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Advice for New College Grads – How to Stock a Healthy Kitchen on a Budget

Shopping and cooking tips for recent college grads and new householders.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
October 5, 2011
Episode #157

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The podcast edition of this article was sponsored by Audible. For a free audiobook of your choice go to audiblepodcast.com/diva

Today’s column is dedicated to recent college graduates and others who are new to the business of food shopping, meal planning, and preparation. To be honest, even experienced householders often struggle with these tasks.  If you’ve ever unloaded 8 bags of groceries only to discover that you don’t have the makings for a single meal, you know what I mean—and these tips can help.

Tip #1: Setting up a Healthy Kitchen

I’m going to assume that you’ve already outfitted your kitchen with basic tools and equipment. If you haven’t, here are a few resources to get you started.  

Setting up your first kitchen (Simple Dollar Blog)
Essential housewares everyone should have (About.com)

The great news is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on dozens of single-function gadgets and appliances. Even though I’m an experienced cook, I probably prepare 90% of my meals using nothing fancier than a chef’s knife, whisk, tongs, mixing bowl, baking sheet, and sauté pan.

Tip #2: Cooking for Beginners

Don’t know how to cook? The best way to learn is by doing…and cooking can be a really fun way to spend time with friends. Invite a pal or family member who enjoys cooking to show you how to prepare a few basic recipes. Make a fun evening out of it. Most cooks love to share their craft, so you won’t find a shortage of volunteers.

Despite the antics you might see on the Cooking Channel, some of the best cooking is also some of the simplest. Knowing how to clarify consommé, make a proper demi-glace, or debone a pheasant may come in handy one day, but I suggest you start by learning how to sauté greens, roast a chicken, or dress a salad.

There are some great (and free!) resources for beginning cooks such as ReluctantGourmet.com, which covers a lot of basic techniques, FoodPair.com, which lets you search for recipes according to what ingredients you have on hand, and Mark Bittman’s self-explanatory How To Cook Everything iPhone app. Also, check out my article Healthy Eating Tips for College Kids for a short list of cookbooks and other tips for those with limited time, equipment, and experience.

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