The following list of groceries are foods that are widely available and easy to use with little or no preparation before cooking. They are also some of the more nutritious and inexpensive foods you can buy. You and your brain need to stay fueled and sharp to make the most of your day. So, we focused on delicious and healthy foods that also make the most of your grocery dollar.
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Fresh vegetables: baby carrots, whole mushrooms, cherry tomatoes.
Pre-cut fresh vegetables (from the produce section or salad bar): sliced mushrooms, cucumber slices, celery sticks, washed and bagged greens (salad mixes, kale, spinach. etc.), sliced bell peppers (green, red, yellow). Pre-cut vegetables help make quick meals and snacks. But if you have good knife skills, buy whole vegetables to cut up yourself and you’ll get more veggies for your dollar. However, I find when buying from the salad bar, I can buy just a little of each of my favorite vegetables and get a lot of variety, so this convenience is worth the extra cost.
Fresh fruits: grapes (summer-fall), apples (fall), oranges (winter), bananas (year-round).
Frozen vegetables: frozen broccoli, frozen peas, frozen green beans, frozen cut squash, and frozen stir fry mix or any other frozen blend vegetable blend.
Frozen fruits: frozen blueberries or mixed berries.
Canned vegetables: diced tomatoes, canned corn, canned pumpkin.
Canned fruits: canned pineapple in juice.
Dried fruits: dried mango, dried figs, dried plums (aka prunes), raisins (dried grapes).
Vegetarian Proteins: yogurt, cheeses (chunks, slices, grated, or little wedges like Laughing Cow), eggs (raw for frying or hard-cooked).
Vegan proteins: canned beans (pinto, black, white, kidney, garbanzo, etc.), hummus (chickpea spread), tofu, tempeh, nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, etc.).
Meat proteins: deli turkey or ham, ground meat or sausage (beef, pork, turkey), boneless chicken pieces (frozen or fresh), frozen fish filets, frozen shelled & deveined shrimp, canned tuna or salmon.
Grains & breads: rice (raw for a rice cooker or ready-to-microwave), cooked polenta in a tube, pita flatbread, flour tortillas. Breakfast grains: quick-cooking oats, dry cereal.
Snack foods: mixed nuts or trail mix, peanut butter, energy bars, single-serve soups, jerky (beef, turkey, salmon), baked potato chips, kale chips, whole grain tortilla chips, salsa, bean dips (black bean, hummus), popcorn, pumpkin seeds, cottage cheese, cheese sticks.
Miscellaneous groceries and seasonings: pasta sauce, tea bags (black, green, herbal), instant coffee, cow’s milk, almond or rice milk, olive or canola oil, jam or honey, salt, pepper, seasoning blends (Italian blend, chili powder, curry powder), Dijon or coarse mustard, sriacha sauce, soy sauce.
Basic recipes for college student
The following recipes are a few ideas that use the above ingredients, mostly in one-pot meals that are easy to prepare, using a skillet or saucepan over a hot plate and a rice cooker.
Basic Chinese-style fried rice (makes 1 serving). Sauté 1-2 cups vegetables,(with some chopped ginger and garlic) in 1 tablespoon hot oil for 8-10 minutes, or until tender. If desired, make a well in the center of the vegetables and add 1 beaten egg; stir mixture until egg is partially cooked.) Add 1 cup cooked rice and toss with vegetable mixture for 1 to 2 minutes, or until well-combined. Sprinkle with sriacha or soy sauce. Stir again until well-combined and serve.
Meat sauce: Stir fry one pound ground meat (beef, turkey) until no longer pink. Add 1 jar pizza sauce and heat until bubbling. (For a vegetarian version, simmer beans or diced tofu in sauce until bubbling.) Serve over rice or polenta.
Pita pizza: Spread pita bread sparingly with pizza sauce. Top generously with grated mozzarella cheese. Add sliced vegetables (mushrooms, peppers, spinach, tomatoes) and cooked meats of your choice (sausage, ham or pepperoni, chicken, salmon). Microwave on medium (or bake in a covered skillet on low heat) until cheese is melted. Slice like a pizza, or roll up and eat like a wrap.
Quesadilla: Spread tortilla generously with grated cheese and top with one layer of vegetables (corn, tomato, beans, spinach) and/or cooked meats of your choice (sausage, chicken, shrimp). Microwave on medium (or bake in a covered skillet on low heat) until cheese is melted. Fold in half and heat again to brown lightly on each side. Serve with salsa.
Italian chop salad (makes 1 serving): Toss together 1/2 to 1 cup mixed salad greens and 1/2 to 1 cup sliced or diced vegetables (for example, cucumber, tomato, green beans, carrots, bell peppers, peas, corn kernels), 1/2 cup cooked rice and 1/4 cup canned (drained) beans such as garbanzo or kidney. If desired, add 1/2 cup cooked meat or seafood (such as deli meat, sausage, or salmon), and 1/4 cup cheese (e.g. grated mozzarella or crumbled feta). Toss ingredients together in a large bowl until combined. Drizzle salad with 2-4 tablespoons olive oil and a splash of vinegar or the salad dressing of your choice, and toss again until ingredients are evenly coated. Other optional ingredients include sliced olives, marinated artichoke hearts, and sliced pepperoncini.
Three Quick salad dressings recipes (makes enough for 1 salad). Vinaigrette: whisk together three large spoons oil with one large spoon red or cider vinegar, and a teaspoon of Dijon or coarse mustard; season to taste with salt and pepper. Ranch: Mix 1/4 cup yogurt with 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, and salt and black pepper to taste. Thousand Island: Mix 1/4 cup yogurt with 1 tablespoons salsa, or to taste.
Simple Pumpkin soup (makes 1 large serving). Sauté 1/2 cup finely chopped onion in 1 tablespoon oil for 3-5 minutes or until onion begins to soften. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon curry powder. Add 1 can of mashed pumpkin and 1 can of water; stir to combine. Bring soup to a simmer, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Taste and add additional salt or curry, and a little honey or sugar, if desired. Serve with a spoonful of yogurt and garnish with pumpkin seeds.
Italian Bean & Vegetable soup (makes 1 large serving): Sauté your choice of 1-2 cups chopped vegetables (carrots, celery, onion, green beans, drained diced tomato, corn), in 2 tablespoon oil for 3-5 minutes. Add 1 can of beans (with liquid), 1 teaspoon Italian season, 1 teaspoon salt, and enough water to barely cover ingredients. Bring soup to a simmer, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Taste and add additional salt as needed. If desired, add pepper, and a splash of vinegar to perk up the flavor. If desired, serve over polenta.
Quick Beef & Bean Chili (makes 3-4 hearty servings). Sauté 1 cup chopped onion and 1 pound ground meat in 2 tablespoons oil for 5-8 minutes or until meat begins to brown. (For vegetarian version, omit meat and add an additional can of beans.) Add 2 cans of beans with liquid (black, pinto), 1 can diced tomatoes with liquid, 1 can corn with liquid, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, partially cover and cook 20-30 minutes. Taste and add additional salt, if needed. If desired, serve with rice and garnish chili with grated cheese.
Canned Chicken Chili (makes 4-6 hearty servings). Super easy to make from canned foods. Stir together in a saucepan or crock pot 1 large can (12 oz) chicken, 1 can (14-15 oz) pinto or black beans with liquid, 1 can (14-15 oz) diced tomatoes with liquid, 1 can corn with liquid, 1 packet chili or taco seasoning or 1-2 tablespoons chili powder, and 1 teaspoon salt or to taste. I also like to add a small can of diced mild or hot green chilies.
But wait, there’s more!
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- Find free and cheap things to do every day on the Greater Seattle on the Cheap calendar.
- Visit the Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page and choose from a menu of free and cheap activities in the Puget Sound region.
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