With fall classes started, it can be easy to find yourself on campus rushed between classes and hungry, forcing you to turn to one of the many convenient food options around you. Similarly, cooking dinner after a long day while homework is piling up around you might be the last thing you want to worry about, making fast food or takeout look that much more appealing.
While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a meal out, it can be easy to fall into a habit of relying on it. Eating out every day can quickly become a staggering expense, not to mention that it can be difficult to know exactly how healthy what you’re eating is and where the ingredients came from.
Cooking for yourself — especially for students living away from home for the first time — can feel daunting. The planning, grocery shopping, execution, and cleanup can make opening up SkipTheDishes or Uber Eats seem like the best option. But, cooking for yourself and meal prepping can be a great way to save money, eat better, live more sustainably, and build habits and skills that will stay helpful throughout your entire life.
The easiest way to fail at building a new habit is to go all in too quickly. Staying consistent with small progressions slowly will make lifestyle changes actually effective. Try bringing lunch to campus once a week, or swapping takeout with a homemade dinner. Once you feel comfortable with these changes, then you can increase their frequency.
If you truly have zero cooking experience, try not to feel intimidated. We live in a world of endless content online ranging from absolute basics to complex techniques, all for free and with video instructions. YouTube and other social media can teach anything from knife skills to meal ideas.
Some content creators with easy-to-follow recipes and techniques are Adam Ragusea, Ethan Chlebowski, and Pro Home Cooks.
Meal Prep Essentials
Meal prepping is the act of cooking a large quantity of food or meals and portioning it to eat throughout the week. It is a great way to get rid of the hard choice of deciding what to eat during the week, as well as saving on cooking and cleaning time.
The most important thing for starting to meal prep is a good set of containers. This can be anything from two-dollar tupperware to expensive bamboo bento boxes. Anything that can effectively store and hold food will do the trick. There is a reason so many internet chefs use plastic deli containers, as they are cheap, stack well in the fridge, and are incredibly versatile. Just try to get something that won’t explode open in your backpack during class.
Consider the following when picking what to meal prep: how will this keep throughout the week, how quickly will I get tired of eating it, and does it fit with my lifestyle and sustainability goals. Try cooking new things, exploring new cuisines, and finding recipes that you actually want to eat.
Buying in bulk can be an economical and more sustainable way to do your grocery shopping. Instead of trying to buy all your food at once, shop around. Slowly build up a pantry of basics. Use apps like Flipp to look for weekly specials. Utilize the many specialty grocery stores in Victoria for ingredients that you may have never heard or thought of.
Cutting down on meat and animal products can be a great way to reduce food costs and lead a more environmentally friendly and healthy lifestyle. Vegan does not need to mean bland or boring. With plant-based protein sources like tofu, lentils, seitan, and a wide array of fake meats like Impossible and Beyond, it’s never been easier to try and make changes in your diet. Many cultures and cuisines around the world have been plant-based for centuries, and have great ideas for meatless dishes.
If you’re wanting to take your sustainability further, you can look towards trying one of the sustainable stores in town, like the Zero Waste Emporium or West Coast Refill. Interested in learning how to grow your own food? Try getting involved with the UVic community garden.
With the rapidly increasing costs of living, buying enough groceries for a full week at once can be financially undoable for many. The UVSS Food Bank and Free Store is a stigma-free way to get groceries and household items if you are a student in need, and can be visited by appointment in the basement of the Student Union Building.