We all must eat, but many of us don’t always have the cash to feast like a king and queen in Santa Babylon’s spendy culinary scene. Fear not, hungry readers, for a decade and a half of living paycheck to paycheck with a 9310-something zip code has taught me tricks to fill up your stomach without emptying your wallet. Here are five I’m willing to share.
Taco Time: From La Colmena on Milpas to Lilly’s downtown and the new Taquería El Pastorcito on De la Vina, Santa Barbara’s heaps of prime taco spots serve up finger-licking good eats for anywhere from $1.25 to $2.50 a taco.
Soj’s Low Rent Special: A longtime staple on the Sojourner menu, the Low-Rent’s $10 of hearty healthiness includes a big bowl of soup, meal-sized salad, and chunk of fresh baked bread.
Happy Hour with View: Being on a budget doesn’t mean you have to forgo catching a mild buzz on the beach. The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach runs happy hour Sunday-Thursday, 3 p.m.-close, with $4 drafts of Firestone and Figueroa Mountain, Blood Orange Margaritas for $5.50, and super snacks (seared ahi, a Kobe beef cheeseburger, shrimp macaroni and cheese, etc.) for $8.50.
Produce Priced to Sell: There’s a fabled metal rack near the cash registers at Tri-County Produce on Milpas Street that sells blemished or soon-to-expire fresh-food items for at least 60 percent off — and often 80 percent or more off — every single day. So stock up on a few meals’ worth of fruits and veggies for under $5.
Farmers Markets: We’re blessed to have these outdoor produce bazaars just a short drive or walk away nearly every day of the week. To eat healthy and cheap, just learn some basic cooking chops, and go see what’s in season.