Feeding yourself in college is hard enough but feeding yourself right can be even tougher. That’s why we’re going to jump into the basics of eating right and cooking right. It isn’t as hard as you think to start cooking well for yourself! Here’s the breakdown of everything you’ll need to get started!
1. The Essentials
Maybe you’re just getting started when it comes to feeding yourself in college. Whether you’re fresh off of the meal plan or you just have never dabbled, you’ll need a few things to start. This means grabbing the right equipment for cooking. It also means stocking the pantry with some cooking essentials.
You’ll need pots and pans (if you don’t have any). You’ll also need pantry essentials such as olive oil, salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar. I know what you’re thinking, “what about the other spices?”. Don’t worry part of eating right is getting more natural flavors and we’ll get to that.
The essentials mean everything actually essential when it comes to cooking. Although you may think you have everything necessary, double-check! You’ll need cutting knives, boards, baking pans, pans, pots, covers for those, and so much more. If you cant afford more cookware on a budget it’s okay, you can make the most of what you have and still eat right.
2. Make Time
One of the reasons so many college students do not feed themselves right is time. The schedule is tight and everyone is always busy. You need to make time to cook and feed yourself. The benefits far outweigh the time lost. I promise your body will thank you for setting aside the time to cook something nutritional.
For many people who say they do not have time during the week, there is still another option, meal prep. Meal prepping is an easy way to save time and cut back on the day to day structure of cooking. Meal prepping means cooking whatever you are currently cooking in bulk, then separating it into daily rations. Although meal prep sacrifices freshness and variety, it can be beneficial on a tight schedule.
That being said, set aside a meal a day to feed yourself right. You do not have to cook for every meal but it is good to prepare one home-cooked food a day. You have the option to give yourself a real balanced meal at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The rule of thumb is to cook once a day while in college.
3. Buy Fresh Groceries
A common trap for the time-starved college student is to purchase long-lasting food. Whether it be frozen meals or dry ramen it is common to avoid going to the grocery store until absolutely necessary. This is a bad habit. If you are going to feed yourself right you need to incorporate a grocery store visit into your routine at least once a week.
This is where the more natural flavors of food come into play. when you buy fresh groceries weekly you can get some real vegetables and spices. Fresh garlic, onion, and peppers are a great way to flavor your food. Not to mention they are nutritional and packed with vitamins. So throw out your Mom’s Best Chicken Seasoning spice or whatever you have in the pantry!
Those spices in your spice rack are mostly old and dry. They hardly compare to the real deal of fresh veggies, spices, or flavors. An essential step to feeding yourself nutritionally is to ditch those sodium-filled instant flavors for more natural ones. Once you begin to cook with the real, fresh produce you will wonder why you ever used anything else!
4. There Are No Right Answers
When you are first cooking for yourself there is an obsession with following directions. The idea that the recipe you looked up will only turn out if you follow the instructions to the letter is a common one. This could be far less from the truth. In cooking and feeding yourself there are no right answers. Cooking at first is very trial and error.
Whether you are working with an old stove top, oven, or a million other factors, you will have to decide for yourself when you feel your food is truly done. It may differ exactly when it is time to flip the chicken or how many teaspoons of olive oil you will need as opposed to the recipe. This is okay and no reason for panic. Trial and error are a regular part of feeding yourself right and you will get the feel for your cooking style!
The recipe is not always the answer. Some people prefer chicken more crispy, some more tender. The more you cook the more you observe. Soon enough you know exactly how to cook your favorite meals. Feeding yourself nutritionally in college takes practice. Cooking is an art and you are a budding artist so give it time and have fun with it!
5. Invest In A Cookbook!
One of the easiest ways to start feeding yourself right is to actually purchase a physical cookbook. So many people will look up online recipes or cook the three things that they do know. This is a pitfall that stops you from really branching out or cooking regularly. A physical cookbook that you can flip through and chose something to make is a huge help to feeding yourself right.
For this, I recommend 5 Ingredients by Jamie Oliver. This cookbook is a perfect start for a college student because it is simple and time-efficient. Every meal has only 5 ingredients minus the essentials that one should already have in the pantry. Everything is laid out and no more than a page long. The estimated cook time is also listed right beside the meal so you know exactly how long it will take.
Any cookbook will do but the investment in a cookbook does a few things for you. It is a physical reminder to feed yourself as well as a monetary investment. You feel more obligated to use something you have bought. In this way, it helps you keep up with your goal of feeding yourself right!