- By Abby Ojeda, Staff Writer -
After we leave that dorm room and BDH life, cooking is a necessity. However, the grocery store has so many options. How do you know what to buy when you don’t have a recipe? With no time and very little money, it’s easy to give into the expensive habits of eating out or heating up pre-packaged frozen meals. Thankfully, I’ve taught myself a few basics about stocking my pantry, using tools, and finding recipes.
I recommend keeping the following staple items on hand: bread, milk, butter, eggs, oil, flour, sugar, spaghetti, rice, salt, and pepper. Also, generally have the following produce on hand: vegetable/olive oil, garlic, onion, potatoes, bell peppers, fruits, and vegetables.
For fruits and vegetables, try to get what’s in season (you can tell seasonal fruits and veggies by what is on sale). Going to the farmer’s market is fun but can be overwhelming, so know what you want to buy before you go.
One of the more intimidating foods to purchase and cook is meat. Unless you’re vegetarian, vegan, or somewhere in between, you end up ignoring the meat section out of fear. Always buy your meats for a good price on sale, and then find a recipe later.
Next, you’re going to need the right pots and pans: a skillet, a medium saucepan and a large saucepan, a 9×13 dish, a sheet pan, and a colander. For utensils, have a good-sized spatula and cooking spoon, an 8” chef’s knife, a small paring knife, and measuring cups. Have a cutting board and tupperware on hand too.
Lastly, once you have your ingredients and tools, look for easy recipes. Each will probably require a couple of ingredients you don’t have yet, but getting those few things while you’re out running errands will slowly build your pantry. Check budgetbytes.com or allrecipes.com for simple, cheap recipes.
Once you’ve cooked your meals, they can be refrigerated, on average, for four days. Don’t throw your leftovers away; you can freeze them and save them for another day. You can also meal prep and freeze foods in advance for the week — Pinterest has some great tips for this.
Remember, you don’t have to start cooking all at once. Set a goal to cook your own meal once a week, and then work up from there, or meal prep one meal item to eat several times during the week. The more you practice (and try new recipes) the more comfortable you will get throwing a meal together in the kitchen.