A whole year of dining centers and their unlimited food options of Italian, American and Mexican food are long gone. Part of me misses the food waiting for me after class while the other half of me knew I had a fair share of the same, repetitive food options.
After 18 years of my mother and father cooking, I'm finally, for the first time in my life, learning how to cook on my own. The royal treatment has vanished and no longer will someone prep and prepare meals for me.
Cooking for myself on a college student budget is quite tricky. I'm learning a lot of new things along the way with food safety, expiration dates, how to cook and much more. These are the tips I'd give for someone who is in the same boat as I am.
I knew food could rot but what I didn't know is food rots in a blink of an eye. Certain fruits and vegetables rot pretty quickly than others. For instance, I purchased a head of lettuce and after 3 days or so it turned brown and slimy. I had the exact experience with strawberries, I could never eat them fast enough before they expired. I haven't purchased milk yet but my roommates have and their half gallons go to waste especially when we only use the milk for our Kraft Mac and cheese. We learned its smarter to buy milk in either a quart or pint size to eliminate waste.
Because of the rotting situation with my food, I have learned to start planning out my week. I come up with some food ideas I could make before and after class without any stress. Planning will give you an idea of what you need and don't need before you head out to the grocery store. Whenever I plan out what I'm going to eat I get excited about what's ahead during the week. It gives me something to look forward to, especially when you plan a night with your roommates to make homemade pizzas. The difficult thing about planning is you never know what you might crave in the middle of the week and you don't know what you'll be hungry for days from now.
Since we're on the subject of craving lets just say craving something that is not in the cupboard is the worst feeling in the world. If you're like me and don't have a car to get you to the place that may have the thing that your craving is quite sad. But on the bright side, I have a full kitchen where I can cook whatever my heart desires. My freshman year I was limited to the food options and areas to cook things. Now I can adventure out with different foods and make obscure dessert recipes off of Pinterest. I've learned to always keep something chocolatey or sweet in my shelves, whether it is a tub of ice cream or fun-size candy bars.
The cooking part of it all doesn't come easy to me. I thought the whole summer, my mother would teach me some easy dinners to make but we never got around to it. So, when it comes to cooking I play it by ear. I wish I was able to cook fancy, healthy dinners but for now, I'm satisfied making frozen pizzas and grilled cheeses. Maybe someday I'll achieve cooking a 5-course meal. Especially for me as a beginner, I've learned reading the directions is huge. If you follow the directions you'll most likely make a decent meal to fill up your tummy.
I've learned to eat what's left in the fridge and cupboard before heading back to the grocery store. I tell myself over and over I can't afford to spend money on extra things like junk food and to prioritize the essential food I need day to day. Sometimes I'd like some Jack's pizzas, tubs of ice cream or family sized bags of chips but I hold myself back until there's a good deal. There are days where I don't want to cook and would like to eat out but I remind myself it's pointless to buy a sub from Which Which when I have lunch meat back home.
Whenever I step foot into Aldi's, Target or Hy-Vee I feel like I'm in adult mode. Almost like I'm making mature moves by getting my groceries in a cart without my mother's help. Once you do it, you will feel what I'm feeling. Cooking and grocery shopping is part of being independent and growing into an adult. Nowadays, grocery stores have plenty of options to choose from for dinners, which is exciting when you're new to the whole thing.
Hopefully, my experiences with cooking on my own for the first time will prevent you from making the same mistakes I have.
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