I want to take a moment for a deep, deep breath before I get to tackling the rest of the summer, and also this post. You see, I’ve now moved four times in the past eight months, far more than what should be humanly and real-estate-ly possible. I get that moving in and out of res were mandatory, and that doesn’t bother me, but the other two times!? Being forced to move by neighbours and roommates? That just gets me downright bitter. It’s hard to feel at home in a place when every time you play music, whether its as emotional and meaningful as a Julia Stone song or as loud and obnoxious as Tiesto, you get shut down and yelled at by the people sharing your hall. It’s also hard to feel at home when you get home piles of dishes left by your roommates, or more seriously, to your roommates talking you down to their parents.
I mentioned being in my own place for the first time last week. I guess res technically qualifies as living on my own, but now I have a full kitchen, bathroom, and yes, cat that I can call mine. With all the freedom that gives me, it’s also a huge load of responsibility I didn’t quite expect. I already cooked up one disaster of a meal – I’ll chalk that one up to stress, however, and having only grains, canned fish and non-fat milk to cook with. Fish stew? DISASTER. The bigger problem is finances, for sure, and it’s hitting me exactly how expensive it is to live as a young adult. The hours I’m getting at Starbucks barely covers my expenses right now, and that scares me more than a little. I hate feeling like a drag on my parents’ finances (though what is a university student but a constant flow of money from their parents’ account), and I hate knowing that my paycheck is barely going to cover me week to week.
I might have to start cutting name-brand food, fresh veggies, quality meat, and GOD FORBID Starbucks from my diet (#sadfacingforeternity).
Because of all those problems, budgetary and otherwise, I’ve subconsciously turned to food to solve all my problems. I’m what they call an emotional eater, and my guilty pleasure is a Holy Grail of Starbucks and carbs; over the last week, even with my own kitchen, my food making has been less than inspirational. I think that now’s the time to share some tips for cooking on your own, including some that can help you in res, to get me back on track and you on the right path to a healthy first year in res.
#1 Buy in Ridiculous Amounts of Bulk
I was tweeting the other day and told my boss that I had picked up some fish for dinner over the next bit. By bit, I meant next month, which was entirely possible when I bought 2.2 kilograms of Alaskan Cod for under 15 bucks. You don’t even need to get a Costco membership; just check out the frozen section of your grocery store.
#2 Freshness Costs
To be clear, I’m not saying go buy the near-expired stuff. All you have to do is buy some frozen things! Frozen vegetables are ten times cheaper then fresh ones, easier to prepare, taste almost as good, and cook up easily. I buy frozen asparagus for snacks now, they’re the same price as a bag of chips and ten times healthier.
#3 Snack Your Heart Out
Snacking isn’t the problem, it’s what you’re snacking! I had a bag of chips for the first time in probably a year and felt absolutely disgusting afterwords. If you adjust yourself to different foods (like vegetable chips, for example) it’s easy to start cutting out the less healthy options. Knowing what your favorite thing is helps, though – as a passionate fan of Starbucks, I know to cut the fat and sugar out of my drinks, but I’ll still treat myself to a frappiccino once a month.
#4 Sharing is Caring… For Your Waistline
When you invite friends over to eat with you, you’ll likely eat less. Yeah, this may be counterproductive to the whole ‘save money’ thing, but it’s also really good for your stomach. Know you’re having friends over? Buy a cheap bag of something unhealthy for them – that way they’ll eat most of it, but you can have a few to get the taste without all the fat.
#5 Breakfast is the Easiest Meal to Eat in your Res Room
Stock up on granola, cereal, oatmeal, and other breakfast stuff. If you’re looking to save money on your meal plan, stay in for the morning and enjoy those extra few minutes lounging around before class with some fresh food.
#6 Enjoy the Meal-Making Process
If one of your friends has kitchen access, take a night a week to make a meal together! You’ll get left overs from it to have instead of cafe food, and can make the whole process of cooking the meal a big, exciting deal. Trying to put a meal together, especially in the last few minutes, is hectic and exciting, and almost as good as going off campus.
#7 Eating Out is TOO TEMPTING
Toronto has more food than I ever would have thought. But eating out is an expensive and diet-busting exercise, so it’s best saved for special occasions. Like when you’re craving wings, or it’s someone’s birthday.
#8 Make Your Own Drinks!
The easiest thing to cut on res is money you spend on drinks. Buy a French Press for twenty bucks, a pitcher to make juice in, etc. It’s really expensive to buy it in the cafe, and making it yourself means you can get better quality stuff you actually like!
#9 Bring Dishes and Cups
IKEA sells really cheap sets. If you get a big water bottle and some reusable dishes, you can take leftovers from all the free food events that go on and not have to pay for cups in the cafe.
#10 Kraft has Really Easy Recipes
When I started cooking, all I cooked were Kraft recipes. Most don’t take too much effort, and if you ignore the labels and buy no name ingredients, the recipes are all pretty cheap! Check them out here.
Those are all my tips for today! As much as I love my food, I’ve learnt to be smart about how much I spend on it – coming in to first year is a great time to start watching your spending on it, too.