By: Nikki Nies
People are always surprised to learn I’ve only been cooking for the last couple years since it’s become a huge part of my life–when I’m not cooking, I’m meal planning, when I’m not meal planning I’m grocery shopping and when I’m not grocery shopping I’m looking up at the latest food trends. It wasn’t until I hit grad school, where money was extremely limited that I was forced to cook for myself, learn how to be a hostess, cater to dietary restrictions (e.g. gluten free) and how to meal plan and prep. While some may look at those times as a struggle, I found cooking to be a source of entertainment and as we all know it’s a great way to bring people together.
Due to my competitive nature and eagerness to have fun in all I do, I made it a game to see how little I could spend on groceries while still eating ‘well.’ This is where more plant based foods came into the picture, with me realizing I could get more bang for my buck while eating adequate sources of protein, I quickly switched over to more plant based proteins. For example, at H Mart, I just bought 12 slices of tofu for $4.99, you can’t beat that price! That tofu will last me a good couple weeks and will allow me to make a variety of dishes I’ve been wanting, such as Tofu and Mushroom Miso Soup.
Not all my meals have been plant based. I vividly remember when skinless boneless chicken breasts were well over $2/lb. Therefore, I opted for buying 4 whole chickens, teaching myself how to cut, debone and trim the fat off chickens. That was a sight to see!
I’m never been one for eating tons of pasta or bread, but I’ve always made sure my plates were filled with large chunks of meat and protein. Adopting a more plant based diet took some time to adapt, but my taste buds adjusted well and I feel a lot healthier.
It’s been almost two years since graduating, but I’m proud to say I’ve maintained a lot of the same culinary practices. I only buy meat if there’s discount sale at Kroger and always stock up on dry legumes–such as lentils and black beans. Whenever I am dining out, I’m not afraid to try the steak or the seafood option as I know it’d be harder for me to prepare at home. I’m grateful my budget constraints made me think out of the box and I feel more liberated than ever to be able to make different types of food. What culinary changes have you made over the years? Perhaps it was due to food restrictions or budget like me, but I look forward to hearing about it!