Gettin' Gourmet on a Budget
By Cheyenne Buckingham
Editor's Note: We asked our 21-year-old intern to share the kind of food she makes when she's at school—and we were blown away. So, if you thought you knew how college kids ate, think again. And you better take notes.
It's true, I am not your average college kid. My diet is quite pristine—every meal has to include some kind of plant in it. As a pescatarian (a vegetarian who eats fish), marathon-runner, and nutrition addict to boot, I make sure that the meaIs I prepare are plentiful in leafy greens and accompanied by other colorful fruits and veggies. (And now you know how I wound up interning all summer at Eat This, Not That!)
Additionally, I have a knack for constructing semi-gourmet looking dishes for myself and others. But there's a catch; I don't have any training, nor do I have a sustainable income during the school year. How do I do it? Easy. I get creative with $50 a week.
Here's a snapshot of a breakfast, lunch, and a dinner I've pieced together this past year. If I—the college kid with a limited kitchen and limited cash flow—managed to do this, then so can you. (And no, they aren't just random Instagram Foods You Should Actually Avoid, either.) Cheers!
Healthy breakfast ideas are probably my favorite things to visualize in my head when I am at the store and farmers' market on the weekends. During the week, I am a connoisseur of the classic trio of oatmeal, nut butter, and banana—but on the weekends, I like to spice things up a notch. Literally.
What your eyes are looking at is a creation due to pure craving and an unwavering commitment to peanut butter. I seriously have a problem with that darn creamy goodness. If you don't believe me, check out 17 Signs You Are Obsessed with Peanut Butter; everything is written from a personal account. Anyway, back to the dish. I call it French toast... original, no?
I don't buy bread often, but when I do, it's either one of two options: Ezekiel 4:9 Low Sodium Sprouted Grain bread or Athens, Ohio's Own Crumbs Bakery Cinnamon Currant bread (I love supporting the local businesses). Both options cost roughly $4.99 for about 12 slices at Kroger and net you between 10 and 11 wholesome ingredients, respectively. Organic peanut butter can be pricey, so it really depends on the brand and where you're purchasing it from. Sometimes, I splurge for the local brand that costs $6.99, but if I need the extra bucks for other goods, I'll resort to Earth Balance's peanut butter for $3.99. A 20-ounce pack of Sun-Maid raisins is $4.99, a dozen cage-free Amish eggs are $2.99, asparagus is $1.99/lb, and finally, a single banana costs a whopping $0.19. You're probably thinking, Why asparagus? Quite truthfully, I really wanted to add some greens to my breakfast and this sounded the most palatable with a sweet and nutty French toast. Don't knock it until you try it!
Now, let's see how much of each item you need for the recipe and its cost. Don't forget that whatever you don't use for this weekend breakfast is easily used in other meals throughout the week!
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
• 2 slices of bread = $0.83
•2 eggs = $0.50
•¼ lb of asparagus = $0.50
•1 banana = $0.19
•2 tbsp peanut butter = $0.25
•¼ cup of raisins = $0.30
•1 tbsp olive oil
•1 tbsp organic maple syrup or honey
•spices (I used black pepper, cinnamon, rosemary, and garlic)
Note: I did not list prices for the accessory italicized items, seeing as they are likely to be stored in your cabinet already.
HOW TO MAKE IT
First, toss three or four asparagus sticks into a saucepan with ¼ tbsp of olive oil and lightly coat them in spices. Sautée for about 5-10 minutes on medium-high.
While the asparagus is heating up, crack open one of the eggs and stir it in a bowl. Next, dunk both pieces of bread in the mixture, thoroughly soaking each side. Pop them on a greased (separate) skillet that's been warmed at a medium-high heat. Remove when the egg white on the bread becomes a golden brown.
While that's cooking, crack the other egg into about ¼ tablespoon of olive oil on another warmed skillet (wipe out and use the asparagus skillet if Step 1 is all done!) and cook your egg on medium high. Flip when ready (how runny you like your eggs is up to you!) and sprinkle on the spices.
Once the French toast has developed a crisp, golden brown color, remove it from the pan and top with peanut butter, slices of banana, raisins, maple syrup, and finish with a dash of cinnamon. Place the asparagus near the toast, along with the egg. Dig in—and get excited that you're starting your day with the perfect combination of protein, healthy fats, and fiber!
Since you already had two eggs today, you probably don't want to have another—so feel free to substitute the egg in this dish for ½ cup of quinoa or a ½ cup of black beans. Bonus: Both of these alternatives are among the 30 Foods That Melt Love Handles!
About the rest of your lunch: A 5-ounce container of Earthbound Organic spinach costs $2.99, a bundle of carrots costs roughly $1.99, a bundle of organic beets costs $2.99 (3-4 bulbs), a bundle of fresh parsley costs $0.99, and a 16-ounce jar of Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil only costs you $4.99. Side note: Don't be afraid of the saturated fat content in the coconut oil; the healthy fats in it outweigh the bad!
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
•½ the bundle of carrots = $1
•1 tbsp coconut oil = $0.17
•½ the container of spinach = $1.50
•3 beetroots = $2.99
•sprinkle of parsley = $0.10
•1 cage-free egg = $0.25
•½ tablespoon organic honey
HOW TO MAKE IT
First, cut the roots off of the beet, but save the greens because you will need them for dinner. Scrub the beets and peel off the skin (if it's not already) and then quarter each bulb. Place the beets in a boiling pot of water on the stove and boil for 30-45 minutes or until your fork can puncture the beet with minimal force.
While the beets are cooking, slice the carrots down the middle so that you get two long strips. Then cut those long strips in half. After washing thoroughly, place in a saucepan on medium high with coconut oil and cook for 10-15 minutes, flipping occasionally. In the last two minutes of cooking, add in the honey.
After the carrots have finished cooking, remove them from the pan and onto a serving plate. Next, crack open the egg on the same pan and use the residue of coconut oil as your base. Flip when ready and add spices of your choice after the first flip. Finally, add the parsley to the carrots and add the bed of pre-washed spinach to the plate to serve as a bed for your egg (or protein alternatives).
Last, but not least, your evening meal is stacked with a savory twist! Not only is everything on this plate a high fiber food that keeps you fuller for longer (the perfect way to stay to fend off those midnight munchies), this dish also has a special anti-inflammatory effect. The sautéed cauliflower gets its yellow tint from a generous serving of curry and a dash of turmeric. Curry actually comprises turmeric already, but I like to add just a bit extra to make sure I reap all of its plaque-clearing benefits.
Also, do you recognize those greens? Those are the leaves that recently topped your beets! For other ways to use those nutritious beet greens, check out 13 Ways to Cook with Beet Greens and Beet Root.
For your dinner, this is what you'll need to buy to whip up this epic dish: Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk ($2.99), one pint of blueberries from the farmers' market ($4), a 5-pound bag of baby red skin potatoes ($3.99), and one head of organic cauliflower ($4.99). Hint: You will not be using all of the cauliflower or potatoes, so you will have some leftover for other meals during the week!
Eat This! Tip
If you mix turmeric with black pepper, the anti-inflammation effects are even more potent! The duo is known to prevent Alzheimer's disease.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
•¼ cup blueberries: $1
•1 banana: $0.19
•1/2 cup almond milk: $0.19
•1 lb. red skin potatoes: $0.80
•½ head of cauliflower: $2.50
•sprinkle of parsley: $0.10
•beet greens: $0 (you already paid for this)
•spices (I used black pepper, cinnamon, curry, and turmeric)
•drizzle of honey
•1 ½ tbsp olive oil
HOW TO MAKE IT
Scrub potatoes and quarter each so there are four pieces for every potato. Keep the skin on and toss 'em into a boiling pot of water for 20-25 minutes or until you can puncture with a fork effortlessly.
While they're cooking, wash the cauliflower well and then chop. Put half of the chopped cauliflower into a large saucepan with almond milk and add the curry, turmeric, and black pepper. Cook on medium-high for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower has soaked up most of the milk. Stir and then simmer for 5 minutes.
In a separate pan, sautée the beet greens for 5-7 minutes on medium-high with ½ tablespoon of olive oil.
Once the potatoes are done, drain them and then coat (while still warm) with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with parsley and garlic powder. Plate it all—the potatoes, cauliflower, and beet greens—and then add a side of sliced banana and blueberries with a drizzle of honey and dash of cinnamon. It's like a built-in dessert so that you aren't tempted to break out the Ben & Jerry's after such a healthy day of cooking and eating!
And there you have it—you've just made a day's worth of delicious, nutritious meals for $13.35. That sticker price won't even cover one meal at most casual sit-down restaurants!
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