After two glorious years of eating dining hall and sorority food, as juniors living in our own off-campus apartment my friends and I can finally cook for ourselves. But my roommates still end up buying dinners out way too often, because they think making their own takes too long or won’t taste good because they “can’t cook.”

Marinating to the rescue — you can make something yummy, healthy, quick and easy by adding simple marinades to your favorite veggies, chicken, fish, meat, tofu, etc. Follow the steps below for fool-proof flavor:

Plan ahead: Decide what you want for dinner before you go to class (I usually choose a piece of chicken and a vegetable). If you freeze your food, defrost it in the fridge overnight so it’s ready to be marinated in the morning.

Use plastic bags: No need for fancy containers that make for a messy clean up.

Stock up on store-bought sauces and dressings: Fight the misconception that you need to whisk together complicated spices and oils to make a good marinade. All you need to marinate is one of your favorite sauces or salad dressings. I recommend:

  • Soy Vey (my personal favorite)
  • Balsamic vinaigrette
  • Peanut sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • BBQ sauce
  • Oil, vinegar, salt and pepper (Not store-bought but still super simple.)

Photo by Alexandra Hayes

When choosing a dressing, stick to something that is acidic and oily, not creamy (i.e choose Italian vinaigrette over Caesar dressing). Acid allows flavors from the marinade to penetrate and soak into the food while oil provides that juicy texture we love.

Refrigerate: Always marinate in the refrigerator — bacteria will grow like crazy if food is left out at room temperature. Leave food marinating in the fridge for up to 5 hours while you’re in class (or not…) for the day.

Now do it:
1. Before class, put your food in plastic baggies (I chose chicken and mushrooms). Use separate baggies for meat and veggies.
Pour chosen marinade into baggies.

Photo by Alexandra Hayes

3. Place in refrigerator.
4. After 4-5 hours, heat up a pan with non-stick oil. Grill pans work best, but if you don’t have one, a regular pan works great too.
5. Take veggies, meat, fish, etc. out of plastic baggie from fridge and place straight in the pan.
6. Cook on both sides until tender (cooking times will vary based on type of food).

Photo by Alexandra Hayes

Pair with a salad, quinoa or brown rice and enjoy your healthy, delicious and homemade meal.