Cooking for broke students
Tips for making food on the go
- Use appliances that work while you aren't paying attention.
- Tailor your menu to the appliances you have.
- Use the microwave to melt cheeses.
- Prepare and freeze meals on a day when you have a few hours to yourself.
Recipe's and specific methods are mentioned below!
There are really three obstacles to overcome when your cooking as a broke student; no money, no time, and no nutrition. The freshman 15 doesn't come from stress or freedom; it comes from poor management of these problems. Eating a meal a day off the dollar menu is not going to result in excellent figures and it ends up costing MORE than cooking on your own would.
Bigmac meals go on sale from time to time for five bucks each(in fact they are right now in my area). You can bake a loaf of bread for .75 cents, or buy one for about $2.50, and a case of frozen premade tenth pound beef patties costs about eight dollars at Walmart. A head of lettuce and an onion is about two bucks each, and a bag of frozen fries is six dollars. Using this recipe for mac sauce I was able to make ten Bigmac meals for about a dollar fifty each. Similar quality, similar flavor. The hardest part about cooking quickly and well is the same hardest part about doing anything else quickly and well; you have to take the time to learn how to do it. That's what I hope to teach you.
After years of working in different restaurant and cooking for myself and others I've learned a handful of tricks that can save you time and money. These things are all grouped below accordingly; enjoy.
Appliances that can save you time
1:The George Foreman Grill makes cooking beef and chicken a breeze, and you can get them for as cheap as 15 dollars from amazon! Most restaurants I have worked at have either had hydraulic clam shell grills or manual panini grills. The George can sit on your kitchen counter and perform both of these tasks for you. You plop whatever it is you want on it and walk away until its done. I have done beef, chicken, grilled cheese, hot sandwiches, and even bacon on mine. For fifteen dollars you lose the excuse of not having time.
2:A blender. Blenders blend things. Duh. When I started school I didn't buy fruit because it went bad, and frozen fruit you have to thaw out. When I got a blender(for fifteen dollars from amazon.com) I was able to buy frozen berries, and chunk them with some milk, yogurt, or water into my blender, then drink them at my leisure. Same deal with the George foreman, put the stuff in, press the button, and walk away. Your fruit is ready to pour into a cup and walk to class, and for a few cents instead of a few dollars. The trick to using a blender, if you never have, is to make sure things are in small parts and there’s enough liquid in the thing, it doesn’t take much playing to figure it out, more liquid and smaller chunks of fruit will give you better results.
3:A Fryer. This one scares some people. 35-100 bucks on a deep fat fryer, depending on the volume you go for. They are pretty easy to use, follow the directions and be careful. Grease lasts a REALLY long time when your only cooking for yourself. Most restaurants only filter the grease once a day, and lets face it; if the bacteria in the grease can survive 375 degrees, it deserves to kill us. The fryer is NOT necessary, but it will cook food like chicken and fries way faster than an oven will, and it will taste better.
4:A cheese grater! Ten bucks at target, get the manual one. Bricks of cheese last way longer and are cheaper than buying shredded cheese in packs. They also taste better since they are fresher.
5:Tupperware. Buy those plastic tubs, they are handy for freezing stuff your not gonna eat right away. Make big batches of food when you have time and divide it up into single serving containers then freeze the whole thing. Put whatever you wanna eat tomorrow in the fridge.
- Buy at the cheapest unit price you can find, work it out; buying in bulk isn't always the way anymore.
- Buy frozen fruits and veggies, most of the time they are cheaper than the fresh stuff.
How to save money
Remember in chemistry when you learned the factor label method? My dad was my chemistry teacher and I still can't do it. Work out the per unit price of whatever your getting. Per egg price for eggs, per ounce price on milk, cheese, etc. Buy whatever has the lowest unit price regardless of packaging. Precooked bacon comes out to dollars a pound and raw bacon is pennies a pound. Most things can be frozen if you have that fancy Tupperware mentioned above. Even bread and cheese. Buy the cheapest per unit price on the shelf, and over the course of a few months shop around. I have found in my town that I need to buy bread and cola at Dollar General, canned goods and bacon at Aldi's, and cereal and produce at Target or Sam's depending on exactly what I'm looking for.
Also, rice and potatoes go well with EVERYTHING and are super cheap.
- Seasoning is the spice of life! Don't ignore it because it's what makes restaurant food taste stellar.
- Don't be afraid of butter.
- Everything that you can cook on a stove you can cook in the microwave too.
- Experiment, you'll mess up sometimes but you'll get it down pat eventually.
How was Ramen substituted as noodles? Comment your feelings below)
How to get your food groups and make it all taste good
This one is super tricky. As a rule of thumb you need to make sure you get protein, starches, grain, and fruits and veggies. That means meat, potatoes or rice, bread, and a smoothie. You've got some wiggle room, way more than mom made us believe anyway. Just make sure your groups are covered over the day and your golden.
Check out some of these recipe's and tricks I still use today.
SEASONING! Any kind of seasoning you like, white cheddar popcorn seasoning, Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper, whatever. Know what you like, and use it. It adds spice to your life ;)
Macaroni and Cheese: Everybody loves Mac n' Cheese! Making it from scratch is easy, definitely recommend it for a first time chef. 1 brick of sharp cheddar, two bricks of medium cheddar, and one pound of noodles. Grate the cheese before hand. Boil the noodles until they are slightly underdone to your taste(scoop them out with a spoon, rinse them with cold water, and eat one to find out), then dump them in a baking pan. Dump the grated cheese and maybe some milk if you're feeling frisky into the same pot you just boiled the noodles in and preheat your oven to 350. Stir constantly.....seriously, don't stop. Burned cheese sucks. Once you get the cheese melted dump it on the noodles and stir. Put it in the oven until you smell it cooking(ten minutes) then take it out, stir it again, and put whatever crunchy topping you want(or not) on it. I use Parmesan cheese, gives it a kick. Leave it in there for fifteen or twenty minutes, until the cheese at the edges of the pan starts to brown ,then take it out. If you cooked the batch for just yourself then let it cool and divide it into your single serve dishes and freeze it, if you didn't, chow down!
Homemade instant mac. This recipe is cheaper than any other instant noodles I have found on the market and I like it better. Cook ramen in a pan, drain off the water, grate some cheese into it, and stir it till the cheese melts. Add the powdery Parmesan cheese. Whole process takes maybe two minutes.
Instant cheese bread. Take some white bread and toast it, slice some cheese and then put it in the microwave. Maybe add some Parmesan or garlic salt. Takes practically no time at all.
Loaded mashed potatoes. Freeze the potatoes you don't use, they keep pretty much forever that way. Cut them up into quarters( save time, don't skin them) and boil them until they all float, then boil them some more. If you stab them with a fork and the fork goes through pretty easily your probably done. Drain the water and dump the potatoes in a bowl along with a pretty large amount of butter. I usually do six potatoes and two sticks of butter. Mash them with a fork, or your fists if your angry. The butter will melt in, once the potatoes are well mashed, you want a smooth consistency. Add milk or more butter SLOWLY and keep stirring until the mix reaches a consistency your comfortable with. Then add whatever seasonings you like(I find sea salt and white cheddar popcorn seasoning go well together, sometimes I do garlic instead of the white cheddar popcorn seasoning. The secret to seasonings is to use one strong flavor at a time.)
Fruit smoothie. You can buy frozen berries at Target, took me awhile to find a place that sold them. You can fill up your blender with whatever frozen berries you like, then fill it up with water and hit the go button. TADA!
Noodles and rice are another big trick. If you have beef, or any other red meat, cook it and put it on a bed of noodles or rice and add red sauce. If you have chicken or other white meat do the same thing but with white sauce. HUZZAH! You can even do this with ramen instead of real pasta.