Cooking During Covid: How It Can Save Money (And Your Sanity!)

If the number of sourdough bread TikToks and fluffy coffee recipes floating around the internet are any indicator, a lot of people turned to cooking during the first few months of quarantine. 

I started baking cupcakes, cookies, and even full British Baking Show Cakes when I had a concussion my senior year. And then, when my school started virtual learning last March, I realized I had so much more time to continue trying new recipes and cooking for my friends and family. Here’s why baking and cooking has continued to be my favorite social distancing activity this fall:

  1. 1. It helps me stay connected to my friends!

    At the beginning of quarantine, my friends and I would drop off cookies, gift bags, and even full cakes just to show that we were thinking of each other. Now, even though they’re off at college, it’s fun to share recipes and pictures of the food we make. CHAARG, a fitness-based organization at UMass, even has a virtual cooking group where we all send our favorite foods and tips, and it’s helped me feel so much more connected to everyone during my first semester.

  2. 2. It's a fun (and delicious) hobby!

    There’s just something so satisfying about trying a new recipe and having it turn out well. Cooking alone or with friends is a great way to have some fun and the end result is delicious. You really get to bring out your creative side when assembling meals, and it's always fun to take photos of your food. Also, check out my cooking account, (shameless plug), where I started posting pictures of my favorite vegetarian and vegan meals!

  3. 3. Cooking is a nice break from Zoom classes and always being on screens.

    Lunch has become one of my favorite meals, because it means I get to take 30 minutes between Zoom classes to make something delicious for myself. I also find myself turning towards baking muffins or protein bites at night when I want to wind down without looking at another screen. I recently made these Earl Grey muffins, and my family loved them!

  4. 4. It's often healthier and cheaper than always eating out.

    packaged fruits and signs set up at a booth at a farmer's market

    Once you realize that you can make that $12 avocado toast or salad at home for a fraction of the price, it becomes harder to justify eating out. Even if you’re short on time, there are tons of easy make-ahead recipes like overnight oats or any of these quick meal ideas. Eating out is definitely fun and easy, but I’ve found that with practice, I can cook an easy meal in less time than it would take me to drive out and buy something. You can even try incorporating local fresh foods into your dishes.

  5. 5. You can try new things and modify recipes however you'd like!

    I’m vegetarian and lactose intolerant (which is tough since my favorite foods are mac and cheese and cake), and my options are somewhat limited when it comes to inexpensive takeout or quick premade meals. When you cook your own food, you can change whatever ingredients you need to fit your own diet and preferences. I’ve even found some great vegan substitutes like using flax eggs or fried tofu in place of meat by trying new recipes. P.S. -- the secret to ultra crispy tofu is little cubes coated in cornstarch, salt, and pepper, and fried in a tablespoon of oil over medium heat! I also love these buffalo cauliflower tacos as an easy hands-off meal.

  6. 6. It's the perfect activity for cozy fall and winter nights.

    pumpkin pie on table, fall meal

    As the seasons change and the days get shorter, I often feel my mood and motivation start to drop. The one thing getting me through is thinking of all the delicious food that comes with cold weather -- nothing beats cozying up with a mug of hot chocolate and some freshly baked cookies. Try hosting a Halloween cookie or fall donut baking party with your friends in person or over Zoom! The upcoming holidays are the best time to try new recipes, and sending baked goods to your loved ones is the perfect way to let them know you care even if you can’t spend time with them in person this year.

I hope you’re as inspired and excited to try baking or cooking something new this fall as I am -- and if you ever need any easy vegetarian or dairy-free recipes, you know who to ask!