Let’s be honest. Most college students’ kitchens are stocked full of ramen, mac’n’cheese, pb&j sandwiches and pretty much anything that can be zapped in a microwave. Not the most healthy but definitely time efficient.
Personally, I love cooking. But like most students at Albion, I don’t always have the time to whip up a decent-tasting meal every day, mostly because I’m unmotivated to try making something new and grocery shopping can be expensive.
This past week I decided to take on the challenge of making six days’ worth of easy, fall meals that anyone can cook. Each meal was $10 or under and made great leftovers throughout the week. And trust me, you can do this!
Day 1: Tacos
OK, tacos are easy, cheap and delicious. I used ground beef, taco seasoning, tortillas, cheese and vegetables. The most ‘difficult’ part is making the taco meat on a skillet- don’t forget to throw away the grease and add uncooked ramen noodles for an extra crunch! Otherwise, tacos can either be simple (meat and cheese) or complex (vegetables, salsa, sour cream ect..)
Day 2: Ginger Fried Rice
Instead of spending money on Chinese take-out, make your own! I made this while working on homework, and it was very easy to multitask between the two. The recipe called for peanut oil and sesame oil, which I didn’t use- I added soy sauce and a lot of sriracha instead. The leeks could also be substituted for onions, and the egg is not a necessity, but definitely made the flavors pop.
Recipe found at : http://food52.com/recipes/19490-jean-georges-ginger-fried-rice
Day 3: Zuchini and Chick Pea Tagine
This was probably my favorite recipe of the week – so many good flavors. The recipe called for a lot of seasonings that I don’t think most college students have, including me, so I had to adjust a little bit. Seasoning wise, I used red pepper flakes, cayenne, lemon pepper, dried mint (from a tea bag) and a little bit of sriracha, but you can adjust as needed. The most important hint for this dish is to let all the ingredients simmer together for 10-15 minutes. HINT: This tasted amazing mixed in with the fried rice for lunch the next day.
Day 4: Crockpot Chili
Let’s be real – nothing is better than a bowl of chili on a cold day. The best thing about this recipe is that it can sit in the crock pot for hours, or you can make it over the stove. I made mine in the morning, around 10:00 AM, and didn’t have to touch it until 5:00 PM when I was ready to eat dinner. Out of sight, out of mind. A lot of chili recipes call for different seasonings, but I just bought a pre-seasoned packet made for chili and it had everything that was needed. Even though I added in jalapenos, onions, and corn, you don’t have to add in any extra vegetables as it really depends on what you like.
Recipe found at: http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Spicy-Slow-Cooked-Chili
Day Five: Beef Stroganoff
Beef stroganoff is a pretty classic dinner and makes great leftovers. You can even use the left over vegetables and ground beef from previous recipes to save money. I would recommend using extra salt and pepper, and onions for more flavor. But otherwise, this is probably one of the easiest pasta dishes to make.
Recipe found at: http://www.cooks.com/recipe/s71ph5oo/easy-beef-stroganoff.html
Day Six: Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
This is my go-to recipe because you can stuff a pepper with basically anything, and it will taste good. I’ve been eating Italian stuffed peppers since I was young, but I decided to make mine a little Mexican flavored. I did not add meat, but you could use sausage, chicken, or ground beef. I also filled mine with quinoa, which adds a delicious crunch. Just remember to not cook anything before, all you need to do is mix everything in a bowl and then stuff the peppers.
Overall, this week was great. I ate like an actual adult and was able to save money on my grocery shopping. I only wish there were more options for fresher produce in the area, but you have to take what you can get. The other nice thing about these recipes is that you are free to make them as healthy, or unhealthy, as you like given the many options and substitutes for each recipe. My advice – try cooking! Go grocery shopping with a plan and be a little adventurous, because your stomach and roommates will thank you.