As college students, we have a lot on our plates. When we’re balancing attending classes and completing assignments to working part-time jobs and managing our social lives, we can’t always prioritize grocery shopping. As a result, you might tend to make quick grocery runs once or twice a week, only buying enough ingredients to make a couple of meals. However, this habit hurts our wallets and often lets unused ingredients go to waste. Here are some innovative ways to minimize food waste, use leftover food, and maximize your meal-prepping potential.
In the aisles
A well-balanced diet includes fruits and vegetables, fibre-rich carbohydrates, proteins, and fats; we must include all of these in our groceries. When going food shopping, think ahead and select versatile ingredients that will fit into many different recipes. Start by stocking up on staple carbs with a longer shelf life, such as rice, pasta, and potatoes. These ingredients can be used in many different meals, making them a great choice for any student on a budget.
When it comes to vegetables, consider buying frozen. Vegetables tend to spoil quickly, and frozen veggies can last much longer, ensuring that you always have your dose of greens on hand. For proteins and fats, such as meat, dairy, and fish, don’t buy them too far in advance, as they don’t last very long. If you do end up buying them ahead of time, store meat or fish in the freezer.
Some commonly leftover ingredients that hide at the back of our fridges include fresh vegetables like onions or tomatoes, as well as herbs like basil or parsley, eggs, meat, and pasta sauce. If any of these are left over and you’re thinking of throwing them down the chute, don’t! Instead, consider using them in some of these quick and easy recipes.
Grab two leftover eggs, a tomato, an onion, basil, and a cup of frozen spinach, or any veggies kicking around. Dice up your onion and mix all your ingredients in a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Sprinkle some oil or a teaspoon of butter in a pan, and set on very low heat. Add your egg mixture to the pan, and let it cook any way you prefer—Western, French, or American! And there you have it, the perfect well-rounded omelet you can eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Remember that minced meat you bought and never ended up using? Now is your chance to recreate your favourite childhood meal, in just under 20 minutes. Start by bringing a pot of water to boil and cook about a handful of spaghetti. Then grab your minced meat, a leftover egg, fresh parsley, ½ an onion (diced), some garlic powder, salt, pepper, and Montreal steak spice. My secret ingredient is a dollop of ketchup, and some bread crumbs if you have them. Mix everything in a large bowl and form meatballs. In a large pan, add some butter or oil, and set the heat on low. Pan-fry your meatballs for 7-10 minutes (or until they brown), add the cooked spaghetti and canned tomato sauce (as desired), and voilà: Dinner is served!
Gnocchi & Vegetable Tomato Soup
Try getting rid of your tomato sauce with some gnocchi instead of the typical long noodle. In a bowl, mix ⅔ cup of your favourite tomato sauce with ½ cup of frozen spinach or broccoli. Sautée half a chopped onion in a pan, and add the sauce mixture. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil, and add ½ cup of gnocchi—homemade or prepackaged. When the gnocchis rise to the surface of the pot, they are cooked! Finally, add the sauce to the gnocchi and serve.
When in doubt, turn to these well-balanced, nutrient-rich recipes that will help you clean out your fridge!