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Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Newest Frugal Project: College Cooking

Every now and then, I check my stats and discover that people got to my blog via a search for "College Cooking." What they found, no doubt, were some of Frugal Son's gourmet cooking extravaganzas. This is not true College Cooking.

The various cookbooks that purport to be on College Cooking are not--from what I've seen so far--all that helpful to someone in a true College Cooking situation. The cookbooks are beginner cookbooks, for someone in a first apartment and hence don't differ markedly from plain old beginner cookbooks. Some of these present recipes so dependent on convenience foods that they make the famous "Mystery Meat" of my college days look like a dish by Escoffier.

So: what do I mean by College Cooking? Well, first of all, it is dorm cooking. Second, it is marked by a lack of appliances--such as a stove--and many of the utensils and gadgets we take for granted. Third, of course, it is marked by a cook with deficiencies in time, money, and know-how.

Here is why I am doing this. Lucy Marmalade, Dear Daughter of Mine, received, among other goodies, a ROOM SCHOLARSHIP. On top of this she gets $2000 in cash. Last year, we purchased the required freshman meal plan. This consisted of 160 meals per semester, plus $300 in Bamacash or something. Total--about $3200 for the year. Note that this doesn't even cover all meals. And it is only for around 8 months. Frugal Son--in horror (he has a board scholarship)--did the math: each meal costs around $8.00. Even if all you get is a bowl of cheerios. One of Lucy's friends had 60 meals left on her card! That is almost $500.00!

So for Lucy's sophomore year, we have a plan. We will buy her the smallest meal plan--50 meals per semester--so she can have lunch or dinner. Then, she will try to cook some other meals in her suite, which has a mini-kitchen sans stove. Any money she saves can go to restaurant meals or whatever the heck she wants, including, of course, meals purchased at the cafeteria.

I have been amassing supplies in Lucy's closet. More on that later.

And what is the secret to College Cooking if you don't have a stove? No--not a hotplate or similar: those are rightly forbidden as fire hazards. The key I realized is a safe way to cook your starch, which is a base for so many meals. What is safe, cheap, and starch-friendly? YES. A rice cooker.

As it happens, my blog-friend Chance wrote an ecstatic post on her thrift store purchase of the Mercedes of rice cookers. I'm not even jealous; I realize Chance needed that find more than I do.

No, Lucy will have to content herself with the cheapest of rice cookers, the Aroma. We got it from Amazon a while back: Aroma ARC-733G 3-Cup Pot-Style Rice Cooker and Food Steamer">

Or you could get the fancy one lucky Chance got: Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 5-1/2-Cup Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer, Premium White">


FB @ said...

I second, no TRIPLE the purchase of a rice cooker for any college student

It's the #1 thing everyone I know has bought when heading off to college, because you just throw the rice in, wash it, add some water, and with whatever you've made, you sit down and have a hearty meal.

Plus, it's just a plug and go. :) You can also steam and cook other foods in there, or make Japanese fried rice.

It just supplements and helps beef up ANY meal I eat, which means whatever I decide to buy or have as leftovers from the night before, I have rice to go with it to make it stretch into 2 or 3 meals

see you there! said...

A (small)crock pot seem like a good choice. I'm not a huge fan of crock pot food but they are sure handy. I have one at the cabin and have experimented enough to have a few decent recipes.


Frugal Scholar said...

@FB--Thanks for the endorsement. My son had a lot of Asian friends in high school and they all had rice cookers!

@see you--I'm thinking about a crockpot. Could you suggest some dorm appropriate recipes?

Shelley said...

We've just bought an old RV and we're looking at frugal ways of cooking when we're away. Most parks seem to offer unlimited electricity and since we pay for the gas ?propane? that seems to be the way to go. We have a small microwave, but I was wondering about a crockpot - or a rice cooker. seems to offer up everything from 'rice steamer' to 'slow cooker' to 'pressure cooker'. Can you define your rice cooker by brand or other characteristics? What sort of price range would you expect to spend (hopefully for something easy to clean- the sink is tiny!)