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8 Ways To Eat Well And Cheaply Now That You've Graduated College

Commencement has come and gone, and you’re settling into life without school. You’re free, you’re educated — and you have student loans. Now that you’re out of the dining halls and into your own kitchens, here are a few ways to eat well by dressing up typical, everyday pantry staples, without breaking the bank.

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1. Bananas

Banana Cardamom Milkshake

You’ll be surprised by how much spices can jazz up mundane food items you always have around. Here, cardamom is the secret ingredient: combine it with all those browning bananas you have on your shelf, and you’ve got yourself a first-rate, fancy milkshake.

Makes 2 smaller shakes

1 large banana, peeled

2 scoops good vanilla ice cream

1/2 cup whole milk

Juice of 1/2 lime

Seeds from 4 cardamom pods, crushed

Chill a tall glass. Blend everything together and serve with a wedge of lime or chunk of banana.

2. Polenta

Blueberry Almond Breakfast Polenta

Bag the rushed, pre-class bowls of cream of wheat, and start your day with polenta instead. The additions of vanilla, fresh blueberries and cardamom turn this into a breakfast that’s all grown up.

3. Canned Tomatoes

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

It’s a win-win: this rich, simple sauce has a cult following, and to make it, you’ll only need three ingredients. For those of you who preferred lit class to cooking during school, the hands-off, easy simmering requires next to no culinary skill.

4. Eggs

Daniel Patterson's Poached Scrambled Eggs

If you’re anything like us, you lived on eggs during school. Graduate from scrambling, and next time you take out your carton, poach them. Yes, you heard right. It’s a whole new ballgame. Poaching is a quick, forgiving way to yield the fluffiest eggs.

5. Potatoes

The WFP: Greek Mahogany Potatoes

Two reasons you should make these potatoes: one, you probably already have all of the ingredients, and two, they’re world famous. A third: you’ll need something to eat with the scrambled eggs you’ve just poached. Forget about them while you work on your eggs - their long cooking time will result in a well-seasoned, satisfying side.

6. Canned Tuna

Provencal Tuna Melt

Canned tuna is the workhorse of the pantry. It’s always there, ready to make a meal. It’s also boring. Dress it up with scallions, capers, and asiago, and you’ve got a sandwich that effectively redefines the tuna melt.

7. Cannellini Beans

Roasted Fennel White Bean Dip

This isn’t your standard bean dip. Roast your ingredients before you puree them: here, it’s all about the cooking method, and it won’t cost you a penny more.

8. Rice (and Lentils, and Onions)

Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt

The last time you cooked a dish that involved rice, lentils, and onions, you were cleaning out your pantry. This is different: the sweet onions tangle with the rice and plump lentils to create a spiced dish with a fragrance that lingers long after the first bite.

Food52 is a community for people who love food and cooking. Follow them at and on Twitter @Food52.

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