The prospect of cooking and finally transitioning away from industrialized dining room cuisine sounds wonderful…in theory. In practice, for the inexperienced, time-strained college chef, obtaining and producing healthy meals is a significant undertaking.
In previous years I have made sporadic appearances at the grocery stores close to campus purchasing the odd Honeycrisp apple, baby carrots, milk, multiple pods of Greek yogurt…perhaps some chips or cookies. My dorm room fridge was full of food….that could be eaten without preparation. And actually, my freezer was full of frozen meatballs that instead of being consumed got frozen stuck until May when my fridge was finally defrosted for storage. This year, since I will finally be living fully on my own in a real apartment with a real kitchen I decided it was time to tackle the “oh so large” ability to grocery shop, cook and eat practically, healthily and quickly and to – fill my fridge with healthy, useful foods.
I decided to turn to my Mama Lise for some expert advice. As a quick preview, Lise loves quinoa, olive oil and banana crunch muffins and she despises ham sandwiches on white bread.
Mama Lise divides her grocery list into breakfast, morning snacks, lunch, afternoon snacks, dinner and sweets. She adapted her list for one person on a college-friendly budget.
**Mama Lise’s Grocery Tips**
Breakfast. To have varied breakfasts each morning requires some food group organization. In terms of dairy, Lise suggests stocking your fridge full of plain low-fat Greek yogurt (which can be flavored with honey or maple syrup), milk, organic or omega 3 eggs and organic butter (butter can be frozen and thawed as needed). With regards to breads and cereals, Lise believes college students should purchase a package of multigrain English muffins or multigrain bagels (can be frozen and thawed as eaten). Lise also loves almond and raisin granola. She says it’s tasty, but neutral and versatile. It can also be easily sprinkled atop yogurt, added to muffins etc. Fruits are also an essential part of a healthy breakfast. Lise suggests investing in some apple, preferably Crispin’s, Delicious or Granny Smith. Granny Smith apples are an essential because they’re good for cooking, sliced on oatmeal, in a spinach salad etc. Apples last a long time, so buy as many as you need and can store. To drink, Tropicana Orange or Pink Grapefruit juice are both good choices. (Lise admits that pink grapefruit is multipurpose…it can be used later on in the day to make mixed drinks). Lastly, some essential pantry items include almond (or peanut) butter, 1 jar of English or French jam and 1 bottle of honey.
Morning Snacks. Mama Lise makes her own trail mix which she takes to work. She mixes some raisins, walnuts, almonds and a little piece of Lindt sea salt dark chocolate (actually the best chocolate bar ever). Getting a package of each of these ingredients would be good to start.
Lunch. “Paninis are delicious” –Mama Lise. Lise loves eating panini for lunch. They’re nutritious, filling and can be altered for variety. Paninis require that you buy 1-2 multigrain ciabattas, depending on how many paninis you plan to eat in a week. Paninis must also be filled with ample vegetables. And while shopping in the vegetable section, you might as well also purchase vegetable for dinnertime cooking endeavors. A good list of usable vegetables includes 1 bag of spinach, 1 yellow and green pepper, shallots, celery, 1 cucumber, 1-2 field tomatoes, 2 lemons and 1 lime, a little roasted eggplant from the antipasto counter, 1 bag of cooking onions and 1 bag of baby carrots. Some useful items to add to your pantry are a little jar of pesto, a jar of capers, coarse salt and pepper and 1 liter of extra virgin olive oil (you will be using a lot of this). Lise is also quite an avid cheese consumer. She encourages trying different cheese (1 type every week or two) because they all melt on paninis. Some highlights which she suggests include mozzarella, old sharp cheddar, feta or goat cheese. She also encourages investing in a large chunk of either Parmesan or Romano (good quality, from Whole Foods or Costco). These cheese last forever (aka a semester) and can be used as nice hors d’oeuvres.
Afternoon snacks. Lise has two go-to snacks when she gets peckish in the afternoon. She either eats an apple or banana with almond butter or baby carrots with salsa.
Dinner. Shopping for lunch and breakfast has stocked you up for most of Lise’s dinner recipes…however to top off your cart for the last meal of the day add some fish. Halibut is a good fish option. Buy 12 ounces which you can separate into 3-4 ounce servings and freeze/thaw as needed. Lise claims good halibut is essential and absolutely do not buy farm fed fish. For poultry, 1 package of chicken breast to separate and freeze. Pasta and rice are also necessities. Lise always opts for brown rice pasta and has her own unique way of preparing it just right. Otherwise, one package of regular pasta (noodles or spaghetti) will do. She also like Uncle Ben’s brown rice and basmati rice. Finally finish filling your pantry with 1-2 boxes of natural chicken or vegetable broth, 1-2 jars of tomato sauce or tins of tomato paste, 1 bag of green lentils, 1 tin of chunky unsweetened pineapple, Worchester sauce, soya sauce, and 1 small bag of oregano, chili powder, cumin and cinnamon.
Fill your fridge, freezer and cupboards according to Mama Lise (whose recipes will follow soon) and feeding yourself and even your friends will no longer seem like such a daunting task.
**The Shopping List**
Many of the items on this list will get you through most of a semester. Others you’ll have to replenish more frequently. Keep this list handy and check off what you need each time. Don’t forget to use your freezer!
Plain low-fat Greek yogurt
1 dozen eggs
1 lb organic butter
1 package multigrain English muffins or multigrain bagels
Almond and raisin granola
Tropicana orange or pink grapefruit juice
1 jar jam
1 bottle honey.
1-2 multigrain ciabattas
1 bag of spinach
1 yellow or green pepper
Roasted eggplant from the antipasto counter
1 bag onions
1 bag carrots
1 jar pesto
1 jar capers
Coarse salt and pepper
1 liter of extra virgin olive oil
1 package cheese (try mozzarella, aged sharp cheddar, feta or goat cheese)
Large chunk good-quality Parmesan or Romano
12 ounces halibut
One 2-lb package of chicken breast to separate and freeze.
1 package brown rice or regular pasta
1-2 cartons natural chicken or vegetable broth
1-2 jars tomato sauce or tins of tomato paste
1 bag green lentils
1 tin of chunky unsweetened pineapple
Worchester sauce, soya sauce
1 small bag each oregano, chili powder, cumin and cinnamon.