Reflections of a healthy, cheap, lazy, college student: Things I wish I’d known before my first kitchen
1) Thou shalt prepare in advance: I’m not saying you should make every single one of your meals on Sunday night (although I’ve definitely done that before and it has its own advantages) but cooking some things in bulk on the weekends can save wondrous time during the week. Notice you eat a lot of quinoa or rice? Make a whole pot and save it in the fridge, instead of wasting time cooking the same thing multiple nights of the week.
2) Thou shalt focus on yonder produce: When you have a well-stocked pantry of grains, spices etc. usually you only need produce to round off your recipes. Funny thing about produce, it tends to be the cheapest thing in the grocery store (the exception being the elusive ultra-organic avocado from Mexico). Note: I’m not saying don’t buy processed food, because that’s not realistic (salt and vinegar chips get at me) but just focus more on produce.
3) Thou shalt learn from thy neighbor: Choosing a recipe from a crowded Pinterest board, random blog or cookbook can be overwhelming. And often the question “Will it really taste as good as it looks?” is enough to kill your excitement, and the recipe. So ask your friends what they usually make to eat- it may be routine for them, but new for you!
4) Thou shalt ‘keep it simple’: I’m not trying to curb anyone’s adventurous side here. But meals don’t need a complicated recipe to be delicious. Most of my own recipes clock in around 5-7 ingredients at the most. Complexity doesn’t directly correlate to flavor.
5) Thou shalt prepare for emergencies: Let’s face it, some weeks you just don’t get to the grocery store. You might not have the time, the money, or hell, maybe you just don’t want to run another errand. Whatever the reason, have a recipe ‘first aid kit’ available. Having few cans of beans, some grains, and a few sauces always on hand will guarantee you cheap meals on your down weeks, and keep you from buying Panera Bread for every meal of the day.*
6) Thou shalt look from the bottom, up: Food on the bottom shelf in groceries stores is cheaper. It just is. Look there first.
7) Thou shalt read yonder unit price: And by cheaper, I mean look at the unit price. A smaller container may have the ‘cheaper’ price tag, but overall is a worse value. So get the huge bag of rice, you’ll eat it eventually and a save a little. And a little a time adds up.
8) Thou shalt ponder thy grocery list: Everyone knows you shouldn’t go to the grocery store hungry, or without a list. But a list without meal planning is just as dangerous. Choose 3-4 recipes for lunch and dinner throughout the week, and put those items first. That way you don’t come home with random ingredients you can’t fathom into recipe.
9) Thou shalt cook with all the colors of the wind: You may have heard that dietitians recommend a colorful diet. This isn’t so that your instagrams (#nomz) look better in the Lo-Fi filter. The different colors in fruits and veggies signify their vitamin content. Variety of color = variety of vitamins and minerals.
10) Thou shalt always keep snacks on hand: The only thing worse than a cheap, lazy college student is a cheap, lazy, HUNGRY college student. Trust me, you don’t want to be around me if I’m hungry (or caffeine deprived). Popcorn, pretzels, carrots, bananas, whatever. Just have snacks.