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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

I grew up in D.C. and am currently completing an undergraduate degree in California!

I joined this site because I'm interested in moving past my "ramen phase" and learning some basic recipes that I can fit into a busy schedule. I'm a former athlete who wants to cook healthily on a budget. Is anyone here cooking along these lines? I would love some advise on where to begin!

Thanks so much!

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My time crunched go to things are a rice cooker, and vegetarian. Rice cooker isn't necessarily all that fast, but you just need to load it and hit go. Vegetables cook quickly compared to inexpensive cuts of meat, so if I'm busy I'm likely to do faux Indian type vegetable dishes to go with the rice.

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It's a pretty broad topic to address.  You just need to learn some basic techniques.  How about a simple stir-fry for starters.  Dice a chicken breast (or pork chip) and season with salt and pepper, heat a frying pan over medium high heat, add some oil and stir fry the chicken until just done.  Remove the meat, add some garlic, ginger, and red pepper to the hot pan(or to make it easier a jared garlic chili sauce) followed by some chopped vegetables and cook until done.  Add the chicken back in and some soy sauce.  Yummy.  If you want to make it better add a small amount of chicken stock at the end and thicken with a corn starch slurry to make a sauce.  If you want add more flavor add a little fish or oyster sauce.

Another easy meal is to boil some vegetables and serve with a pan fried piece of chicken, pork chop, or fish.  Blot the meat dry with paper towels.  Season the meat with salt and pepper.   Add oil to a hot pan and after the oil is hot add the meat and don't touch it until it "releases" from the pan so it will have a seared crusty exterior.  Then turn it and cook on the second side until done.  Don't be afraid, it will release from the pan before it burns the first side.  Trust me.

Of course pasta is an option.  Get some ground pork or chicken if you want to avoid ground beef.  Fry with some garlic and onion, add good jared pasta sauce and serve over pasta with some grated cheese.

Easiest of all, Pasta con burro y formaggio (pasta with butter and cheese, but it sounds so much better in Italian).  Boil some pasta, toss with butter and grated cheese, season with pepper.  So simple and so good.

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This will have a lot of links.

First, philosophy and technique-- which is not what you asked about, but has been discussed in this context a couple of times.

A simple handy stir fry that isn't complex. You could use so many different quick cooking vegetables as well. Zuchinni, or cabbage are good and inexpensive and add some variety to this.


What does healthy and cheap mean to you? For most of the world, and in all the famously healthy cuisines, it means a whole grain and a legume (beans, peas lentils). Those two combined create a complete protein, plenty of fiber, and lots of related nutrients. But it also means longer cooking times as they take a long time cook to completion from their inexpensive dry state. This isn't necessarily a problem for a college student as this is mostly time simmering in pot while you can study at the kitchen table.

I like Michael Pollan's words:

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

The other thing the rest of the world has learned that the US hasn't is to use meat as a flavoring, not the focus. Much more healthy, less expensive too, and usually faster to cook.


As my daughter is discovering in her first year at college, cooking takes time. Figure 30 minutes minimum plus clean up. There are some recipes that are faster certainly, but figure on some time. For this reason, it is good to make some extra and eat leftovers on crunch times. Freezing some leftovers is good too.


Whole chicken and eggs are probably your least expensive protein sizes/amounts that are reasonable cooking for one. learn how to disassemble a whole chicken. It doesn't take long and you can make chicken stock for very low cost that opens up a lot of other good food.

Chicken cooked on the bone and skin on has much more flavor than boneless skinless. Boneless skinless thighs are much cheaper than boneless skinless breast. But buying a whole chicken is the cheapest by far.

If you want boneless chicken, this technique is the easiest.


A handy method for using up leftovers, particularly pasta is a fritatta. Look at this recipe for general amounts and technique. But more importantly look at the ratios. 6 eggs. 1-2 cups of filling. Extra flavorings such as cheese and herbs.

In the recipes section, start a new thread on College recipes or some such, and i'll give you some more of what I've shared with my daughter.


A final tip.

When you come home, the first thing you do is put some water on to boil. Beefore dropping off your coat, or books, start the water. This way while you're putting stuff away from the day, when you get to the kitchen, your water is ready for pasta, or rice or vegetables or whatever.
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