Niche Resources
two women cook in kitchen

Beyond the Ramen: Cooking for One in College

Living off-campus brings with it so much freedom, but with that newfound freedom comes responsibility. Without the safety net of a school-issued meal plan, you’re now on your own in the kitchen, likely with little to no experience.

Luckily, preparing food for yourself can be easy, cheap and painless if you do it the right way.

Shop Around (Literally) for the Best Prices

A challenge I faced when I first moved was choosing a grocery store where I could find everything I needed at a fair price. At home, my family always shopped at the same stores for everything. But in a place that was new to me, it was hard to choose and know which places would have good quality food but not break the bank.

A quick Google search and skim of the ratings proved helpful. Unfortunately, the first place I shopped was closest to home but a bit expensive, and some others did not have everything I needed for some of the meals I wanted.

The good news is that if you run into problems like these, you can simply try a different place next time and hope for better results until you find a place that works well for you.

Find Simple Recipes

It can be hard to find time in the day to cook for yourself between classes and assignments, but the internet is a great place to start if you are learning how to cook and looking for simple, easy meals. I suggest seeing what you can find with five ingredients or less. Think chili, pasta dishes and salads.

Try these super simple meals to get you started.

Cook in Batches

If you follow a recipe, chances are it’ll yield several servings that you can reheat over a few days. Say it with me: Leftovers are your friend.

If you don’t want to eat the same meal over and over, you can always freeze it and thaw it out when you’re hungry for that type of meal again.

Another tip: Swap your leftovers with your roomie. Two dishes, half the work!

Plan Ahead

Think about your week in advance: When are you busy around mealtimes?When do you have some free time to spend in the kitchen?

Use your quieter days for cooking, and save your leftovers for the days that are going to be especially stressful. When your meals are premade, that’s a little bit of weight off your shoulders.

The weekend can be a good time to take a few hours to make a few types of food that you may want to eat throughout the week.

Don’t Forget the Good Stuff

As much as we hate to admit it, mom was right when she said eating your veggies (and fruits!) is good for you.

If you don’t, you’ll notice never eating healthy foods tends to make you feel physically worse. It may cause you to feel more tired or leave you craving something more even after you eat. Even if you’re not the biggest fan, there are lots of delicious options out there.

If you’re a little wary, try pre-cut veggies and fruits to make it practically effortless.

Give Yourself a Break

Sometimes, you just don’t want to cook for yourself.

Keep a stash of something super easy that you can just add water to and pop in the microwave. It’s such a relief if you find yourself busier than you expected.

But when you need a true break, take a night off and treat yourself to some fine local cuisine.

Eating out every day is not healthy or financially viable, but it can be a great idea to when you’re in a pinch or just want to try something you don’t have the skills to cook.

Wherever you choose to live, you will likely have a plethora of new restaurant options that you are excited to try. Why not take one night a week and try something new? It can be a fun and delicious option that also saves you time if you can order something online and get a delivery right to your doorstep.

On top of moving out and starting a new semester, learning to cook can feel like an additional burden. But it doesn’t have to be!

If you use good judgement and easy resources, learning to shop and cook for yourself is a challenge that can be tackled. Not only does it provide you with necessary life skills, but it can be fun, too.

Author: Heidi Temple

I am a first-generation student at Princeton University. I am currently planning to concentrate in Molecular Biology there. Then, I plan to go to grad school and eventually pursue a career in medical research.