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I decided to put together this page of college recipes and college
cooking tips since it can be such a challenge due to space, money and
inexperience. Trust me, I know. :)
The key to college cooking and easy college recipes is to have few ingredients, little to no prep and quick cook times. Below I've listed some of the things that got me through college food wise, both in the dorm and in my first apartment. Happy cooking!
QUICK SIDE NOTE: I was in college a long time ago and surely things have evolved, so add any college recipes or college cooking tips of your own in the comments section at the bottom of the page. I'd love to get your feedback.
When I was in college, I ate at the school cafeteria for most of my meals since it had been included in my tuition AND that is where my healthier eating occurred.
However there were the times in between meals or when pulling an all-nighter to study or when I was too lazy (or possibly hungover...possibly) to walk all the way to the cafeteria that required sustenance. This is how I sustained myself during those times.
Now this must be said, I am not proclaiming that any of these college recipes or tips are particularly healthy. Like I said, my healthier eating occurred at the cafeteria, so my tips below are good for budget, time and space limitations.
Ramen noodles, Chef Boyardee products, Easy Mac, you know where I'm going with this. So cliche, I know! BUT in college the microwave is your culinary best friend, and I did eat microwavables on a regular basis. Why? They are inexpensive, filling, easy to cook and taste good (at least I thought so).
Behold! The dorm refrigerator. Such tiny little things but necessary nonetheless. We kept snacks like string cheese in it that were versatile. For example, string cheese could be a snack on its own or it could be melted on a bagel for breakfast or put on a sandwich for lunch.
Finally, let's round out these college tips with some nonperishable items. We used to keep our dorm room stocked with Cheez-It crackers and some sort of bread (usually bagels or English muffins). The crackers were a good snack, and the bread could be used for so many things (breakfast, sandwich, etc.).
Once we moved out of our dorm room and into our first apartment, my roommate and I had to keep to a very tight budget as well as figure out how to cook. We no longer had the cafeteria meal plan and were responsible for buying and creating all of our meals. (AND this was way before Pinterest ever existed!)
Out of the money my parents gave me each month for living expenses, $200 was for food which is $50 per week. Behold, my budgeting skills were born.
The easiest thing I could think of was to go to the grocery store once a week and spend $50 on items that would last me until the next week (and no eating out at restaurants or bars). It was a simple plan, so I was able to stick to it as was my roommate who had a similar budget.
Again this must be said, I'm not proclaiming the college recipes or tips below to be healthy. In fact, I don't eat almost any of it anymore but that's not the point of this page. This page is to help those with budgetary limitations and no culinary knowledge stay well fed during the collegiate experience, so...
Neither one of us really knew how to cook, so we started with the very basics. We ate a lot of things like pasta, canned soup, hot dogs and grilled cheeses.
One of the college recipes I made the most was pasta. I usually bought angel hair noodles, but you can get any type that you prefer. I simply brought a pot of water with a little salt in it to a boil, and then dumped some pasta in. I usually overestimated how much I would eat, so that I could have leftovers the next day. To determine if the pasta was done, give it a taste to make sure it's not too chewy or (like my mom taught me) throw a piece against the wall. If it sticks to the wall, then it's done. Strain it, and add some store-bought pasta sauce and Parmesan cheese. That's it!
Some of the easiest college recipes include hot dogs and grilled cheeses of which there are only 3 words: George Foreman Grill. Look into it!
The canned soups were fantastic, because they are very simple to make (heat up either in the microwave or on the stove) and are versatile. You can eat the soup by itself or with crackers or with grilled cheese or over white rice.
The teeny tiny little "freezer" that was in our dorm refrigerator probably couldn't hold more than a single popsicle, so having an actual freezer when we moved into our first apartment was heaven. It opened up meal time to freezer goods which are SO easy to make.
We ate Hot Pockets as snacks, Eggos for breakfast, and pizza and frozen veggies for dinner. Now I know those things don't sound particularly good for you, so I definitely recommend checking out the healthier frozen foods for the more nutritious options. The point is that freezer meals are easy to make and are a huge deal to someone who hasn't figured out how to cook yet, so take advantage of that.
One of our best tips was to eat things that didn't require any cooking like prepared foods, salads and sandwiches.
Getting stuff from the prepared foods section of the grocery store was huge. I used to love getting the egg salad. It was yummy by itself, on bread as a sandwich or with some deli meat and cheese.
Speaking of deli meat and cheese, another no-cook favorite was sandwiches or roll ups (which is my term for a piece of meat and a piece of cheese rolled up together and usually dipped in something like hummus...mmmmmm).
Lastly, salads were da bomb! I would make these huge salads and get creative with the ingredients depending on what we had in the house. This was also my segway into learning more about fresh vegetables and eating healthier on my own.
Since college I've slowly but surely figured out how to cook, and I must say that I'm very proud of my current skills. I started by nailing one easy, healthy recipe at a time, and now I've got it down. I only do simple and inexpensive yet very tasty recipes. Couple that with some quick meal planning and you're golden!
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