Kitchen Essentials: Olive Oil

Every well-stocked kitchen needs some sort of fat to cook with and olive oil is one of your healthiest, most versatile options. The antioxidants found in olive oil can help lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease, and ward off cancer. It’s a much healthier alternative to regular vegetable oil and even canola oil.

There is also a different olive oil for each price point, but all offer a great taste and a quick heating ability. For sautéing, try virgin olive oil and for high heat cooking, use light olive oil.

Olive oil can also be used in lieu of salad dressings and because it is a good fat which lowers your bad cholesterol and raises your good cholesterol, which makes it a healthy alternative to the dressings you can find in the grocery store. For salad dressings, try extra virgin olive oil, which is not as good for cooking since it has a low smoke point.


Budget Meal: Baked Chicken Parmesan

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Servings: 4
Cost per meal: $9.47
Cost per serving: $2.37
Prep time: 15 minutes
Estimated calories: 300

I absolutely love Italian food, but often find at Italian restaurants the portions are too big and the food is prepared in the least healthy way possible. That’s why for this week’s budget meal, I decided to adapt Skinnytaste’s Baked Chicken Parmesan because I wanted to lighten up one of my favorite Italian dishes – and do it on a budget. The result is a great week night meal you and your roommates can easily make – or you can freeze the leftovers for when you’re on the go and have a great alternative to those sodium-loaded frozen dinners.

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Budget Meal: Chicken Fajitas


Servings: 1-3
Cost per meal: $9.75
Cost per serving: $3.25
Prep Time: 10 minutes 
Estimated Calories: 465

These chicken fajitas are one of my go-to meals during the week because I love Mexican food, but I don’t always have the time to go out to eat and can’t always afford fajitas when I do make it out since they seem to be one of the pricier items at most Mexican restaurants. The best part about this recipe is that I threw it together on a whim one night and so it’s easy to add in any other vegetables, other meats, or toppings you like to keep it interesting. This recipe is also great because it’s easy to make a single serving for yourself or make enough for some friends, too.

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Budget Meal: Turkey Zucchini Burgers

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Servings: 5
Cost per meal: $9.47
Cost per serving: $1.90
Prep time: 30 minutes
Estimated Calories: 250 

If you’re anything like my friends and me, you realize cooking for yourself in college is hard- especially after a long day of classes. It’s on those kinds of days where we’re too lazy to cook that we end up at our favorite burger joint around the corner from our apartment. Although these trendy burger joints are all the rage here in Charlottesville, they certainly aren’t the most economical or healthy option in town.

That’s why I decided to adapt Skinnytaste’s Turkey Zucchini Burgers for this week’s budget meal. Since my apartment complex doesn’t allow outdoor grills, I made mine on a flat skillet on the stove and they turned out wonderfully. So regardless of whether you make them on a traditional grill, a skillet like I did, or a George Foreman grill, they’re a great alternative to that $10 burger you’re craving.

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Kitchen Essentials: Eggs

No matter what is on my grocery list, I always know I’ll be leaving the store with eggs. Not only are they inexpensive – you can usually snag a dozen for under $2 – they are a nutritionist’s dream because they are jam packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

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Thanks for stopping by The College Cook! Our goal is to provide college students with basic kitchen skills and healthy budget meals so they can survive their college years on more than just ramen and macaroni and cheese.

Please let us know if you have any recipes or skills you would like to see on this blog or have any questions about cooking in the comments below. We look forward to cooking with you!

-Emily, Maurine, Katie & Molly