The Grocery Ninja leaves no aisle unexplored, no jar unopened, no produce untasted. Creep along with her below, and read her past market missions here.
I just survived my last month in grad school. And I am sad to report that I’m one of those people who clearly do not forget to eat when stressed. Deadlines can be raining down, but my stomach is never in so tight a knot that I will refuse a steaming cuppa hot chocolate. Or a brownie. Or an oatmeal raisin cookie.
Most people put on the freshman 15, deal with it, and move on. I grapple with the “finals 15” every finals period. Which means my first stop after submitting my last paper is never the end-of-finals party—it’s the gym.
Having said that, in my last term of school, I think I’ve finally figured out the antiballoon strategy (or what it should have been all these years). Being cheap, I refuse to shell out money for a muesli bar–type confection, as just one is never enough, and before you know it, you might as well have bought a deli sandwich. But microwave oatmeal quickly loses its shine, so I staged “Operation Find Yummy, Healthy, Instant Food.”
My biggest gripe with canned soups, powdered stuff you add water to, shelf-stable cheese and carb combos, and the various frozen TV-dinner entrées, is that they’re seldom healthy, yummy, and cheap at the same time. You almost always have to pick just two of these descriptors. It makes me sad—we can put men on the moon but we can’t make healthy, yummy, cheap, instant food.
Then my neighbor came to the rescue and tipped me off to Greenmax’s 100 Grains. Bada bing, bada boom. With everything from rye to wild rice, with some burdock root and lily bulb thrown in, this is the kitchen sink of instant food. To be fair, there are only about 85 ingredients on the list (I counted), and they claim to have a hundred. But, you know what? 85 grains for lunch is good enough for me. Especially when you consider my usual alternatives of a chocolate bar or a can of tuna.
Tastewise, it’s nutty and slightly sweet, with a fairly smooth consistency—nothing I imagine anyone would find offensive. And my usually picky housemate (the one with texture issues) really enjoyed this. Don’t get me wrong, 100 Grains is no gastronomic revelation. But for lunch in a cup (just add hot water), it’s pretty damned good.
I’ve since gone on to explore Greenmax’s other offerings, and I think I’ve found my fave: their Yam Nutritious Cereal (in Asia, “yam” refers to taro, not sweet potatoes) is savory, and includes green tea, pumpkin seeds, lentils, seaweed, and sesame seeds. Another offering is their Hakka Thunder Tea—a soupy dish of veggie fixings with rice, doused in a broth of tea leaves, basil, and mint. The “thunder” in the name alludes to the racket made when pounding the ingredients for the soup. While this powdered, instant version pales considerably to the real thing, it’s not half bad. From what I’ve found, Greenmax’s offerings are vegetarian and eschew MSG, preservatives, refined sugar, and added fat. Some of them are even certified organic. The damage to my pocket? Each pack works out to less than a dollar.
(Psst… if you manage to find it, their almond milk mix makes a luscious, deeply fragrant cuppa, at a whole lot less than a certain big brand name’s tetra packed version).
About the author: Wan Yan Ling is an impoverished grad student and sourdough finger-crosser living in Rhode Island. She can usually be found in the kitchen procrastinating on "real work" or online tracking down obscure recipes. Ling thinks eating alone is no fun, and she still believes in hand-mixing.