BY Robert Parmer
College students usually get a bad rap when it comes to cooking meals for themselves. Horror stories of coffee pot ramen, and mac and cheese for dinner all week stand out and paint a narrative that represents a lack of this basic human skill.
The following tips will help you break the mold that college students can’t take care of their basic need to eat. These skills are important, so why not learn them now if you haven’t yet? They’ll be with you the rest of your life!
Read A “Cookbook”
Life after high school graduation can be strange for students living on their own for the first time. A foundational piece of the college puzzle is learning how to keep yourself properly nourished. Minimal cooking experience and less than ideal food budgets can get in the way of this basic endeavor. Even if you have little to no cooking experience, there is still hope!
A great starting point is either some cookbooks from a friend or family member. While this seems old school, many dated cookbooks offer very straightforward instructions and explanations. If this isn’t possible for you, or you’d rather start with a modern version of a cookbook, check out cooking websites like Student Recipes. These types of sites are filled with instructional pieces and uncomplicated recipes.
Find recipes that focus on simple, easy to prepare meals that college student’s budgets and stomachs can agree with.
Make Sure you Have the Basic Essentials
Cooking is a lot easier when you have the right tools. So get a solid set of pots, pans, and cooking utensils. This should include a sharp knife that feels comfortable in your hand and large cutting board. Stray away from cutting boards made from wood or bamboo as they harbor bacteria. Food safety affects everyone, so be sure to always keep your surfaces and utensils clean. Use large plastic cutting boards and delegate one as ‘meat only’ to avoid cross contamination.
These overlooked but fundamentally necessary items are oftentimes lacking in dorms and first apartments. And so is cleanliness. If you can’t afford to buy the supplies you need, specific kitchen items are great things to add to Christmas or Birthday lists. You’re family will be happy to buy you things with such a practical purpose.
And Invest in Some Kitchen Gadgets
These things will all ultimately make your life easier and make you seem well versed in kitchen tech. Blenders and food processors are great for making smoothies and sauces, and finely chopping foods. Many recipes that focus more on making things ‘from scratch’ involve either a food processor or blender.
A spiralizer is a handy tool that lets you turn fruits and vegetables into different sized noodles. The spiralizer is a gateway to clean eating habits! This is a great way to get more produce into your diet in a simple yet unique way.
Consider using a toaster oven instead of a microwave. They might take a little big longer but the quality of food out of a toaster oven is tenfold. Not to mention, microwaves and related processed foods are linked to several types of cancer. So while you learn to cook, it’s important to avoid techniques and foods that are unhealthy on a long term basis. This is what’s known as preventative care; habits that will keep you healthy your entire life!
But Seriously..Step Away From the Microwave!
Since they’ve became a staple item in home use in the late 1960’s, microwave ovens have shifted from a luxury item to a common and oftentimes overused appliance.
Although there are some practical uses for microwaves, they are generally a quicker, less healthy way of cooking food than on a stove or in a traditional oven. Microwaving full meals on the regular gets you caught in a cycle of potentially damaging meal choices and preparation methods.
Reheat meals for short amounts of time. When you reheat food in the microwave, do so in 30 second increments. That way you won’t nuke your food to the point of being beyond recognition.
Cooking Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful
It’s common for people to get overwhelmed and stressed out while learning how to cook. A great way to alleviate this is to start with simplicity and work your way to more complex recipes and cooking techniques.
Start with what you know, and branch out. And if you notice that you’re constantly feeling high strung, consider eating and cooking with stress relieving foods on the regular.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like most intricate skills, the more you practice cooking, the better you’ll get over time. Luckily, we all have to eat. And cooking for yourself saves a lot of money for a less than bountiful college budget.
I’ve worked in a multitude of restaurants, everything from counter food to fine dining. Probably the most memorable takeaway from the kitchen life for me is that anyone with the genuine desire to succeed at cooking a delicious meal, certainly has the capacity to do so. I’ve watched dishwashers become world class cooks. Sure, you’ve gotta burn a few things on accident and make a few newbie mistakes in the process, but the cliche is true here: practice makes perfect!
Robert Parmer is a freelance web writer and student of Boise State University. Oustside of writing whenever he has spare time, Robert enjoys creating and recording music, caring for his pet cat, and commuting by bicycle whenever possible. Follow him on Twitter @robparmer