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Thursday, November 4, 2010

On The Cheap

Beirut can be kind of expensive. Some food items are essentially cost prohibitive; at the grocery store, for example, chicken, brand-name cereal, and Quaker Oats are too pricey to consider. One can buy lowfat milk in cardboard quarts that don't need to be refrigerated until you open them. A quart costs about LL2500, or about $1.75, not awful, but still, a lot of money for just a quart, and pricey enough that I don't eat cereal for breakfast everyday like I do back in the U.S.

So how does one eat on the cheap in Beirut? Close to AUB, sandwich and mankoushe places that cater to students are great. I can buy a lebneh sandwich for LL2500 (less than two dollars U.S.) and feel as if I'm eating very healthy: a fresh whole wheat roll with thick yogurt ("lebneh") spread on both sides, stuffed with cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives, and drizzled with olive oil and some dried spices. Very filling too. Just down the street from the University's main gate, there's a place where big falafel sandwiches are only LL2000, a little more than a dollar. Mankoushe (very thin, fresh dough, baked while you wait and topped with various items, most popularly olive oil, a squirt of lemon, and "zaatar," a dried mixture of thyme, oregano, salt, and I'm not sure what else) are even less than that and the "jibnee" (cheese) variety have big hunks of salty, fresh, melting cheese on them.

At the grocery store, meanwhile, certain things are extremely cheap, including pita bread (bags are as low as LL500, about 35 cents!), fresh parsley and cilantro, tomato paste, lemons, fresh garlic, and bulghur. So pasta with a clean-out-the-cupboard sauce (whisking together tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, and a little bit of the water the pasta was boiled in) and a handful of whatever frozen vegetables are on hand is an inexpensive meal. Likewise, tabbouleh and pita is a very cheap and healthy meal to prepare at home. I also found a place down the street from our apartment that has big huge jugs of water (I think it's between 3-4 gallons) for only LL1500 (one dollar), but it's heavy to lug home and difficult to pour into a glass.

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