College is a busy time, from attending classes and studying to making friends and staying active — the list just goes on. But once you move off campus into your own place, it’s a whole other level of adulting. On top of your already busy schedule, now you must plan every meal, and at some point, you’ve realized throwing instant noodles in the microwave isn’t going to cut it anymore.
So, I’ve compiled a list of a few tips and tricks I’ve personally tested for those of you who cannot bear the thought of microwave meals for another night in a row.
Research meals beforehand
What are you craving? What sounds amazing after a long day at school? If you’re unsure or you need inspiration, Google and Pinterest are your new best friends. Just search “easy college meals” and see what pops up. This will help you avoid scrounging around the kitchen in a hangry frenzy, desperate to put together a somewhat nutritious meal. Instead, find easy meals and their recipes in advance, and skip the “what can I make out of what’s in my pantry” guesswork.
Make a shopping list
Something they don’t tell you about adulting is that grocery shopping can be one of the most overwhelming moments of your week. If you’re anything like me, a grocery store might produce similar anxiety levels as an exam that could make or break your grade. I’m not being overdramatic. Those feelings are real. But something I’ve found is writing a shopping list helps me exponentially.
Take a few minutes to look through your current pantry and fridge and decide what you could use more of. Add the ingredients from all the recipes you researched for the meals you're going to make that week, and voilà: you have a game plan for the discombobulating, anxiety-inducing task some call grocery shopping.
Prepare meals in advance
Unfortunately, I’ve learned making gourmet and well-balanced meals every night is not always realistic considering how much time it takes. However, meal prepping and making recipes in bulk is realistic, and can be extremely helpful when the tasks of the week begin to pile up. Just by doubling a recipe’s ingredients, you can make it infinitely easier to continue eating healthy and nutritious meals throughout the week without having to endure the hassles that come with cooking and cleaning on busy nights. Throw the leftovers in the microwave and eat them for any meal. It makes for much more satisfying microwave dishes.
Always have a backup meal
We all get the mid-week burnouts, and goodness knows on those days, the thought of cooking is pure agony. This is why I suggest always having a backup meal. Perhaps it’s a frozen pizza, chicken nuggets or a healthy microwave meal. This ensures that even when you don’t want to cook, you can still make a filling meal rather than binging on potato chips and ice cream (although sometimes those kinds of meals are needed). Always make sure to stock up on backup meals, because you never know when the cooking burnout is going to hit.
Be nice to yourself
Remember you’re in college. You’re young, still learning how to be an adult and you’re already jam-packed with college-related activities. There will certainly be times when you accidentally burn your food, make something wrong or realize with undying awkwardness that you actually have no idea how to make pasta. Don’t worry, I’ve been there too, and it’s okay.
It’s all a learning process in which you must start somewhere. Don’t be afraid to buy a fun snack that wasn’t on your shopping list or go out with friends for a meal instead of eating leftovers. In the end, making conscious decisions about your eating habits can only help you in the long run.