A College Student’s Guide to Cooking

by Becca Lair

In my family, learning how to cook is this special rite of passage into adulthood, in the shape of midwestern comfort food. It’s a bond spanning generations, from my great-grandmother, to my grandmother, to my mother, and now to me. I absolutely love cooking and sharing that love with others. However, after moving into an off-campus apartment with my new roommates, I began to realize that not all college students share that same affinity for cooking. Plus, cooking in college is actually really hard. Between classes, club meetings, and friends it just seems easier to buy something to go. In reality though, living off campus is pretty expensive and I definitely do not have the funds to eat out all the time. So, over the past few months I’ve been trying to make time for it, inviting my friends and my roommates to cook with me so we can hang out and have a special (and super cheap) meal. I’ve also had the privilege of teaching my very cooking-illiterate roommate the basics of cooking things like chicken, pasta, and most recently, beef. So far, it’s been working out pretty well, and I’d thought I would share some of my advice with you!

1. Recipes are really just suggestions. Don’t have papayas or rosemary or any other super fancy sounding thing that the Pinterest recipe calls for? Leave it out! Or, put something that you are actually familiar with in your food! The internet is also the best place for finding substitutions as well, especially if you’re dairy or gluten-free.

2. Beware of Pinterest and Tasty. I know the food always looks super good and you think it’s going to be easy, but when you read the recipe make sure that you know what at least 3/4ths of the ingredients are, and that it doesn’t take more than 6 or 7 ingredients and 8 steps to make it, especially if you are an inexperienced cook. A lot of times complicated meals like that end up taking hours to make and they never turn out very well. That being said however, the internet is an awesome resource for food and cooking hacks. Plus there a lots of apps now with awesome coupons for buying food just about anywhere!

3. Only have 10 minutes to make a meal? These are your best friend:

Basically they’re almost as easy as making ramen but they’re better tasting, you can pair them with meats or veggies, and they’re usually only $1 at Walmart. Plus depending on how hungry you are they can be two servings (yay leftovers!)

4. While many of my fellow meat-eaters tend to be scared of cooking meat, it really isn’t super difficult. Meat thermometers are a thing, if you’re really scared of your meat not being done. But also just make sure it isn’t pink and for the most part you should be okay. No shame in cutting into the meat to check it. Remember, it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be edible. Also if you’re looking for reasonably priced meat, the Meat Science department at Kildee Hall does sell meat three times a week over the lunch hours!

5. Want to know the secret to making amazing midwestern comfort food? It’s probably this:

I use cream of mushroom soup in probably half of the dishes I make. It is mostly used in casseroles but it’s a really good and easy (and cheap) additive. Sometimes when I can’t figure out what I want/have no groceries, I will just combine this with some cooked ground beef and noodles and ta-da! it’s a meal. Other soups that rock for cooking include: cream of chicken, cream of celery, and tomato soup.

6. Freezers are hands-down the greatest invention of the 20th century. Don’t want to go to the store every other day? Freeze things! Vegetables, meats, leftovers, whatever! These things are all capable of being put in a freezer bag and saved up for another day. BUT, be prepared to become very good at organizing because space can be very limited when you have multiple roommates.

7. Lastly, food is meant to be shared! Sitting down with other people for a nice homemade meal is one of the best bonding experiences and should be done as often as possible, especially in college when life is absolutely crazy.

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