Living in an apartment is an exciting, much needed change to your typical college dorm room. It comes with the perks of freedom, but also much more responsibility. Typically, students who live in apartments on or near campus might have a small meal plan, but some students choose to buy all of their own groceries to make all of their meals themselves.
Making your own meals is a fun and healthy way to improve your cooking skills, but can definitely get tiring after a long day of classes. Here are a few tips on meal planning to make your transition from the dining hall to your apartment a little bit easier:
1) Create a schedule. This may sound tedious, but it will help you on those days when you don’t know what to cook for dinner, and it will prevent you from ordering take-out more than you planned. Creating a new schedule every two weeks will ensure variety, and it will give you enough time to buy your groceries in advance. Make it a point to schedule in the meals that you’ll be eating out as well. Many college students grab breakfast and coffee on-the-go, make their own lunch or buy it from the student union, and then eat out on the weekends.
2) Keep staples in your apartment. Each person will have different staples, but there are some foods that are always good to keep around when you’re in a pinch.
-Milk or milk substitute
- Peanut Butter
- Brown Rice
-Oatmeal or whole grain cereal
- Canned Beans
- Frozen Veggies
- Chicken Stock
- Your Favorite Canned Soup
- Frozen Fruit
3) Use Pinterest. Pinterest is amazing for finding easy, quick meals. You can create boards for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Use keywords like “easy,” “affordable,” “beginner,” “healthy,” and “quick” in the search to create boards based on your favorite foods, flavors and cooking styles! Follow “Foodie on Campus” on Pinterest for ideas.
4) Prepare what you can ahead of time. If you’re making stir fry later in the week, chop up your veggies when you have free time and store them in a Ziploc bag for refrigeration. Marinade your meat as soon as you get home, before you even sit down, so you aren’t tempted to conveniently “forget” about it and resort to another frozen TV dinner.
5) Eat your leftovers. Sometimes, the leftovers are the best part! Make an effort to eat them within three days so you don’t forget about them. Leftovers can make for a great lunch or for another dinner later in the week. If you don’t have quite enough for a full meal, add some fresh fruit or a slice of whole wheat bread to round out your meal.
6) Your freezer is your best friend. Buying frozen food extends the shelf life and allows you to have a variety of foods on hand at any given time. Stock up your freezer with healthy frozen meals, pizzas, fish, fruits, and veggies.
7) Be realistic. Let’s be real for a second; you are a college student. Ordering pizza or Chinese food is totally acceptable. However, keep in mind the price that comes along with take-out food (the food, delivery, and tip) compared to preparing your own meals. Order in on special occasions and your wallet and waistline will thank you.
Once you start cooking in your new apartment, you will learn what works for you and create your schedule for your needs. Have fun with it and don’t let the cooking stress you out. Once you get into a routine, you will be preparing healthy and delicious meals to keep you full, focused, and ready to learn!
Photo Credit: Laura Asbury