As a student, it can be daunting to cook for yourself. Purchasing meals on the go is easier, but there are many benefits to cooking at home that make it worth the added effort. Preparing your own food is cheaper, can help you build essential food skills and is associated with a whole host of physical and mental health benefits.
Ready to get cooking? Here are four tips to get you started:
1. Shop Smart
Knowing what to buy is a huge part of being a successful home cook, read some tips on how to shop like a pro. Buying quick-to-prepare, versatile ingredients like frozen fruit and vegetables, quick-cooking whole grains (e.g. quinoa) and canned beans and lentils will help you make balanced meals fast. Here's a list of 15 kitchen staples to use as the basis of many easy and healthy meals.
2. Meal Prep
Meal prep will save you time during the week. Set aside an hour or two every week to wash, cut, and pre-cook ingredients for quick grab-and-go snacks or meals. Here are 11 prep day ideas to get you started.
One of my personal favourite meals to prep is overnight oats. I fill up a big container with oats and spices, so all I have to do is toss the dry ingredients into a jar with some milk and my favourite toppings and refrigerate overnight – and wake up to a nutritious breakfast the next morning.
Meal prepping is also a great time to take a mental health break. Take care of yourself – listen to your favourite music, podcast or audiobook while cooking and give yourself a chance to relax. This will help you be more productive when you get back to school work.
3. Snacks, Snacks, Snacks
Student life can get hectic, so it’s important to have healthy snacks on hand to keep you fueled throughout the day. Here’s a list of some of my favourite healthy, on-the-go snacks.
4. Social Suppers
If you live with roommates, cooking and eating together is a great way to connect. Whether you’re cooking a meal from scratch or simply sprucing up your weekly meal prep, spending meal times with others and having meaningful conversations, without distractions or devices, will contribute to positive mental health outcomes. Read more about the benefits of shared meals here.
Getting started is the toughest part of any new habit, so focus on progress rather than perfection. Every small step you take to incorporate one or more of these tips into your routine will help improve your overall health and wellbeing.