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From College Meal Plan to Cooking Solo

Each year in my family, my four sisters and I, along with our significant others, draw names to exchange gifts. We each buy a gift for one other person in the group. This year, I drew my youngest sister who is nearing college graduation.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to buy her. She gave me exactly zero suggestions. I defied the rules of our secret name exchange and garnered a really great (or what I think is a really great) idea from another of my sisters. We won’t tell the rest of the sisters that I cheated…

In any case, I was really pumped about the idea and all’s well that ends well.

My youngest sister, said gift recipient, is a bit of picky eater (though so I am, so I’m not one to be throwing stones from my glass house). She also has the “luxury” of living off of a college meal plan at a school whose cafeteria food leaves something to be desired. I’ve visited and can substantiate her claims that the food isn’t the university’s pride and joy.

Living in the dorms and being on the meal plan, she has limited food options outside of what’s offered at the school. When we were together a few weeks ago, she mentioned how sick and bored she was with the cafeteria food. She doesn’t have an oven or stove, so a mini fridge and a microwave are her best defenses against crappy meals.

Big sister to the rescue!

For her Christmas gift, I gave her a little toolbox, of sorts, for ideas for better yet simple meals she can make with just her mini fridge and a microwave. I started with a small set of six very basic recipes that I know she likes slipped into a three ring binder to start her own cookbook. I printed out each recipe with ingredients, instructions, and a few preparation tips as she learns her way around a kitchen (or at least whatever excuse for a kitchen she has available to her). I added them to a small recipe book (to which she can add more recipes over time).

I also got her two Basic Skills cookbooks: How To Cook Everything The Basics and The Can’t Cook Book: Recipes for the Absolutely Terrified. She may not be able to use these right away, but they’ll certainly come in handy when she finally does have a kitchen.

I thought about getting her this mini slow cooker, which I think would really expand what she can make for herself. But I’m not sure it’s allowed in her dorm, so I passed on it for now. There’s a good chance it will be on my list of graduation gift ideas for her, because slow cookers are pretty amazing no matter what stage of life you’re in.

I’ve included all the recipes cards below. You can also download them as a PDF if you have someone in your life who needs a few meal ideas that don’t require a stove or an oven. If you’re giving it as a gift, pair it with a few of the tools they need to make the six recipes. Among other things, they’ll need a microwave-safe bowlplate, and mug, as well as some utensils (which they shouldn’t be stealing from the dining hall…).

Many of the ingredients they can probably get from their cafeteria, but the DIY recipe book would be great with a grocery store gift card as well.

Christmas has passed but this certainly isn’t something limited to a gifting season or gift idea; it could really be a ‘just because’ gift.

And while I may not be jealous of her college meal plan, a college schedule was basically perfection so… I hope she’s enjoying her last semester.

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