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Back to Cooking Meals for Myself

Going back to school this fall is going to be overwhelming for a number of obvious reasons. But one of the biggest adjustments (for me at least) after living at home for the past several months is facing the reality of having to cook for myself again. No longer will food magically appear in the fridge or show up on the dinner table (thanks Mom and Dad).

But fear not, my financially and culinarily (?) challenged friends. Here are some of my best suggestions for keeping yourself organized, under budget, and well-fed this term.

Plan Ahead!

If you just show up to the grocery store and start throwing random things into your cart, you’re going to spend a lot more $$$ than you intended. And as many years of watching Chopped have shown me, attempting to transform a bunch of unrelated items into a meal can often end in tears, flames, and broken dreams.

If you shop at major stores like Food Basics or Sobeys, you can download their app or receive weekly emails that contain special promotions and the weekly flyer. Then you can base your meals for the week around some key, cheap ingredients and products. 

The second step is then creating a list of exactly what you plan to purchase at the store. There are lots of great grocery list apps or in my case, the trusty and no-nonsense Notes app will do the trick. It’ll help you avoid impulse-purchasing and provide you with a game plan so you don’t just wander around the store aimlessly for an hour.

Recipe Inspo!

The best thing about cooking for yourself is that you get to decide what you want to eat! With that freedom, however, comes the adult responsibility of eating somewhat healthy and not just blowing your money on snacks.

Recipes can seem daunting, with too many ingredients and too many steps, but there are plenty of websites, food bloggers, and tutorial videos that are geared to your personal needs, skill level, and budget. Here are some of my favourites, all of which have IG accounts where they regularly post recipes, helpful videos, and cooking tips:

Budget Bytes

https://www.budgetbytes.com

https://www.budgetbytes.com/top-10-recipes-for-college-students/

The Kitchn

https://www.thekitchn.com

https://www.thekitchn.com/our-10-most-popular-make-ahead-dinner-recipes-247419

The Modern Proper

https://themodernproper.com

https://themodernproper.com/recipes/convenience/30-minute-dinner

Pinterest is also a great place to find and save recipes. You’d be surprised by how many quality options can come out of a quick search. Let the algorithm do the work for you! I’ve created a Pinterest board full of different meals I want to try making (and have made) so that’s often where I turn when planning my grocery shopping for the week ahead.

Team Work!

At my student house, my roommates and I each cook dinner for the whole house one night of the week. With 5-6 people committed, that means you only have to worry about cooking in the evening for a couple of nights a week! This system has proved very effective in our house, although I recognize it might not work for everyone.

For one, we’re all pretty decent cooks so we don’t have to worry about that one night of the week where someone just makes grilled cheese or nachos for everyone. And with different food preferences and dietary restrictions, it can become pretty complicated.
However, I think that cooking for your friends forces you to do your best and pull out all the stops to impress them with your culinary feats. Even if you have to devote extra time to cooking on your night, think of how much time you’re saving the other nights of the week. And to the dietary restrictions, I’ll say this: one of my roommates has a pretty restrictive gluten-free and dairy-free diet, yet we always come up with alternatives or just set aside the things she can eat. It’s not impossible, it just forces you to be a little more creative.

I hope that some of these tips have eased your stress about food and cooking as we start this term, happy cooking!

Rachel Kehl

Waterloo '22

I'm in my third year of Global Business and Digital Arts at UW and this term I'm Senior Editor for HC Waterloo. I love discussing movies (don't get me started on Parasite or anything made by Taika Waititi) and eating peanut butter cups, preferably at the same time.
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