This post came to us from an enthusiastic reader who has some opinions on eating healthy and delicious meals in college. Obviously, this is a mission we have in common, so we wanted to share her thoughts with all of you! Plus, on what better week than Slow Cooker Week could we address the challenge of planning easy, tasty meals ahead of time?
There’s nothing better than a hot meal on a cold autumn day: a hearty stew, a juicy pot roast or maybe just a grilled cheese sandwich with a bowl of soup. But if you’re in a college dorm or sharing an apartment with classmates, you might not get to cook as often as you’d like. And it can be a challenge to maintain a healthy diet of home-cooked meals when you rely on the campus cafeteria or the fast food joints close to school.
But eating well—and eating cheap—is important in college. Even if you’re not attending a traditional school and you’re enrolled in an online education program, you can still fall into the “quick and easy” trap when it comes to food. With just a few simple ideas, you can make breakfasts, lunches and dinners that will be the envy of your friends and roommates.
**4 Easy Tips For Planning Meals at College**
1. Rice is nice. Rice is a staple grain all over the world because it’s cheap, filling and tasty. And you can make rice even if you don’t have a kitchen: rice cookers are cheap, and you can add whatever you want to it. Canned tuna or chicken, and fresh or frozen veggies are affordable ways to make a complete meal. White rice is cheaper, but brown rice is healthier.
2. Multi-meal cooking. If you do have a decent-sized kitchen, cooking several meals at once can be a great way to save money and eat well all week. Pick your proteins and a few easy seasonal items like squash, broccoli and eggplant, and build your meals around them. Then, just store the cooked meals in containers and label them with the date you cooked them. If you have roommates, get them to help you cook as well—it can become a weekly activity that you share so that everyone takes turns cooking for the household. For students taking online classes, cooking several meals once a week can give you more time to study and help you resist the temptation to grab fast food while you’re out.
3. Low and slow. A slow cooker is also an affordable option for folks who don’t have a full kitchen. From breakfast to dinner, you can make just about anything in a slow cooker: oatmeal for breakfast, pasta for lunch, even a nice pot roast for dinner. And a slow cooker allows you to toss all your ingredients into the pot in the morning before class then come home to a hot meal. Sites like AllRecipes have a wonderful selection of slow cooker recipes, so you don’t have to make the same thing twice.
4. Budget vegetarian. Finding easy, affordable vegetarian meals to cook isn’t as hard as you might think. The winter offers a bounty of fruits and veggies that are both hearty and filling: carrots, cauliflower, cabbage and potatoes are just a few options. If you don’t have a big refrigerator or share a fridge with roommates, you can buy frozen veggies as well. Pair your veggies with rice, pasta or tofu for a full dinner.
College life doesn’t always lend itself to healthy eating, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck eating burgers and pizza every day. Commit to spending a little time every day on cooking or planning your meals and you’ll discover that cooking at home can save you cash and stress.
—Lindsey Harper Mac for Small Kitchen College