Plant Based College Student Cooking Ideas
In search of healthy economical plant based recipes and menu planning ideas for my niece who is going of to college. Her first two years will be Jr. College and she will be living in an apartment.
With an apartment she has pretty much limitless options. If she can plan ahead a little dried beans are very economical. My college roommate used the crockpot often for various vegetarian stews and chilis. If she can get the grocery circular online she should meal plan around what is on sale for the week. Vegetarian lettuce wraps are easy to make and very economical using iceberg lettuce. Veg tacos can also go a long way. Making a batch of something and freezing smaller portions can mean less time and energy spent cooking. Making your own pizzas and calzones are much cheaper than ordering out which can be tempting.
I would give her a gift of a pressure cooker. The new ones (I have a Fagor) are easy and safe to use, and are huge timesavers for bean/whole grain prep.
PETA puts out a vegan cookbook designed especially for college students. It may not work for her if she's a fairly sophisticated cook already, but if she's like most college students, it might be useful. There's also a nice guidebook called Vegan Cheat Sheet that helps people navigate grocery store products and the menus at chain restaurants.
One thing I found very helpful when trying to maintain a veg diet while really busy is to cook and freeze beans and brown rice in single-serving or single-recipe containers. Cooked-from-dry beans taste so much better than canned, and it's so easy to pop them in a pot and add some flavorings (even frozen solid, they'll heat up pretty fast). Even quinoa freezes fairly well, but it must be entirely thawed before you heat it up or it turns into mush.
Another good strategy is to set aside a few hours one day a week to shop for enough vegetables to see you through the next 7 days, chop them all up, and put them in Zip-loc bags or Pyrex. I know they lose some nutritional value this way, but if your niece is anything like me, she'll be much more likely to eat more vegetables, and a wider variety of them, if they're already chopped and ready to go. Of course you can't do this with all vegetables, but broccoli, kale, collards, carrots, squash, green beans, and even chard hold up well to weekly pre-prep. And Asian stores usually sell pretty reasonable priced jars of pureed garlic and ginger that are helpful, too. Not as good as fresh, but nice to have on hand to knock together a simple pasta or stir-fry dish.
Hope your niece does very well at college and in her new place. My niece has also started Jr College this year and is moving into her first apartment in a week. A big worry I have is that she'll never eat anything but pizza and candy, but I guess that's a phase a lot of people have to go through.
Mark bittman's book "how to cook everything vegetarian" is awesome- and huge- with many many ideas for easy recipes and sidebars like "how to make a salad a meal" and "how to make a soup more satisfying". It's also now an iphone app if she has one. The whole foods app (free) or website has a really function of searching recipes where you enter ingredients on hand.
Helping her find grocery resources within a college budget could be the most helpful though. Ethnic groceries are usually a goldmine of veg friendly options at good prices and interesting produce.
Taking a day to teach her some basic techniques and meal prep for the week strategies would be a great idea as well.