I’ve just wrapped up the graduate student portion of my life where eating sustainably on a graduate student budget with little time posed a particular challenge. Like most graduate students, I needed to keep costs low and cooking time minimal. Here is an inside look to what a typical week looked like for me, and how I saved time and money!
Saturday: After drinking a cup of coffee I pick up my CSA box (in-season and local is a handy way to keep produce costs down, and the delivery saves me time) and notice a head of lettuce, a leafy green (kale or chard), several plums and several pears, some fresh herbs, summer squash and eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, potatoes, and a head of cauliflower. Making a quick interchangeable menu for my week with the produce, I go grocery shopping for pantry staples and bulk dry items (saves money) that I might need. At night I tear and spin the lettuce and place into serving-sized containers (saves time later in the week). Maybe I eat out with some friends, maybe not.
Sunday: If I felt like baking, I made muffins or something that is serving-sized. After they cool I freeze half using a freezer safe reusable container (saves money by minimizing baggie use). Sunday lunch is reserved for friends, but if I don’t have anything planned, I snack on fruit, cheese, and crackers. For dinner I sauté the summer squash and eggplant (veggies that spoil first), and add a double batch or rice or quinoa for a quick grain bowl . If I have leftover veggies from the previous week I throw those in. I save the ends of everything but the eggplant and place them in the freezer to make broth later.
Monday: Breakfast is plain yogurt (also bought in a bulk) and some of the fresh fruit, cut up and drizzled with honey. I start a Crock-Pot with a whole chicken, minimally seasoned for versatility, and some of the potatoes (saves cook time at night). The chicken will provide protein for the rest of the week. After class I eat lunch and study at home. Lunch is a salad with chopped tomato, carrot, and other raw veggies. Dinner is a portion of chicken, potatoes, and leftover sautéed veggies from the night before. After dinner I take apart the chicken and put the bones in the same container as the veggie ends for Crock-Pot broth (making my own saves money). Before going to sleep I start soaking dried beans in a large bowl.
Tuesday: After breakfast (leftover muffin or the standard) I drain and start cooking beans in a Crock-Pot. Lunch is a salad again, tossed with leftovers and a different dressing. After class, while studying and doing homework, I combine ingredients for a double or triple batch of chili and let it cook. After dinner, I freeze most of the remainder chili in serving sized containers. In a few weeks I will use these to save cooking time.
Wednesday: My early morning breakfast is a smoothie with different fruit and yogurt. Lunch, carried with me, is another salad with any leftover veggie saute and some chicken, maybe also some raw veggies from the fridge. For a hurried dinner, I heat up the leftover grains from Sunday, toss in a bit of chicken, a few handfuls of kale, and drizzle some pesto that I have on hand in the fridge.
Thursday: Breakfast doesn’t change much, but I always have oatmeal on hand if I run out of fruit or am bored of the yogurt routine. There are lots of leftovers in my fridge by this point, so lunch and dinner are taken care of.
Friday: I never had class on Fridays, so I often made eggs and country-fried potatoes to celebrate. Lunch consisted of leftovers, and dinner was either in with friends (a chance to roast the cauliflower or use it in a pasta dish) or something small out.
Saturday: The routine starts again. Sometimes there is leftover produce that is incorporated into the menu, but as you can see, the majority of the work happens in small bits around other work and obligations.
- 2 Leeks, white part only
- Brussel Sprouts
- ½ package bacon
- 1 package chicken sausage
- Wash and chop leeks and brussel sprouts. I normally cut the ends off the sprouts and then halve or quarter the remainder.
- Cut the bacon and sausage into small pieces. Alternately, you can sauté the sausage links in another pan. For this recipe I used Trader Joe’s garlic + herb variety.
- Place all three ingredients in a pan, perhaps adding a small bit of oil.
- Sauté over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes until everything is crispy and there are some seared edges.