By Keely Krebs | Contributor
The facts: we're in college, and we like food. And, for those of us who have a smaller meal plan, when we don't go to the Dining Commons or LaRita Boren Campus Center, eating out is a reflex at this point.
A substantial amount of the time and money we spend goes toward getting food into our bodies - and it usually is not the most stellar of options. It's easy to say, "I'm too broke to buy my own food. It's way cheaper to buy my taco at Taco Bell than make it." This idea that food is cheaper when we eat out compared to buying and making our own food has been proven false. (Research links are provided in the online edition of The Echo.) Cooking your own meals is cheaper, healthier (usually) and a foolproof way to bond with and make friends.
Here are some tips to eating yummy homemade food and not breaking the bank:
- Buy produce in season.
"But I'm not a farmer, I don't know what's in season." Here's a solution - Google "What foods are in season right now?" and press search. A whole list of foods will appear. You don't trust the Internet? Go to the farmers market and check out what they sell. That's all in season and a great way to support this community. The Upland Farmers Market is every Thursday starting at 3 p.m., located off of Main and Railroad Street (near The Bridge and Helping Hands).
- Grocery shop together.
Your friends want a yummy meal too? Great! Go in on the cost together, and then cook that meal together. Cooking is a skill we all should have.
- Make cooking more convenient.
Meal prepping is a great way to do this. It's simple to turn Sundays into your prep days, because prepping takes almost no time (so I won't make you take away from your homework time). Cut up the veggies you know you will use this week, cook some rice to last several meals, bake some chicken if you like that and invest in some Tupperware. This is also an incredible way to learn how to portion your food. Portion sizes are usually on the Internet, if they are not on the bag. When you are ready for a meal, you will have minimal prep time left for whatever it is you're cooking.
- Use that meal plan!
You have one or two meals a day at the DC or campus center? Take some fruit to go. Save it up if you want to make a smoothie or a fruit salad, or eat it as a snack later if you get hungry.
- Make your own coffee and tea.
Seriously. This will save you so much money. SO MUCH. A drink at a coffee shop likely costs close to $5; if you're buying around three cups a week, that totals about $60 a month. That is money that can go toward your groceries.
- Try cooking.
This does not have to be an immediate change. If cooking freaks you out and you would rather wait to do that with a friend or two, just try a couple days a week. Is Saturday or Sunday your main day to go out to eat? Replace a few meals on those days with meals you cook for yourself.
Dining out has become a norm for us, yet it is less cost effective and less beneficial to your health. By cooking at home, you will actually save money, learn important life skills (like cooking, portioning and making friends) and benefit your health (you really do feel better when you eat homemade food). Help your bank account and your body by cooking your own meals.