February 19, 2015 by FHElessons
When my son first went up to college, I wrote THIS article to teach him how to plan healthy meals. After two years on a mission and being spoiled by the members there who fed him well, being back at college and having to once again feed himself seems like a daunting task. Because of this, I have decided to post a series of cooking lessons, each one covering a week of meals. I am hoping to make feeding himself a little bit easier by planning the meals out for him and writing up a shopping list for each week. I’m thinking this series will also benefit newlyweds, so I’m including it in my Marriage 101 category!
Why Should You Cook for Yourself
In today’s world, there are plenty of fast food restaurants that offer $5 meals – quick and easy. When you have just one person to cook for (or even two) it’s tempting to just grab some fast food and avoid the whole rigmarole of planning meals, grocery shopping, preparing food, and cleaning up. Why bother?
Let me tell you about a science experiment I did in fifth grade. The science fair rolled around, and I was the first child in my family to participate. My mother is a scientist (she has a PhD in biochemistry), and she was also on friendly terms with the science department at our local university. Besides that she was kind of a nutrition freak, so she proposed the following experiment involving nine laboratory mice which the university obligingly provided to us.
We divided the mice into 3 cages with two females and one male per cage. We fed the first cage of mice healthy, home cooked food from our table. The second cage got school lunch food, and the third cage received a meal purchased from a fast food establishment every day. Three months and 2 tetanus shots later we had our results:
The mice who were fed home cooked food were sleek, plump, and well groomed. They were calm and peaceful. They took care of their offspring, which were plentiful. The mice who ate fast food meals behaved erratically. They didn’t bother to groom themselves. They looked scruffy and spent all their time trying to escape their cage. When their babies were born, they frequently killed their babies and ate them. The difference between the two cages of mice was dramatic! If you’re wondering about the school lunch food, it fell in the middle of the spectrum – not as good as home cooked food but not as bad as fast food.
I could go through a whole list of reasons to learn to cook for yourself, such as saving money, impressing girls you date, etc, but the upshot is this: If you cook healthy food for yourself, you will look and feel better. Fast food is OK on occasion – when you are in a terrible rush or totally out of food and energy. But if you make a steady diet of it, you will feel awful. If you can learn to cook for yourself and feed yourself healthy food, you will have more energy, feel calmer and healthier, and be happier.
Now, on to the meal plans. I am designing these around the likes and dislikes of my son, so we will start by learning to cook one of his favorite foods this week – lemon chicken! Besides that, I have planned a couple of easy to prepare meals.
These meal plans are just for dinners. You will also have to add breakfast and lunch food ingredients to your shopping list.
Dinner Plan – Week One
We will start with three meals per week. Eat these meals in any order. Maybe plan to do the more time consuming meals on the weekend or whatever day you have time. On the off days, you can eat leftovers from what you cooked or make a quick omelet, soup, or sandwich.
Click for the RECIPE. This recipe is mostly meat with rice as your grain, so add a side of steamed pea pods or whatever vegetable you choose.
Salmon with Baked Potato and Asparagus
Buy an individual portion of salmon at the meat counter – maybe 1/4 – 1/3 of a pound. Where I live, salmon will frequently go on sale for $4 per pound, but even if you have to pay $6-7 per pound, it should cost less than $2 for one portion. You will need to cook it within 1-2 days of buying it or you can freeze it and then defrost later in the week. You can also buy it already frozen.
Wash your potato and pierce it a couple of times with a fork. Wash your asparagus and put it in a steamer. Set the steamer in a pan with a couple inches of water in the bottom. Heat the broiler in your oven. Spray your broiler pan with Pam or brush with olive oil. Season your salmon with salt and pepper. Turn the heat on high for your asparagus. It will take about 7-8 minutes to steam. Cook until it is tender. Put your potato in the microwave and cook with the potato setting or on high for about 5 minutes or until it can be pierced easily with a fork.
Put your seasoned salmon on the broiler pan and put it under the broiler. Cook for about 3 minutes per side or until it is firm and flakes easily with a fork.
Alternatively, you can cook both your salmon and your asparagus in a frying pan. Melt a tablespoon of butter or olive oil in the pan and put your asparagus in. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until tender. When it is about halfway done (after 5 minutes), stick your potato in the microwave and add your salmon to the pan. You may want to add a little more olive oil to keep the salmon from sticking. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side or until salmon is tender and flakes easily with a fork.
Your salmon, asparagus, and potato should all get done at about the same time. Enjoy!
Pork Chop with Couscous and Broccoli
Wash your broccoli and put it in a pan with a steamer and a couple inches of water. Alternatively, you can buy a bag of broccoli that is meant to be cooked in its bag in the microwave.
Start your water boiling for the couscous. You can find my recipe HERE. You probably want to halve that recipe for just 1-2 people. Lately, I like to chop up about a half cup of pistachios and add them to the water when I add the couscous. Super yummy!
Begin cooking your pork chop. As it is cooking, you can start the broccoli and keep the couscous going. Season the pork chop with Lawry’s seasoning salt, garlic salt, and pepper, Add a little olive oil to a frying pan and get it hot over high heat. Brown the pork chop on both sides. If the pork chop is thin, continue cooking on high heat until cooked through (160 degrees). If it is thick, turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking until done. It will take maybe 10 minutes for a thin chop and 15-20 for a thicker one, so try to gauge when to start your broccoli so it will get done at the right time. The broccoli will only take 7-8 minutes in the steamer from start to finish.
This meal is quick, easy, and delicious, but if you want to try some fancier pork chop recipes sometime, here are a couple of recipes:
So, those are your three meals you are going to learn to cook this week. Now, for a shopping list. Here is what you will want to buy:
3-4 chicken breasts (maybe about 2 lbs) – You can usually get boneless, skinless breasts in the fresh meat department for less than $2 per pound
1 1/2 cups white rice (You can buy in the bulk bins or just get a bag and save the rest for later.)
3-4 lemons, depending on size
Check your pantry to make sure you have flour, seasonings, cornstarch, sugar, eggs, and olive oil. If not, add them to your list.
1 piece of salmon (1/4-1/3 of a pound) – You can double this if you want a leftover piece to make a sandwich or salad for the next day.
asparagus (small bunch)
broccoli (small bunch or a bag)
pea pods or whatever vegetable you want with your lemon chicken
1-2 pork chops – I like the kind with bones in them. I think they are more flavorful. I also like the center cut ones. I can usually find them for about $3 per pound.
Box of plain couscous
Can of chicken broth or 2 chicken bouillon cubes
Bag of shelled pistachios if you want to add them to your couscous
Check your pantry for butter and minced garlic cloves. You can use either the dried, minced ones that are sold with the seasonings or you can mince some fresh garlic. You’ll find it by the onions in the produce department.
Breakfast ingredients of your choice (Milk, cereal, oatmeal, cream of wheat, brown sugar, eggs, bread, yogurt, fruit, etc)
Lunch ingredients of your choice (bread, peanut butter and jelly, lunch meat, salad fixings, cans of soup, etc)
Snack ingredients of your choice (fruit, vegetables, nuts, cheese, etc)
Non-food items you might be in need of (shampoo, skin products, toiletries, cleaning supplies, paper products, plastic bags, etc)
Want a printable version of this shopping list? Click HERE.
Well, that’s this week’s menu. Good luck, and I hope you enjoy!