Chances are, if you were living in residence for your residence, you are now living in some sort of accommodation that includes a kitchen and now you are staring at the cupboards and appliances which stare back at you unhelpfully and you realize: you have to cook for yourself. Yikes.
Maybe you’re one of those people who always cooked a lot for themselves at home anyway, so it isn’t really a big deal, but I am not one of those people; my parents always made the meals in our house. That’s just the way it was. So when I was left alone in my kitchen to try to feed myself, I was anxious. What should I make? Will I screw it up? Will I make a mess, will I break something? Will I over spend on food?
I’ve been cooking for myself for approximately the past two and half weeks (although it feels much longer than that), and I’m feeling much less nervous now. Once you get the hang of things, it isn’t so hard to manage. So although I am no expert, here is my method of feeding myself and relatively healthily and cheaply.
- Start with what you know. Make a list of all the things you know how to make and what you’ve made before. Gather recipes that your mom made at home so that the familiar tastes will remind you of home and not feel like such a shock. Speaking of mom, get her to walk you through some basics of cooking and a few of your favourite recipes before you leave.
- Plan ahead. Figure out what you want to eat for most of the week and do a shopping trip at the beginning of the week so you don’t have to go to the store every other day. That way if you also need to take something out of the freezer to make later that night, you’ll remember and not have to deal with frozen pasta sauce that won’t come out of its tupperware.
- Freeze things. Cooking for one can be challenging, especially since most food is sold in fairly large packages.There’s nothing more disappointing than having your food go off before you can eat it, and things like pasta sauce and cheese can go bad pretty fast. So once I open a jar of pasta sauce, I freeze in serving-size tupperware what I don’t need right away, and when I buy a package of cheese I grate about two thirds of it and freeze it and leave the rest in the fridge. If you’re sharing a fridge/freezer with a lot of people and don’t have room, you’ll have to get creative. Maybe try coordinating shared meals with your roommates? I only have to share with one other person, so I have it easy…
- Cook ahead. Cooking during the week when you have no time can suck, so making a larger meal on the weekend and then eating leftovers all week can save you the trouble. This week is taco week for me!
- One thing I like to do to stay healthy is to make sure I have at least one thing from each food group in every meal. Well, the big meals anyway. Breakfast I tend to skip out on the meat group. I find the hardest thing to get enough of is fruits and vegetables, but what I’ve found that fresh fruit and vegetables like grapes or carrots can easily be added to a meal to fill it out. And frozen vegetables like peas and corn are SUPER easy and fast to make in the microwave.
- My words on eating cheap: stalk the flyers, take advantage of deals, and don’t buy what you don’t need. Good deals are a no brainer, but sometimes people forget that they don’t really need chips or granola bars, or the most expensive brand of cereal. In addition, meat such as chicken is usually much cheaper than its equivalent in beef, so maybe hold back on the cow. Budget yourself, and see what you need to improve on in your spending habits.
I think my favourite go-to food is the quesadilla: fast, easy, and melty-cheese-good. Probably not coincidental that it’s also one of my favourite comfort foods. :P