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To be truly happy, a person doesn’t really need a lot. The basis is our physiological needs – the very first step to reaching happiness. What are those? Shelter, sleep, and nutrition. Food is the first fundamental need students can have problems with when moving to college.
It would be an ideal situation if every student was fully ready to live on their own. Still, the reality is – we tend to ignore our problems and reach for easy solutions. Say, you’ve been busy getting to know your new professors, socializing with new roommates, and keeping up with the classes. If you need to spend the next 4 hours in the library researching data to write paper for you perfectly, the chances you’re going to cook a full meal are close to zero.
But we’re not here to berate – everyone lived through the same period. We want to show that it’s possible and actually very easy to eat healthy meals while you’re a broke college student. Here’s how!
Meal Planning and Preparation Tips for Students on a Budget
Get Your Recipe Ready
If you don’t know what and how to cook, you’ll need to dedicate quite a lot of time to research and start planning. Thankfully, you can find anything online today.
Do you like Italian cuisine? There are millions of videos that’ll teach you recipes of any difficulty.
Do you come from a Korean family? There has been a popularity boom around Korean food, so there’s tons of information on every step you’ll need to take. You can also ask your parents for advice or a recipe you particularly like.
Set Aside a Day for Planning
Now that you know your recipe, it’s time to plan out what groceries you’re going to need. A good plan would be to shop for a week or even more to save yourself money on bulk products and time on trips back and forth. Get your thoughts on the paper and calculate how many meals you need to cook for and what the ingredients you need are.
Don’t Go to the Store Without a Plan
Get your list of things to the store with you. This way, you’ll be sure there’s nothing you’re going to miss. The first few times might seem hard for you, and you can easily forget the most basic ingredients. The main thing is to not be discouraged – write down what you remembered so you can peek at your old list when writing the new one.
Shop the Sales to Save on Food and Stay Healthy
It might be tempting to buy everything in one place, but the reality is that every store has sales for different products. Be sure to watch the prices of the stuff you repeatedly buy if your main goal is to save money.
Find a Farmer’s Market Nearby
There’s nothing better than fresh produce and no place to find it but the farmer’s market. Try to find such a place near your residence. The people that sell there are usually involved in growing the things they sell. So, you can get excellent advice, recommendations on how to cook it best, and sometimes even deals. If you’re a regular customer, you can get discounted prices on your favorite positions.
Do Your Prep
It can be tempting to buy ready-made meals, peeled and even cooked veggies, and premixed boxes. Still, it will always be more expensive than buying the ingredients separately and prepping them on your own. Not only can you regulate what goes into the final dish better, but also you can save money on such a common task as peeling carrots.
Rely on Leftovers
If you think that you don’t have time to cook every meal, so you spend money on takeaway and restaurants, it means that you don’t make use of your leftovers to the full extent. If you plan what to eat well before your big due date, it’ll be easy to save money on impulsive purchases.
It’s very easy: cook a big pot of soup, stew, or something similar once a week, and you’ll have a warm meal every day of the week. But make sure you can diversify side dishes and salads with the main dish so as not to get bored of eating the same stuff every day.
Save Your Scraps
Having good quality stock can open a whole world of new opportunities to cook the dishes you couldn’t before or improve the taste of your staples. Good news: you don’t need to spend any more on that.
Do you remember all those peels you have left from prepping your own veggies? We’ve found a way to use them. Of course, you should thoroughly wash them first (if you haven’t done that yet); after that, gather the scraps in a large bowl and boil them in water for about an hour, and voila, your magic stock is ready! You can use it to season risotto, cook pumpkin soup, make a tasty sauce for pasta, and much more. Enjoy!
Change It Up With the Season
Remember to keep your shopping list relevant to the season. It will be costly to buy strawberries and tomatoes in winter (plus, they won’t be very tasty). So, keep your cooking plans season-appropriate, and you won’t have any issues with your budget or taste.
We hope these tips help you understand that cooking for yourself is not only totally possible but also can be fun, strategic, and very healthy. Get on with it!