“I’m going to eat steak three times a day!”

“Honestly, I don’t mind instant Ramen.”

“Should we just order a pizza?”

The realities of off-campus living; you’re going to need to cook! Steaks are yummy, instant Ramen fills your belly, and fast food is sooo convenient, BUT… the money adds up quickly, as do the calories, and the nutritional benefits are scarce (remember, we eat to gain fuel and nutrients). Do your body and your wallet a favor, and think about these tips and tricks.cooking_together

Talk with your roommate(s)

It is unfortunate when roommates spend tons of money on groceries that never get eaten. The milk goes bad, the bread molds over. I recommend creating a list of shared groceries, such as milk, eggs and bread; and then splitting the cost. Check out this app that helps with creating grocery lists.

Invest in the essentials

In order to cook, you need the right tools like dishes, pans, knives, cutting board and spatulas. They can either be purchased new, at a secondhand store, or even garage sales. Once again, talk with your roommates to find out how to spread the costs evenly.

My most-used cooking item during college was a George Foreman indoor grill.

Alternate cooking nights

Agree on a schedule where roommates will take turns cooking. It helps spread the workload,   builds confidence in everyone’s cooking skills, and it also creates a lot of fun memories!

One suggestion: whoever doesn’t cook helps with the dishes.

Plan out the on-the-go meals to cut costs

Invest in Tupperware dishes or a lunch box, and a nice thermos to keep your cold foods cold, and your hot foods hot (like coffee). Speaking of, those daily cups of Joe add up quickly; Coffeemakers are always nice, especially if your roommates are also coffee drinkers.

One lesson I wish I would have learned earlier — fruits and veggies make convenient on-the-go snacks! Spend 10 minutes cutting them in the morning and you can take them with you to campus.

Research!

If you are a carnivore, or if you like Italian cuisine, whatever your tastes are; do some research! Find recipes on Pinterest, Epicurious and the Food Network. My personal cooking teacher was and still is YouTube! I am a fan of Hilah Cooking; she’s charismatic, explains things well to a novice like me, and she specializes in a lot of southwestern and Mexican foods. Yummy!

Try, try, and try again!

Not all of us are gourmet chefs, and we don’t have to be. Give cooking a try, and then try it again and yet again. Experiment with recipes. Have some fun with it. You’ll find that the more you attempt it, the easier it becomes, and soon, you’ll be one of those folks who can cook a variety of meals with the greatest of ease.

  • That’s some good advice, right there! During college I always shopped at the smaller ethnic grocery stores in my ‘hood– Vietnamese, Mexican and Middle Eastern shops abound in Lincoln– where I could get staple items for waaay cheaper than the larger stores. Always encountered some interesting new items and learned a thing or two in the process as well. 🙂