I happen to have a lot of friends who are moving into an apartment this year – or who simply need some ideas for quick, easy, foolproof meals.
I mentioned to several of them how I could send them some recipes and links… but just decided to turn it into a blog post!
Trust me, I’m not a chef by anyone’s standards. But I do have a few go-to recipes and cooking blogs that I favor, along with some handy tips I’ve picked up through trial and error.
This is NOT a comprehensive list by any means, just a few (hopefully helpful) ideas!
Accomplished chefs: Please feel free to comment with any corrections or further advice!
My favorite cooking blogs:
(1) BudgetBytes: A recent college grad who includes dollar-and-cents amounts with each of her creative, thrifty recipes. Her belief: “I’ve decided that cooking on a budget shouldn’t mean canned beans and ramen noodles night after night.” Agreed! Although I do love canned beans.
A few of my favorites:
- Spinach Tortellini Soup
- Miracle Mac N’ Cheese: I make with whole wheat pasta, fat-free milk, low-fat shredded cheese, and a dash of cayenne as the spice. Throw in broccoli to make it healthy.
- Chocolate Hummus
(2) Picky Eater Blog: An all-vegetarian blog (though many of her recipes can easily be turned carnivore-friendly). Her mission was to convert her “white bread” husband to her “whole wheat” lifestyle by making healthy recipes that were actually delicious… now he’s a convert! And every recipe she posts is “husband-approved.”
A few of my favorites:
- Channa and Saag Curry: frozen Channa Masala from Trader Joe’s + frozen chopped spinach = quick, healthy, tasty Indian food!
- Spicy Tomato, Bean, and Veggie Soup: labor-intensive, but the results last for several meals if you freeze/refrigerate in tupperware.
- Whole Wheat Pita Pizzas
- Healthy Vegetarian Enchiladas (These got RAVE reviews from my non-vegetarian roommates!)
- Healthy Baked Falafel (okay I haven’t tried this one yet, but I really want to!)
Some other recipe sites I love include MegsieMay Makes (hi Megan!), Bakerella, Chocolate-Covered Katie, and of course Google (if that counts!). I’ve found many awesome recipes simply by Google searching “how to make black bean soup” or “vegetarian tortilla soup.”
Below is a collection of some of my go-to recipes, found here and there around the internet. Enjoy!
- Oatmeal with mix-ins: Use any combination of frozen fruit, dried fruit, frozen fruit, cinnamon sugar, chocolate chips, peanut butter, etc. Be creative!
- Wheat toast with peanut butter, sliced banana, cinnamon, and raisins
- Peanut butter banana smoothie: 1 banana, 1 big spoonful of peanut butter, and 1 cup milk. Combine all in blender.
- Leftovers from dinner!
- Grilled sandwich, made on whole-wheat or whole-grain bread and cooked in frying pan or on George Foreman grill. My favorites are peanut butter & banana, caprese, peachy grilled cheese, and blackberry fontina.
- Salad: Get a giant bag of lettuce to use throughout the week, & top with whatever you like: pre-cooked chicken, beans, legumes, tofu, vegetables, etc.
- Check out this site: 90 Healthy No-Heat Lunches
- Apple & peanut butter (something like this)
- Edamame: I buy the frozen Edamame pods from Trader Joe’s, boil them for 5 mins, and sprinkle with salt.
- Frozen yogurt-dipped fruit (or just regular fruit!)
- Corn: Microwave an ear for 4 mins, then pull the husk & fibers off with ease. Eat with a bit of butter & salt.
Dinner (main dishes and side dishes)
- Chicken with easy marinade: Place thawed chicken breasts/pieces in casserole or Pyrex dish and drizzle with Italian salad dressing. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30-55 mins. (This recipe comes courtesy of my roommate, Christi!)
- Classic baked mac and cheese (Next to Miracle Mac N’ Cheese, this is my favorite M&C recipe! My friend Briana raves about it. Add a splash of milk before re-heating.)
- Stuffed bell peppers: LOVE THIS ONE! I started out using this basic recipe. Now I just cut bell peppers in half & de-seed, then put them in the oven at 250-275 degrees for 30-40 mins. When they’re done, I add any combination of things (black beans, brown rice, corn, chopped tomato or other veggies, salsa, hot sauce, cheese, etc.), microwave for a bit, and enjoy. I usually make several and save the rest for later lunches or dinners.
- Taco week! One of my former roommates Lindsay used to do this. She would buy a bag of tortillas and some salsa and sour cream, make taco meat & beans, chop up lettuce and tomatoes, shred cheese… and eat it all week!
- Beans: easy homemade refried pinto beans (I use veg oil) or quick seasoned black beans
- Pasta Primavera or pasta with pesto and green beans/broccoli/tomatoes
- Veggie tofu rice curry (I modified this recipe by using brown rice and frozen veggies)
- Ramen or noodles with egg and cooked frozen veggies
- “The One” chocolate mug cake (and click here for other single-serving desserts made in the microwave)
- Peanut butter pretzel truffles
- Simple zucchini bread or banana bread
- Two-ingredient frozen yogurt (frozen banana slices + cocoa powder/peanut butter/etc.)
- Healthier fudge
- Frozen banana slices, warm peanut butter, and chocolate chips
Of course, if you want to go really easy, it doesn’t hurt to try frozen meals, pasta with sauce, sandwiches, etc.
Be sure to keep your cabinet stocked with the basics:
- Spices: salt, pepper, and a few others you see often in your favorite recipes (for me, it’s cumin, oregano, cayenne, and crushed red pepper; my roommate loves spice blends). Spices are expensive, so split the costs with your roommates & share. I also always have hot sauce (something like Tapatio or Sriracha) – super cheap way to flavor anything!
- Cooking supplies: olive oil, vegetable oil, vinegar, cooking spray, etc.
- Baking supplies (if you bake): flour, sugar, brown sugar, butter, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, etc.
Some other quick tips:
- Plan meals ahead of time. This helps when you are tired/lazy or need to use up certain ingredients in a week (like fresh spinach or milk).
- Be creative with what you already have! Try putting different things together and see what works. (I’m slowly developing this skill myself.)
- Make large quantities and then freeze or refrigerate the leftovers.
- Get a Pinterest account and make a pinboard to collect recipes.
- Use Google! You can find cool sites like this one. Or memes like this…
All right, that’s it. Hope this was helpful!