To all the rising sophomores and juniors who have not yet made the leap into the world of home-made meals, this one’s for you. The thought of having to leave behind a meal plan terrified me at first. Of course I knew how to prepare the basics, but how was I supposed to think of healthy and tasty meals three times a day? Well, it’s much easier than you may think. I’m here to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned to make the transition from meal plans to cooking in an apartment a lot smoother.


Let’s start out with the basics. I personally like to begin the day with something super simple. Some of my favorite breakfast items I’ve made over this past year were banana toast, scrambled eggs with quinoa, and granola cereal. Seriously so delicious and simple to make. I’ll rotate these three breakfast items every morning. 

avocado, ham, Savory, foam, muffin, brunch, plates, cup, mushrooms, truffle, benedict, latte, coffee, omelette, Eggs, egg, ketchup, potatoes, fries, home, table, spread, Breakfast
Katie Kasperson

Banana toast is pretty self-explanatory. I’ll slice up a banana and place it on top of whatever bread I have that week. It's nothing special, but it's tasty enough that I look forward to making it and easy enough that I don’t dread making it. For the granola cereal, my favorite is the Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Protein granola. Pair that with your milk of choice and you have a nutritious and not so boring breakfast. Scrambled eggs with quinoa is something I just recently added to my rotation. Trader Joe’s sells an easy microwavable quinoa with vegetables already in them that I top with scrambled eggs for some extra protein.


Lunch may be my favorite meal of the day. I am usually hungry by the time my morning classes are done and will be tempted to reach for a bag of chips and a cookie. But I have found some really simple and delicious recipes that make for a quick pick-me-up.

salad, vegetable
Danielle Cahoon

Salads can go so many ways. I’d recommend having balsamic vinegar and olive oil in the pantry at all times as these will go with any kind of salad you are preparing. Recently, I have been adding chopped almonds and strawberries into a bowl of mixed greens. Some other toppings I have been loving in my salads are chickpeas, cranberries, goat cheese, sliced cherry tomatoes, and sometimes red pepper flakes for some more spice. Mix all your favorite salad toppings into a big bowl and top with your vinegar and oil and voila! You just made a delicious salad.  

tomato, lettuce, sandwich, cheese, ham, bread, meat, bacon
Jocelyn Hsu

Sandwiches are another staple for me. A sandwich with cheese, cold-cuts, lettuce, and tomato isn’t anything special but I have recently figured out the ultimate way to "up" your sandwich-making game; roasted vegetables. I usually make a big batch towards the beginning of the week and keep them refrigerated until I want to use them. My favorite vegetables to prepare are peppers and zucchinis, but you can pretty much roast any vegetable of your choice. When I am feeling a bit lazier than usual, I’ll skip the sandwich all together, heat up the vegetables, add some salt and pepper and boom, another lunch option. 


I’ve got to say dinner was the one meal I was most worried about going into sophomore year. Previously, I would head to the dining hall and eat the “dinner special” of the day. I quickly realized dinners don’t have to be that scary. 

In my opinion, I would stay away from microwavable dinners. They are easy, but the microwave takes away a lot of the nutrients in food. Two of my favorite dinners to make are salmon and pizza. You can find frozen salmon and pizza in almost any grocery store, but I recommend Trader Joe’s. Their frozen food selection is what has gotten me through this year.

salmon, lemon, grilled salmon
Jessica Yu

Preparing frozen salmon is easier than you may think. You can leave it in the freezer until you are ready to prepare it and then cook it on a skillet. After pan-frying both sides of the salmon, season with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings, I like sesame. Cover the skillet until it is completely cooked (about 4 minutes on medium-high heat). I then prepare a super easy sauce to dip the salmon in which consists of soy sauce, lemon, honey, and red pepper. This recipe is sure to impress your roommates, friends, and/or family. I recommend refrigerating any leftover salmon you have so you can heat it up the next day and add it on top of rice, quinoa, or salad.

pizza, sauce
Becky Hughes

Last, but certainly not least, is pizza. How could I possibly make a beginner’s guide to apartment cooking without adding pizza? My all-time favorite frozen pizza is, you guessed it, from Trader Joe’s. My friends and I rave about how good this pizza is and I have gotten them all hooked on it. The name of it is “Organic Tomato Mozzarella Piccolo Pizza". It’s 680 calories for the whole pizza and takes 20 minutes to prepare. Pair with a side salad, like one we talked about earlier, and you have a simple, easy, and tasty dinner. 

I think the most helpful tip to making any meal less boring is by adding new flavors/spices every time you make them. I always have cinnamon and honey for my toasts and cereals, “Everything But The Bagel” seasoning from Trader Joe’s, and red pepper flakes for any savory meal I am preparing.

I hope this helps ease any stress that comes along with cooking. Once you start, preparing meals will become second nature. It just takes a little practice and then before you know it, everyone will be asking you to cook for them. Seriously, everyone.