I have found that in my experience as a college student, one of my biggest challenges is cooking for me, myself and I. Cooking for one isn’t always the easiest. My first few years of college, I found myself wasting large amounts of uneaten leftovers, old produce and bread that was beginning to mold. Over the years, I have learned to use all of my on hand ingredients possible to make my meals and snacks before spending more money at the grocery store. Let’s face it- groceries aren’t cheap people! Especially on a college budget.
Here are some tips that I have found to be very useful in creating meals and buying groceries.
1. Before the grocery store- look in the pantry, write down all of the ingredients you have on hand. Rice, beans, flour, spices, soups (things that tend to stock up) can be very useful in getting creative with meals.
2. Take a look at the foods you do have. Can you think of any meals you could throw together? Try adding beans to the last bit of lettuce, use the last of the vegetables with the rice and make a quick stir-fry. It may take a bit of thinking, but will be well worth it when you begin saving money and enjoying more meals.
3. Once you stretch your on hand foods- write down staples you may need to get. If you are out of milk, bread or produce go ahead and get those at the store. Don’t forget about those on hand items! Combine pantry items with fresh items to get more for your money.
4. Make a list. I cannot stress this enough. A grocery list is crucial. I can go way overboard when I don’t prepare properly. I easily lose track of ingredients. I tend to forget the items I need and buy the ones I don’t.
5. Freeze! The freezer is a single cooks friend. Can’t eat a whole loaf of bread in a week? Go ahead a freeze half! Dividing up a pound of ground beef is easily done. I’ll often use half for spaghetti and the other for tacos. This way, I am not cooking all the meat and letting it go to waste on one meal.
Here are some meal ideas that I often use to utilize my on hand items:
Can of black beans + onion and eggs = Mexican scramble!
Bread that’s a little stale + eggs + cheese = Breakfast casserole
Add leftover roasted broccoli to can of soup for extra vitamins
Add canned pumpkin to oatmeal with cinnamon= pumpkin pie oatmeal!
Delicious pumpkin pie oats with pecans, raisins and shredded unsweetened coconut
With a little pre-planning, cooking for one can be so much easier and much less wasteful. With the help of a few reliable ingredients you can continue to have delicious and cost effective meals throughout the week!