Meals on a budget

Cooking in college made possible

Eating on a budget is challenging in college, especially when there are plenty of options for eating out that are faster and more convenient than going grocery shopping or cooking.

Luckily for those with meal plans, food is prepared and waiting for students to come feast. But for those without meal plans, cooking a meal is not always the first priority.

Before coming to college, I rarely cooked. I took the easy way out and let my parents do most of the work over the stove. As soon as my first year of living off campus without a meal plan arrived, I regretted avoiding the kitchen.

For my first dinner in my new apartment, I ate frozen pizza. The second night there I ate mac and cheese from a box.

No person should ever envy the former white-baggers and current yellow-baggers over free lunch at the Rock Café, but when Ramen is the top choice and has been for several days, it doesn’t seem as crazy.

When I first started budgeting for food, I only dealt with food that was frozen or boxed. I figured I could just throw some mac and cheese in the cart and I would be set for the week.

I soon realized I was diving into a horrible downward food spiral that appeared to have no return and lacked flavor.

I knew I hit rock bottom when I would chant, “I miss eating at Westview…” to friends and classmates, with hopes of maybe using one of their guest passes in the future.

I still miss eating at Westview, but that is not the point. I am an adult; I should probably start eating like one, or at least learn to cook my own food instead of following directions on the side of a box.

I needed to begin budgeting better food before I began binge eating fast food, hence the beginning of Mission Impossible: Kitchen Katastrophe.

Budgeting money for food means you have to be OK with leftovers. It also means you must plan at least a couple meals and then work with the leftovers.

Leftovers are essential because they can be used to create new meals. Using leftover cooked chicken or any other meat in a dish with leftover rice for a new dish means the time it takes to cook a new meal has been cut dramatically, which leaves you with more time to be creative with your base (leftovers) and the rest of the dish.

Being creative with the base of your meal does not necessarily mean dumping a ton of spices into the mix. I found this out the hard way.

Being creative really means paying attention in the kitchen and being prepared to screw up. A “screw up” can usually be fixed if caught quickly. Every time you screw up in the kitchen, you are destined to learn something.

I avoided cooking for so long only because I thought it would take too much time to make a meal. I want you as a reader to avoid making the same mistake I made.

Try these quick and cheap recipes that will keep your wallet full for expensive beverages.