Sunday, July 31, 2011

College Dorm Cooking: 10 ingredients, rice cooker, microwave

When I told one of Frugal Son's friends about our ebook, he said "20 ingredients! That's so many! That's so expensive!"

Sorry Ryan. That's so wrong. Just to give you a taste of what we did, I will present a baby version, with 10 ingredients.

Equipment: rice cooker and microwave. A rice cooker can be had for as little as $10.00. No doubt you have microwave. I figure you have a can opener.

1. rice
2. cheese
3.canned tomatoes
4. chicken broth, preferably in box
5. frozen spinach
6. canned beans
7. frozen chopped onions
8. eggs
9. tortillas
10. cooking oil

You can fill your cart with these items for under $20.00, most of which will go to the cheese.

Here is what you can make:
--rice with beans
--rice and beans and tomatoes
--add cheese to above
--add spinach and/or onions
--tortillas with beans and cheese
--tortillas with scrambled eggs and cheese
--add onions
--add spinach to eggs
--broth with beans and spinach
--add tomatoes
--add cheese
--add rice
--rice with eggs and cheese

Note that only a few ingredients require refrigeration. You can store the cans in a box under your bed. Note that you get your protein and vitamins! Note that you don't even have to chop anything. Clean up is minimal.

Even though this might get somewhat monotonous, it is a lifesaver system when you are short on time and money and have a final the next day.

Adding a bottle of hot sauce and soy sauce means that you can have ethnic flavors. That would add another $2.00 to your grocery bill.

Each ingredient you add to the line up increases your options exponentially. Try it!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Give Away: College Cooking Crash Course ebook

Are you or do you know a clueless student who would like the little ebook Frugal Son and I put together last summer? Or would you like one for yourself? You don't need to be a college student to benefit from our 20 ingredient/2 weeks of meals/cheap/easy/low mess system. Oh yeah: no stove. But it's good even if you have a stove. You do need a rice cooker for some of the recipes.

Anyway, I will give away one copy on each blog: see Frugal Scholar.

Entry is easy: just leave a comment below. You can double your chances of winning if you leave a comment on both blogs. I'd love it if you'd tell all your friends, but that is not required. The winner will be chosen on Friday.

If you don't win this time, don't despair. I'll be doing this now and again.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lunch and Dinner for the College Cook

True confession: Even though Frugal Son and I KiLLED OURSELVES putting together rice cooker recipes for Miss Em, she seldom cooked any of them. That is because I was an enabler, although in this instance, I enabled Miss Em to eat well with no work on her part. I was happy to do it.

We sent her off to college with 40 frozen bean and cheese burritos. This made the base of about 30 meals for around $10.00. Compare to the meal plan cost of at least $7.00 (so $210.00!) or even the Lean Cuisine or fast food cost.

Then we got more ambitious. After all, it's easier to cook at home in my comfy kitchen than to brave the rice cooker in a tiny dorm kitchen area. We put together ziplock bags of frozen African peanut soup, shrimp and corn chowder, ratatouille, and other things. All these can be eaten over rice.

Now the ideas are percolating. I'm making some chicken chili (Miss Em is not too thrilled with beef or sausage these days).

My newest idea is to make some vegetarian lasagne, bake it, and cut into squares and freeze.

Readers: Any other ideas for dishes that can be frozen in individual portions? I'm especially interested in those that can be meals in a dish.

A bunch of food frozen at home would be more useful to the college student than much of the junk crammed into dorm rooms. What a wonderful gift.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Breakfast for the College Cook: What Miss Em Ate

If you look at the meal plans i posted yesterday, you will discover that--expensive though they are--only one provides all meals (the most expensive). Who wants to use an $8.00 meal plan meal for a bowl of cheerios? Or what if you don't have a meal plan?

As parents have been saying for years (even if they don't follow their own advice): Eat breakfast! In Miss Em's first year with a tiny meal plan, she ate . . . oat groats. She started with packages microwave instant oats, which I, Frugal Mom, picked up on sale, but didn't really like the stuff.

Luckily for Miss Em, she doesn't mind breakfast repetition. She started cooking oat groats (aka Scottish or pinhead oats) in--yes!--the rice cooker. She hit on a good method. Put in some groats, add some water and a bit of salt. Turn on. When it comes to a boil, put on warm. Keep checking and add more water as necessary.

If you read the above paragraph, you will see that Miss Em figured out a way to turn a rice cooker into a slow cooker, which is good for cereals. She made enough for a week and ate some every morning, heated in the microwave. She had it with boxed soymilk, craisins, and enough cinnamon to scent the entire campus. And brown sugar.

Note that these items are all dorm friendly and can, in fact, be bought on Amazon. We had the oat groats sent to her.

You can get soymilk at Amazon too, but I found the cheapest prices at Dollar Tree.

Nothing needs refrigeration except the cooked oat groats!

Do you have any ideas for breakfasts for the College Cook?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to Save Money in College: Cook!

Last year, my little Frugal Scholar, Miss Em, decided to get the 50-meal/semester plan, rather than a larger one. If you do the math--and many do not--you will find that college meals are $7.00 to $9.00 each, depending on your college.

Here is the plan at University of Alabama. Prices are PER SEMESTER.


We thought that the smallest plan provided a lot of flexibility and assumed Miss Em would go out to eat a lot more than she had her first year. Frugal Son and I had a brainstorm about rice cookers (allowed in dorms; Miss Em has a room scholarship) and put together a bunch of recipes for the College Cook--short on time, space, money, know-how, transportation, and STOVES.

The cookbook gives you at least 2 weeks of meals made with 20 ingredients--things like rice, tortillas, tomatoes, and so on. No stove required: all can be made in the rice cooker or microwave. You can buy a pdf version above left or get a Kindle version on Amazon.

Doing this changed my cooking life--it is so easy, cheap, and NOT MESSY. I use my rice cooker all the time now and I HAVE A STOVE. College Cooking Crash Course!

Use some of your graduation money and get a rice cooker too.