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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

What’s in today’s lunch box?


How busy students find the time to eat lunch

College comes with many new challenges, but few would guess that lunch would be one of them. Many students who are on campus for a large portion of the day do not have time to go home and eat lunch. They find themselves making the choice to either buy food on campus or preparing a lunch ahead of time. Students oftentimes tend to be strapped for time and money,  too, so taking the time to prepare a lunch versus buying one can be a difficult decision.

Timothy Cater, a second-year microbiology major, has mastered the art of preparing his meals at the beginning of the week.

“I generally bring something that fits in a small tupperware that I can take with me,” Cater said. “Meals always center around some carb because those are easy and cheap. I’ll add a good vegetable that’s in season on that to keep it healthy.”

Cater decides what his meals will consist of based on how easy it is to cook a specific meal and how well it lasts throughout the week.

“I make beans once a week,” Cater said. “Also, spanish rice is super easy, and that’s like a perfect combination. I can generally have that three to four times in a week before I finish one recipe of it.”

Some days Cater adds hot sauce to his bean and rice dish, and other days he will bring a tortilla and cheese. Cater picks meals that he can add a different twist to throughout the week in an attempt to mix up what he is eating.  

“Something that is really basic is good to use,” Cater said. “You can rip off of it in different ways and have it packed in the fridge.”

While Cater finds it easy to plan and prepare his meals ahead of time, other students, like Sarah Rotondo, a fourth-year clinical nutrition major, take a less calculated approach to lunch.

“I have had quarters [when] I haven’t been able to go home for lunch,” Rotondo said. “I usually went to South CoHo or the Silo [or] I would pack something.”

Rotondo does not plan out her lunches for the week. Her lunch varies depending on if she has leftovers from dinner — that is, if she has the time to pack a lunch at all.

“I bring leftovers from the night before [that] I can heat up,” Rotondo said. “For grocery shopping I try to get at least a few meals […] mostly for dinner stuff and out of that I make stuff for lunch. I don’t really plan it, I guess I just wing it.”

Some students, like Sandeep Rai, a third-year human development and psychology double major, forgo packing a lunch altogether and instead choose to buy food on campus.

“I’ve tried bringing lunch to school but it’s too much,” Rai said. “I would forget some stuff at home and then I’d end up going to the CoHo or the Silo.”

Rai found that preparing her lunch ahead of time took more effort than it was worth.

“I just get too lazy to bring it,” Rai said. “I’d have to bring [my lunch] in a separate bag and I’ll forget to pick it up after class.”

While eating on campus may be more convenient for some students, Rai has found that the selection of food offered on campus can start to get boring over time.

“I wish there were more options here in the CoHo,” Rai said. “The Silo is fine but [the CoHo] is just the same old stuff and plus the lines are really long so when you’re in a rush it’s hard to get in and get out.”

Like Rai, Cater found that having the same basic foods for lunch can become bland, even when he adds different toppings and flavors. While Cater does not have to deal with the lines in the CoHo, he does have to think up more creative recipes in order to please his taste buds.

“The thing about meal prep is that you get a little monotonized — where you keep eating the same meal everyday,” Cater said. “Sometimes I’ll have two different meals going [at once].”

Cater offered advice for students who are trying to get into the habit of preparing their lunches ahead of time.

“This isn’t top chef or anything but make something that you want to eat,” Cater said. “Find something you like. Make something that you know that is easy, fast, and that is good.”

Cooking, planning or budgeting are all life skills that students can pick up from lunch.

“The only person you are trying to impress is yourself,” Cater said. “As long as you can eat it, you feel happy after you’re done, you should be good.”


Written by: Elizabeth Marin  — features@theaggie.org


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