To be really comfortable with cooking, you should familiarize yourself with buying fresh fruits and vegetables and using spices and herbs. The most useful nutrition tip I have ever learned is “eat the rainbow.” I <3 Ellie Krieger. Eat vibrant, colorful foods that look that way because of nature, not because of artificial colors.
You cannot eat the rainbow unless you cook with real ingredients. At all costs, try to avoid canned products -- the ones that you should even consider may be canned whole tomatoes, canned tomato paste, and canned beans. Each week, consider making one or a few weekly splurges on something special at the grocery store. This can be goat cheese, smoked salmon, fresh figs, puff pastry, etc. Treat yourself to something nice, especially if you're going to cut down on take-out!
Here's a list of food items you can test out when going grocery shopping. I'm not asking you to buy everything in one trip. But just so you know, these items are very adaptable to any meal, and the best part is that they are universally inexpensive -- even near college campuses' grocery stores! You really don't have to eat out all the time or eat frozen meals if you have a refrigerator full of these ingredients!
☐ Tomatoes (whole tomatoes or cherry tomatoes)
☐ Garlic bulbs
☐ Salad mix
☐ Frozen corn, peas, spinach
☐ Sliced deli turkey, ham
☐ Chicken breasts and thighs
☐ Fish filets (salmon, tilapia)
☐ Beef (flank steak, ground beef)
☐ Pork (pork chops, pork tenderloin medallions)
For the Fridge:
☐ White wine
☐ Red wine
☐ Fresh lemons
☐ Unsalted butter
☐ Dijon mustard
☐ Fruit juice (consider plain orange and apple juices only!)
☐ Fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil)
For the Pantry:
☐ Sliced bread