For most college students, home cooked meals are an unfortunately rare commodity. Between class, internships, extracurriculars, and maintaining any semblance of a social life, finding time to prepare a meal is frequently unheard of. Plus, when the pizza place around the corner sells $1 slices and is open 24/7, why even bother?

However, despite the obvious convenience, these between-class snacks and takeout dinners on the way home from a long day can actually really start to add up. And that's not even including dinners out, late night snacks, or Sunday brunches with the girls.

Jaime Wilson

To see just how much of a toll this lifestyle was taking on my bank account and my overall health (a girl can only eat so many late-night fries), I decided to quit cold turkey and cut myself off from just about everything that doesn't come from my own kitchen. For an entire month. Yikes.

The rules are pretty simple—I can only purchase food in grocery stores. That includes Trader Joe's, the basement of KMart, and anything in between. The only exceptions I'm allowing myself are meals I don't have to pay for, which would be too hard to avoid considering my current job assisting an NYC food blogger

So, with the rules laid out and the fridge fully stocked, it's time to officially say goodbye to takeout, Chipotle, $1 pizza, and bagels (bagels!) on the go. Let's do this.

Week One

Jaime Wilson

So far, so good. Right off the bat, I've already started to get a grip on the necessity of planning ahead. For an avid snacker like myself, this part is crucial. When you can't stop for a smoothie on the way to class, or even just a snack at the on-campus Starbucks, it becomes immediately clear that being unprepared is simply not an option.

I've also been getting pretty creative with my main meals, which is mostly due to an abundance of free time. My cast iron skillet—the newest addition to my kitchen— has proved to be even more essential than I'd initially imagined. I've been using it at least once a day, and even experimented with crab cakes—a venture which ended up being surprisingly successful.

Jaime Wilson

I've also noticed one other major effect of my little experiment: I'm getting really good at turning down plans. The phrase "Sorry, I can't!" is becoming an even more natural part of my everyday vocabulary, and now I have a pretty legitimate excuse. My friends may not love this new catch phrase, but my wallet definitely does.

Week Two

Jaime Wilson

Week two brought some more unexpected curveballs, but nothing a meal-prep extraordinaire can't handle. I came down with a nasty head cold, which left me craving nothing but takeout. In an attempt to satisfy my sickness without giving up my mission, I stocked up on snacks and decided to try making some copycat recipes of my favorite delivery dishes. 

First up was Pad Thai, which was an instant hit, and also surprisingly easy to prepare. I also tried to copy my favorite sandwich from the café down the street, which (mostly) hit the spot. Unfortunately, aside from these two attempts, I was pretty much eating grilled cheese, mac and cheese, and just about anything low maintenance. 

Once I safely cleared the illness stage, it was a little tricky to get back on track. It took a few more days of pasta and potato chips before I got back into my groove, but I'm proud to say we made a full recovery. I even started the next week by bringing a smoothie to class in a mason jar, so clearly my inner hipster trash is also coming out to play.

In terms of lunches, I've discovered pretty much every location of microwaves on the NYU campus, and have made them my home away from home. I'd mostly been bringing leftovers of last-night's dinners, until I spontaneously decided to whip up a lasagna in, you guessed it, my brand new skillet.

Jaime Wilson

This was really just a random way to kill some time on a Sunday afternoon, but ended up being a great idea. Lasagna is the perfect meal-prep solution, since it's super easy to stick in the freezer and break out when you're craving a little slice of home cooking,

Week Three

Jaime Wilson

Well, I ate some cheese fries. And I'm not proud of it.

15 days into my challenge, my willpower started to fail me. I'd been eating well, cooking some "good eats" (Trademark Alton Brown, my lord and savior), and meal-prepping the sh*t out of my life. Unfortunately, none of this was enough to keep me from giving into the sweet smell of the cheesy tater tots that my friends bought at 12:34am on September 24th.

While I suppose this wasn't technically cheating (since I didn't actually buy the forbidden late-night snack) I still counted it as a moment of weakness. However, contrary to my late-night text messages of surrender, I woke up the next morning ready to repent my sins with two more weeks of home cooked creations. 

Jaime Wilson

In the immediate aftermath of my unfortunate slip-up, I decided I had to really go all out if I was going to make amends. My first step towards recovery was actually to add a few days to the original deadline, pushing my final day back to October 12th.

After taking care of my guilty conscience with an extension, I decided to dive back into full meal-prep mode, whipping up a batch of home cooked marinara sauce and about 40 meatballs (recipe courtesy of Bon Appetite). Because, why not? Luckily, these guys survive pretty well in the freezer too, so with my lasagna stash rapidly diminishing, this was the perfect solution.

Week Four

Jaime Wilson

I went into week four with the excited attitude of a high school senior heading towards graduation. Kicking things off with yet another impromptu lasagna in the freezer, this final stretch seemed entirely under control. 

I did the usual meal-prep, bagging some granola to top my on-the-go yogurts, and cooked a few more almost-five-star dinners. I also did one final big grocery shop, gathering all the necessary snacks and ingredients for one last push. 

On Thursday, October 12th, I spent most of the workday counting down the hours to the beginning of my freedom. With Brainfood, one of the biggest food events of the year, coming up on Saturday, the new Shake Shack around the corner from my apartment opening its doors, as well as a friend coming into town for the weekend, I'm definitely ready for this experiment to come to an end.

To celebrate a mostly-successful month of home cooking, I decided to splurge and make reservations at Gato to let Bobby Flay treat me right. However, while I'm happy to dive back in to the world of takeout and drunchies, I do think I'll actually continue some of my new habits, just maybe without the rules.

The last 33 days have taught me a lot about self control, budgeting, cooking, and planning ahead. While I'll probably bring back the occasional lunches from Sweetgreen and weekend brunches, I'll definitely be much more conscious of exactly what I'm putting in my body. And how much it costs.

Overall, this month was both an exercise in willpower and in frustration, but one thing is for sure: I'll never take my mid-class-bagels for granted again.