While university dining halls can have its perks (i.e. having food ready for you whenever you want it), I miss homemade meals. Nothing beats some fluffy eggs and crispy toast in the morning, or some warm cheesy pasta for dinner. Benson, SCU's dining hall, has some great options, but lets face it, it doesn’t always taste like it was “made with love” like homemade cooking. Simply meaning, it doesn’t always taste “fresh off the grill.” Feeling motivated to still have that homemade meal, I’m sharing with you how to still have homemade cooking in college.

Emily Swanson

The Salad Bar

Maybe you’re like me and going to the Salad Bar for dinner sounds like the most bland, unsatisfying meal for my hanger (hunger+anger) needs. The Salad Bar can, in fact, be your friend if you load up on veggies that YOU like. Your number one friend?

1. Spinach

Spinach is a great add-in to so many meals because of its basically tasteless flavor. Not to mention, it’s full of fiber and is loaded with antioxidants (win-win). It is also very versatile. Load up a bowl full of spinach, and make your own salad or add it to eggs, smoothies, or with other veggies to sauté as a side dish. 

2. Quinoa

Quinoa is another staple at the Salad Bar that can pair with so many things. Make your own quinoa salad (load up on some feta for this, mmm), add it into a green salad, use it as a side, etc. Quinoa is a healthy carb and has much more fiber than many other types of grains. (Another win!)

Emily Swanson

3. Veggies, Veggies, Veggies

No, I’m not telling you to only eat vegetables for dinner. But, vegetables CAN become your friend in the kitchen and can really add some flavor to your meal. The Salad Bar has a variety of vegetables, so be sure to load up on one’s that you like. Some of my favorites are the cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and cauliflower. The tomatoes and zucchini go great with some sautéed spinach and eggs, and cauliflower is full of vitamins and fiber. (Spoiler alert: all vegetables are full of fiber).

Emily Swanson

The Cellar

I have made The Cellar my bitch during my time here at Santa Clara. I go there at least once a day, sometimes more to load up on all the Powercrunch bars, Kind granola, and Goldfish. But The Cellar does actually have a lot of useful ingredients that you might not expect, which can save you time and money spent at the grocery store.

1. Eggs

You have to be on the lookout for these because they don’t always carry them. But the half dozen egg carton is an absolute necessity for me when I am cooking in the kitchen. I use them for homemade egg scrambles, omelettes, baking, etc. in the kitchen and it saves me money and a trip to Safeway because I can use meal points. (Score!)

2. Berries (or fruit in general)

If you haven’t noticed, berries in particular are almost always pretty pricey at the grocery store. I’m talking at least $2 or more for those tiny square cartons. Yes, The Cellar overcharges for everything, but hey, at least it’s meal points. Save yourself some real cash, and load up on all the fruit in The Cellar. Goes great as a side dish, or on top of some yogurt in the morning.

3. Spices

I recently discovered all the spices The Cellar offers in the middle aisle. I guess I was always too busy facing the other way, where the Goldfish is. Some of my favorites that I got were salt and pepper, garlic salt, all-purpose seasoning (a combination of different herbs), and cinnamon. I love to use the garlic salt and all-purpose seasoning to season my veggies (see, it’s all connecting now!), cinnamon on my oatmeal, and you can never go wrong with some salt and pep on your eggs.

4. Oats

I love my oatmeal. I know Benson has oatmeal too, but I have way too much fun making oatmeal parfaits all pretty and done up to get that aesthetic gram pic, so every so often, I make my own oatmeal. The Cellar has a variety of oats, including traditional rolled oats, gluten-free oats, and steel-cut oats. Pick whichever one you like and whip up some hot, cozy oatmeal before class in the comfort of your PJ’s. Maybe you can even add some cinnamon and berries to make it cute. ;)

5. Yogurt

I love yogurt any time of day because it is so quick and easy, but can keep you full for a decent amount of time. The Cellar has regular, Greek, and coconut yogurt (dairy-free). I like to load up a couple of these and eat them throughout the week when I’m short on time.

There are many other healthy options at The Cellar that you can stock up on throughout the week! It is worth your time to look around all the aisles and see what catches your eye (besides the ice cream). Homemade cooking is definitely doable as a college student, even without spending a bunch of money at the grocery store! Finesse the meal point system and load up in Benson and The Cellar. Your inner “Chopped Junior” awaits.