Navigating the kitchen as a busy college student can be daunting, time-consuming, and costly. With constant papers, exams, and meetings, cooking might understandably be the last thing on your mind. Whether you’re just learning to cook or looking to be more adventurous in the kitchen, here are five tips that will make cooking exciting, easy, and cost-efficient.
1. Don’t be afraid to try new recipes (or make up your own!)
Over the year that I’ve been cooking for myself, roasted veggies, fried eggs, and various grains and legumes have comprised the bulk of my diet. Boredom and periodic bursts of creativity have inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and try new meals, even developing some of my own recipes. Discovering new ways to prepare my favorite foods keeps me on my toes, cultivates my cooking skills, and makes each meal more enticing! One of my major successes this summer was a vegan chili (it was a cold summer day, okay!).
1 can red beans (low sodium, if possible)
1 can black beans (low sodium, if possible)
1 cup cooked lentils
1 ear of corn, cooked and shaved
1 small can low-sodium tomato paste
¼ cup water
Seasoning to taste (I used pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, cinnamon, curry powder, and salt – not the most conventional spices for a chili but it’s what I had on hand!)
Combine all ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes. Feel free to mash the beans a little, or leave whole. I served mine with spinach and tortilla chips.
2. But don’t forget the basics!
While being adventurous in the kitchen has its benefits, the importance of having go-to meals cannot be overstated. As much as I’d love to spend every evening creating new dishes, as a busy college student this is simply not practical. I recommend having at least 5 tried and true meals you can cook for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Simple, tasty, and healthy, my go-to meal is a bowl of steel cut oats. Although traditionally a breakfast meal, this dish suffices for lunch or dinner meal when I’m strapped for time or craving something sweeter.
Steel Cut Oats
¼ c steel cut oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
¾ c water
1/2 tbsp chia seeds
Vanilla to taste
Bring water and oats to boil and reduce to simmer for 15 minutes. Top with whatever you like; I normally add natural peanut butter and fruit.
3. Know what to splurge on and what to save on
As a college student who works 2 jobs, it’s important for me to spend money wisely. This means knowing which food items are worth spending more money on, and which to purchase generic or for a cheaper price tag. This is purely preference based. Personally, I love frozen sprouted grain bread and don’t mind spending upwards of $5 a loaf because it’s healthier than most breads and I don’t eat it too often. I also prefer to spend a little extra for high-quality eggs, peanut butter, and oats. Organic fruits and vegetables are not a priority for me at this stage in my life, so I tend to purchase the conventional fruit and veg. We all know ourselves best, and what you splurge and save on is entirely a matter of your budget and dietary needs and preferences.
4. Prep for the week ahead
A quintessential Sunday afternoon for me involves sitting at my desk preparing for the academic week ahead. Recently, I’ve begun to also spend a couple of hours in the kitchen chopping vegetables and preparing meals to eat at home and on campus. Meal prepping can take whatever form you please, whether that is identical meals packed into Tupperware containers or roasted vegetables you can throw into salads. My typical meal prep is 1-2 hot dishes I can reheat at night (like the vegan chili above), roast veggies to take to campus with a grain and protein, and chopped vegetables to snack on.
5. Keep some family recipes on-hand
When I first began to cook for myself, I drew inspiration from the incredible home-cooked dishes I grew up eating. Eggs are a staple in my college diet. My mom’s fried egg recipe provides a taste of home while also providing essential fats and protein. Over time I’ve looked to her for other simple yet tasty recipes, like frittata and pasta sauce. Whether it’s grandma’s chocolate chip cookies or your uncle’s homemade veggie dip, having a taste of home can make cooking for yourself seem far less daunting.
My mom’s fried egg recipe:
-1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
-1 free range egg
-Sea salt and pepper to taste
-Add oil to pan and heat. Crack egg, add salt and pepper to taste, and cover with lid until edges start to crisp and whites are fully cooked. Best served with your favorite toast and sautéed spinach!
I hope you’ve found some useful advice in this post. Here’s to more cooking – whether developing creative dishes or going back to the basics!
A HUGE thank you to the girl behind TheFeminist_Foodie, Antonia, who was kind enough to write this amazing foodie post for my blog! If you aren’t already, follow her awesome Instagram account here thats all about food, feminism, and fun! And try out some of her healthy, college-related recipes when you’re at your home away from home. I’m so excited to share this post with all of you and for the opportunity to focus more on a healthy lifestyle while away at college, best of luck this upcoming school year!