Trying to eat a balanced diet on a college student budget is extremely difficult. On top of that, being surrounded by so many amazing places and products in Chicago make it harder to control my food spending habits. I can’t tell you the number of times I have gone over my weekly budget on groceries.
This week I have challenged myself to use the products and foods that have been sitting in my kitchen, untouched, because I bought them on impulse. Often, I over purchase for myself and end up throwing food out because it goes bad or I forget about it.
Instead going to one of the many local grocery stores, I decided to look more thoroughly than usual at what I have left in my kitchen. To my surprise I didn’t find myself saying, “I have no food left”, instead I was shocked by the amount of food products I have neglected to use the past few weeks.
I may be out of my staples of bananas, orange juice, and avocados; but I have so much in my pantry and fridge that I can use to create tasty, healthy, meals. So I put on my thinking cap and decided to get creative in my kitchen. My goal was to take full advantage of what food I do have handy.
When cooking it is important to me that my foods are filling, nutritious, and easy to take on the go. (and obviously tasty) I usually just mix a bunch of things together in hopes that they work out, and to my luck recently the meals and snacks have come out amazing! I don’t want to lose my tasty creations so I decided to share them with you!
The first thing I made over the weekend was a vegan friendly tofu dinner/lunch that I took to work with me. SUPER SIMPLE and SOOO GOOD.
What I used:
- Half a package of organic tofu from Jewel
- Half a green pepper chopped
- Quarter of an onion chopped
- Half a can of black beans rinsed out
- 2 Cups of organic jasmine rice
What I did:
- Cut, rinse, and dry out tofu. While tofu is drying, chop your onions and peppers into the desired size.
- Cook rice according to what the package says. I prefer using a rice cooker because it ALWAYS makes to rice come out perfectly.
- Lightly oil frying pan (I used spray olive oil). Cook tofu by itself until it begins to brown. Stir it constantly! Use medium heat.
- Add peppers and onions into the large frying pan with tofu. Keep stirring!
- Add desired seasonings to your mixture. I used literally a little bit of everything in my kitchen.
- Garlic Powder
- Italian Seasoning
- Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
- Continue to fry tofu, peppers, and onions at medium heat until the vegetables look fully cooked.
- Open a can of black beans, drain and rinse them. Let them sit to dry out a bit.
- When rice and tofu mixture are done, let them sit to cool before you pack everything into reusable food storage containers to take on the go!
I topped off the finished product with green dragon sauce from Trader Joe’s and let me tell you, my meal tasted amazing at work! All I had to do was heat it up in the microwave for two minutes, then bam! I enjoyed it.
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The second thing I made is for breakfast on the go. The idea sprouted because I go back to school this week and knowing myself I will be rushing to get to my 8am classes on time. From what I had in my kitchen, it looked like matcha pumpkin protein muffins was the way to go.
What I used:
- 1 can of 100% pure pumpkin
- Organic vegan pumpkin spice protein
- ¼ cup of organic matcha green tea powder
- 1.5 cups of brown rice flour
- 1 cup of rolled oats
- ⅓ cup of organic ground flaxseed
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup of almond milk
- ¼ cup of coconut oil
- 1 tsp of baking soda
- 2 tsp of ground cinnamon
- Chia seeds (for sprinkling)
What I did:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Measure and mix all dry ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. (protein powder, matcha, brown rice flour, oats, flax-seed, baking soda, cinnamon)
- Measure and mix all wet ingredients into a large-sized bowl. (pumpkin, eggs, almond milk, coconut oil)
- Slowly add dry ingredient mixture to the wet ingredient mixture. I stirred by hand, but feel free to use an electronic mixer.
- Add muffin wrappers into muffin tin and SPRAY them with baking spray!! (or else they will stick to the wrapper)
- Use ice cream scooper to scoop completely mixed muffin batter into muffin tin cups.
- Sprinkle Chia seeds on top of each muffin!
- Bake for 12-15 minutes. (WATCH THEM!)
- Let cool and enjoy right away! OR Wrap muffins up and store in the fridge to grab on the go!
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Lastly, I prepared my own mason jar trail mix with all the random snacks I had in my kitchen. When I am out and about I always find myself stopping at the local corner store to grab a snack. Spending $2-$3 here and there adds up so quickly!
A few weeks ago I bought myself a bunch of random nuts and such from Aldi and haven’t touched them yet! To think I would’ve gone to the grocery store to buy protein bars and chips is crazy! I had so much goodness stocked up in the back of my cabinet.
What I used:
- Dry roasted unsalted peanuts
- Whole almonds unsalted
- Dry roasted unsalted sunflower kernels
- Dried fruit medley (pineapple, banana, papaya, golden raisins, raisins, coconut)
- Organic Coconut Flakes
What I did:
- Tossed all handful of each product into a mason jar and shook it!
- Throw it into your purse or backpack for a healthy snack on the go.
It is amazing what one can find when they take the time to really look. Yes, it takes longer to get creative and prepare meals, but if you just take a couple of hours out of one day you can prepare enough food to last you a few days and even the whole week.
I am really proud of myself for being more conscious about what’s in my kitchen. I just saved myself a trip to the grocery store and money. Exciting thing is, I was still was able to prepare myself healthy, filling meals!
So before you say, “there is no food in this house”, take a closer look and get creative. We should all be grateful that we have the luxury to eat three meals a day, every day.
To keep up to date with my cooking and baking creations, follow me on Instagram! I am constantly updating my story with my current eats!