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Hi there, I have just recently moved in to an apartment alone to head to college. I have little-to-no experience at all in cooking. So far my current "recipe list" only consist of scrambled eggs, beef in chilli, curry, and the occasional instant noodle. I have a monthly budget of $200, and I would like to eat healthier. Do any of you know of any easy to cook, cheap meals for the beginner cook?
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Dapper Fatcat

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if you can get your hands on a non stick grill pan, some can be found for around $30 i think, then when you cook meals with meat or chicken then you won't use as much fat in terms of oil and butter and it will still taste great. most meat needs to be cooked for 5-6 minutes per side, all depending on how thick the cut is.
also, instead of scrambled eggs, hard boil some. bring eggs and water up to a boil then shut off the heat and cover for 15 minutes to have perfect and easy hard-boiled eggs.
salads with extra grilled chicken would be perfect. and making your own dressings with low-fat olive oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper is a great way to cut back on unneeded sodium and other fats.
i hope this helps, if you have any other questions about healthy cooking or just cooking in general, cuz we all have cheat days, just pm me! 3nodding
Chibi Halo's avatar

Barton Senshi

          Take one can of black or red beans and a bag of regular Uncle Ben's Ready Rice, cook both according to the packaged directions, and combine. It makes a great side dish or quick main dish with protein from the beans. My brother really loves throwing that one together but he has an actual rice cooker at his house.

          Also, here's a good website for cooking on a student budget. It's a British website so a lot of things will be in measurements of grams and some ingredients, like the potatoes, the European versions but the ideas and tips are great for anyone just starting out cooking and on a tight budget.

oTrissa's avatar

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Well basically look at it like this, you need your staples.
Pick a meat & a few veggies for each main meal of the day, add sauces however you like and add to pasta, salad, put on a burger, enchilada's, burritos, tacos, lasagna, casseroles, stir fry.
Stir fry is a cheap thing, as it's for small amounts of left overs and such. You can always turn left overs in to something else as well.
Don't buy frozen food, it ends up being more expensive, unless it's like a bag of frozen chicken.
Look for cupons and buy 1 get 1 free deals.
I find that having a rice cooker really helps! You can make rice in it, steam vegetables, make cake, etc! Or invest in a crock pot and just throw in vegetables, some meat and soup stock smile
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Fried rice. Put left over rice in pan with oil. Place some meat and vegetables. Pour some soy sauce and salt. Done. ^3^
Only go with the buy one get one free advice if:

-It is something you are going to get anyway
-It is something you will use often and will finish well before it expires

Otherwise it is a false economy.

Couscous are a dead easy form of starch and if you use wholewheat ones, fibre as well. All you have to do is pour in just enough boiled water to immerse the grains, leave it to stand until the water is absorbed, and fluff with a fork. Lemon and coriander ones go wonderfully with fish.

Another thing you can do is look up 'Gluttony 101' on the forum search. It is a thread and a guild dedicated to recipes shared by students.

Since you like scrambled eggs, why not make yourself omelettes? Scramble the eggs, pour in a pan, add a filling and fold over. If you have an oven, you could also make yourself quiche.

Another thing to do is see what's in season. Seasonal fruit and veggies are at their best and are sold cheaply.
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Rainbow Lover

I spent too much time writing this out ·-·; (TL;DR, read words I highlighted in blue only)

I'm by far not a professional chef, but I can cook pretty well.
One of the things that helped me out was cooking soup with whatever we had at the time over and over again. I like the idea of starting off with cooking soup because 1) You can turn almost anything into soup with enough time and effort. 2) It's a very good and easy way of learning how to mix different flavors and ingredients together to learn how to cook food that you personally enjoy. 3) You have a lot of control over how healthy something is. If it has too many calories in it, you can water it down. Double the water = half the calories per serving. Need protein? Maybe add beans. Need more vegetables? Add vegetables, etc.

For me, I started off with scrambled eggs because it's kind of hard to mess something up that only has one ingredient in it. Then I got into confections, which to be honest was probably a stupid move, but now I know how to sweeten things, properly use flavor extracts, how to properly caramelize, etc... Well that doesn't help me eat, so I started making soup because it's easy. I started off with instant soup broth and noodles. Perfected being able to cook soup with a base already made and juggling that and cooking different types of noodles. Then I started experimenting with things like spices and salt and stuff. Then I kind of just played with that for a long time because now I'm factoring in different ingredients that need to be balanced. Then I started taking ideas from random cook books, seeing what I liked, seeing what I didn't, used spices that I liked and omitted ingredients that I didn't. I wound up with a really good potato soup recipe. Then I started doing more canned stuff and experimenting with vegetables and stuff.

Being into confection I kind of also got into extracting. That isn't exactly the most useful skill in college, but I spend over $800 a year on liquid herbs and extracts so tincturing, extracting, and infusing are pretty useful skills for me. If you have some sort of thing that would be nice if you could make on your own, it's never too early to start learning that skill.

Controlling nutrition of what you put into soup:
My current diet involves me needing more protein and carbohydrates, so I put beans and more noodles and pasta in my soup than you normally would and keep my water content relatively low so I get more calories per meal. Celery is a great vegetable to add for losing weight. If you want to avoid carbohydrates and have something healthier use beans instead of pasta. Soup is a great opportunity to mix in liquid supplements and vitamins that you wouldn't normally take. I think vitamin D is one of the easiest vitamins to do that with. vegetable oil is probably the healthiest alternative you can get for making roux, but ultimately if you need to thicken your soup you'll probably wind up using less flour and fat if you use real butter. Whether you want to gain weight or lose weight, avoid all trans fats.

Summary of what I suggest:
start with scrambled eggs and basic soups and noodles. Soup broths, maybe experiment with some spices and stuff when you're feeling daring.
Recipes are nice to follow, especially if they work well, but experimenting, trying new things, and completely failing to cook something is one of the best ways to get better.
It's probably safer to experiment with cheap ingredients and save good and more expensive ingredients for an actual recipe.
If something is consistantly working, it's a good idea to write it down. You can't memorize everything you do.

Good ramen resource: College Survival Guide Part I: 50 Amazing Ramen Noodle Recipes
$200 budget.
Holy ********.
I manage to feed a family for that much and we eat really good fancy food.
Ashenflame's avatar

Conservative Explorer

So that's, what, roughly $45-$50 a week for food for one person? My husband and I are making it on less than that (our combined grocery bill is about $70 a week) and here's what we do for supper: hamburger steak, salmon patties, and chicken tenders as our main course with sides of dinner rolls, corn bread, green beans, mashed potatoes or a baked potato, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, pinto beans, lima beans, creamed corn or corn on the cob, fried okra, fried squash, or English/sweet peas. Usually I fix 2-3 sides per meal. Sometimes we'll have pasta, like spaghetti or lasagne. Homemade vegetable soup is a cheap meal that can last a long time. Most of the meals I fix for us will last for two nights. Lunch is usually something light like a salad or sandwich. Breakfast is usually simple, like toast and scrambled eggs.

Well, that's our diet. Lots of canned goods, sometimes fresh vegetables when we need them. If it sounds good to you, I wish ya luck. smile
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Try reader's digest, allrecipes.com, any cooking websites you can search on google will give you some ideas.
this rainbow lover's avatar

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Fried rice. Put left over rice in pan with oil. Place some meat and vegetables. Pour some soy sauce and salt. Done. ^3^

Soy sauce AND salt?! That would be very high in sodium! Did you mean pepper instead of salt? That would make much more sense xD
this rainbow lover's avatar

Dedicated Prophet

Buy some ramen noodles (the square packs) and throw away the seasoning packet. Cook the noddles in chicken/beef/veggie stock of your choice and add in veggies/meats of your choice. Try to use the same stock as the foods you put in, though. If you include chicken, use chicken stock, ect. Season with things you like. I would suggest a bit of red pepper flakes, a tiny pinch of salt (if the stock isn't already salty enough), maybe some garlic, onion or ginger powder and a small splash of soy sauce.

Here are a list of veggies that could be good, frozen, canned or fresh, depending on the price and your choice, of course:
Sweet peppers
Water chestnut
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this rainbow lover
- - aimiiko
Fried rice. Put left over rice in pan with oil. Place some meat and vegetables. Pour some soy sauce and salt. Done. ^3^

Soy sauce AND salt?! That would be very high in sodium! Did you mean pepper instead of salt? That would make much more sense xD

That's because i love adding sodium in my food = 3=
Evoblack's avatar

Toothsome Citizen

Ever buy canned or frozen veggies? Since you already have ramen noodles, you could easily boil the noodles and vegetables together. It saves you the amount of sodium regular ramen packages have. Plus, it's packed with vitamins and minerals that the dehydrated stuff probably doesn't have!

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