It’s 11am on a Sunday morning, and you feel like death. But why: perhaps too much Absolut? Oh, who are we kidding—Karkov. Regardless, you simultaneously feel nauseous and in dire need of a round at IHOP. When you’re off meal plan and the hallowed Sunday Ratty Brunch can no longer take place, what’s next? Two words: banana bread.
The first thing you have to learn about living off campus and preparing meals for yourself – instead of relying on Gate pizza – is that you must always have a stocked pantry. My roommates have asked me on numerous occasions how I always have the ingredients for dishes I prepare without having to go to the grocery store every time, and my answer is always the same: spend a lot of money buying staples in one trip so you never have to do it again. This way, when your stomach feels like it’s going to turn inside out and your head feels like the venue for a vicious game of dodgeball, you don’t have to leave the apartment (or dorm, if you swing that way) to make a heavenly batch of pancakes, some sinfully delicious cookies, or some banana bread that will bring all the boys to the yard. So, what does this essential first grocery trip look like?
- Flour: Whether it is all-purpose, whole wheat, or gluten-free, this staple is necessary for most things that taste good.
- Sugar, spice and everything nice: Buy white sugar and brown sugar; that way impromptu cookies are always a possibility for late-night shenanigans. And yes, spices are obnoxiously expensive but are also truly necessary to make food delicious. At the very least make sure you have salt, pepper, some sort of basil/French/Italian herb mix and garlic powder. Trust me, it’s worth it. If you’re like me and have an unhealthy obsession with tex-mex and spicy foods (read: stomach ulcers), always have hot sauce and cayenne pepper at the ready. Oh, and for chocolate chip cookie lovers out there, make sure to stock up on real vanilla extract.
- Butter me up, baby: Some people love to put butter on everything from toast to vegetables. If you’re like me, you don’t eat butter often but will need it for the unhealthy therapeutic amount of baking you do on a regular basis. The fabulous thing about butter is that you can pop it in the freezer forever and just thaw it out when you need it, so don’t worry about it going bad.
- Leggo my eggs-yo!: Again, unless you’re vegan, most things that taste good have eggs in there somewhere. There are a few exceptions, but those are few and far between, and if you plan on bribing your friends with baked good anytime soon, it’s good to have a few around. Besides, I can personally attest that eggs make excellent meals morning, noon or night, and for that reason, I have become an omelet master.
- Grains/rice/pasta: You need some complex carbs to keep your engine running and your meal hefty. By keeping dry grains around (I always have barley, quinoa and pasta in my cupboard), you can always build a meal with whatever is left over in your fridge: cheese, veggies, meat; everything tastes good when mixed with pasta!
- Go greased lightning: Make sure you have some form of oil in your kitchen. I always have extra virgin olive oil around (the bigger the canister, the better the deal, so go hard or go home) and some Pam cooking spray. You can thank me later.
Once you have these staples (and after you shed a few tears for the rather sizeable first bill), you can breathe a sigh of relief because you will probably only have to buy these goods again intermittently – depending on how much you sauté, bake, broil, roast and so on. I go through salsa and peanut butter at an embarrassingly fast rate, but my stock of sugar has lasted me months. And now, you only have to worry about those fresh foods (meat, fruit, yogurt, etc.) and can often rely on friends with meal credits to sneak you stuff. Because of my well-stocked pantry, I was able to make this absolutely delicious banana bread (mixed with chocolate chips, of course) for my roommates and myself without changing out of my comfy pajamas and leaving my apartment. For those of you who don’t like to mix fruit with pleasure, pancakes are an easy fix that requires no fruit and only the things that you just stocked your pantry with: congratulations! Now go reward yourself with some yummy treats until your tummy feels better. Carbs, omm nom nom.