Moving off to college and living on your own for the first time can be a major adjustment. Personally, the biggest adjustment I found was learning how to cook for and feed myself on a regular basis around classes and other activities. Through my experiences in college and living on my own, I’ve acquired a few tips and tricks when it comes to cooking, including tips about cooking for only one person, eating healthy, and eating inexpensively.
Cooking for One
One of the more prominent challenges when it comes to living on your own is adapting recipes – whether they’re from websites, apps or even good ole’ fashioned cook books — that make 4-6 servings for one person. My first tip is embracing freezer meals. By freezing leftovers, you can cook recipes without having to adjust to fit your serving size, and you have future quick and easy meals readily available. All you must do is heat them up! Personally, I’ve found this very helpful with dishes such as lasagna, soups, breakfast sandwiches, muffins, quesadillas, and casseroles.
Another freezer tip you can use is instead of freezing whole meals you can freeze pre-cut ingredients so that they won’t go bad, and they’re ready to use whenever you need them. I’ve found this helpful in: soon to expire fruits that can be used for smoothies; leftover vegetables such as onions, carrots, and celery; and even products like cheese or breads. I use this most often when I need to cut a recipe in half (or even quarters) to fit my serving size. If I’m left with three-quarters of an onion in my fridge, I’ll cut it up, bag it, and freeze it for future recipes.
Eating Healthy and Inexpensively
A common myth is that it’s cheaper to eat unhealthy foods than healthy foods. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. You can save a lot of money by eating out as little as possible and doing more home cooking. As you do more grocery shopping, you’ll learn that vegetables, grains and beans are much cheaper and more accessible than meat. I’ve also found that shopping is easier if I plan out what weekly meals I will be cooking at the beginning of the week and decide what ingredients I need before I get to the store. This way, I’m not making trips to the grocery store every two days or buying things I don’t need that then go to waste. When shopping, be sure to stick to foods that will give you the most nutrients, like brown rice instead of white rice, whole-wheat bread products, and stay away from processed ingredients/foods that are high in sugar. When shopping for produce, you can save a lot of money by buying fruit and vegetables that are in season or on sale in bulk and freezing what you don’t use.
Lastly, many people don’t like to cook at home because they don’t have a lot of cooking experience or confidence. Some would-be cooks don’t know where to find recipes, or they don’t know how to cook for their own food preferences or dietary needs. There are many great websites, beginner’s cookbooks, and apps with hundreds of delicious recipes and easy to follow, step-by-step instructions for those who are new to the kitchen. These will help you be inspired to eat at home more, which will save you money and help you eat healthier.
Overall, cooking is an individual process. There are going to be ideas that work for you and ideas that don’t. This will be mostly dictated by personal preferences and needs. The most important thing is to be constant in cooking at home and cooking with quality ingredients.