Five Tips to Master Healthy Dorm Cooking for New College Students
- Assess the Territory
- BYO Equipment
- Keep a Basic Pantry
- Shop Smart
- Find a Balance
Having healthy and recipes on hand is crucial as a broke college student because maintaining good health helps sustain academic focus. However, what may surprise many individuals who are new to cooking in the communal kitchen space, a large portion of success and healthy eating lie in the prep steps, underlying concepts, and eating styles. Students can always find recipes to meet their budget and please taste buds. But for overall healthy habits, check out these five tips.
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1. Assess the Territory
Most dorm rooms do not have private kitchens, and older lodging setups can be rather limited. However, on many campuses, the communal kitchen shared by several dorm units has become a trend. While this is a major step up in terms of students staying healthy and saving money, the equipment is still likely to be rather limited. Good items to augment the basic kitchen setups include crockpots, hotplates, and even mini-fridges since any shared refrigerator is likely to have limited space. These can all be found for relatively low prices from second-hand appliance shops or online.
2. BYO Equipment
It’s a good idea to assume there won’t be anything with or in which to bake, cook, and store food. A short list of essential items to pack includes mixing bowls that stack, kitchen utensils such as a serving spoon, a decent chef’s knife, a whisk, and a mixing spatula, a manual can opener, silverware, and eating dishes. A number of individual meals can be made using only a large mug and a microwave, but many veterans of the college cooking experience recommend at least one decently sized cooking pot. Small amounts can still be prepared in this, but if a group meal is planned, individually sized pans will put a crimp in preparation. Students, especially those who aren’t yet comfortable in the kitchen, should also bring a cookbook with them, written for beginners with plenty of explanatory instructions.
3. Keep a Basic Pantry
Storage space is usually severely limited, no matter how progressive the dorm design may be. However, one of the best healthy cooking tips for broke college students is to stock a basic pantry. Keeping non-perishable items such as salt, pepper, and seasoning mixes will help keep food palatable while not taking up much space. As well, canned fruits and vegetables, olive oil, dried pasta, flour, oatmeal, rice, and even dehydrated potatoes will store easily for the entire semester. Be sure to keep unsealed dry foods in tightly sealed containers. These are relatively inexpensive and come in a variety of formats, which include stackable canisters.
4. Shop Smart
A big contributor to the weight gain and decreased wellbeing most cash-poor college students experience is the misconception that convenience food and fast foods are cheaper options. In the long run, the opposite is true. According to Delish, one way to combat sticker shock at the grocery store checkout is to coupon clip. There are a number of different apps that take this tradition into the digital realm. Plan the shopping list, taking advantage of sales, and shop weekly to accommodate limited fridge and freezer space. Whether students are cooking for themselves or running a group kitchen, this will permit economic purchases of fresh fruits and veggies, so nothing goes to waste.
5. Find a Balance
While there’s no need to skip the treats and comfort foods, one oversight many college students make when trying to manage shopping and cooking budgets is skipping the produce section. Fiber and phytonutrients found mostly in fresh fruits and vegetables help maintain a healthy body weight and combat both fatigue and digestive issues that may plague those new to the college routine. Find recipes that incorporate both familiar flavors and healthy ingredients. Breakfast wraps with sautéed veggies, eggs, and melted cheese, soups and stews that can be made, portioned, and frozen, and even tasty fridge oat parfaits that don’t require cooking at all can help round out the more decadent side of college menus.
The first year of college doesn’t have to be marked by excessive weight gain and sluggish energy. With a little planning, some wise shopping, and a willingness to cook for themselves, college students will save money and their health. By having the essential ingredients and utensils, delicious meals are a distinct possibility. Even those who’ve never cooked before can live well by following these five basic cooking tips for broke college students.