Cooking for yourself as a hungry college student

ALLYSON KO / AGGIE

Students offer support on how to stay fed while managing school, work and clubs

Transitioning from the dorms to living off campus is a change for many students. Students have the option to live with their close friends, have their own bathroom and live wherever they choose. However, some note that they soon find stress in the fact that they no longer have the dining commons readily available to them. Cooking for each meal can take a lot of time out of a student’s busy day, and with a full workload, spending time cooking can be an issue with a student’s schedule.


Justine Saruca, a fourth-year design major, found ease in cooking by using cooking gadgets to cut down on her time spent in the kitchen.

“Sometimes it’s too difficult for me to cook at home with such a busy schedule,” Saruca said. “I have an air fryer and a steamer that I use a lot. My steamer helps me steam food like vegetables and dumplings. It’s really easy to use and it only takes about a minute to cook. My air fryer is really helpful because I can just work on homework while I wait for my food to cook and it’s pretty healthy too. I mainly utilize that when I don’t have as much time to spend cooking.”

Other appliances, like a sous vide or crock-pot, can be used to cook food even when students are away from home. Many of these appliances can be turned on remotely using an application on a phone. They help students cut down on cooking time and have their meals prepared for them by the time they return home from a busy day on campus.

Christina Chang, a third-year statistics major, also uses cooking appliances to prepare her food on a busy schedule.

“I always cook rice ahead of time and my timer on my rice cooker is a huge lifesaver,” Chang said. “When I have class, my rice will start cooking at home at the time I set it to. I also cook a lot on the weekends and eat my leftovers throughout the week, too.”

In preparing her meals for the week, Chang provided some insight on how she decides what her weekly menu may look like.

“I get a lot of inspiration for what I want to cook from restaurants,” Chang said. “I’ll take note of what I like to eat when I go out and think about how can I make it at home. I really like Mexican food, but I always pay over $10 for it when it’s super easy to make something like a quesadilla at home. I really just think of ways that I can recreate meals at home; it’s so much easier. Plan ahead to see when you have free time; you need to buy groceries, prepare everything and cook your food. Make sure you have all the food that you need and make sure you have time to cook.”

Students often agree that the initial switch to cooking for themselves can be difficult, but is something they quickly become accustomed to. Yuanfen Liang, a fourth-year psychology major, described what she did to cope with the initial change, and how her experience in the kitchen has changed over time.

“When I first transitioned into having my own kitchen, I did eat out very frequently,” Liang said. “I definitely take advantage of when I go home; I’ll bring a lot of home-cooked food back with me. Now, I try to do a lot of meal-prepping; I’ll cook a week’s worth of food on a Sunday or Monday and eat that for the rest of the week. If I’m craving something else, I’ll cook a meal in the middle of the week if I have time, but meal prepping definitely helps when I’m too busy. I’ll also go out for food with my friends every once and a while, but when I’m on campus I tend to buy food from the Silo or the CoHo.”

Liang noted that treating cooking as a fun activity with friends definitely elevated her time in the kitchen.

“I cook with my friends very frequently,” Liang said. “We cook together on the weekends, because that’s when we’re most free. On some Fridays, we’ll have potlucks where my friends would each cook and bring their own food to share with everyone, and we would have a big dinner all together.”

Juggling classes, clubs and work, students have found that it can be challenging to make the time to prepare food for themselves. If all else fails, students have noted that some meals are much easier to cook than others, and can be done with extremely minimal time and effort.

“Pasta is one of the easiest things that I ever cook,” Liang said. “It’s so easy to cook a huge pot of noodles and just cook sauce separately. If you don’t know how to cook sauce, it’s super easy to just buy sauce and have salad on the side. I find that it’s a really good meal for a college student after a long day.”

 

Written by: Alyssa Hada – features@theaggie.org