Posts filed under 'food & recipes'

Real World Roundup: Grocery Shopping Secrets

I don’t care how prepared you think you are, living on your own is no walk in the park. If balancing your school-life (or brand new career) and social life isn’t hard enough, add to that all the mundane tasks that keep your world afloat (laundry, grocery shopping, remembering to buy gas before your car stops in an intersection or something). Oh, yeah–and you have to manage your finances on top of that.

I’ve been on my own for a few years now, and while I’m still no expert at being a “grown-up,” I’ve definitely lived and learned. This little series–a combo of helpful tips and links about life on your own–should give you the benefit of my experience without the headaches of learning it the hard way! Yay!

Today we’re going to talk about one of my personal favorite topics: food. ♥

You Don’t Have to Eat Ramen.

Ramen noodles as a dinner entrée is a college cliché for a reason–after all, its not only cheap but also easy to cook. But guess what? You don’t have to eat Ramen. You can eat real food. Grown up food. Food that doesn’t have half your daily recommended value of sodium in one bowl!

So, you don’t have to eat Ramen. But you do have to do a little legwork. Read on to find out how to get good food for less.

Plan Ahead

One of the best ways to save money at the grocery store is to plan ahead. If you wander aimlessly through the aisles picking up what you think you might want/need, you will probably end up with a cart full of odds and ends you don’t need, and you might forget the things you do. Here’s how to start:

  • Step 1: Make a Meal Plan. This is step one, and it is easy. Plan out the meals you want to eat for a week. You can keep it simple–cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, and simple meals for dinner. Then make a grocery list based on the ingredients you need for those 7 days, and only buy those things at the grocery store.
  • Step 2: Shop Sales. Once you’ve got the meal planning thing down, you can move on to step 2! Most grocery stores have their weekly sales fliers online, so once you’ve got the hang of meal planning (and give yourself some time if its tricky) start checking the sales fliers before you write out your dining schedule. Cooking based on in season produce and other sale items will really help reduce your food budget.
  • Step 3: Add Coupons. Once upon a time you had to spend hours clipping coupons–not something most college students want to do. Now there are tons of blogs that tell you exactly which coupons you need (you can clip them or even print them off–so easy) and which sale items to use them on so that you can get things for cheap (or sometimes even free!). Here are some great sites to start with (I recommend just choosing one store to use coupons at, though, or it will be way too overwhelming):

Shopping Smart

  • Don’t Shop Hungry. Seriously. Have a snack before you head to the grocery store. Shopping hungry leads to impulse buys (because everything looks delicious when you’re starving) and that means spending money you weren’t planning to spend. Curb your appetite, spare your wallet.
  • Stick to the List. Remember that list you made when you were making up your meal plan? Don’t buy anything that isn’t on that list!


One more thing that is college-student specific: you can split stuff with your roommates. This is awesome if you find something cheaper in bulk, as long as you can be sure the sharing is even. To keep the peace, I’d recommend only splitting things that come in finite amounts (like veggies or prepackaged items) so nobody gets their nose out of joint when you polish off the last of the milk. 🙂

Oh and p.s. our sister site, the Pay for College Blog recently posted some more tips about saving on groceries, so don’t miss out on those great ideas!


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Add comment May 30th, 2011

Cheap & Easy College Recipes: Slow Cooker Chicken Burritos

The crock pot is back with a vengeance today, this time whipping up some delicious burritos. Watch out–this recipe makes a TON and it is super cheap. Feed your friends or, if you have a freezer, portion it out for future meals for a quick defrostable feast.

Slow Cooker Chicken Burritos

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can Northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans corn, drained (frozen corn will work, too–no need to drain or defrost)
3 chicken breasts
1 cup salsa
Soft flour tortillas
Shredded cheese

1. Place corn and beans in crock pot; stir in salsa.
2. Place chicken breasts on their sides upright in the mixture.
3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
4. When ready to serve, shred the chicken breasts and stir them back into the mixture.
5. Serve on warm tortillas, adding cheese and any other toppings of your choice.


– Remember, don’t open the lid of the crock pot while your food is cooking! It is important to keep the moisture and temperature stable.

– I like to make this a little sweet, so I usually use a peach or pineapple salsa. The Newman’s Own brand is good and usually not a bad price at our local store.

– We use this tasty mix to make burritos–we grab 10 inch flour tortillas and top the mix with lime juice, cheese, and sour cream. You could top it with more salsa, hot sauce, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. to make a soft taco. It’s also good on top of salad or cooked into quesadillas.

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Add comment May 23rd, 2011

Cheap & Easy College Recipes: BBQ Chicken Sliders

So, my cooking life was just revolutionized. I mean, if you thought my recipes were easy before, wait until you check out the new stuff I’ve got going thanks to my fabulous (hold on to your knickers, I’m about to sound like your great grandma) crock pot!


I’m completely serious. No wonder moms have been going on about these things for years–they make cooking NO EFFORT. You literally just dump some ingredients in, turn it on, and walk away.

And you can pick one up for under $20 at Target or Walmart.

Here’s your first recipe.

BBQ Chicken Sliders

2 chicken breasts (can be frozen)
1 bottle BBQ sauce

1. Fill crock pot about 1/2 way full with water and place chicken breasts inside. (You can even put them in frozen!)
2. Cook on high for 3 hours.
3. Dump out water and shred chicken.
4. Put shredded chicken back in crock pot with BBQ sauce (use a lot if you like a lot or a little if you’re just looking for some flavor) and heat on Low or Warm setting for 30 minutes to an hour.
5. Slice rolls and spoon BBQ chicken onto them. Yum!

Makes 9-12 sliders.


– Don’t open the lid of your crock pot during cook time; it will release steam. Moisture is one of the key parts of getting that yummy slow-cooked flavor.

– We spring for our favorite rolls, King’s Hawaiian Rolls. The roll quality will make a difference in how yummy (or not) your slider experience is. 😉

– I usually do a super easy (& cheap) fruit salad with this: 2 bananas (sliced), 1 can of mandarin oranges (drained), and 1 can of pineapple (drained).

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Add comment April 22nd, 2011

Cheap & Easy College Recipes: Chicken & Peach Quesadillas + Dipping Sauce

Soak up the last of summer flavors with this yummy, cheap, and super easy recipe! I tried it out with my sweetie and we liked it so much we cooked it again the next night. 🙂

1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup sour cream

  1. Whisk first two ingredients together, then stir in sour cream.
  2. Cover and chill.

1 cup pre-cooked chicken, cubed
1 cup peaches, peeled and sliced
4 large flour tortillas
small handful of chopped cilantro
shredded/grated cheese of your choice (we like a combo of cheddar and mozarella)
cooking spray

  1. Spread half of each tortilla with cheese, topping with chicken and peaches. Add cilantro to your preference (remember it is a strong flavor–a little will go a long way!).
  2. Fold other half of tortilla over the filling.
  3. Heat a large skillet on medium-high. Spray with cooking spray and place two quesadillas in pan. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Repeat with other two quesadillas.
  4. Serve sliced in halves or quarters with dipping sauce. Yum. 🙂

Bon appetit!

(adapted from a recipe at Cooking Light, photo from same source)

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2 comments September 16th, 2010

Cheap & Easy College Recipes: Honey Glazed Chicken Stir Fry

Stir fry is fantastic for several reasons:

1. It is served over rice, which makes it filling and cheap!

2. You can pretty much cook it in one pan–minimal clean up!

3. It is delicious.

4. It is FAST. And

5. It is really hard to mess it up.

This honey-glazed chicken stir fry (adapted from here) is one of my favorite new recipes–it is quick (takes about 20 minutes for me) and tasty. Plus it is a good way to trick yourself into eating tons of vegetables!

Ingredients – Sauce
3 T vinegar
3 T orange juice
1 T soy sauce
3 T honey
2 t cornstarch

Ingredients – Stir Fry
2 T oil
1 bag (about 4 cups) frozen stir fry veggies (less than $2 at Walmart, guys)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts


1. Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl. Set aside. (If you’re cooking old-school 20 minute rice, go ahead and get that started, too.)

2. Cut (raw) chicken into small cubes. Set aside.

3. Heat oil in a wok (frying pans work, too) on medium-high. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Remove veggies from wok.

4. Add chicken cubes to wok. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes until cooked through (no pink!). Push chicken away from the center of the wok.

5. Add sauce to the center of the wok. Stir until thick and bubbly. (This won’t take long, so watch carefully!)

6. Return veggies to wok, and stir chicken and veggies in sauce until heated through and well coated with sauce.

7. Serve over rice, and enjoy!

Makes 2 servings for normal people, or 1 for college boys. 🙂

Tip: Using pre-cooked chicken saves you a step (but it does cost a bit more). You can just push the veggies to the side, let the sauce bubble, and then pour in the chicken and mix it all together.

Bon appetit!

p.s. I’m looking for more easy recipes to try and share–email me at jamie(at)survivingcollegelife(dot)com to share yours!


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Add comment April 22nd, 2010

Cheap and Easy College Recipes: Cranberry Apple Chicken

I love eating, but cooking new, flavorful foods (with their tons of crazy and expensive ingredients) intimidates me. In fact, I whipped up some sweet and sour sauce the other day, but I was so nervous about getting all the food on the table at the same time that I freaked out and burned the chicken I was cooking at the same time. The fire alarm even went off.

So this month, let’s take it nice and easy: here’s my favorite last-minute recipe, and you only need three ingredients.

Cranberry Apple Chicken

2 chicken breasts (defrosted if frozen)
1 Granny Smith apple
1 can whole cranberry sauce

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2. Core and dice apple. Put apple bits into a bowl.

3. Pour cranberry sauce into the bowl with apple bits, mix well.

4. Spoon half the cranberry mixture into a pan (metal or glass, even a pie pan will work). Place chicken breasts on top of the mixture, then spread the remaining cranberry apple combo over the top of the chicken.

5. Bake for 40 minutes. Catch up on the TV you missed last night on Hulu. Or study. Your choice. 😉

6. Check chicken for done-ness (it should be cooked all the way through, with no pink in the middle).

7. Enjoy!

p.s. Sorry there’s no picture–I forgot to take one before we CHOWED this stuff down. 🙂

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Add comment February 1st, 2010

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