To Cook or Not to Cook? That is the Question

Remiel, Audrey

Pirzada, Mr. Mahdiza

The epitome of a student achieving work-life balance is their fulfilled sustenance. It is commonplace, especially in the preliminary stages of living independently, that nutrition ranks the last concern. Moreover, with study and social life encroaching on the time to fill up a hungry stomach, when will there be time left to prepare nutritious food? With this in mind, one might regard it as having an opportunity cost too large—a loss in time to grind subjects or make friends, and a loss of money without even knowing how to cook. Hence, for the sake of convenience and immediacy, most will turn to the unhealthy binging of fast foods. Conversely, attempting to eat healthy outside would be an unwarranted hedonism for one’s wallet; we spiral into an unhealthy cycle where our academic performance is threatened—these are the main impasses of being nutritiously independent.

Rest easy readers, because this article will attempt to outline several recipes to cook at home that fit under the criteria of being prepared in less than an hour, without much interference for us to reap the benefits, and with a friendly price tag. It is an essential caveat that some ingredients might be deemed costly in bulk. However, this article will also consider the number of iterated dishes a core ingredient can be used for, so each recipe will be priced according to the fraction of ingredients it implores per serving. Here are five recipes with its variations that will provide you a bang for the buck.

  1. Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • Bread (€ 1.12 / 35g or 22 loaves)
  • Butter (€ 1.35 / container or 250g)
  • Grated Cheese (€ 1.47 / 200g)
  • Eggs (€ 2.99 / 530g or 10 pieces)
  • Milk (€ 1.15 / 1L)

Grilled Cheese Sandwich:
Preheat a pan. Prepare two loaves of bread and butter them on each side. Lay one loaf on the pan, sprinkle a handful of grated cheese on the upside. Stack the other loaf on top, and flip the sandwich as needed until both sides are browned.

French Toast:
Preheat a pan. Crack two eggs and pour half a glass of milk, whisk them together to set aside in a bowl. Coat both sides of bread with the egg and milk mixture. Toss 1 tbsp of butter on the pan and spread evenly. Lay the pieces of bread on the pan and cook them until both sides are golden brown.

These two variations can be used up to 10 times of servings. (~ €0.6/serving, 5-10 mins).

  1. Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

  • Nuts and Raisins (€ 1.99 / 250g)
  • Chia seeds (€ 2.99 / 225g)
  • Oatmeal (€ 1.55 / 600g)
  • Yoghurt (€ 1.39 / 500g)
  • Yakult (€ 5.95 / 975 ml or 15 pcs. 65 ml bottles)
  • Honey (€ 1.79 / 350g)
  • Fruits (€ 2-3 / pack)

Prepare a bowl. Pour the oatmeal first, followed by yoghurt, and one bottle of Yakult; similar to any convention of preparing cereal. Chop up the fruit of your choice into small slices, for example, if it was a banana, slice it horizontally for a circular cross-section and toss it in. Otherwise, if the fruit of your choice is already minuscule enough such as cherries or grapes, this step could be skipped. Then, sprinkle in the chia seeds and raisins along with one tbsp of honey for the topping. Put it in the fridge and chill overnight, or you could opt to make it in the morning and chill it during the day so it could be enjoyed at night. This recipe can be used for 20 times of servings each week (~ €1.35/serving, 5 mins)

3) Pasta

This recipe will start out with a set of rudimentary ingredients, which will be utilized across all variations—these steps will be mostly standard throughout; only with the exception of adding certain ingredients to differentiate in flavour.

Ingredients:

  • Pasta (€ 1-3 / pack)
  • Salt (€ 0.6 / 500g)
  • Black Pepper (€ 2.15 / 45g)
  • Chilli Flake (€ 2.93 / 28g)
  • Dried Parsley/Oregano (€ 2.05 / 8g)
  • Olive Oil (€ 8.18 / 1L)
  • Garlic (€ 1.12 / 100g)
  • Onion (€ 1.29 / 1kg)
  • Lemon (€ 1.53 / 5 pieces)
  • Pancetta (€ 2.87 / 80g)
  • Chicken Cubes (€ 5.69 / 600g)
  • Pecorino Romano/ Parmesan Cheese (€ 4.06 / 190g)
  • Egg (€ 2.99 / pack or 10 pieces)
  • Ground Beef (€ 2-4 / 500g)
  • Tomato Puree (€ 0.49 / 140g)

Aglio Olio:
Fill up half a pot with water seasoned with salt, over medium-high heat to boil. Mince 2-3 garlic cloves and set aside. Once the water boils, put in one serving of the pasta of your choice (just a handful if they are the short types and a batch measured by making a ring with your index and thumb finger together, if it’s the noodle type) and cook 1-2 minutes beneath the recommended time on the package; drain the pasta once this is done. Prepare frying pan or skillet and drizzle 1-2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and toss in garlic. Once garlic is fragrant and golden brown, toss in pasta to season it with pepper, chilli flakes, and parsley to taste. Slice lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the pasta (similar to the adaptation from the movie: Chef) toss and mix a few times before serving.

Cacio e Pepe:
Starting from tossing the pasta onto the frying pan or skillet, only season the pasta with pepper and parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, and perhaps some chilli flakes to add spiciness. This is the easiest variation from the basic recipe.

Bolognese:
Starting from tossing the garlic in the frying pan or skillet, also add half an onion, diced, a portion of ground beef, and tomato puree; let it simmer for 5-8 minutes or until the beef is cooked. Toss in the pasta to season with pepper and oregano to taste, adding in chilli flakes is also allowed. Mix well before serving.

Carbonara:
This is is similar to the differentiating step of the Bolognese variation, but with different ingredients. After adding the minced garlic cloves, add a portion of pancetta, diced, and fry it until crispy and golden brown. Start adding the pasta onto the frying pan or skillet to season with pepper, and pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, chilli flakes is also allowed in this variation. Crack an egg into a separate bowl and whisk, set aside. Turn off the heat and let the frying pan cool down for 1-2 minutes before adding in the whisked egg. Toss until pasta is mixed throughout. This recipe could also substitute pancetta for chicken cubes instead, although the flavour will be a little different.

With the different variations of pasta and sauce, this dish becomes a versatile addition to one’s arsenal of comfort foods. This recipe can be used up to 6-10 times of servings depending on how much pasta is used in one serving. (~ €1.74/serving, 20-40 mins).

  1. Ramen Soup

Ingredients:

  • Instant Noodle/ Ramen Packets (€ 0.44-0.81 / pack)
  • Chicken Cubes or Ground Beef (€ 2-5 / 500-600g)
  • Spinach (€ 1.74 / 400g)
  • Garlic (€ 1.12 / 100g)
  • Shiitake Mushroom (€ 2.09 / 100g)
  • Butter (€1.35 / container or 250g)
  • Salt (€ 0.6 / 500g)
  • Black Pepper (€ 2.15 / 45g)

Prepare a frying pan and a stockpot. Fill up half the pot with water over high heat to boil. Once the water is boiled, add in the instant noodle or ramen. In the frying pan, spread evenly, a spoonful of butter over medium-high heat. Mince 2-3 garlic cloves and fry, toss a portion of chicken cubes or ground beef depending on your choice, and season with salt and pepper for taste. Add in chopped mushrooms and spinach 3-5 minutes before chicken or beef is cooked. In a separate water heater or pot, boil water to serve as the soup. Prepare a serving bowl and put in the instant noodle or ramen seasoning, then pour the clean boiled water. If the instant ramen is meant to be served without soup, this step could be skipped. Once noodle is cooked according to the package time, add this onto the bowl. Add in the chicken or ground beef with a vegetable mixture to serve as the ramen topping.

This recipe could be served infinite times in a week as ramen packets tend to be cheap. (~ €0.95/serving, 15-30 mins).

  1. Fried Rice

Ingredients:

  • Rice (€ 1.79 / 1kg)
  • Onion (€ 1.29 / 1kg)
  • Garlic (€ 1.12 / 100g)
  • Chicken or Beef Cubes (€ 2-5 / 500-600g)
  • Egg (€ 2.99 / 530g or 10 pieces)
  • Sweet Soy Sauce (€ 1.79 / 500ml)
  • Salt (€ 0.6 / 500g)
  • Black Pepper (€ 2.15 / 45g)
  • Vegetable (€ 1-2 / pack)

Prepare pot or rice cooker pot. Wash and drain a cup of rice in the pot until it’s less starchy (evident from the decreasing whiteness of water). Submerge rice with two cups of water or until the surface of the water is just one index finger crease away from the surface of the rice. Set rice cooker to ‘cook’, otherwise if a normal pot is utilized, bring this over medium-high heat and cover pot for 10 minutes, or until rice appears to be fluffy and water has disappeared. Once the rice is done cooking, set it aside to chill in the fridge for 5-20 minutes to prevent making soggy fried rice. Cut an onion into thinly sliced pieces and mince 2-3 garlic cloves. Prepare a skillet or a frying pan over medium heat and toss in 2 tbsp of butter along with the chopped onion and garlic. Toss in the chicken or beef cubes along with chopped vegetables of your choice for 5-8 minutes, and season with salt, pepper, and sweet soy sauce. Put the chilled rice onto the frying pan and mix well. Next, crack two eggs onto the same frying pan and finely scramble so that bits of scrambled egg are mixed throughout. 10 times of serving each week (~ €1.22 / serving, 20-30 mins).

It should be noted that the prices above are acquired from Albert Heijn’s online platform, if one would shop in stores like Lidl, Jumbo, or Dirk, imagine how much more of a steal deal it would be to cook at home! Allocating a portion of the day into taking care of yourself is a worthwhile investment — as instantiated by prepping your own food. Moreover, eating healthy doesn’t always mean it’s costly or distasteful. Simple yet delicious recipes like the ones mentioned above are the proof of that. Now that there’s no more room for reasons to neglect your health, it is time that you get your pan heated and start cooking!

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