newly adventurous people.  If this sounds sarcastic, it’s only by design.

I don’t know about you, but the only things I knew how to cook by the time I got to college was a quesadilla and scrambled eggs.  None of my friends knew how to cook growing up either, so I’m going to assume most young Americans don’t grow up knowing how to cook anything more complicated than ramen noodles.  And no, following a recipe doesn’t count.

In my Santa Rosa, Honduras post I showed how easy it is to roast chicken and veggies.  (It’s located about half-way down the post.)

Instead of translating symbols into arm movements (i.e. sit, roll over, add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt, etc.), I hope you learn how to use your tastebuds and sense of smell to create something that is enjoyable to eat.

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1. Rice and Veggies (For ease of learning, no meat is added.)


Beets or “remolachas” always turn everything magenta!  I am a believer in color diversity in your diet.

Step 1: Buy rice and colorful veggies.


Step 2: Boil water.  (Use between 2 and 3 times the amount of rice.  I recommend 1-1/4 cups.)

Step 3: Turn down the heat and add rice. (Use between 1/2 and 1/3 the amount of water.  I recommend a 1/2 cup.)  It will be nummy in 10-15 minutes.


Step 4: Cut the colorful veggies into bitesize pieces.

Step 5: Add veggies and spices that smell tasty to a hot pan with some oil. (If you’re not sure how much, add a little and taste test)

***Note: Don’t over cook anything.  My friend John McLeod gave me some priceless cooking advice:  “Be there.”  If you want to burn something, go watch TV or leave the kitchen for a while.  If you feel overwhelmed, don’t do so many things at once.  It’s better to have cold, well prepared food than hot, burnt food.***

  • When you’re not sure about something: grow some balls, use your common sense, and experiment.

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2. Veggie Pasta & White Gravy (The same veggies are used for simplicity and can be substituted.)


This gravy is also good for American biscuits, home fries, or just to bring to the gym in a thermos.


Step 1: Boil a bunch of water and add whatever shape of pasta makes you smile (follow bag instructions or cook until it tastes good).


Step 2: In another pot, boil chopped veggies (Cut into bite size pieces.  Here’s a Gordon Ramsey onion demo.  Remember a cube has three dimensions which you can control.)


Step 3: In a small pan, heat a type of fat (butter, oil, chicken fat, etc.) and add some flour and stir.  (Roux is the base of many sauces. To learn more, check out the 5 Mother Sauces.)

Step 4: Add spices that smell good.

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3. Spicy Chocolate Sauce (This Mexican-style Chocolate Mole is incredible with chicken and rice!)


It’s ok to be afraid ’cause it’s new. Now that you’ve faced and overcome that fear, let’s talk about the sauce.  Instead of a sweet dessert, this sauce has a seductive richness and zesty spice that will blow your mind.

Steps 1, 2, and 3: Cook/season your vegetables first and add chocolate when it’s almost done.

***To season, I like cayenne, black pepper, salt, and cumin  Experiment: nutmeg, mint, and rosemary are good options as well.  The last time I made it, I used a can of peppers with a medium spice.  When it was nice and hot, I added raw cocoa powder.  It’s just like making chocolate milk, only completely different!

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4. Yogurt Granola Fruit (Cheapest and quickest option.  Great anytime!)


Yogurt & granola with strawberry/blueberry preserves and banana bread

Step 1: Chop some cheap fruit. (Whatever is in season is going to be the cheapest and most delicious option)

Step 2: Add granola and plain yogurt. (Find the yogurt with the shortest list of ingredients)

Step 3: Add a spoonful of fruit preserves/jam and a spoonful of peanut butter. (Macadamia butter is cheaper here in Antigua.)

Step 4: Sprinkle cinnamon and drizzle honey

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5. World’s Best Oatmeal


No photo would do this oatmeal justice, so here’s a badass chalkboard chicken instead.

Step 1: Put half a banana, a dash of vanilla extract/flavoring, and a couple spoonfuls of hot coffee in a cup. Smash with a fork and let sit for a couple of minutes. (Coffee breaks down the banana and extracts its flavor.  The mixture should be a light tan color.)

Step 2: Boil 1 cup of water and add a small handful of raisins.  Add the banana/coffee sauce.

Step 3: Prep a bowl with a small spoon full of butter at the bottom.  (Butter makes everything better!)

Step 4: Add a heaping 1/2 cup of oatmeal.  Reduce heat.  Stir constantly.

Step 5: Once oatmeal is reduced to desired thickness, pour it in the bowl.

Step 6: Sprinkle cinnamon and drizzle honey.  Stir and enjoy.

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