Recipe Starter Kit

written November 10, 2023 | updated November 10, 2023

Simple food ideas for real life

Usually you don't need Instagram-worthy meals, you just need some basic building blocks to plan, buy, and cook food. This list is a simple way to start your quick and dirty grocery list.

  • These are intentionally vague so they can easily be changed up. Try using stuff you already have!
  • Pretty much always add salt, pepper, and appropriate seasonings.
  • Add meat as you please.
  • You can always look up a real recipe for help.

A Basic Meal

  • Protein, chopped and pan-seared or stewed: chicken, beef, mushrooms, tofu
  • Roasted vegetable: broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, brussels sprouts, etc.
  • Starch: rice, (sweet) potatoes, bread

A Salad of Possibilities

  • Greens: lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula...
  • Veggies: literally whatever you want, chopped
  • Protein: chicken, chickpeas, beans, etc.
  • Dressing: olive oil + something, like balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
  • Grain bed: quinoa, couscous, or rice
  • Garnish: nuts, seeds, raisins, cheese, croutons, etc.

Basic Pasta

  • Garlic + Onion (chopped, then sauteed in oil)
  • Jar of pasta sauce
  • Pasta of choice (about half a box or else you'll need more sauce)
  • Roasted, chopped vegetable (e.g. broccoli, spinach, zucchini)

Basic Nachos

  • Chips
  • Mexican cheese mix (melted in microwave or oven)
  • Can of black beans (drained, rinsed, and warmed up)
  • Salsa Spruce it up: avocado, green onions, black olives, crema...

Basic Burritos

  • Can of corn (drained)
  • Can of black beans (drained)
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 2 roasted zucchini or bell peppers, seasoned with cumin, chili powder, etc.
  • Half onion (chopped, quick-pickled with 15min in vinegar)
  • Burrito-size tortillas
  • Toppings: salsa, avocado, cheese, sour cream, crema etc.

Note: For leftovers, keep the different ingredients in separate containers until you make the burrito.

Lime crema topping

  • Sour cream (or mayo)
  • Fresh lime juice (lemon isn't bad either)
  • Optional: cilantro, garlic powder, salt

Basic Stir-fry

  • Chopped carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, onion, garlic, etc.
  • Soy sauce and/or preportioned jar of teriyaki sauce

Basic Beef Stew

  • 32+ oz broth (extra just-in-case never hurts)
  • A dutch oven or big pot or slow cooker
  • Stew meat (cheaper, tougher beef, usually sold pre-chopped)
  • Carrots, onion, celery, garlic (powder)

Chop veggies and sautee onion and garlic until fragrant. Add in the meat and broth to cover it. Stew until tender. Put leftovers in the freezer.

A Sandwich Plan

  • Vessel: bread, tortilla, pita, etc.
  • Spread: mayo, mustard, pesto, etc.
  • Protein: deli meat, hummus, tuna salad, egg salad, etc.
  • Veggies: lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, cucumber, pickles, etc.
  • Extras: cheese, avocado, bacon, etc.

Spending more on high quality bread or meat is always worth it if it means you aren't going out for lunch.

Tuna Salad

  • 1 can of tuna, drained
  • >= 1/4 cup mayo
  • Chopped pickles (essential IMO but if it's not your thing, okay...)

Eat with crackers, on bread, or on greens.

Cucumber Salad

  • cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • tomatoes, diced
  • vinegar! and olive oil
  • optional: olives, feta cheese, red onion

Mushroom Salad

  • mushrooms, sliced
  • green onions, chopped
  • lots of fresh lime juice (2+ limes)
  • olive oil

Fried rice

  • Butter (preferably, but oil works)
  • Soy sauce (a few tablespoons, to taste)
  • 2-3 cups rice (already cooked, preferably chilled)
  • Sesame oil (this is fairly important to finish it off)
  • As you like: frozen peas, carrot, garlic
  • Green onion, chopped
  • 1-2 Eggs (scrambled and chopped)

Turns out this is probably the least simple recipe here. But it's worth the effort every single time.

Roast any vegetable

  • Preheat oven to 400F/200C
  • Chop it, douse in oil, salt, pepper on a baking sheet
  • Roast until tender (~15 minutes)

Pan sear any protein

  • Heat oil in pan on medium-high heat
  • Cook protein and flip until browned on both sides but not blackened
  • Bake until done

Ballpark stewing times

Keep the lid on and make sure there's liquid. You can always add in tomatoes, onion, garlic, spices, fresh herbs, etc.

  • Slow cooker (usually has built-in settings)
  • 35 minutes medium-high on stovetop
  • 2 hours at 325F/160C in the oven
  • 4 hours at 250F/120C in the oven
  • 8 hours at 195F/91C in the oven
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