How to Survive Without the Dining Hall

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Your room is finally bigger than a closet, you don’t have to wear flip flops in the shower and you’re sharing your bathroom with fewer than 20 people− you finally moved out of the dorms into your own apartment. While an exciting new step, it also means you no longer have the salad bar at your fingertips or servers behind counters placing primed meals on your tray. You’re in the real world now, so how do you make your own food and stay healthy while living off campus?

Get to The Supermarket

Graduating from dining hall food to delicious Chipotle and Five Guys may seem like the best upgrade ever. I’m sorry to break it to you, but a typical burrito with all the works can be over 1,000 calories. Of course you can treat yourself from time to time, but if you want to stay healthy, set aside an hour every Sunday to hit up the local grocery store and stock up on food for the week. My kitchen is never without eggs, grilled chicken, nut butter, whole grain bread and low-sugar cereal. If your fridge is always equipped with healthy foods, you won’t find yourself rushing and starving, with no other choice but to swing by a campus fast food joint.

Make Sure Your Kitchen Is Stocked

If this is your first apartment, chances are the kitchen is looking a little bleak. Before embarking on this non-dining-hall-journey, it’s necessary to have kitchen supplies beyond silverware and plates. You’ll need a microwave, toaster, cutting board, and plenty of Tupperware to name a few must-haves. Insider tip: Ask family members for old kitchen gadgets and save boatloads of money. With that money saved, you can splurge on conveniences like a blender, George Foreman grill and slow cooker.

Be like Elsa…

… And go frozen. Frozen food will be your best friend in your new apartment. I’m mostly talking fruits and vegetables, but turkey burgers and chicken sausages are good to have around, too. Make sure you check the ingredients on the bag before buying frozen. The only ingredients listed for frozen fruits and vegetables should be those fruits and vegetables. Yes, you could buy fresh, but produce that sits in your fridge for a month loses its nutritional value. Fruits and veggies are frozen at their peak ripeness, within hours of being picked, and stay that way as long as they stay in the freezer. This means a longer shelf life for your food and more nutrients for hangover recovery.

Get Cookin’

You knew this was coming− what else would you do with your newly stocked fridge? Cooking may sound intimidating to some, but it can actually be very simple and easy. You’d be surprised what you can make with only three ingredients or less. As a first rule of thumb, don’t eat ingredients you can’t pronounce (except quinoa, that stuff is good for you). Did you know that one of the many ingredients in your McDonald’s fries is sodium acid pyrophophate? Do you know what that is? While potatoes aren’t exactly nutritious, you can make your own oven baked French fries with only potatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper to satisfy the craving while staying on track. And you can spell all the ingredients, too.

Make Extras For The Future

Make the most of your time in the kitchen and cook with the future in mind. This way you’ll have an extra serving of chicken stir fry ready to go when you only have 15 minutes for dinner. Your stomach and your wallet will thank you. Look up recipes on Pinterest or other food blogs to get yourself excited about what you can do with food. As long as you have your spices and other staple foods on hand, you can throw down and stay healthy in the kitchen.

Karina is a senior studying Journalism and International Development at the University of Maryland, College Park. She lives in New York and loves to travel anywhere else. Anything food related will get her excited.

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