This semester is my first time having my very own kitchen and needing to make my own meals. I was super excited, as I was really over my dining hall. When I got to school, however, and made my first trip to the grocery store, I panicked. It seemed super overwhelming and expensive and simply, scary. On my fifth week of school, however, I feel I can confidently say I have made a lot of progress and have been cheffing up cheap and yummy meals. The key, my friends, is planning. I have been grocery shopping on Sunday, cooking on Monday for dinners Monday-Thursday. Here are five of the meals I have cheffed up.
BBQ chicken actually could not be any easier. I bought two chicken breasts (Organic from Trader Joes is only $6!) and cut them in half, so I would have four dinners. You don’t even need to marinate or anything. I literally dumped BBQ sauce on chicken, salt and peppered, and wha-la! Throughout the week put it on salad or had with roasted veggies (which you could also put into salad with it–delish). Between buying veggies, chicken, rice, and of course the sauce I ended up spending around $20, which amounts to $5 per night!
I have been trying to eat less meat (better for the planet and a little better for your wallet) but don’t want to eat a ton of pasta. Fajita bowls are a great way to cut out meat but still have a fresh and filling meal. I made a box of Mexican style rice and a can of beans rather than buying meat (SO cheap). I sauteed bell peppers and onions in just olive oil, chili powder and salt/pepper. I threw some salsa and guac (or just an avocado) on top and dinner was served. SO simple, and cost effective–a can of beans and a box of rice costs maybe $3 total.
Super similar to Fajita Bowls, I made tacos with almost all the same ingredients but rather than rice/beans I bought turkey meat. To cook the meat I just used olive oil, chili powder, salt/pepper, and garlic. I added the garlic last which was a little tricky because I didn’t want to burn it but I didn’t cook it long enough–you live and you learn. You could add cheese and sour cream to jazz it up but to keep it a little more healthy I didn’t. I also didn’t have them as tacos I had them as a bowl but a tortilla really would’ve jazzed it up, I must say. You could also switch up what you put in them/how you eat them throughout the week so it doesn’t feel boring!
This was one of my favorite meals I have made. I made my paddies simply by using turkey meat, diced onions, salt, pepper and a little bit of olive oil and baking them. A pound of turkey meat made seven (small) paddies so I froze three for weekend nights down the road. I got really delicious buns that had a bunch of seeds and grain to jazz it up. I made sriracha mayo (just mayo, with sriracha), caramelized onions, sliced up half an avocado and tomatoes, and put cheddar cheese on my paddies and threw some lettuce on top. I ate it as an open faced sandwich after night one because it was so messy I felt like I wasn’t getting all of the components, and also the bun was kind of bulky so I felt like I only needed half of it because it was overpowering the whole thing. I literally LOVED this sandwich and it was easy!
Chicken and Broccoli Greek Salads
I made these salads to mimic my favorite salad from a place in my hometown. I marinated my two chicken breasts in Greek dressing overnight and baked them the next day. Then I roasted broccoli in just olive oil, salt and pepper. Then I just used greens, tomatoes, cukes, feta, and some left over rice pilaf I had laying around. These salads were super easy to throw together once I had all of the veggies cut up to use throughout the week. Light and super filling!! Just as good as the one from home if I do say so myself.
As I write these meals down I do feel like it sounds like a lot of ingredients, and therefore a lot of spending. However, it is surprising how reasonable it is to make these meals. When comparing it to buying a frozen dinner, which would last one night, it boils out to being the same cost if not less. I have really enjoyed cooking for myself so far. These meals are nothing fancy or unique, but they are classic go-tos–if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! No need to get too fancy with the spices, olive oil salt and pepp on everything and you are absolutely golden.