Cooking My Own Meals in College

To some extent, learning to cook your own meals can feel like learning to drive a car. It takes quite a bit of practice, it can be messy, and it’s something that you (might) inevitably need to learn in order to be a functioning adult. Obviously, not everybody is going to be a first-class chef, just like not everybody is going to be the perfect driver (myself included.) However, since becoming a vegan this summer, I can genuinely say that the quality of my diet and energy has improved. My energy throughout the day is more sustained, my mood is regulated, and I look forward to trying new foods and recipes every week.

pile of chilies
Photo by Ivan Torres on

Going into my second year of college with my new diet, I decided that cooking my own meals would be more effective than frequenting the dining hall. I did have some doubts at first; after all, wouldn’t it be less expensive and time-consuming to eat my college’s food? Sure, if you’re content with shoveling done plain pasta and a dry salad every day.

Armed with three cookbooks and a very generous gift card from my mother, I stocked up  my pantry with olive oil, spices, pasta, and bread. And, miraculously, I fit $60 worth of produce into my tiny refrigerator. And thus, my new favorite hobby was born!

There are an abundance of advantages to cooking your own meals in college. For me, one of the biggest perks is that I now have control over my diet. What I consume in a day isn’t dependent on what’s available in the dining hall; it’s in my own hands what I choose to it. A lot of the foods I make, such as pasta salad and burrito bowls, can be made in bulk and refrigerated up to five days. This makes shopping relatively cheap for me, as I’m only cooking for one person. Because I eat a diet high in protein and fiber, many of my meals are hearty and keep my stomach full for hours. I remember the struggle of my stomach always being peckish my freshman year, because the majority of what I ate was carbohydrates and sugars. No matter how hard you try to eat healthy on a college campus, it’s hard to choose a salad for dinner when there’s a tray of penne pasta staring at you from across the room.

sliced avocado on brown wooden board
Photo by Anete Lusina on

Because I am paying for all my food out of pocket, I’m forced to take accountability for my spending habits and money management. While I used to find myself blowing cash on clothes and useless dorm decorations, I’m now counting down the penny on every paycheck. Obviously I treat myself to something nice every once, but the concept of disposable income is much more important to me now. After all, money only gets tighter from here, so I might as well learn to manage it and shop for food smartly while I can.

Being a vegan has not only changed the way I feel about my body, but it has also given me a more open-minded outlook on food. These past months have opened my eyes to foods I never even considered buying before, like vegan mayo and tofu (the former is extremely delicious, by the way.) While a vegan diet may not be right for everyone, the benefits have definitely changed my life for the better. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions about recipes, brands, or just to chit chat in general! I love sharing my favorite meals to cook with others.

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