Shepherd Internship Part 2: Eating Cheap in New York


For many Shepherd interns, living under $14/day seems to be the biggest obstacle this summer. However, to me $14 is more than enough if you know how to manage your money well. If you eat out every day, then $14 is definitely not enough but if you cook or know where to eat, then that isn’t a problem at all.

As I am Vietnamese, I usually cook Vietnamese food but sometimes if I had dinner with my roommate, I also made pasta, so there are some tips I want to share.

1.      Grocery Stores:

Knowing which grocery store to go to is the key to live under $14/day. We stay at Residence Hall @ Brooklyn College in Flatbush, Brooklyn. I usually take the 2 or 5 train to go to work in Manhattan and it’s usually a 5-7-minute walk to the train station. On the way to the train station there are some grocery stores and I usually buy food here.

Met Foodmarkets:

This is a chain food markets and there are several of them in Brooklyn. They have a variety of options and you can find most basic items here. The best thing about this store is they are very cheap. You can get a box of spaghetti for a dollar. However, the downside is that the staff is often very rude and the brands are not popular, also, they don’t have too many organic options.

Trader Joe’s – 130 Court St, Brooklyn, NY:

Trader Joe is still so far has the best food quality but also, the prices are higher than average. To get to this store, you must take the 2 or 5 train to Borough Hall station. It’s usually about half an hour. I rarely go here because they don’t have as many options as other ethnic grocery stores. But they definitely have the best organic food here.

Deluxe Food Market – 79 Elizabeth St, New York:

This is so far the best grocery store I have been to so far and unfortunately it’s also in Manhattan. I know for some people this might be an obstacle since you don’t want to carry the bags with them on the way back to Brooklyn, especially if you are taking the train. I only go to this grocery store on Tuesdays when I have to go to court in Bronx. The Q train is the best option for travelling to this store.

Some people would be afraid of this store because it’s Chinese LOL. But, this store has amazing food (and cheap, too). There is a wide variety of vegetables and meat. I can only get ground pork here. It’s surprisingly cheap (only $1/lbs). However, every label in this store are in Chinese so it was easy to get confusing. For example, there are different types of ground pork which has different prices but they look pretty similar, also everything was written in Chinese so I did not know what differences are. However, I always go for the cheapest one.

2.      Cooking

Cooking and eating together is the best way to save money. But I rarely eat with the people whom I live with because I ended work later than most people so by the time I got back, it’s already 8 P.M. 

I go to work in Manhattan everyday so usually when I got back I would be exhausted. So, I always cook everything in advance and reheat them when I get back from work. I never brought lunch because we have a cafeteria in the building so it’s more convenient for me to go up there and buy food. (It’s very cheap as it’s always about $4.00 for a sandwich or you can get a mix of other stuff for about 47 cents/oz).

3.      Eating out

Let’s be honest, you should go eating out while in New York because New York has AMAZING food. There are some cheap Asian restaurants that I really recommend:

North Dumpling – 27A Essex St, New York, NY

This restaurant is very well-known in Chinatown. No one can beat the $3 price for 12 dumplings here. You can pick from fried or steamed dumplings, pork or veggies. They also have other food, too but most people come here for the dumplings. When I got here, some galleries ordered like 100 dumplings for their exhibition opening. Despite its popularity, there are very limited seats in this restaurant, only two tables with about 6 seats.

Sunrise Mart

My friend from Queens took me to this place last weekend. This is both a grocery store and a restaurant. The food here is pretty cheap comparing to other Japanese restaurants in NYC. The last time I went to a Japanese restaurant was when my uncle from Albany came to visit me. We went to Suteishi at 24 Peck Slip and our bill was about $120.00 (we actually ate a lot: 2 Udons, 3 sushis and some appetizers).

To be honest, the food at Sunrise Mart is not as good as at Suteishi but it’s not bad either. A bowl of Udon is about $9 and a box of 6 pcs prepared sushi is about $5. So, I believe these prices are reasonable.

There are two levels: the first floor is where the grocery store is and also where you place your order, the second floor is the seating area. 

Boba Guys

This is not a restaurant but I put it here because for a bubble tea-savvy like me, I’m always eager to explore different tea shops in the city and Boba Guys is the best one so far. Like Kung Fu Tea, Vivi, or Bubbly, Boba Guys still have a variety of options to add on: tapioca (bubble), jelly, rea beans, toppings… However, to me, Boba Guys has better bubbles. They are harder but sweeter. And the service is the best among all of bubble tea shops in NYC.

Hanover Square Food Trucks

One of the best Thai food restaurants in NYC is actually a food truck in Hanover Square, Luckyim Thai. I could only get lunch here once because the line is pretty long at noon and this food truck closed in the evening. They have most signature Thai food: red curry, pad thai, thai tea. It was about $7 for a Chicken Red Curry, $2 for a Thai tea and extra $1 if you want shrimp instead of chicken.

There are other food trucks like Banh Mi Cart (Vietnamese Baguette, $6 for a baguette with vegetables, pork or chicken and extra $1 if you want egg), Halal Food, Japanese Bowl… I only have tried Banh Mi Cart and Luckyim so far but as what I have heard most food trucks here are very good.

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