College Cooking: Tips and tricks for navigating the kitchen

Searching for recipes that revolve around one or two key ingredients can help you focus on one main component of the meal and use what you already have without getting overwhelmed. (Nathan Enserro | Collegian Media Group)

College is the first time that many students are away from home, living on their own and navigating college. The road to adulthood is difficult, especially when it comes to cooking.

However, money is sometimes an issue for many college students. Part-time jobs only pay so much, and groceries can get expensive, especially if you have dietary restrictions. While dining halls are convenient, they often end up costing much more than cooking at home.

“I would say that cooking is easier than having a meal plan: it’s easier to stay on budget because groceries are cheaper,” Catalina Ardila, junior in engineering, said.

Take note of what your favorite meals or ingredients are and use that to find interesting recipes. Whether it’s something your parents make or your favorite meal at a restaurant, knowing what you like to eat will make cooking more enjoyable. There are even websites specifically tailored to college students. A simple internet search will turn up hundreds of easy, quick and budget-friendly recipes.

Alternatively, search for recipes that revolve around one or two key ingredients. This allows you to focus on a main component of the meal, use what you already have and not get overwhelmed.

“I would say to try to look for meals that are easy to prepare,” Consuela Duran, senior in entrepreneurship, said. “As soon as you know what you plan on making, buy what you need instead of a bunch of random ingredients.”

Overbuying is one of the quickest ways to go over budget. Additionally, when you overbuy without meals in mind, the food often goes unused and ends up in the trash. Take a few minutes at the start of each week to make a list of meals you’d like to prepare. Then, stick to only buying those ingredients. Not only will this save you money, but it will also help combat food waste.

Learning to cook can be as difficult as staying on budget. Making microwaveable macaroni and cheese in your dorm room is one thing, but putting together complete meals is a whole new challenge.

Make sure to assess what cooking mediums you have available. From stoves to the coveted air fryer, there are various ways in which you can learn to cook. Of course, purchasing an air fryer isn’t a requirement — just looking at what you have will make it easy to find recipes tailored to your kitchen.

College can have a lot of stressors, but eating shouldn’t be one of them. Learning cooking basics now, enhancing what you already know and practicing a budget will help you succeed in and out of college.