Shop Like Your Mom


My 23-year-old daughter Lauren is kind, funny, smart, and beautiful and was once obsessed with making and photographing breakfast sandwiches. When she was in elementary school, she flirted briefly with vegetarianism and in high school, veganism. Now, she’s open to cooking just about anything.

She asked me to teach her how to grocery shop and plan healthy, delicious meals that she can eat for a week. She wants her time in the kitchen to be more efficient, to minimize boredom and waste: i.e., not throw away a lot of shriveled old food at the end of each week.

Other guidelines: leftovers are fine, but not every night, and she doesn’t want to start every meal from scratch. She’s happy to eat a few meals out but most definitely doesn’t want to live on greasy and expensive takeout.

Lauren has one shelf in the refrigerator and one in a cabinet. Her freezer needs defrosting. So how can she possibly eat well?

Easy. Be smart about how and what you buy. Keep essential — and not so essential — pantry items on hand. And the recipes? All simple.


I am going to assume that you have a reasonably stocked pantry, which means salt (hopefully kosher) and black pepper (hopefully peppercorns that you grind when needed); an array of commonly used spices, like basil, oregano, crushed-red-pepper flakes, chili powder, curry powder, thyme, and cinnamon; olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and soy sauce (low sodium is better), that sort of thing. I also recommend you have toasted-sesame oil, unseasoned rice-wine vinegar (which is a great substitute for lime juice), and Dijon mustard.

Equipment is just as important as ingredients. They are basics that will get you through almost everything. I’m hoping you have measuring cups and spoons, tongs, a blender, a cutting board, a sharp knife, a can opener, a mixing bowl, a potato masher or fork, a wooden spoon, and, most important, a large cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet. If you don’t have any of them, you won’t be sorry you went out and purchased them.



**DRY GOODS:** (The rice and oats will last a year; the beans, broth, and coconut milk 6 months unopened)

1 baguette or loaf of bread (freeze when you get home)

1 16-ounce container steel-cut oats

1 28-ounce bag brown or white rice

1 15 ½-ounce can black beans or chickpeas

1 32-ounce box chicken broth (I prefer boxed to canned)

1 13 ½-ounce can coconut milk


1 11-to-15-ounce box mesclun or whatever kind of salad greens you like

1 1-pound bag carrots

1 bunch celery

1 bunch scallions

1 big handful of green beans (4 to 5 ounces)

1 big handful of snow peas (4 to 5 ounces)

1 sweet potato

1 10-to-12-ounce box grape tomatoes

1 avocado

1 English cucumber

1 head garlic

1 apple, whatever kind you like

1 banana

1 lemon


4 to 6 chicken thighs

1 dozen large eggs

1 quart plain yogurt

1 8-ounce block Cheddar cheese

1 15-ounce tub firm or extra-firm tofu

1 2-ounce jar sesame seeds


1 14-to-16 ounce bag frozen peas

1 14-to-16 ounce bag frozen berries

Depending on where you live and where you shop, this should cost between $50 and $75.


Roasted Chicken Thighs with Green Beans and Sweet Potato

This recipe is surprisingly simple and quick, but if you prefer to make the chicken more complex, add additional dried herbs like oregano and basil, or spices like chili powder and cumin. Or slather the thighs with Dijon mustard — or better yet, mustard and pesto.

If thighs aren’t your favorite, use drumsticks or breasts, but be sure to leave the skin on, because it adds a great crispy texture as well as flavor.

Hands-on time: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Makes: 4 to 6 thighs


4 to 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon crushed-red-pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon hot sauce (optional)

1 sweet potato, scrubbed and pricked with the tines of a fork on one long side (this allows the steam from inside to escape and is actually important)

Handful green beans, ends trimmed


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

1. Place the chicken in the skillet, skin side up.

2. Sprinkle with the salt, thyme, red-pepper flakes, and black pepper.

3. Transfer the skillet to the oven, and put the sweet potato, pricked side up, on the rack next to the skillet. After 40 minutes, remove the skillet from the oven. Carefully tilt it over a heatproof container to allow the excess fat from the chicken to drain out.

4. Add the green beans to the skillet, and return it to the oven. Cook until the chicken is crisp and golden-brown on top, 5 to 10 additional minutes.

5. Serve yourself 1 to 2 chicken thighs, all the green beans, and half the sweet potato. Cover and refrigerate the leftovers.

While the chicken is cooking, make:

Basic Vinaigrette (keep half at home, half at work)

It is critical — unless you hate salad — to learn how to make a great one. A good basic vinaigrette is half the battle. I also recommend you have an assortment of dried fruit, nuts, and seeds on hand to sprinkle into your salads. They are expensive but oh-so-worth-it for their transformative powers. Cheese, fruit, and beans are also great additions. Hard vegetables like red cabbage and carrots are good because they last a long time in the refrigerator. The best salads have crunchy, soft, salty, sweet, a little bit of everything.

Time: 5 minutes

Makes: 1 cup


1 cup olive oil

½ cup vinegar (any kind) or fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch black pepper


1. Place everything in a jar and shake well (or if you have a blender, blend until completely mixed). Use right away, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Shake well before using.

Variations: add any of the following:

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons any-herb pesto or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, cilantro, or mint

2 anchovies, mashed, and 1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon curry powder


BREAKFAST: Fried-Egg Sandwich with Cheddar Cheese and Scallions

LUNCH: Mesclun Salad with Shredded Chicken (left over from the night before), Cheddar Cheese, Tomatoes, and Avocado

DINNER: Sesame-Crusted Tofu with Steamed Rice and Snow Peas

I was very anti-tofu for many years — that is, until I tried this version. Crunchy, creamy, and nutty, this has it all.

First, make the rice (starting with 2 ½ cups dry rice) according to the instructions on the package, saving most of it for the Egg Fried Rice and the Beanie Burgers. While the rice is cooking, make the Sesame-Crusted Tofu and Snow Peas.

Time: 20 minutes

Makes: 3 servings


1 14-ounce block firm or extra-firm tofu

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon canola or toasted-sesame oil

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce, or more to taste

Handful snow peas, trimmed


1. Place the tofu on the cutting board, and cut it into 6 long slices lengthwise.

2. To drain the liquid, place a dish towel or 2 layers of paper towels on the cutting board, and put the tofu slices on top. Let it drain at least 20 minutes and up to four hours (the longer you drain it, the crispier it will be).

3. Cut each section into 4 pieces.

4. Place the sesame seeds on the plate, add the tofu, and turn until well coated (it does not need to be perfect).

5. Place the skillet over medium-high heat, and when it is hot, add the oil.

6. Add the tofu and cook until it is golden-brown, about 4 minutes per side.

7. Add the snow peas to the pan, drizzle the soy sauce over the tofu, and cook 1 more minute. Serve right away.

8. Serve yourself 1/3 of the tofu, all the snow peas, and 1 cup rice. Cover and refrigerate the leftovers.


BREAKFAST: Banana-Berry Smoothie

Smoothies are the perfect on-the-run breakfast (and way better than anything you can buy). You can substitute just about any fruit for the berries, but be sure to use bananas that are mushy and a little brown to ensure a smooth, rich texture.

Total time: 10 minutes

Makes: 1 serving


½ cup plain yogurt

½ cup frozen berries, whatever kind you like

½ overripe banana (sliced and frozen for a thick smoothie)

4 ice cubes

¼ cup water or juice


1. Put all the ingredients in the blender.

2. Put the top on tightly. Turn the blender to a medium setting, and blend until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.

3. Serve right away, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 hour.

LUNCH: Greens (with ½ the leftover tofu, tomatoes, and cucumbers)

DINNER: Egg Fried Rice with Peas

I recently made this Chinese-restaurant staple for the first time, and now I can’t stop. You can serve it for any meal, vary it endlessly, and eat it hot or cold. In short, it is perfect and way less greasy than its inspiration.

Time: 20 minutes

Makes: 4 cups


1 tablespoon toasted-sesame oil

3 scallions, trimmed and chopped (but separate the whites and greens)

2 celery ribs from the inside of the bunch, where the ribs are leafy, chopped

1 carrot, shredded, or 1 cup chopped raw mushrooms, asparagus, snow peas, or other vegetables

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

3 cups day-old or two-day-old brown or white rice

2 large eggs

½ cup still-frozen frozen peas

1 ½ tablespoons unseasoned rice-wine vinegar

2 to 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed-red-pepper flakes

Kosher salt


1. Place the skillet over medium-high heat; when it is hot, add the oil. Add the scallion whites, celery, carrots or other vegetables, and sesame seeds, and cook, stirring once, until it starts to brown, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the rice and stir until everything is well mixed.

3. Add the eggs and cook until set, scrambling as you go.

4. Add the scallion greens, peas, vinegar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes, and mix well. If you have leftover green beans or snow peas, add them. Add salt to taste.

5. Serve yourself about 2 cups fried rice. Cover and refrigerate the leftovers.


BREAKFAST: Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Many people don’t want to take the time to cook steel-cut oats, but this overnight method of preparation cuts the morning time to a fraction. Once you get hooked on these, you’ll never eat old-fashioned rolled oats again.

This recipe makes enough for two servings: eat one, and save the rest for another day when you can simply microwave.

Hands-on time: 20 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Makes: 2 servings


2/3 cup steel-cut oats

2 2/3 cups water


1. The night before: put the oats and water in a small saucepan, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil.

2. As soon as it boils, set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

3. Cover and refrigerate at least overnight and up to two nights.

4. In the morning, remove the cover. Put the saucepan on the stove, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil.

5. As soon as it boils, lower the heat to low, and cook until the water has been absorbed and the oatmeal is tender, about 5 minutes.

Optional additions: Add any — or all — of the following toppings to each serving:

¼ cup milk or yogurt

2 tablespoons chopped apples, pears, or berries

1 tablespoon dried cranberries, raisins, dates, apricots, or cherries

1 tablespoon lightly toasted chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds

1 teaspoon flaxseed

½ teaspoon wheat germ or wheat bran

1 teaspoon maple syrup, honey, agave syrup, or brown sugar

LUNCH: Egg Fried Rice

DINNER: Curried Chicken Soup with Baguette

If you don’t have more chicken or don’t want chicken, add leftover tofu and/or rice instead. Also, chop up the leftover sweet potato, and add it at the end. The coconut milk makes this soup very, very rich, so if you are looking for something light, use only half the can or just stick with the chicken broth.

Hands-on time: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Makes: 5 to 6 cups


1 teaspoon canola or olive oil or chicken fat

4 scallions, greens and whites chopped and separated

1 celery stalk, sliced

2 carrots, scrubbed and sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 to 2 tablespoons curry powder

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, or 1 can coconut milk plus 2 ½ cups chicken broth

¼ to ½ cup leftover rice (optional)

1 cup shredded chicken (from 2 of the thighs you cooked earlier)


1. Place the pot on the stove, and turn the heat to medium. When it is hot, add the oil.

2. Add the scallion whites, celery, carrots, and garlic, and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Add the curry powder and cook 3 minutes.

4. Add the chicken broth. Raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low, and cook, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

5. Add the rice and chicken, stir, and cook until heated throughout, about 5 minutes.

6. Add the scallion greens.

7. Serve yourself 2 cups soup. Cover and refrigerate the leftovers.

Variations: add 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cubed, and 1 tomato, cubed. Stir in 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut and 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves.


BREAKFAST: Avocado-Apple Smoothie

Total time: 10 minutes

Makes: 1 serving


½ ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed

1 small or ½ large apple, cored and diced

1 cup plain yogurt

½ cup cold water or ice cubes

½ overripe banana (sliced and frozen for a thick smoothie)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon, lime, or orange juice


1. Put all the ingredients in the blender.

2. Put the top on tightly. Turn the blender to a medium setting, and blend until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.

3. Serve right away, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 hour.

Optional additions:

Add 2 tablespoons peanut or almond butter or 2 tablespoons toasted chopped nuts.

Add 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes.

LUNCH: Curried Chicken Soup

DINNER: Beanie Burger and Salad

Time: 20 minutes

Makes: 4 servings (freeze 2)


1 16-ounce can beans (black and garbanzo are especially good), drained and rinsed with cold water

1 large egg, beaten

½ cup leftover rice

2 scallions, greens and whites minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or basil leaves, or a combination

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ teaspoon ground cumin, or more to taste

¼ teaspoon dried oregano or basil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon olive oil


1. Place the beans in a bowl and mash until chunky.

2. Add the egg, rice, scallions, cilantro, garlic, cumin, and oregano, and mix until well combined.

3. Divide the mixture into 3 to 4 portions, and form each into a patty about ¾ to 1 inch thick. Cover and refrigerate at least a half-hour and up to 2 days.

4. Place the skillet over medium-high heat, and when it is hot, add the oil. Add two patties, and cook until browned and heated throughout, 4 to 5 minutes on each side.

5. Serve yourself 1 beanie burger solo or atop a salad. Cover and refrigerate one, and freeze the leftovers.


BREAKFAST: Fried Rice with a Fried Egg on Top

LUNCH: Beanie-Burger Sandwich (add sliced Cheddar, tomato, and cucumbers)

DINNER: Go out!!!

_Sally Sampson is the founder of ChopChop Kids, the nonprofit publisher of_ (1): _The Fun Cooking Magazine for Families._

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