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Frazzled grad student seeks fast, easy, cheap recipes

savethedalekssavethedaleks Member Posts: 5 Member Member Posts: 5 Member
in Recipes
The title says it all. I'm in grad school, I work, I volunteer, and I sometimes sleep. I make barely enough to cover my rent and I'm trying not to live off of Ramen noodles. Does anyone have any tips or ideas for cheap, healthy, quick things I can eat for dinner and pack for work lunches? Not opposed to batch cooking. I have a crock pot, as well, that I would love to use more. Thank you!
edited November 2016


  • cqbkajucqbkaju Member Posts: 1,010 Member Member Posts: 1,010 Member
    Get a fuzzy-logic / micom rice cooker, rinse some rice, throw it inside with some vegetables, a can of chili beans, meats, whatever and set the timer.
    It will be done cooking when you get home or up in the morning and stay warm all day.
    Do not forget to rinse the rice properly (2 or 3 times) until the water is clear, per the instructions.
    Also do not throw the included measuring cup away, it is not the same size as the ones you have...

    One "included cup" of dry rice basically doubles into about 2 cups of cooked rice, so it is economical.
    You can easily find white rice for about 50 cents to a dollar per pound, depending on style and quality.

    Don't waste your time with brown rice; nutritional value is only marginally higher but it is slower to cook and usually higher in arsenic.

    Get good Japanese short grain (aka "sticky") rice, some decent medium grain or Basmati / Jasmine if you want long grain.
    Stay away from stuff grown in Texas, arsenic is higher there. California is usually OK.

    Long-Grain: Basmati and Jasmine (rice pilaf, good with fish, simple addition for quick in-cooker meals)
    Jasmine is marginally sticker, Basmati is marginally healthier.
    Again, do not waste money on generic "long-grain rice" -- high arsenic levels

    Medium-Grain: Arborio, Valencia & Bomba (for risotto or paella)
    Kokuho Rose & Nishiki are actually "Japanese-hybrids-grown-in-California" Medium-Grain also, so they will work for sushi in a pinch
    Sona Masuri / Sona masoori is an Indian medium-grain that is popular
    -- look for "First Crop" or "New Variety" on Japanese style rice, make sure it is less than a year old if you can

    Short-Grain: Tamaki Gold, Tamanishiki Super Premium & Koshihikari
    Real Japonica, "Japanese sushi rice"
    -- look for "First Crop" or "New Variety", make sure it is less than a year old

    You can make quinoa, oatmeal, soups, stews, chilis, steam fish, meats & vegetables, even bake cakes in a decent rice cooker.
    There are recipes and examples on Youtube if you don't know where to start.

    I have the Zojirushi NS-TSC10 that I got on sale, so added a 4-year warranty and I don't think I could be happier.
    The key is to make sure the rice cooker has "Micom" (micro-computer) or "Fuzzy logic".
    Same thing.

    Arsenic Levels:
    edited November 2016
  • canadianlbscanadianlbs Member Posts: 5,202 Member Member Posts: 5,202 Member
    I have a crock pot, as well, that I would love to use more. Thank you!

    soups. all about soups - and the great thing about freezing batches is, you can usually transport them without having to deal with the leakage factor.

    imo, almost every soup in the world starts with onion, celery, garlic, carrots, and some kind of liquid. the rest is just detail and improvisation.

  • HeidiCooksSupperHeidiCooksSupper Member, Premium Posts: 3,625 Member Member, Premium Posts: 3,625 Member
    For the "some kind of liquid" in the soup, save all chicken bones & skin (even stuff you've chewed on), parsley stems, limp celery, carrot peelings and the like in the freezer. When you have a bunch of stuff, throw it in a big pot covered with water. Throw in a mess of bay leaves (cheapest to buy by the ounce online), peppercorns, and any other flavoring you'd like the stock to have. Simmer a few hours until it tastes more of chicken than of tap water. The longer you cook it, the stronger tasting it will be. Freeze in smallish containers & use in soups, etc. You can do the same thing with beef bones or ham bones. Ham bone stock is handy for making a quick small-batch bean soup with canned beans.
  • subakwasubakwa Member Posts: 347 Member Member Posts: 347 Member
    Have a look here. This is a site by a British writer about eating well on social benefits so all the food is designed to be cheap and also practical to do with little equipment. It is pretty good stuff.
  • HeidiCooksSupperHeidiCooksSupper Member, Premium Posts: 3,625 Member Member, Premium Posts: 3,625 Member
    A "magic search word" for finding cheap recipes is frugal. Search frugal recipes & lots of sites and recipes pop up.
  • NaturalNancyNaturalNancy Member Posts: 1,099 Member Member Posts: 1,099 Member
    Buy a bag of potatoes.
    They're good boiled, baked or cut like wedges n fried.
    Put chicken, veggies n pasta w water and spices in the crockpot and let it cook overnight.
    Pasta is good too, you could eat it w tomatoe sauce for dinner and eat it cold w Italian dressing for lunch.
  • PennWalkerPennWalker Member Posts: 559 Member Member Posts: 559 Member
    I returned to college, don't like to cook, and am strapped for time. I'm looking for nutrition and don't need a lot of variety. Here are my two staples:

    Breakfast -- plain instant oatmeal with a sliced apple. It's fast, cheap, and nutritious.

    Other meals:
    I eat a lot of lentils. They cost about $1.00 a bag here in the USA (I don't know where you live).
    One cup = 18 G protein (the protein of 3 eggs)

    I cook lentil/vegetable stew in batches.
    To make, boil a bag of lentils in a large soup pot. Lower the heat and simmer until soft, then cover and let sit for a an hour or so (we lack an enzyme to digest the shell, so cook until very soft).
    I add whatever vegetables I have in the fridge: sliced squash, tomatoes, onions, carrots, etc. I simmer these in vegetable broth, water, or stir fry in olive oil.
    Drain the lentils, add the vegetables and some spice. I like McCormick's garlic pepper or Mexican spice.
    Sometimes I add steamed kale or collard greens.

    This makes enough for quite a few meals. I freeze some and leave enough for several meals in the fridge.

  • AnarchistKitchenAnarchistKitchen Member Posts: 139 Member Member Posts: 139 Member
    George Foreman Grill changed my life. I bought one at a thrift store for under $10. It cooked everything so fast that I feel less inclined to just live on junk food. Junk food is convenient but George Foreman grill is also convenient. Plus if you use foil then there's no clean up! I'm obsessed.

    These recipes could be made on any grill or even a skillet.

    Indian Cauliflower "Rice"

    Easy Veggie Lo Mein

    This Italian veggie dish could be made with pasta. This is a total comfort food dish for me.

  • northviewvintagenorthviewvintage Member Posts: 335 Member Member Posts: 335 Member
  • BarbaraHelen2013BarbaraHelen2013 Member Posts: 1,161 Member Member Posts: 1,161 Member
    subakwa wrote: »
    Have a look here. This is a site by a British writer about eating well on social benefits so all the food is designed to be cheap and also practical to do with little equipment. It is pretty good stuff.

    A second recommendation for the amazing Jack Monroe whose site this is. I’ve made many of her recipes, not due to budget restraints but because she’s so ingenious and I’m fascinated by her approach. She is an absolute goldmine of ideas to stretch meals and eliminate waste. From memory, she’s not a meat eater, which may or may not suit you.

  • acpgeeacpgee Member Posts: 5,158 Member Member Posts: 5,158 Member
    I would occasionally buy a rotisserie chicken (assuming you eat meat) at the supermarket and deal with the leftovers as such:

    Day1. Roast chicken, jacket potatoes cooked in the microwave, simple microwaved veg or an easy salad such as tomato or cucumber with a commercial dressing. To microwave potatoes, prick them first with a fork so steam can escape so they don't explode. On high 5-10 minutes depending on size of potato and strength of microwave. Try 5 first and give them a squeeze. Firm veg such as beans and broccoli can be microwaved 2-3 minuts in the bags or trays they are sold in. If trays covered with cling film, prick some holes with a fork. If bags, cut off a corner. Rinse off the veg after cooking in the microwave. Again, give a squeeze or prick to decide if they are done to your liking. Eat wings, drumsticks, backbone on day one because thighs and breasts are easier to deal with as leftovers.

    Day2. Lunchtime coronation chicken. Mix chopped chicken with a combination of yoghurt and mayo (mayo only is classic but calorific), some mango chutney, a few chopped raisins and some curry powder. Season to taste. Use as a sandwich spread. Some sliced cucumber or firm lettuce in the sandwich will lend crunch.

    Day3. Chicken caesar. Some romaine or other firm lettuce (baby gem is good for a household of one), store bought croutons, store bought caesar dressing, a few shavings of parmesan, chopped up leftover chicken.

    Day3. Lunchtime vaguely mexican chicken salad wraps. Chopped chicken, a chopped avocado, a jar of commercial salsa, a large handful of chopped fresh coriander. Have it in a wrap or soft taco shells.

    Day4. Avgolemono soup. A handful of rice, some chopped chicken, a juice of a lemon in a pot of water with a chicken or vegetable stock cube. Boil 20 minutes until rice is tender. Should be texture of very thin oatmeal, so add extra water if needed. Beat an egg in a small bowl, ladle in some hot soup, beat again. Turn the soup down to very low and whisk in the egg mixture until soup thickens slightly. If you goof and curdle the egg it will still be tasty if not pretty. Have that with a greek salad. That is tomato, cucumber, onion, feta, olives and a commercial italian dressing.

    DayInfinity. Remember to save all the bones of your chicken carcas, dumping them in plastic bag in the freezer with any accumulated clean vegetable scraps and peelings. On a day you will be in the house for a few hours simmer the contents of your bone bag with a halved onion, skin and all, for several hours. Strain and boil furiously to reduce. Keep in the freezer. An easy thing to do with chicken stock is hack's Soupe au Pistou. Boil some chicken stock with two handfuls mixed frozen vegetables. You can add a chopped tomato for freshness and/or a tin of white beans to make it filling enough to be a complete meal. After ladling vegetable soup into serving bowls, stir in a tablespoon or two of commercial pesto into each bowl. If you still have leftover chicken in the freezer you can add that too.

    If you don't want to spend money on commercial salad dressings, 3 parts olive oil and 1 part vinegar seasoned with salt and pepper is essentially Italian dressing. Make a jar to keep in the fridge to last a few weeks. Caesar dressing is made by mashing up a few chopped anchovies into the Italian dressing and stirring in a separated egg yolk or some commercial mayo. A college girlfriend use to hack the anchovies by stirring in a few drops of SE Asian fish sauce instead, which is made with anchovies and keeps indefinitely.

    This cycle was designed not to need a lot of perishable ingredients. You would need to stock perishable baby gem lettuce, tomato, cucumber. Less perishable are olives, anchovies, onion, potato, croutons, parmesan. The avocado and coriander would be bought specially for the vaguely mexican salad and used up in entirety. Non perishables are curry powder, raisins, mango chutney, fish sauce, frozen mixed veg, tinned beans and commercial pesto if remaining contents of the open jar are frozen in individual portions. Freeze the pesto in ice cube trays, then transfer to a ziplock bag.
  • breefosheebreefoshee Member Posts: 297 Member Member Posts: 297 Member
    lporter229 wrote: »
    Buy a big package of chicken breast and or thighs when it is on sale. Cook it in the crock pot with a jar of salsa per 2 lbs of chicken. Portion into 4-6 oz servings and freeze. Makes great tacos or burrito bowls with beans and rice.

    Here a a number of budget friendly slow cooker recipes. In fact, check out her whole website. Lots of great recipes, although some may not fit into the quick and easy category, but it's worth a look.

    Came in here to post this exact recipe and this exact website! I do this chicken all the time and put it on everything. Also, Budget Bytes has awesome cheap recipes.

    I would also say look at your local grocery stores and see what the sales are, then build recipes out of those items by typing them into the search bar.
    edited July 29
  • vamanvaman Member Posts: 210 Member Member Posts: 210 Member

    Outstanding write-up!

  • acpgeeacpgee Member Posts: 5,158 Member Member Posts: 5,158 Member
    I agree with batch cooking in the crock pot. Any braised meat or lentil dish freezes well so make the biggest batch your pot will hold and freeze individual portions. The incremental work of making 6 portions instead of one is non linear. My go-to freezable braised dishes are as follows. Most contain plenty of veg so would be a complete meal warmed up with a starch for absorbing the braising liquid. Otherwise add a simple salad. Please google for recipes:

    Dutch split pea soup (authentic recipes should contain celery, celeriac, carrots)
    Dak dori tang (contains carrot and potato)
    Coq au vin (mushrooms and onions)
    Cassoulet (use the Serious Eats recipe which replaces expensive duck confit with inexpensive chicken thighs)
    Estouffade (olives and onions--will probably need a salad)
    Boeuf bourgignon (mushrooms and onions)
    Irish Stew (carrots, onions, potatoes)
    Bolognese sauce for pasta (Marcella Hazan's recipe contains plenty of veg)
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