There are some buffet restaurants, such as the Great Wall, that allow you to pack your own to-go box with food. All poor, starving students (or anyone who wants to get the most bang for their buck) should know how to properly pack such to-go boxes. If you don't like having rice stuck all over everything and think it's weird, you're not starving enough to need this page. Head over to restaurants to find places that have a quality to volume ratio that suits you better. But, for those that do want to eat less than $5/day, here are some tips:

  • Share with a friend. If packed properly, there is plenty of food to share, and probably much more than most people will ever eat for a regular meal. You don't want to eat leftovers of this stuff all day, every day.
  • Cook your own rice. Rice is cheap. If you don't have a rice cooker, there are many people in davis that have more than one. Either borrow one or consider making a small investment. It's worth it and can do much more than cook rice. Or you can just use a pot with a lid.
  • Start the packing with rice. Sure, rice is dirt-cheap and no one in their right mind would pack a box full of rice if they're trying to get the biggest bang for their buck when there are plenty of meat and veggies available, but there are usually pockets of air between pieces of food that don't get filled. Flooding your box with soup is NOT recommended. Begin by throwing down a thin layer of fried rice, then sprinkle a bit over the other food you are packing in every so often, patting and pressing down occasionally to squeeze out the air.
  • Unless you really like salty, soggy rice that tastes like everything, don't go for the sauce.
  • When the box looks about full, close the lid and press down. You just made more room. Does it stay closed? If so, you didn't pack enough in. Keep packing and padding with rice until the lid barely stays closed and the food inside is perfectly molded into the shape of the interior of the box when you open it. That way, you know you don't have any unused space. Carefully put it in the plastic bag provided and tie it off so that it doesn't explode while you're leaving.
  • Don't forget your fortune cookie on the way out.

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