I never anticipated how difficult it would be to create a grocery list tailored to my taste palette and schedule. I am no chef, not anywhere close but when I came to school and had to go grocery shopping for the first time, I was so overwhelmed. The first thing that overwhelmed me was that I had to cook meals for myself -- not ramen, not instant mashed potatoes -- meals. I was tough for me to learn how to pick out good fruit and understand which brands are good to trust and which to avoid. I also didn't anticipate all of the extra things that it you have to buy in order to have a functioning kitchen. Things like Pam cooking spray, Ziploc bags, aluminum foil, and salt and pepper are all things that totally slipped my mind when I first went shopping.
I don't consider myself to be the healthiest person. I love to eat sweets and drink an occasional Diet Coke, but I also believe in taking care of my body and eating things in moderation. I think that after a few weeks of cooking for myself has helped me develop a pretty balanced and normal grocery list. It features fruits and veggies, carbs, snacks, and protein. There is always room for improvement and I am still trying to expand my palette but for now this is what we're sticking with. The list below features my favorite foods to buy at the grocery store and also why I love them.
I normally start each morning with a granola bar and if it's Friday I'll grab a package of pop tarts. If I have time, I'll drink a quick glass or orange juice to get my blood sugar going and I'll head off to catch the bus. For lunch, I eat that on campus. If I have a particularly long day on campus with a shift at work or a sorority meeting or study group, I will pack a baggie of animal crackers, a cup of applesauce or a second granola bar. I love animal crackers as a quick snack because they're not horrible for you, taste slightly sweet, but also tie me over for a while.
When it comes to dinner, that's when the majority of my grocery list gets used. Because I'm not fabulous in the kitchen and don't have tons of time to whip up a wholesome and delicious meal, I stick to partially made items. I love the Birdseye Voila! meals, especially the Garlic Chicken. It's a frozen meal with garlic grilled chicken, pasta, carrots, broccoli, and corn. You throw it in a saucepan for 12 minutes stirring occasionally. It needs no additional flavoring, or cooking. It's easy to make, extremely tasty, and within a college budget. Also, because it's frozen, it keeps for a while. It has a nice balance of starch, protein, and veggies which is a nice balanced meal.
Another thing that is quick and easy for me to make is cheese ravioli. With the cheese, I am still getting some protein but I love pasta so I couldn't resist. You freeze the ravioli so once again, you can keep it for a while. I also will buy a jar of Prego and freeze half in a tupperware and I'll keep half in the fridge. Pasta sauce will go bad after a few days in the fridge which is why I freeze half of the jar. I heat up a little bit of the sauce in a bowl in the microwave with a paper towel and then mix with the ravioli once finished. It's super easy to make and clean up afterwards is easy too.
If I have a little bit of time to cook, I will cook a chicken breast in a pan with salt and pepper. If I'm feeling like getting fancy, I'll sprinkle some herbs on top for a little extra flavor. I then will sautée some broccoli with olive oil and garlic for some fun flavor as well. Broccoli is by far my favorite veggie because it goes so well with a lot of different meals. You can put it in pasta salad, eat is alone, or with chicken. It's high in fiber which is critical to my diet as well as ton's of vitamins. If you aren't a fan of the veggie, I would suggest spicing it up with lemon, garlic or butter. To top off the meal I will make some Alfredo pasta using instant sauce mix or heat up some mashed potatoes once it gets cooler outside.
I reserve things like cans of soup and Lean Cuisine frozen meals for nights when I'm in a rush. If I need to run in eat, and head out the door again, heating up a meal for 4 minutes is my go-to. I receive cans of soup for the same reason. They're easy, filling, and quick. I keep the frozen pizza for the weekend.
My snack foods are granola bars, pretzels, apples, various berries, animal crackers, and yogurt. I also currently have applesauce cups that I like to throw in my backpack or snack on after school. I typcically keep something sweet in my pantry as well but that varies. One week it might be a package of oreos, once those run out I might switch it up to fruit snacks. Just something to tie over a craving if I get one!
What is your grocery store must have? What do you snack on when you get home from school?