Finding a great meal on campus is hard to do, especially if you’re limited by a dinky dorm kitchen or less-than-spectacular cafeteria food. That’s why I was so excited to discover GW Bites on my campus: a student run service that provides weekly home cooked meals and other creative food services to customers. For under $12, you can get an amazing dinner — last week’s impressive menu included spaghetti vegetable casserole, meatballs, homemade baguettes, and butterscotch brownies — delivered straight to your door!
Below, Cristina Roman, a senior at GWU and the mastermind behind the budding business, shares her tips on making gourmet meals on a budget and how we can all do the same (even if we’re not cooking for others).
Sarah Leibach: Where did the inspiration for GW Bites come from?
Cristina: I had the idea on a Friday and made the website the next day, so it’s safe to say that this came together incredibly quickly. Back in October, I had just moved into my own apartment, and I went to Target to stock up my kitchen with a bunch of supplies and thought, “I just spent a lot of money! I should think of a way to get all of my money back!” I mean, I like to cook. Freshmen like food. I should start a food business. And the next day I started the website, and really that’s how it came together in one day. I had a few friends get the word out on Facebook leading up to the release of the website, and a week later on the first day I had 1000 hits
SL: Wow! This seems like such a good solution to one of my biggest struggles in the kitchen: buying way too much food for one meal, or buying ingredients specific to one recipe that mostly go unused.
Cristina: Yeah, this way nothing goes to waste and I’m earning some of my grocery money back. The idea is super easy, and pretty much anyone could have done what I did. If you have the time, the energy, a little bit of skill, you can pretty much do it!
SL: What is your favorite thing to cook? I know you’ve been experimenting a lot with new recipes since you now have a larger group to feed!
Cristina: Soups are my huge thing right now. They’re just fun and easy, and there are so many options! I’m obsessed with fall and I hate winter, so I’ve been using fall ingredients in recipes and it makes me hate the cold season a lot less.
SL: Who are your main customers?
Cristina: When I started, it thought that my target audience would be primarily freshman, but I actually have a huge variety! Freshman, seniors, boys and girls – super diverse.
SL: Wow! Here I’m thinking it would be all freshman boys who miss their mom’s cooking and can’t fend for themselves (no offense to them).
Cristina: Right? But it’s not. I have friends who don’t consider themselves good cooks or don’t have the time or energy, but love to eat great food and are on a tight budget. Plus, even if you’re a great cook, it’s still nice to have that home cooked meal delivered to your door after a long day of classes, and we give you the chance to try something new.
SL: And you have other services besides home delivered meals, right?
Cristina: It started out just the home-cooked meals with deliveries on Wednesdays, and now we’re expanding a lot. Recently we added Hippo Cakes (in the spirit of GW’s unofficial mascot), where students can order homemade birthday cakes. We also have GW Sips, which is a line of homemade organic juice blends. And in the spirit of our meal delivery, we now have a breakfast delivery once a month to your dorm or apartment. Imagine you had a long Saturday night — if you’re signed up with us, you don’t even have to leave your room to get an amazing breakfast!
SL: That sounds amazing, especially because good breakfast food is severely lacking at GW.
Cristina: For sure! I’m a senior and still don’t really know where to get a good breakfast or birthday cake, so this is my solution. Our last service is called Meals in a Jar, which are proportioned ingredients for specific recipes like pumpkin scones or lentil soup. I always use the example of chili: to buy all of the spices and ingredients you would need for a few servings of it, you pay about $30, which is a huge investment if you’re only going to make one or two pots. But if you get the proportioned ingredients with us, it’s about $10 and 3-4 servings, so it ends up being a lot cheaper. The store packaging is sometimes just not convenient for what you want to do. And I fully stock my spice cabinet, but that’s because I love to cook. So if you want the satisfaction of cooking but you don’t want to make the investment, this is a perfect alternative.
SL: What’s in store for GW Bites in the future?
Cristina: There are so many options at this point, and considering I’m graduating in May, it’s a big question. I think it will definitely continue here, and there’s talk of expanding to other schools because it’s a pretty easily adaptable model. It’s unique that we combine convenience, affordability, nutrition and comfort, and it’s rare to find all of those things in one place. But for now, there’s next week’s meal: chicken enchiladas, yellow squash and corn enchiladas as a vegetarian option, apple crisp Mexican inspired, and black bean soup!
SL: Yum. Any go-to meals that aren’t necessarily complicated, or that can be completed kitchen-free?
Cristina: Tortizza! I love complicated recipes but this is the easiest, fastest thing that is pretty healthy too and absolutely delicious. You just take a regular or whole wheat tortilla and coat it on one side with tomato sauce. I add cheese, maybe a little basil and sometimes pepperoni. Microwave it for about a minute and roll it up, and you have an instant pizza burrito!
If you’re a GW student and want a delicious meal, check out GW Bites’ website for more info. And if you’re not a student, you can still try out Cristina’s food! Try her tortizza recipe — I mixed it up a bit and used pesto sauce, mozzarella cheese and some tomatoes, and it was the perfect snack between classes.
1 regular or whole wheat flour tortilla
2 tablespoons pizza sauce
1 cup shredded cheese
Spread the sauce evenly over the tortilla. Sprinkle toppings and cheese together over the entire tortilla, and microwave for 45 seconds or until cheese is melted. Roll up and enjoy!