Hack Reactor doesn't give you a lot of time for your daily life and when I was just starting, I wasn't really sure whether I would have time to cook.
But luckily I do! I have been cooking nearly all of my meals since week 1. It has saved me quite a lot of money.
Eating out every day in the area will be about $13-20 for lunch and dinner. If you multiply that by 7, that is $91-$140/week minimum (we aren't counting breakfast or extra spends after all).
I am spending about $30-50/week on groceries depending on how much I have in stock and what I'm feeling. I eat out twice a week max (~avg $30 total). My total spend on food is never more than $80/week and that is on the highest end. AND I am eating pretty high-quality food. BAM!
As for my meals, I make sure that they are well balanced, simple, super customizable, nutritiously-dense and delicious.
When I say simple, I mean in terms of everything: prep, ingredients, supplies. I like ingredients that can be used many different ways and in many different recipes. The below recipes are simple enough to make and diverse enough to keep myself from running out and spending.
The other option would be to go for Soylent. Classmates have had it for meals, but you would have to pay me to drink it. I generally think Soylent is for people who cannot properly feed themselves.
The only kitchen things I have are:
- a pot (really my roommate's--cheapest from Target)
- large frying pan/skillet (the second cheapest at Target)
- spoons, forks, butter knives (cheapest from Target)
- a nested glass Pyrex container set, which I heavily recommend
- a mason jar ($1.5)
- a recycled glass jar and lid (formerly tomato sauce)
- aluminum foil
I'm not working with a lot--notice that I have no real cutting knife or board. I also don't have a plate or very many containers in general.
For staples, I have:
- salt (Himalayan pink)
- Trader Joe's coconut oil cooking spray
- Trader Joe's sriracha sauce
- raw, organic honey (it really does taste better)
- brown rice cups from Costco
- these are two-servings per cup so I have half for lunch, half for dinner usually
- organic mac and cheese from Costco
- again, 2.5 servings per box, so I eat this for the entire day
- chia seeds (bulk from Costco)
- oats (steelcut and instant)
- flax seed
- frozen vegetables (corn, spinach, kale)
- frozen berries from Costco
Where I go (and for what):
|Rainbow Grocery||By far my favorite grocery store ever. Great place for bulk items (spices, grains, etc.). Vegetarian so don't go looking for meat.||polenta, dried fruit (mulberries, cherries, goji, raisins), granola, rice, quinoa, goat's yogurt, kimchi|
|Trader Joe's||So close to where I live! Good for fresh produce, eggs and meat||eggs, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, pasta, snacks, canned refried beans|
|Costco||I'm lucky to have an awesome friend with a Costco card. I buy anything I can get away with in bulk||tortilla wraps, cheese, chia seeds, meat, anything frozen|
|Farmers' Markets||There are a lot of farmers' markets in the area but it can be a hit or miss. I find that oranges and apples after often cheaper or comparable. They are also the only places I can find cara cara oranges.||oranges, apples, other fruit|
|Mexican grocery stores in the Mission||These can be really hit or miss--be wary of quality. The deeper into the Mission you go (past 20th St.), the better the deals.||fresh produce|
My Go-To Recipes
- I used spinach/kale, eggs, ham, refried beans, and whole wheat or spelt wraps
- Remember to let all of your ingredients cool a little before wrapping
- I wrapped them in foil and keep them in the freezer
- Pop one in the fridge the night before, microwave for 3 min before eating in the morning
- Super customizable
- chia seeds, frozen fruit, fresh fruit, granola/cereal, dried fruit
- I usually just pile everything into a mason jar
polenta bowl/jar (also good for lunch)
- make polenta, I like mine soft and wet, like oatmeal. Instead of butter, I use almond milk or regular milk.
- scramble an egg
- stir-fry some veggies and drench with sriracha sauce
- stack in mason jar: polenta on bottom, then eggs, then veggies
- scrambled/fried eggs, cheese, canned refried beans, tomatoes, any veggies I have lying around
- put between one tortilla and microwave
- there are a ton of recipes online
- my favorite combo is steel-cut oats + instant oats + chia seeds + almond milk + nuts (walnuts!) + raw honey + dry berries
- top it off with frozen fruit in the morning.
My lunches usually consist of some kind of carb, a main dish of veggies and some protein.
the easiest veggie stir-fry ever
- INGREDIENTS: stir-fried kale/swiss chard/spinach + cherry tomatoes + cut mushrooms + salt + sriracha
- this takes ~5 minutes to make
- on high heat, spray pan with cooking spray
- stir-fry cherry tomatoes (cut or uncut) for 1-2 min until they're sufficiently warmed
- throw in mushrooms and stir-fry for another 1-2 min
- throw in kale/swiss chard/spinach + salt to taste and stir-fry until everything has wilted
- take off heat, place in bowl, drench with sriracha
- again, SRIRACHA
easiest fish ever
- white fish or salmon fillet + salt
- spray aluminum foil with cooking spray, slap on fish, salt
- bake in oven at 425 F for 10-20 minutes depending on how large that fish was
- take your quinoa or brown rice, add in the above stir-fry, some kind of protein (I usually go with eggs or Trader Joe's sausages for convenience), and kimchi from Rainbow
mac & cheese hacks
- I have a lot of boxes of mac & cheese from Costco, which are DELICIOUS but need that extra nutritional boost
- add ins: Trader Joe's sausages, pasta sauce, extra cheese, frozen veggies (spinach!!!)
- I have a few packs of the generic top rames---not the stuff in a cup, the ones in a bag
- They cook if you submerge them in boiling water for a bit so I usually bring one pack to class and pack some mix-ins:
- stir-fried veggies
- frozen veggies (corn, particularly)
- TJ's sausages
- boiled egg
- it's hard to screw up pasta
- Rainbow has an amazing selection of dry and wet pastas, as well as pasta sauce
- mix-ins are the same: frozen or stir-fried veggies (mushrooms!!), some of TJ's sausages
beans and rice
- exactly what it sounds like
- canned refried beans + brown rice + corn + blanched carrots + spinach
So...I don't really eat much for dinner. It's usually whatever is left over from lunch and then lots of fruit. Because I eat a lot during the day, when dinner time rolls around, I'm not particularly hungry.