As a college student, it’s often difficult to find time or even resources to cook a meal in between classes. Some students even keep essential packaged meals on hand, such as ramen or cereal, to eat in a pinch. However, many miss that homemade taste that comes with a meal made with care. There are many options for what any student on campus can make with typical food items found in a college dorm or even for an on-the-go commuter student as well as resources on campus that make the process straightforward and easy.
The first step to creating a delicious meal is to have ingredients on hand. Many college students tend to buy in bulk or often have prepackaged meals including ramen, mac-and-cheese, or oatmeal among many others. These are great bases for any cooking you might want to do but it’s also great to add other vegetable or protein options.
Having items such as frozen vegetables on hand help to add to your meals, making them more filling. And, by choosing frozen or packaged items, you reduce the risk of any of your food spoiling prematurely. There are also many resources on campus for students to get items they might need for cooking ventures. The C-Store is a great resource for students to get any snacks or extra food to keep on hand.
Morgan Swift, a sophomore majoring in fitness and wellness, said, “I keep a personal blender and frozen fruit. I like to grab fruit and yogurt from the dining hall to make smoothie bowls for lunch.”
It isn’t just important to keep food on hand that you can make many meals with, but if you’re in a crunch, you can make choices that will help you get the most nutrients in the least amount of prep time. Pinar Ercan Karaayak, an adjunct professor teaching Science of Food and Cooking this semester, said, “The quality of the food is related to time, but it changes according to the food itself. For example, beef, veal and lamb steaks should be cooked until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit for food safety. This is the minimum safe internal temperature in which microorganisms are killed. The product must be kept at this temperature for a certain period of time.”
Karaayak adds that in order to preserve the nutrients when handling fruits and vegetables, it should be cooked quickly and only until “fork” tender, which allows you to benefit from the nutrients. Therefore, it might be a good idea to invest your money in fruits and vegetables to both preserve time and nutrients.
A good way to include these nutrients in the common ramen packet is to cook your ramen according to the package direction and add any extra vegetables, such as green onion, edamame, or even spinach, for added nutrients. Maybe even add an egg to throw some protein in. These are all simple ingredients that can be found frozen and kept around to make your everyday meals more filling and keep you energized.
Not everyone has the time to cook breakfast in the morning or make a filling lunch mid-day in between classes. Many commuters often rush out the door to begin their drive to campus and skip breakfast. This is where meal prepping can come in handy. If you have an extra batch of time at the start of the week before classes start up again, it might be a good idea to put away a few meals to take with you on the go throughout the week.
For commuters who need a quick grab and go snack in the mornings, a good option might be to meal prep your own homemade granola bars. You can even make them out of your favorite cereal. All you need to do is mix together butter, honey and brown sugar and put in the microwave until boiling, or about two minutes, then add the mixture over top of your ingredients. This could be oats and chocolate chips or a cereal of your choice. Spread it all out in a pan and refrigerate. You can then cut it up into bars and take it with you throughout the week.
“I keep apple sauce pouches in my fridge to eat for breakfast to have a consistent meal each day,” said Julie Bonsavage, a sophomore biology student.
Meals in college don’t have to be boring or difficult to make. Just by adapting your everyday eats, you will be able to create a nutritious meal out of foods you already enjoy. You might even achieve that homemade taste that you crave when away from home.