"What's For Dinner?"- A College Student's Guide to Food Hacks

So, I moved out from home about a week ago. It was a very rushed process because of the pandemic, but we put everything together and organized ourselves pretty well. Despite the meticulous planning, there is one thing I did not take into consideration - meal plans. Being so busy trying to find housing, furniture, and communicating with friends and family, I completely neglected to think about sustenance. I quickly realized (starting with the fact that we didn’t have lunch the day we moved in) that we needed quick and healthy recipes, preferably for a reasonable price. Furthermore, the food had to be calorically dense enough to sustain my boyfriend, who eats differently and considerably more than I do. Having said all that, I started doing my research. I looked at food blogs, cooking shows, Insta, YouTube, literally almost everywhere for inspiration and ideas for healthy, adjustable, cheap meals that I won’t get bored of, and now I am here, sharing it with you. Here is a taste of the info that I gathered: an open fridge door in the darkness nrd | Unsplash

The freezer is your best friend! 

This life hack I actually learned from my family. My parents grew up in Soviet Russia, and as a result, they hate throwing out or wasting food. Their solution? Freeze everything. Meat, bread, fruit, veggies, dairy products, you name it, and I guarantee you they have froze it before. The funny thing is...it works! The food doesn’t lose its flavor and doesn’t rot. Also, frozen fruit and veg are sooo much cheaper to buy in bulk and to maintain than fresh produce, which is very important when living on a budget.

 

Fusiontempura And Shrimp Tacos Tiffany Meh / Spoon

Taco Night

On our second night here, my boyfriend and I hosted a little dinner for our friends. That night, we decided to do tacos. They are incredibly easy to make and suit literally any diet with the correct substitutions. Of our friends, one is vegetarian and one is gluten-free. We manage to match their dietary restrictions, as well as our own. In theory, all you need for tacos is a protein source, something to wrap the fillings in, some rice (or quinoa, or other substitutes), beans (a protein source, by the way!), and optional toppings such as cheese, guac, salsa, and hot sauce. Truly this is one of the most versatile dishes I have ever made. You can put a Mediterranean spin on it by adding fish instead of meat or make it vegetarian/vegan by including beans instead of animal proteins and using vegan tortillas. Tortillas can also be adjusted for a gluten-free diet. Best of all, all the ingredients are wonderfully cheap (except for the meat, but we forgive it :) )!

 

grocery bag with apple Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Buy in Bulk, If Possible

This is a tip I learned from my boyfriend’s father. Buying in bulk, especially when the product is non-perishable such as beans or rice or pasta, can save you tons of money and time later on. You will no longer have to constantly check if you still have a basic carb source, and you’ll find your shopping list magically condensing.

 

Hotel breakfast room service Burst

Make too much, it will save you time later

Cooking lunch in the middle of the day when classes are in session can be such a pain. In my experience, the best solution is to just make too much for dinner, and then finish it up for lunch the next day. This trick might be less universal, seeing as people eat different amounts and your living situations might be different. I would recommend this for households with 2-3 people, seeing as cooking extras for 4 and more can be hard.

three glass dishes sit side by side on the counter full of colorfully arranged veggies Ella Olsson | Unsplash

Meal Prep

I will be honest, I have yet to use this technique, but many fitness bloggers and busy people that I keep up with on social media use this method and swear by it. Meal prepping is essentially cooking up a huge batch of different foods that you will later separate into smaller portions and eat daily. This technique definitely saves you time and money (buying in bulk, remember?), and it has aided countless individuals with weight maintenance and goals, as well as achieving better nutritional practices. The only foreseeable issue with this tip that I could see (and it is my biggest issue) is the boredom associated with the same meals daily. However, many people are completely ok with this lifestyle, and I strongly recommend it for busy individuals that want to achieve an easy and healthy way of eating.

These are only a few of the tricks that I have learned over the course of my independent life. I have a feeling that there will be a sequel to this article, but with recipes rather than tricks. Meanwhile, I hope this has been helpful, and maybe you will even end up using some of these suggestions in your own path to adulthood!