This article is specifically for the juniors who, like me, have embarked on the off-campus journey of officially adulting for the first time. While it is liberating to finally have a place of your own, the realization that you are now fully responsible for all of your meals can be daunting for cooking amateurs like myself. I resorted to ordering Uber Eats and dining out even after taking three separate trips to Trader Joe’s during my first week back. After that, I knew I had to revamp my habits and approach to cooking. Between balancing a hectic schedule, trying new recipes, and attempting to use your groceries before they rot away in the back of the fridge, preparing meals for yourself can be a challenge. But it all truly depends on the amount of effort you’re willing to invest. Here are the lessons I’ve learned so far as I’ve navigated meal prepping for the first time in my life.
Plan a Productive Grocery Trip
While it sounds simple, the most crucial part of cooking for yourself is the humble grocery list. Planning your weekly meals in advance, and writing your list based on them, not only keeps you organized, but it also prevents you from impulse purchases. Keep your list categorized and purchase things from each section like produce, protein, and dairy so that you have all the necessary ingredients without overloading your cart. When grocery shopping is too overwhelming with a crammed shopping list, consider online grocery shopping on websites like Instacart, which can save you both time and effort.
Cook and Portion Now, Eat Later
Cooking a whole meal after a long day or in between classes can be tough—especially if you are short on time. That’s when meal prepping is a lifesaver. Preparing meals in bulk ahead of time not only prevents you from ordering food when you’re too exhausted to cook, but it also streamlines your daily routine. For instance, my roommates and I have prepared large portions of pasta, salmon, and Trader Joe’s orange chicken, which we then portion into containers that we can turn to in the upcoming days.
Make Smart Kitchen Investments
Elevate your off-campus cooking experience by investing in a few essential kitchen appliances. For example, air fryers are game-changing for fast and effective cooking of a wide range of foods, from chicken wings to veggies to sweet treats. Additionally, blenders are also a great investment if you want to make smoothies on the go. You can portion smoothie ingredients into a bag ahead of time and throw them into your blender with some milk, water, or juice in the morning.
Savor the Journey
While preparing your own meals seems stressful initially, this is also your first step into adulthood, where cooking will become a regular part of your life. Embrace it! Cooking can be a creative and rewarding part of your life if you invite friends over for cooking nights, host potluck dinners, and try out new recipes. As you navigate the realm of off-campus cooking, I hope you can lean on these simple tips.