As I began making my first grocery list this semester, I found myself overwhelmed by variables, many resulting from my lack of a set routine while my schedule was still up in the air. By the end of the fall semester, I had a stable routine and knew how many meals I was cooking in a week. Whether you are looking to cook more meals yourself this semester or are still adjusting to off-campus living, here’s how I’ve learned to structure my grocery shopping:
- House dinner
My house operates such that we share dinner with each other one night a week. We’ve touted this opportunity as a chance to “keep the spark alive” in our friendships. While not all of us will be available every week, we can rely on at least one serving of a home-cooked meal. And truthfully, our goal is to create a double or triple recipe to reheat throughout the week. At this point in living together, we fluidly shift who is responsible for choosing a recipe, cooking and cleaning up. Previous favorites include chilis, soups and frittatas.
- ‘Self-care’ cooking
Unsurprisingly, cooking is one of my most cherished hobbies. If I don’t find time to cook with myself at least once during the week, I don’t feel like myself. I’ll put on my headphones and spend an hour in my favorite place: the kitchen.
By choosing a ‘self-care’ recipe, I give myself the freedom to explore and experiment in the kitchen without the risk of disappointing someone else. Ideally, this meal does not disappoint anyone (including myself), and I can enjoy one or two meals of leftovers.
- Dinner with friends
I like to intentionally incorporate meals with friends into my grocery budget and plans. I strongly believe that eating with others is one of the best forms of community. Maybe we are just roasting some veggies together and serving with rice. Maybe we are baking a cake. Either way, if you visit my home, bring Tupperware containers for the leftovers.
- Prepped lunch
As shared in previous columns, I love the “greens and grains” approach to lunches. This usually involves cooking a pot of rice (or other grain) at the beginning of the week and finding a time to roast several veggies (broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots) and a protein (tofu, chickpeas, soy-based sausage) with a spice blend that week. The day of, I’ll assemble a bowl with a salad green (baby kale, arugula), the aforementioned grain and the roasted veggies. I’ll often throw in a dollop of a fun sauce (hummus, pesto, tzatziki, chimichurri).
- Versatile frozen meal
At the end of a very long day, a frozen meal is still a reliable and easy option, especially if I already have a tub of rice, ready to be reheated. I try to keep one to two frozen options on hand at all times. Some pantry staples also fall into this category, including tuna rice bowls and pesto pasta.