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Cooking On A Budget

You're officially on your own and due to the lack of home cooked meals from mom & dad, you are now responsible to feed yourself. Even if you're already an experienced cook, you still have to make sure to manage a decent budget of groceries to last you at least two weeks. Follow these steps to avoid mastering different ways to make Ramon.

Step1: Stock your Kitchen

Before you do anything, it's important to supply your kitchen with the basics. Large appliances such as food processors and stand mixers don't have to come until later.

  • Stores Like Sears, and Walmart sell great cooking sets with different sized pots,pans,and,mixing bowls  that are inexpensive
  • Utensils other than your basic knife and fork are essential when cooking
    • Items such as
    • Knives
    • Spoons
    • Spatulas
    • Can opener (* Always have one that is non electric for emergency*)
    • Tongs
  • Storage & Prep
  • Seasoning
    • You should always have the following seasonings and cooking items on hand
      • Salt
      • Pepper
      • All Purpose Seasoning
      • Olive Oil
      • Garlic
      • Onions
      • Basil
      • Oregano
      • Pam or Butter
      • Baking Soda (Always keep a box close to the stove in case of fire as well as the fridge to keep food fresh)
      • *keep a sandwich bag to use for saving take out sauces such as soy sauce*
      • Make a top 5 list of misc items you like with your food such as ketchup and mayo to store for future meals. (Avoid perishable items you're not planning to use right away)

Step 2: Research Recipes

Cooking doesn't mean going overboard and creating fabulous meals like you're a contestant on Top Chef. Dishes you normally order from restaurants and small chains are easy to make at home. For me I found myself on the typical "College student diet" I was buying tons of processed foods such as bagged frozen meals, TV dinners and cans of chef boyarde. The fact that the price of these prepackaged foods were so low and my schedule was so busy, I didn't allow myself to make time to cook anything thinking it would cost me more money, plus it would waste too much time of my day preparing these meals. However, I eventually learned that $4.99 every day adds up fast!

I looked at the meals I was buying such as chicken stir fry, pasta primavera, Italian hoagies, and pizza where I came to find that I could make these meals under $20 with enough to last me a couple days. Once you've already stocked your home with the basics, educate yourself on what supermarkets sell the cheapest items. This is the best time to ask mom of where to find the best deals for your money. (Tip: farmers markets are a great place to go to when purchasing vegetables, bread, and meat. Not only is it healthier, but you'll get more for about the same you spend at your local supermarket.) Avoid speciality stores like Trader Joes and Whole foods for weekly grocery shopping. Although they sell great items that are vegan friendly, kosher, and organic they are also known for being a bit pricey. Also look into stores such as BJs and Sams Club to compare whether to buy wholesale or bulk. **Note** Remember to stick to a reasonable budget depending on your income.

Step 3: Prep and Preserve
Four things I have learned when grocery shopping. 1. Never shop hungry 2. Never freestyle your shopping, always stick to a list and 3. Avoid shopping on a Tuesday or Sunday 4. Shop early morning or late at night *Dating Tip! Single? More bachelors do their shopping after 8pm*. Don't go crazy with coupons but do take advantage of savings you can find in magazines as well as those plastic key tags cashiers ask customers to register for most are free and will get you better disconts on your purchases.

Once I come home, I immediately unpack my items and prep the first meal I am making for the first couple of days. Other meats I have purchased I freeze to avoid it going bad. Most easy meals take less than a half hour to cook its prepping that take up the most time. You can always prep your food ahead of time like chopping onions, and putting them in a container for when you're ready to use them. Once you've cooked your food always wait for it to cool down before storing them in the fridge or freezer. Date any items you freeze as a reminder. Always use freezer safe containers and bags. If you're fairly new on cooking, don't overwhelm yourself a lot of meals that sound like they may be complicated are actually easy to make. Just remember to ALWAYS stick to the recipe's instructions until you can experiment a little on your own.


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