When I was in middle school a million years ago, we had a home economics class (is that still a thing?) that taught us some #adulting basics including preparing a meal I’ve repeated my entire adult life: lazy lasagna. Fast forward to when I was a UConn student living off campus (shout out to Willi Oaks!), cooking became even more essential as A) I was a broke college student and B) eating was essential.
While you’re home working a summer job or internship, it’s going to be tempting to order out lunch with new friends, buy Starbucks every morning, and go out for apps after work. But not only is that going to burn through your summer earnings, you could be using that time to learn a new skill – cooking. You don’t need to become the next Bobby Flay, but here’s a few tips to learn get you started before graduating and going out on your own.
- It’s OK to be basic. You should know how to boil a pot of water, use a kitchen timer, and your stove. Make sure you have a set of basic pots and pans, measuring cups, spatulas and mixing bowls. Look out for deals at Target or Walmart, or your local thrift shop or tag sales.
- Start small. Most meals contain a protein, vegetable and a carb. Learn how to boil potatoes, rice or pasta. Master cracking and frying eggs for scrambled eggs or omelets. Try an easy protein – chicken, fish, or ground meat – and learn the basics of pan cooking, baking, and knowing when food is done. A good meat thermometer will save you frustrations and food poisoning. Frozen veggies in steamer bags are a shortcut to cooking fresh veggies like spinach, broccoli or onions.
- Pick a blog, any blog. @buzzfeedtasty, Food.com, there’s a million blogs that make cooking fun. Follow one you like and learn a few easy recipes to get you started.
- Must. Have. Coffee. I am addicted to Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. I get it, ordering is so much easier than brewing. But making a pot of coffee is a life skill, not only to save you money, but what if you ever have guests or – gasp – there’s no Starbucks around? Prefer iced, like me? It’s easy.
- Shop sales and coupons. Don’t go grocery shopping without the store’s shopper cards. They’re almost always free and can save you big. You can sometimes get student discounts, too. Look for sales and don’t be afraid to print coupons or grab a newspaper for some deals.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s tough making servings for just one or two people, so try to use leftovers for new recipes. Lots of veggies? Throw them in an omelet or prep salads for the week. Leftover chicken? Use it on a sandwich or for tacos. Just be cautious of reusing leftovers too long, most food only stays good for a few days. Most meats, veggies and potatoes freeze well, so if you know you’ve made too much, put them in a freezer container and reheat for another meal.