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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TX State chapter.

Whatever your summer plans are, here is a gold-standard crash course on cooking for yourself!

When I lived in the dorm freshman year, I didn’t buy a meal plan because of dietary restrictions- so here’s how I cooked gourmet, nutritious, and delicious meals on a budget in my half of a dorm room, plus a tiny little communal kitchen! These hacks have stayed by my side all the way through living in an apartment and having my own kitchen.

Me cooking in a dorm room with a rat on my shoulder
Original photo by AnaBelle Elliott
  1. Set Your Staple Spices

Pick out 3-4 spices that you love and that go together well. These are going to be your biggest allies in the kitchen. My staple spices are turmeric, ginger, dill, and basil. I get the dried bottles of each and keep them constantly refilled. Note: Some grocery stores have a spice refill section (usually on the healthy food aisle) and you will save loads of money in the long run by refilling your spice bottles instead of buying new ones.

  1. Set One Staple Meal for each Meal of the Day

Now, before you get worried that you’re going to be eating the same three meals every day, just hold tight. Trust the process. Think about different foods you like for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Google, Pinterest, and channels like Food Network are great sources for figuring this out! Assign one staple meal for each meal category. 

Let’s start with breakfast. Think of one meal you like for breakfast. Now we’re gonna make a few variations of this one meal.

My staple breakfast is eggs with roasted tomatoes and spinach. On a typical day, I might scramble the eggs into the roasted tomato and spinach. When I have extra time, I adjust this meal to be an omelet with the tomatoes and spinach as the filling. Different ways to jazz this up might look like adding a handful of slivered almonds to the veggies, or putting the eggs on a tortilla.

Visual I created about cooking
Original photo by AnaBelle Elliott

Now I can have a simple and concise shopping list full of items that I know I will be using up during the week.

3. Don’t Forget The Snacks

Now for snacks! Whether it’s grapes and vegan cheese, a little fruit salad with a splash of balsamic, or a frozen dairy free yogurt, you can use this same method with your snacks! 

So, to summarize: Go explore Pinterest or Food Network, pick out three staple meals (one breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and then come up with three variations for each staple meal! The world is your oyster!… or your omelet!… or your staple spice!

AnaBelle Elliott is a journaism major at Texas State University. She writes for the University's newspaper, The University Star, in the Life & Arts section, as well as serving as the president of Texas State's chapter of SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists). She is also a songwriter and musician, carrying her love of storytelling off the page and into song.