As college students, can we really cook while we attend school? Do we have space, time, or energy? And besides, why would we even try? What is the point in cooking when we can make a simple trip down to the dining hall or to the nearby café, likely already paid for by our food plan.
Cooking is something that many college students simply don't do. When they go home on breaks and on the occasional weekend, you may help out with the family meals, but that is pretty much it. In college, we just walk to the dining hall, swipe our cards and grab some food. Now, this is great. I do it every single day. I love the dining halls and on and off-campus cafes just as much as the next college student. These offer us quick, efficient, and usually good and affordable meals on a daily basis pretty much whenever we want it. For our busy lives as students, balancing school work, clubs, and friends, this can be a huge help. Having to buy and prepare our own foods would be a problem. However, it is possible to find time for cooking, and its benefits are numerous from social benefit to relaxation to health and more.
Some of you out there may be saying, "Wait, I live off campus, don't have a dining hall plan, and have to buy all of my food!" Yes, for some college students, they do indeed buy and prepare their own food. However, there is a difference between buying and preparing.
These are two different things. Just because you don't have a dining hall to go to and have to go buy your own food doesn't mean you cook. Many people I know that live off campus simply go out to eat more often or buy foods that don't really require cooking like cans, cereals, etc. This doesn't really count in my opinion.
Before I show you how you can find time, resources, and such to cook in college I must address why it is important to do so. Why cook? What's the point? Cooking, in my opinion, has a multitude of benefits. You could make a google search right now and find countless articles, both scientific and opinionated about the benefits of cooking. I will just share my opinion.
Cooking connects you to your food. For me, when I cook, I feel that I am truly a part of the process of living, so to speak. It makes you more conscious about what you are eating and can cause you to eat healthier. For me, when I'm just eating out or grabbing food in the dining hall it is easy to not pay attention to how much you are eating or what the quality of food is.
When you cook, you can focus on every aspect of the eating process. You can pay attention when you are finding recipes, searching for ones that have the simplest, most natural ingredients which sound the best to you. Then, when shopping, you will have the ability to pick and choose what foods and ingredients you want. You can select the best and most natural ingredients, within your budget of course.
Even within types of ingredients, such as vegetables versus dairy or whatever, you can choose. You can look at the vegetables, for example, and pick the very best ones. This selection just isn't possible if you aren't preparing your own foods. When cooking, you can choose how much of each ingredient and what you want to cook.
You can make foods taste better! By accounting for your personal flavor preferences you can pick and choose the quantity of ingredients and spices you include when preparing your foods. If you are trying to lose weight or improve your diet in general, you can make small and large adjustments in what you are cooking and how you are cooking it to improve upon your goal achievement.
In addition, cooking allows for more social engagement. You can invite your friends or significant other over to prepare and partake in a meal. Eating meals is central to human society and human development since the beginning of our times.
Go ask an anthropologist if you don't believe me! You can truly connect with people when you cook and enjoy a meal with them. You will find this much more engaging and enjoyable than simply walking to the dining hall with them and swiping a card. It's a process and one that can enhance our relationships. The same might not be said for when we have to clean up afterwards!
Also, cooking can help relax us. It is such a natural human thing to do. It forces us to take time out of our day to focus on something healthy and enjoyable. For half an hour or an hour, we put aside our stresses of school and life and can focus on something good for us. This is incredibly helpful for you if you are a stressed out college student.
But I don't have the time!
Ah yes, nobody has time. We are all busy and dining halls, to their credit, are quick. We go to class, do homework, work at jobs, and much else. You are right, there won't always be time. You can't cook every day maybe. (If you can, awesome!) But there are ways you can strive to find time. First, like with anything, you need to just make time.
Devote an hour every day or on certain days of the week to just cook a meal. You can also cook for the rest of the week. With a quick google search, you can find numerous recipes for meals you can make ahead of time. Only have time on Sunday? No problem, if you make meals ahead of time. In addition, it doesn't always have to be dinner that you cook for, although this is often the easiest.
You could always try to wake up just a little earlier and prepare a nice breakfast. This not only will be enjoyable and beneficial for the reasons already mentioned but will give your day a better jumpstart than usual. Or, you could even make lunch if you have the time. My point is simply that you should try to find time, not that you always will. Homework and school are still more important. If social time is getting in your way, you could change that social time to be a meal in instead of eating out.
Now if you are like many college students, you live on campus and don't have a kitchen at your disposal necessarily. For you, lots of this may not apply. However, don't let this stop you. Many schools have small dormitory kitchens that you could share with your hall and make use of. If you have a friend that lives in an apartment off campus, you could offer to cook for them one day a week.
Finding ways won't always be possible, but I would encourage you to look for opportunities.