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  1. #1
    Senior Member rainoneventide's Avatar
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    Default Cooking at College

    Once school starts in late August, I've decided to cook most of my meals instead of using a meal plan. I think it's more affordable and definitely more healthy. I'm a vegetarian, so there's not really a whole lot of dining options if I don't cook, anyway. I can't live off salads and peanut butter sandwiches, I really can't.

    But will it really be more affordable? Can anyone give me tips on cookbooks I could buy for easy, healthy meals (or any recipes of your own)? Some grocery shopping tips? Any advice you have would be great.
    "So I say, live and let live. Thats my motto. Live and let live.
    Anyone who cant go along with that, take him outside and shoot the motherfucker."
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  2. #2
    Diabolical Kasper's Avatar
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    Have ingredients for quick, easy and tasty meals on hand so there's less likelihood on relying on peanut butter sandwiches or eating out.

    I always try to keep at least eggs, cheese and veggies in my fridge so I on nights that I don't feel like spending time cooking something I can make an omelette and still be healthy, pizzas on pita bread are another easy, quick and cheap meal.

    Get some herbs, spices and other cooking basics but don't get too many until you work out if your intentions to use them are based in reality.

    If you have the ability to work out a weekly food plan and stick to it work your shopping list off recipes that you plan on making that week, if that much planning is too much then have base ingredients that you need to get each shop.

    Don't bother spending much money on cookbooks, the internet has a gazzillion recipes (ie VegCooking or my fav Taste.com.au) go surfing and print out ones that appeal, chances are you won't make half of them so it's better than wasting money on a glossy cookbook that would include a number of meals that you're not even interested in.

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    Member Decon's Avatar
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    There is a cookbook I have called meatless meals for working people. In my opinion, it has okay meals. Also, there is a website you might be familiar with called the Vegetarian Resource group. The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) Hope that helps!

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    Senior Member sandwich's Avatar
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    What kind of cooking facilities do you have available? If you're in a dorm without a kitchenette it can be difficult, but it's amazing what a rice cooker can do.

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    Senior Member Alchemiss's Avatar
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    Recipezaar is a great resource. Recipezaar: The most complete collection of free recipes on the Internet, trusted by home chefs throughout the world. You can narrow searches by categories like "time to make" and "equipment required" and "vegetarian". I only make recipes that have good reviews and have had good success with that strategy thus far.

    Make soups with four or so servings and then use different add-ins like rice, pasta, or couscous etc. on different days so it seems like a different meal. Parboiled brown rice has all the nutrition of regular brown rice but only takes ten minutes to cook; tasty, too!

    Consider buying some of your veggies from the grocery salad bar. It's less costly than buying a bag of something you can't work your way through and have to throw away. Plus you get mighty sick of the same ingredient every day. Salad bar ingredients are by the pound so avoid water-filled items like cucumbers.

    Processed/packaged foods are generally less healthy and more expensive than fresh, whole foods. Shop around the perimeter of the grocery store (produce, dairy, bread) for most of your items and venture into the middle for staples like rice, beans, and pasta. Pasta is a great value for the money.

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    Senior Member Alchemiss's Avatar
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    I saw this link just now and remembered your thread (although I don't know if you've been back): Dorm Food Ideas - 101 Cookbooks

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    Senior Member chasingAJ's Avatar
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    When I lived in FL I took advantage of the numerous farmers markets. It was easy to get really inexpensive produce. Miss that now! Because of the climate, buying in season is realistic and cost effective. Storage is probably a problem in college so buy some of your own containers (square stackers) for staples and buy your rice/pasta/etc from the bulk bins to fill your containers. I would get a crock pot, they have the little ones for about $10 and you can cook beans (or peas or whatever) while you study with minimal work and heat output (ugh Florida heat!). I love my rice cooker and you can steam veggies in that. I also buy certain veggies frozen because they're less expensive that way (varies by area but a lb of frozen broccoli is cheaper than fresh here and frozen broccoli is fine for most things IMO). Never buy canned beans, they have corn syrup now (seriously, read the label for name brand black beans!) and you can just toss them into the crock pot. 1 bag of beans = many cans. If you do soy, consider buying powered TVP from the internet. It is flavored and can be tossed into whatever's in the crock pot. Be realistic and only buy enough produce for a few days, you might end up going out with friends or having peanut butter and the fresh stuff will go to waste. Waste is a budget killer. Consider the local salad bar (at our grocery store it's by the lb). It seems pricey but when you're only going to use a portion of the fruit/veggie for your recipe, it's more cost effective to buy the smaller portion at a higher price (sometimes). I will often do this with diced celery when I only need a few tbls for my recipe and it costs much less than buying a full bunch that will wilt before I eat it. Avoid processed foods as much as you can. They take out nutrition and add convenience to maximize profits (at the expense of your $ and health!).

    my fav recipes (full time student, mother and flake btw)
    I don't know how to cook by a recipe, I just throw things into the pot until it tastes good... sorry it's so inexact.
    white bean chili
    rinse and soak white beans (whichever bag I happen to grab)
    put them into the crock pot on high (you can turn it to low after it heats them all the way up if you want).
    toss in sauteed onion (doesn't have to be sauteed but tastes better that way)
    toss in bullion cubes (vegetarian are available)
    toss in a small can of green chilis
    add onion powder, garlic powder and cumin to taste (may need salt depending on your bullion)
    there is no exact science, just toy with it until you like it. I stir in pico de gallo if I have it on hand. Add cheese, sour cream (lacto ovo?) or whatever you like.
    pinto bean salad (yes really, my mother dreamed this up)
    cook pinto beans in the crock pot (we add browned ground beef but you can use TVP or just beans)
    put lettuce, onion, tomatoes and cheese into a bowl - top with lukewarm beans and sour cream, salsa etc. If the beans are too hot it ruins the lettuce. Sounds weird but it's good! My ex husband added crushed doritos to the mix and swore by it.
    Jarred pasta sauce is usually a pretty good deal (tomatoes are pricey) but read the bottle. There is also a new pasta that has extra protein and fiber but I don't remember if the sources are vegetarian.

    The biggest tip that I have is to take a multivitamin and don't think that you have to eat 60 different foods each week. It won't hurt you to make a pot of something and eat it until you're bored with it. It saves time and money. I would make a pot of veggie soup with garbanzo beans and eat it forever. I just put in different seasonings from time to time to change it up.

    I'm going to quit talking now (you're welcome).

  8. #8
    Supreme Allied Commander Take Five's Avatar
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    I went through all this too. I now thoroughly despise having to prepare meals. I ate a lot of pastas with chicken breasts and broccoli. Ground beef is a good item because of price and versatility
    Johari Nohari

    "If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared. "--Niccolo Machiavelli

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    (☞゚∀゚)☞ The Decline's Avatar
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    Affordable vegetarian cooking? Invest in a slow cooker (crock pot).

    Learn the joys of making bread (breadmakers are fun). Explore worldly cuisines- they all use fresh vegetables and cereals, which are the epitome of cheap when you make it yourself. For example, learn simple Indian Dal dishes (legumes thickly stewed with vegetables). Pair with rice. Simple and heavily nutritious.

    Also, vegweb.com
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    Senior Member Kyrielle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rainoneventide View Post
    But will it really be more affordable? Can anyone give me tips on cookbooks I could buy for easy, healthy meals (or any recipes of your own)? Some grocery shopping tips? Any advice you have would be great.
    For the most part, yes, but it depends on how much your meal plan costs.

    Here, for 1 quarter (2.5 months) it costs about $1,000 - $1,500 for a meal plan.

    So, that's $100 - $150 a week on food.

    When I had apartment-style housing with a proper kitchen, I spent $35-$60 per week with me eating as cheaply and as healthily as possible.

    So I saved my family (as they were paying for it in both instances) about $700 per quarter. Which is considerable.

    If I added in all the times I went out to eat, that might bring it down to $625 or so.

    Granted, I'm not vegetarian, but I preferred fresh food and meat is rather expensive (and because of that, I did not have much meat...instead I ate lots of pasta-based foods).

    Defintely get a crock pot. Rice and olive oil will be your best friends. Invest in some basic herbs and spices (salt, black pepper, seasoned salt, basil, oregano, garlic powder, cinnamon, sugar, olive oil).


    Here's a recipe that my boyfriend and I made up on the fly one day for some grilled veggies (these could probably be sauteed/stir fried just fine):

    Assortment of veggies, roughly chopped (meaning into bite-sized chunks, but you don't have to be perfect about it). We chose zuccini, onion, bell peppers, broccoli.
    Sesame seed oil
    Olive oil
    Soy sauce (? I dont' remember if we actually added this, but it would probably work just fine..remember that soy sauce is really salty)

    (sounds like an odd combo, doesn't it)

    Mix veggies with oils so they are evenly coated but not drowning in the stuff. A plastic bag works fine for this. Toss veggies into large pan. Cook to desired degree (we cooked ours on the grill in one of those vegetable pans until the edges of the zuccini were browned).
    "I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference."

    Robert Frost

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