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The Daily Illini

Off of the meal plan, students have to learn to cook for themselves

Brooks Berish, Assistant supplements editor

When students finally make the decision to move out of the dorms and into their first apartment, they have to make some new adjustments. One of the biggest changes that students have to quickly get used to is cooking for themselves.

When living in the residence halls, students often take for granted the convenience of the dining halls with their endless buffet, but most students in apartments do not purchase a meal plan and instead learn to cook for themselves.  

It’s not hard to understand why students would want to cook for themselves instead of having the same kind of dining hall food every week. Cooking offers up a lot of freedom, but it also carries a lot of responsibility. Students have to go out and buy ingredients or supplies at least once a week to keep all their food items in stock.

In addition, since most people will share their living space, they will have to coordinate with their suitemates about what to buy, when to buy it, and who will have to get it. Eventually, people will settle into a routine, but initially, there is a period of confusion where they will have to figure out what works best for everyone.

Additionally, one of the best parts about living on one’s own is the ability to cook whatever kind of food you want. I know I’m not the only one who watches those cooking competition shows and then immediately goes to the kitchen to formulate my creation.

Students have the opportunity to follow recipes and cook something tasty or unique, but it’s important to have a few recipes that you can cook quickly. Some nights, you won’t feel like making something fancy, and you’ll be content with some pasta and Ragu sauce. Also, those cans of crème fraiche do not come without a price, so perhaps consider working on your Michelin stars only once in awhile.

Oscar Medrano, a sophomore in LAS, said that it can be difficult to find the time to cook healthy meals that fit his vegan lifestyle.

“The hardest part about cooking as a vegan when moving into an apartment is having to constantly think about what your next meal will be,” said Medrano, “You always have to prepare food for the next day, (even) when you have five classes to attend.”

I thought that vegans or those with other dietary restrictions would have an easier time finding things to eat outside the dining halls, but as it turns out, they have a tough time finding things to eat anywhere.

The issue of figuring out what to eat next is something that everyone faces when cooking for themselves. This is an especially difficult decision when you don’t have a lot of time to prepare something or if you don’t have a lot of ingredients to choose from. This is why some people try to stick with the same kinds of food that are both tasty and don’t take too long to make.

McKale Berg, sophomore in Engineering, said that rice and pasta are great options because they are easy to cook, and vegetable or other additional ingredients can be thrown in to make it healthier.

“We usually look up recipes online and trying to use whatever we have leftover from the last grocery trip,” Berg said, “Also fruit so you don’t get scurvy, and you don’t actually have to cook anything.”

Keeping fruit and vegetables on hand makes it easy to grab something healthy for a snack, instead of automatically reaching for the Goldfish. At the beginning of the year, stock up on non-perishable items that you enjoy eating, such as pasta or canned soup. When you haven’t had a chance to get to the grocery store recently, you can still make a quick dinner.

Students also have the choice of eating at one of the Champaign-Urbana restaurants. Going out for a meal can be a nice change of pace, especially considering the many varieties of food offered locally, but the bills add up and can cost a fortune if done too often. It’s important to find a good balance between eating at home and going out.

With so many different options, I would recommend just trying out everything at the beginning and finding what works best. This way, you don’t have to exert yourself trying to find different things to make. However, if the food gets a little boring, then perhaps it’s time to go out for a meal or two.

Cooking shouldn’t be a nuisance in college, so don’t make it one. Mostly, keep things simple, but if you happen to have some extra time on your hands, then you can go all Gordan Ramsey and make a soufflé or something.

Brooks is a sophomore in Business. 

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