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My Experience Going From Dining Hall Meals To Apartment Cooking

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

We’ve all been through, or are still going through the dorm phase, and some of us are transitioning into the apartment cooking life. After two years of eating at the dining hall for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I am suddenly a Junior in college, now living and cooking in an apartment off campus. For some, this transition can be a major struggle to adjust to, and that is completely normal. While for others, this shift in daily eating can be a blessing in disguise. 

The dining hall era was a necessary experience throughout my college career. Not only is it a place you get food to eat at the snap of your fingers, but it’s also a place to hang out, take a break from a hectic day, and even meet new people. Some of my funniest memories with my friends have been talking for hours recapping our weekends while eating Sunday morning brunch at the dining hall. 

Though a lot of the time it was extremely convenient to have several options to choose from and simply not have to cook or spend extra money on food, there were definitely times when eating at the dining hall was challenging. I have always tried to eat primarily healthy meals and focus on cleaner foods, while of course keeping a balance. Yes, it’s college, and yes you are supposed to enjoy yourself. However, I did feel myself not being as mindful with what I was putting in my body, as I normally would be at home or in different circumstances. Especially when the ice cream, dessert, pizza, and a mediocre dinner menu were staring me in the face. I’ve never been a picky eater, but there are definitely times when I haven’t been in the mood for anything that was being served, and that’s where the apartment cooking comes in clutch. 

Going into this year, I was actually pretty uneasy when I thought about cooking every day on my own. Maybe that was due to my lack of confidence in the kitchen, or just realizing I would have to plan and prep meals and now block out time to grocery shop and cook. I genuinely didn’t know how cooking for myself on a daily basis would even work. 

As soon as I got to my apartment and did my first grocery shopping trip with my roommates, I came to realize that it was not as daunting as it may have seemed at first. As the first month of school flew by, I genuinely can say that I’ve felt the opposite of how I expected to feel. I’ve enjoyed making my own meals and eating them whenever I want to (even on the couch while finishing a TV show). I definitely feel that I’ve been more mindful than I have in previous years at school, and it’s been fun making meals that I like, are primarily healthier, and that I actually want to eat. Looking back on all the days spent in the dining hall with my friends I wouldn’t change a thing, but if you’re reading this and you’re worried about this transition, I’m here to tell you that it’s not as scary as it may seem! 

Here are a few tips that have helped me navigate the transition from the dining hall to apartment cooking that may help you too! 

1. Invest in an Air Fryer! 

If you haven’t tried using an air fryer yet, now is the time to start! Having an air fryer in my apartment has made cooking so much easier and quicker. You can put pretty much anything in it; some of the recent meals I’ve cooked in it are salmon, chicken, shrimp, and pretty much any vegetable. An air fryer is super versatile, it’s incredibly easy to clean and gives your food a crispy taste with minimal oil. 

2. Only Buy what you are going to use

It’s easy to get to the market and think you need basically everything on every shelf. Before you put something in your cart, think about if you are really going to use it. And if you are unsure, consider if you will use it within the next two weeks. If the answer is no, then maybe it can wait until next time. Grocery shopping definitely adds up, and it’s important to think strategically so you aren’t left with wasted food and money. 

3. find easy recipes on social media

Sometimes you can find some of the simplest recipes on Instagram Reels or TikTok. This has helped me get creative with cooking and helped me make things I wouldn’t normally make with the ingredients I already have! 

4. Meal prep!

Meal prepping is a small habit that can make a huge difference in your routine. Having something to easily take with you on the go, or eat if you are in a rush before class can be very beneficial; you can prepare breakfast, lunch, or dinner! This can not only help you save money but also save time and avoid rushed preparation for meals. This is definitely a helpful option, especially for a busy day! 

5. Utilize the freezer, it will be your best friend

Having some frozen meals, protein, bread, and even veggies in the freezer has been so helpful. This will help conserve food so that things will last longer and can be eaten whenever you feel like it. This way, you won’t have to worry about finishing something right after opening it. Trader Joe’s has been a huge help with the easy frozen meals!

These are just a few of the ideas that help with this adjustment, and if you are transitioning to the adulting life of cooking, there are plenty of ways to make it easier and less intimidating. Just remember that you don’t need to be a pro chef, and you will see that everything will work out!

Rachel is a Junior at UConn majoring in Communications with a minor in Human Development. She is currently serving as Marketing and Merchandise Coordinator for UConn's Her Campus chapter! Rachel has a strong passion for writing about anything from music, food, fashion, sports, or just relatable content. In the future, Rachel hopes to have a career in Digital Marketing, Public Relations, and/or Advertising In her free time, Rachel loves to spend time with friends, try new restaurants, and attend UConn basketball games!