Tip #3: Know your food options

Eating out, free food, a can opener, and campus microwaves are your best friends.

Tip #3: Know your food options

One of the difficulties of being homeless is not having a stove or refrigerator and because of this food options are cut by a significant margin.

Regardless, between buying non-perishable groceries (or eating everything immediately after shopping), fast food, and getting free food, there are ways to overcome the deficit.

Here are my experiences eating food while being homeless.

Day 5: May 15th, Tuesday

I ate some canned ravioli at the top of Ackerman outside the cafeterias. Straight from the can, cold. I brought a can opener with me, since I figured it would allow for more dietary options, not that canned ravioli is healthy, but regardless. I also brought a spoon with me, which I take out as well. A black male, mid 30s or 40s with white-gray short curly hair, wearing a big jacket looks through the trashcans in front of me. He has a bag and is collecting bottles. He eyes me a bit suspiciously, and I think that that's how I must eye homeless people intruding on my territory as well. Sometimes the homeless get along and work together, there was a group of homeless people in Long Beach that I saw pretty often that always split up on different roads and begged for money; they would come together at the end of the day and count their collecting's, as well as help each other look out for each other's belongings. Then you have the exact opposite case where each other homeless is taking from the same locations that you're taking from, looking to shower in the same places you shower, and there's discomfort –that discomfort becomes suspicion, that suspicion becomes mistrust. As Marceline[1] says, "Don't you understand that by looking at any particular trait, we develop and exaggerate it? And that we make a man become what we think him?" So it's not the quality of being homeless that means anything, it's the thought of what homelessness implies that affects perception.

Aside from eating canned foods (and thinking about philosophy), sometimes free food just happens.

Day 7: May 17th, Thursday

At 8pm I head to Free Money for Founders which is really just an SEP[2] event for the pledges to pitch their projects. As I'm heading there two guys approach me and ask if I want a lot of free food. I hesitate and accept, and they point to a location up a few stairs. I go up and sure enough, there's some event that's ending. I head to a table and one of the guys there tells me to take a whole aluminum tray of duck bulgogi. I bring this to Engineering V with some difficulty (considering all the other belongings I'm holding, like my blankets and poetry book), but eventually arrive and place it on the table in the meeting room. Tired and with some time before the event starts, I decide to eat some of the groceries I had saved. I head to the stairwell with a pocket knife and cut a mango. As I'm doing this, I see a bunch of the pledges heading up the stairs towards me. Old faces: Dmitri, Jorge, Bella, and a lot of new faces mixed with that unexpected air of seeing me for no particular reason. We exchange greetings; I finish eating my mango, head to the bathroom to floss my teeth[3] (as mangos are notorious for sticking in teeth when you try to eat off the seed), and head to the meeting room where the pledges will be pitching their startup ideas.

UCLA also has a "food closet" in SAC[4] that I frequented.

Day 8: May 18th, Friday

When I arrive on campus, Kaufmann Pool is closed. I try heading to SAC showers but the front desk employees are there. I head to the food closet as a consolation prize. Inside the closet I get a bagel, orange juice, a cinnamon roll snack, salad, and fruit. I go to the top of the stairs immediately outside the food closet and eat there, plate in hand.

A few other students are in line outside the closet door since there's not a lot of space in the closet, and I see a soft-eyed brunette with a candid air flash a brisk look at me. It's one of those, "am I really seeing what I'm seeing, and hello do you even have any manners?" kind of look that's given in a half-mocking, half-teasing way; it's nice, and I smile briefly in reflex, though I don't know why at the time. She shakes her in head in response, and slightly confused, I don't bother with any response, but drift off into thought instead.[5]

After getting her food, she sits down on the stairs several steps in front of me and pulls out her laptop from her backpack. I must have went back into the closet to get more food because I remember her turning around to look at me while I was sitting on the steps. This time I consciously smile and even wave at her, which she responds to with a smile and a half-laugh, promptly facing forward again.

Her reaction confuses me, but somehow my brain begins to connect the dots and all of a sudden, a realization pops into my head that explains everything: most of the students only took a single bagel or cup of coffee while I took in comparison an all-you-can-eat buffet style amount of food. She shook her head at me in obvious disapproval of my exploitation of the food closet and laughed at my rather naive behavior of getting seconds, and as if confirming these thoughts, she packed up her belongings, stood up, began to walk away, but looked over her shoulder and said to me, "Good luck!" To which I responded rather mistakenly, "You too!" but only realized afterwards that she somehow understood my situation and was commenting on my general disheveled look, maybe because she'd been homeless before too... but regardless, she faded around the corner, and I finished my plate of fruit.

I took me a while, but I one day while I was in De Neve[6], it dawned upon me that microwaves exist.


Day 11: May 21th, Monday

I decide that I'm going to stay up tonight since I rested and slept for a large majority of the afternoon. I consider what I'm going to eat since I usually eat out, but nothing will be open between 2am and 8am, but then I suddenly remember there's a microwave in De Neve, wooo! I head to Ralph's with excitement and think of all the tasty frozen foods I could eat and buy 3 frozen burritos, a bag of Tostitos (pizza rolls), plates, a few power bars, and a drink. Satisfied with my victory, I head back to the top floor De Neve near Dykstra, microwave some Tostitos, plug in my laptop in the outlet just outside the microwave room, and work. It's 9:45pm; then it's...

Day 12: May 22nd, Tuesday

I finish my bag of Tostitos. I eat two of my burritos. I work. Midnight becomes 3am, and I consider if I can stay awake at night and sleep during the day I wouldn't have to worry about sleeping locations and everything would resolve itself.

Day 14: May 24th, Thursday

When you get two free Chickfila sandwiches in a row:


🎉 💥 🔥

Getting swiped into dining halls is also nice.

Day 16: May 26th, Saturday

Andrew and I arrive at Covel Commons; it's 7:30pm. He asks a guy if he has swipes; he says no. Another guy, who was in the bathroom, hears this and replies, "Did someone ask for swipes?" He's a tall lanky asian; he swipes Andrew and I in. Andrew asks for his Venmo, he declines and leaves. Andrew and I eat —it's been a while since I've been in a dining hall...

While sitting in the hallway of Dykstra[7] working on my laptop around 10pm, I get some free pizza.

Day 19: May 29th, Tuesday

I hear laughter and keyboard clicks coming from behind closed doors. I guess all the kids just play video games behind closed doors now. It wasn't like this a few years ago, there were doors open, hanging out, just being people. A relatively short black dude with short afro hair knocks on the door directly in front of me. He's holding a pizza box and some drinks, the door opens with that frantic video game laughter behind it, he enters, and it slams shut.

A few moments later afro guy comes out and looks at me for a second, then says, "You want a pizza? There's two in there for you," I look up at him —I'm starving, "I can have both?" He nods his head, "Yeh yeh, here..." he opens the pizza box, hands me some napkins, and I get both pieces out. He heads off to the trash chute at the other end of the hall then comes back. "You want a drink?" I nod my head, "Sure," he goes inside and gets two cans of Fuze lemon-iced tea and places them besides me. I pop one can open, drink, and eat pizza. He makes a bit of idle talk with me, "You got a midterm coming up?" "Hell yeah," I say, then he points at me with that you-got-it-bro look. I point back, we fist-bump, and he says, "Good luck!" and heads back into the room.

Here's a list of all my purchases during my time being homeless:

Location Amount Date
Ralphs $6.78 05/13
Ralphs $8.79 05/14
Rubio's $9.08 05/15
In N' Out $8.65 05/15
Ralphs $13.45 05/16
Chickfila $7.31 05/17
Ralphs $11.19 05/18
Denny's $39.77 05/20
In N' Out $7.39 05/20
Ralphs $4.89 05/20
Ralphs $20.57 05/21
In N' Out $7.39 05/23
Ralphs $4.55 05/23
Chickfila $6.55 05/24
Chickfila $4.81 05/24
Ralphs $5.69 05/24
Chickfila $4.81 05/25
Ralphs $11.46 05/25
Ralphs $2.49 05/27
In N' Out $7.39 05/27
Fat Sal's $14.22 05/28
Ralphs $4.22 05/28
In N' Out $8.65 05/29
Ralphs $5.37 05/29
In N' Out $8.65 05/31
Ralphs $9.21 05/31
In N' Out $4.33 06/01
Chipotle $8.05 06/01
Ralphs $11.12 06/01
Chipotle $8.54 06/02
In N' Out $8.65 06/03
Chipotle $8.05 06/04
Ralphs $5.49 06/04
Chipotle $8.54 06/06
Ralphs $8.24 06/06
Chipotle $8.05 06/07
Ralphs $6.43 06/07

From May 11th to June 8th = 4 weeks (28 days)

I went to Ralph's 17 times, In N' Out 8 times, Rubio's once, Chickfila 4 times, Denny's once, Fat Sal's once, and Chipotle 5 times.

Total Spent: $318.32 over 25 days (~$382/mo)

next post...

  1. From The Immoralist, by André Gide ↩︎

  2. Sigma Eta Pi: Entrepreneurship Fraternity @ UCLA. ↩︎

  3. I had floss and a toothbrush + toothpaste in my backpack. ↩︎

  4. Student Activities Center. ↩︎

  5. Meeting strangers and trying to understand the interactions that happen in the first moments is always interesting.

    I don't have any conclusions, but a few observations:

    People primarily meet strangers in public whom they are interested in (and Casanova says curiosity, interest, is the foundation of sexual attraction), so despite theoretically being capable of making friends in public, this usually doesn't happen unless there is an event or activity that guides it, meeting strangers is defined by sexuality or else transactional (like talking to a cashier).

    As a guy... I note that:

    Girls are generally happy to be approached when they are in the mood to be approached —if a girl sits close to you, laughs around you, or otherwise makes their presence know they're probably happy to talk.

    Talking doesn't imply anything more than talking.

    Most of the times I've had sex with strangers has been when I've made a move in a semi-private public setting (like a dorm room with a few friends) without alcohol. I'd make eye contact, then move closer if they felt comfortable, then go for a kiss which would accumulate in setting up a time and location to meet later (results may vary).

    The explanation for this is this: girls desire to be desired, and the best display of your desire (as male) is the amount of resistance that you overcome. If you're in public and other people are watching, it's bold to make a move (as opposed to being alone with the girl) since you risk rejection from not only the girl, but everyone else that's also in the room. Because of this, the chances of success are actually higher. Being sober makes it known that it's not liquid courage, but real desire. Regardless, even if you're rejected, it's likely you'll set a good impression because no girl objects to being considered attractive.

    This is an observation (in a college setting), not a recommendation —since I consider it better to find someone you enjoy being with rather having sex and hurting someone you don't want to be with. Girls want to be desired, but that doesn't mean you should desire every girl, be discriminant (nor does the desire to be desired mean endless insistence will work, want does not imply causation, girls have their opinions on situations and matters separate from their desires, just like guys). ↩︎

  6. Student dorms. ↩︎

  7. Residential hall. ↩︎