One of the biggest obstacles you have to overcome while living off-campus is learning to buy and cook for one. While it doesn’t seem that difficult, it can actually be tough when you are living on a budget and have never cooked for yourself before.
Buying just for you is really the first hurdle you have. Especially if you’re living on a budget, it can be difficult to figure out how much you should buy for a week. We suggest stocking up on dried and canned goods that will keep for longer periods of time. This will help you keep your grocery budget low every week, and it will keep you fed when you don’t have time to go to the grocery store. We also suggest that you don’t buy a lot of perishable goods. Think about your regular routine each day and what foods you can live without and those you can’t. You will also want to consider that you can eat leftovers, so you don’t have to buy something for every night of the week.
Another main concern you should have is maintaining a balanced diet. This can be one of the biggest obstacles for college students, as they are often eating at weird times and they often don’t have time to be preparing large meals. In an article by Andrea Cespedes called “What Does a Balanced Diet Consist Of?”, she explains that a balanced diet really should contain orange and dark green vegetables and fruits without added sugars, whole grains, low-fat and non-fat dairy, and lean meats. However, while meeting these requirements should be a priority, it doesn’t have to mean that you should totally take out all of the “fun” foods in your life. The USDA recommends that you just keep your “fun” foods (sweets, solid fats like butter, and alcohol) to a minimum, at about 10 percent of your daily caloric intake.
Cooking for one can be an entirely different story, especially if you’ve never cooked for yourself before. The idea is to cook one meal to reheat if you have leftovers. As we described in our last post, it is important to eat the leftovers before they go bad, but they can be a great way to keep yourself fed and to avoid spending unnecessary time and money. If you know you can’t eat the leftovers in time, you can even freeze them and save them for later.
Some great tools you can use include using a toaster oven and a slow cooker. Toaster ovens are a great way to bypass using your oven to cook. Now you can even get special pans to use in the toaster oven that you can use to cook your vegetables and meats. Slow cookers also offer the same convenience in that you can throw all your ingredients in in the morning, and when you come home around 8 to 10 hours later, you’re meal will be ready for you.
Overall, living off-campus can afford you a lot of comforts and independence. However, there are some basic lessons you have to learn when you do decide to live off-campus, and buying and cooking for yourself is certainly one. It is not particularly hard to master, it just takes a little planning, and some cool tools to help you keep yourself fed and on a budget.