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A Guide to Killing it in the Kitchen

College is a never-ending balancing act. Between keeping up with classes, maintaining a social life, and holding a job or internship, many students let their most basic needs fall to the wayside as the semester goes on, especially when it comes to food. After freshman year and the end of the dining hall lifestyle, finding the time and resources to make real meals feels nearly impossible.

On one hand, many people hate cooking. They may not care about what they eat, or they might feel more stressed by the whole process above anything else. Others enjoy cooking but find takeout and frozen meals more convenient to their busy schedules. At the end of the day, there are a lot of reasons people may feel unmotivated about cooking; however, there are just as many tips and tricks that can make creating a home-cooked meal an easier and quicker option.

First, it’s important to keep in mind why cooking a meal from scratch every once in a while can be beneficial. In addition to adding variety to the quick meals you usually eat, there are many health benefits to eating home cooked meals. These meals tend to have lower percentages of fat and sodium than fast or frozen food and are thought to have positive psychological effects, too. Feeling better physically means feeling better emotionally and cooking also acts as a stress-reliever and creative outlet.

Cooking is as inexpensive as fast or frozen food if you can play your cards right. For example, my favorite potato soup recipe has five ingredients: butter, leeks, potatoes, and vegetable stock. This meal might cost $10 at a Walmart Neighborhood Market but makes enough food to have at least five bowls of soup.

One Whataburger “Whatameal” contains a burger, medium fries and a medium drink for $5. While it might seem like a good option once a week, filling up every day of the week with similar options ultimately is less cost-effective than cooking a multi-serving dish.

Another reason students hesitate to cook is that they struggle to find the time. One solution to this problem is to pick a day of the week to cook a large dish and eat those servings throughout the week. Introducing more cooking into your life doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing kind of deal. If you only have one day to cook, cook for just that day, or capitalize on that available time to make something that lasts a while. Freezing leftovers is almost always a viable option, and that way, one hour of cooking could turn into 60 seconds every other day of the week.

If you find that you truly enjoy cooking, then it can’t hurt to treat the process as a hobby worth your time. Cooking provides a great opportunity to relax for a little bit without slowing down, allowing you to feel productive and keeping your energy up at the same time. Making a meal is an accomplishment, not a waste of time, and should be enjoyed.

Planning a meal ahead of time is also a great way to cut down on preparation time. The internet provides a plethora of minimum ingredient, multi-serving, and minimal cook-time recipes. Websites like AllRecipes and Tasty have endless, easy to make recipes with lots of detail and sometimes even information on what to expect for the price of ingredients.

Because cooking is a creative activity as well, taking recipes from social media and testing them out is fun too. Personally, I tried Emily Mariko’s viral recipe TikTok for a salmon bowl and have never looked back. That one recipe lasted several days, not to mention it felt very cool and trendy to make.

For a college student who wants to try implementing cooking into their lives, the key is flexibility. Even freshmen with their limited meal-plans can add in a few dinners from scratch if they’re willing to test out the community kitchen in most dorms. One pan can produce thousands of different simple recipes and is a worthwhile investment. Single pans from Target or Walmart average around $10 each. If you don’t feel comfortable with in the kitchen yet, you could try a 4-ingredient microwavable recipe.

Just one home-cooked meal on a Sunday evening might make your entire week better, because cooking for yourself is an act of self-care. You never know, cooking might even be your next favorite hobby with delicious rewards.

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Ellie Taube

Alabama '24

Hi! My name is Ellie Taube and I am an English Major studying at The University of Alabama. In addition to writing and journalism as major passions of mine, I also love cooking and going walks or runs. I love dogs, in fact, most of my phone's camera roll is just pictures of my three year old goldendoodle, Ruby!
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