Cooking has never been my thing, and honestly, I never had any interest in making it my thing. In fact, until only a couple of months ago, the extent of my skills was a grilled cheese sandwich, and I didn't even like it that much. 

In the fall of 2017, I started my second year of college, and at the same time, I moved out of my dorm room and into an apartment. Along with the transition, I was given the option to purchase a meal plan, and I didn't take it because, among several other reasons, dining hall food is simply not good. 

In light of my situation, I was forced to acquire at least the most basic cooking skills — you know, for survival. It didn't happen overnight. It was more of a slow and steady process that clearly is still going on, but now, over a semester later, I'm very glad I did it. 

The First Weeks

macaroni, pasta, spaghetti, cheese, cheddar, sauce, vegetable
Jocelyn Hsu

I'd be lying if I said I didn't contemplate the idea of not cooking at all, and simply getting take out every day. I quickly realized how stupid that was, though, because 1) I'd be broke within days, and 2) Who does that? Realizing how insane this would be, I instead decided to make my peace with the fact that I had to learn, whether I liked it or not. 

The first time I bought groceries, I figured I'd keep things as simple and basic as I possibly could, so, the most complicated item in my bags was pasta which, of course, I didn't know how to make. The only protein I had picked out was sliced deli turkey breast. To round out my haul, I bought tomatoes, pop corn, and Velveeta, among a couple of other things. 

So, during my first few weeks as an apartment resident I lived off of sandwiches, microwavable mac and cheese, and ridiculously large portions of spaghetti with marinara sauce — special thanks to my roommates for teaching me how to cook it. I was not running a five-star restaurant, or anything remotely close to that, but it sure could've been much worse.

A Few Months In

beer, wine
Zoe Zaiss

Every time I went to the supermarket, or in my case, ordered groceries online, I increasingly expanded my list. Being the inexperienced cook I was, and still am , I often forgot about some of the stuff I'd bought, and when I found them, they'd already gone bad. Other times, I just left stuff sitting in the fridge or in my pantry because I had no clue what foods to put them in or how to cook them.

Once I started noticing what I could and could not cook, what I liked and what I did not like as much, I gradually went back to a reduced groceries list. I started eliminating everything that I would realistically never consume, which incidentally helped me save a few bucks and kept food from going to waste.

At the same time, I progressively learned to cook more elaborate meals. By elaborate, I mean stuff that's still really easy to cook for virtually anyone, and barely elaborate, like chicken breasts. Once again, I have my roommates to thank for this.

Nicole Witte

In addition to this breakthrough, I'd finally learned how to cook eggs in three new ways: scrambled, boiled, and poached — I'm especially proud of this one. As small as these victories may seem to anyone else, I was pretty thrilled with myself, and the fact that I was expanding my daily menu made me very happy. 


After almost two semesters, I am very glad to report that I've learned to cook a relatively wide variety of dishes. Nothing complicated, but still really good, and just enough to allow myself to make something different every day if I want to. 

Of course, there are awesome resources like Tasty, which I sometimes turn to when I'm feeling creative. Before, I'd be scared to try their recipes, because given my lack of experience, I'd expect a total flop. That being said, I got my favorite salad recipe off of their app — yes, a salad. Ever since, I try to make it at least once or twice per week.

Gloria Berguido

As you can probably tell, my creativity level in the kitchen is not very high, but that doesn't take away anything from the fact that Tasty is a great tool and it's helping me expand my culinary abilities.

All in all, living in an apartment has basically forced me to learn how to cook, and now, I really like it. I'm almost completely sure there are hundreds of college students out there who've had a similar experience, and other hundreds who are worried about their situation once they move in, much like I was.

My word of advice? Don't worry. You'll be fine. If I can do it, anyone can.