Let’s face it: Eating well in college is hard. You have the energy to cook one day out of the week, if you’re lucky, and that might result in lunch the next day. After that, you find yourself buying expensive salads from Pret and running to Naf Naf every other day. It can get expensive.
I’m in my second year of graduate school, and I’m just now getting my weekly routine down. Yes, it does take a little bit of effort, but it’s totally worth it. Plus, I’ve even started to like cooking. It’s become a real stress reliever for me after a long week. Also, eating home-cooked meals makes you feel better. Eating out every day of the week can leave you feeling bloated and tired. It’s really not worth it.
1. I usually have two or three super-easy-to-pre-make meals that I buy the ingredients for once a month or once every 3 weeks. Right now I have about 15 separate bags of various fruits for smoothies and 12 homemade burritos in my freezer. I’ll probably get tired of burritos after a while and find something new, but for now it’s working.
- Smoothies sound hard, but they’re not. Once a month I go to the freezer section and buy as many cheap frozen fruits as I can (mango, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.) plus some bananas and granola. I always have some milk and/or orange juice in the fridge for mixing. After I get home, I mix the fruits and separate them into single serving Ziploc bags. After that, I wake up in the morning, empty a bag into the blender, add granola/milk/orange juice and bam! I have a delicious smoothie to start my day with. If you’re a serial recipe-follower, here are five delicious smoothie recipes from Live Simply.
- I LOVE frozen burritos. You know, the ones you can buy for like $2.00 and just pop in the microwave whenever you are feeling lazy? Well, turns out, making them yourself and freezing them is WAY cheaper, and they taste so much better. Here’s the recipe that I used. I made 20 to 30, popped them in the freezer, and now I take them for lunch or whenever I’m not feeling like putting in any effort.
2. I always spend at least two hours every Sunday researching fun recipes for the week and grocery shopping. It might seem like a long time to spend, but you will be grateful later in the week when you come home starving and out of energy. There are so many good, free recipes online. Just start bookmarking every one you find that seems plausible for you to cook. Don’t start out with anything complicated — the simpler recipes usually taste better anyway. Here are a few of my favorite sites to start browsing: Buzzfeed Tasty, Pinterest, Tip Hero Recipes, Yummly
3. After you’ve found three or four recipes, write your grocery list down or use a listing app like Wunderlist. I personally like to just check things off on my phone while I shop. I feel like a mom wandering around with a piece of paper. (Not that there is anything at all wrong with our beautiful mothers!). Here are the recipes I’ve chosen for this week:
- Healthy Breakfast Cookies by Julie to eat with my morning smoothie. Usually I just eat some cereal or a granola bar, but I’m evading my homework at the moment. I’ll go ahead and make these on Sunday night.
- Chili Mac and Cheese: My boyfriend loves this recipe so much that we end up making it like twice a month. It makes a huge pot of food, so we usually cook and eat it Sunday night, but have leftovers for at least 3 lunches.
- Cheese Steak Quesadillas: We have some extra steak in the freezer that we bought when it was on sale. I probably won’t make this recipe until Tuesday Night and eat the leftovers Wednesday for lunch.
- Easy Spicy Peanut Noodles with Chicken: Depending on how many leftovers I have from the other dishes, I’ll make this late in the week or save it for the weekend.
In addition to the main dishes, you might want to buy sides like canned veggies, rice, or mashed potatoes (I use the box of powder and I’m not ashamed of it). It you are feeling adventurous you can also search for side recipes online, but I can really only manage one (sort of) fancy thing cooking at a time. My go-to sides are usually asparagus (just trim the stems and heat the stalks in a pan with some olive oil), canned green beans or blacked eyed peas (you can probably tell I’m from the South), or zucchini (pan and olive oil again).
Depending on how many leftovers I have, I either make the fourth meal late in the week, or save it for Sunday night. Usually cooking three meals is enough to get me through the entire work week. It’s really not that much time if you take just an hour to eat and cook once on Sunday and twice throughout the week. On the weekends I eat leftovers and also splurge and go out to eat once or twice with my friends.
Bringing your lunch to school can seem like a hassle, but it is worth it for me. Since I usually cook things that can be mixed together, I put everything into one glass container (so I can microwave it) and take it downtown with me. Even though I have to carry the Tupperware and find a microwave on campus, I save about $200 a month not buying lunch downtown. Picking out recipes on Sunday also helps me save at the grocery store. I usually spend around $60 cooking for two people per week.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or experiences you would like to share about feeding yourself while in college, comment below! I would love to learn what works for you!