My roommates have joked this year that I'm the "cook" of the apartment. I was practically raised in the kitchen, cooking with my family at every meal and holiday. But when I came together with individuals from different backgrounds, it became clear that cooking strategies that I take for granted are foreign to others. 

Some college students lack fundamental food safety knowledge, and this is certainly an issue in many college apartments. The question at hand with my roommates, however, centered more around cooking intuition. Knowing time- and money-saving tips can make your cooking experience just a little bit easier, and therefore more enjoyable. 

So, without further ado, I present to you tips and tricks straight from my family kitchen. 

1. Buy things on sale

If your mom was a saver like mine, you've probably heard this before: buy things sale and save money. This can be applied to pretty much anything, but for college cooks it's especially helpful for frozen produce and meat.

Frozen Vegetables

vegetable, pea, frozen peas, legume, broccoli, cabbage
Katherine Baker

As a busy college student, buying fresh vegetables doesn't always happen, let alone eating them before they go bad. Frozen produce is a great alternative. It has all the nutrients of fresh produce without the risk of spoilage, and it's convenient to make with dinner after class. However, this can be pricey. By watching for sales (10 for $10 is great) on brands like Bird's Eye or Green Giant, you can get your nutrients without breaking the bank. 


Camille Balhorn

The second item to keep an eye out for is meat. I look for chicken, ground beef and ground turkey. You can buy them at a reduced price and then freeze them for later. I recommend transferring the meat to freezer-strength plastic bags and labeling them with the type, date and your name (if you live with hungry roommates). This ensures they will last longer and you can use the older ones first.

When you want to use the meat in a recipe, simply pull it out of the freezer the day before and let it sit in the fridge. Or, if you forget until the day of, let the meat sit in a bowl of cold water for a couple hours.

2. Freeze Everything

Yes, the freezer is your best friend. It can certainly help with buying things on sale, but it can also aid in convenience and food waste.


Ellen Gibbs

Bananas seem to turn from green at the grocery store to brown on your kitchen counter in about a day. So what do you do? Throw them and waste food (and money)? No, freeze them! Cut up ripe bananas and freeze them to make banana "ice cream" if you're looking for a healthy sweet treat.

If you're not concerned about extra sugar, the mushy consistency and pungent flavor of frozen bananas make them ideal for banana bread. Just thaw them in the microwave first!

Leftover soup

soup, broth, chicken, vegetable, meat
Jocelyn Hsu

Cooking for one takes on a whole new complexity with soup. You want to make a large quantity to save time and make the most of your effort, but you also don't want to get sick of the flavors by eating too many leftovers of it. This is where the freezer comes in. Take out the amount of soup you'll want for the next couple of days and then freeze the rest in meal-sized tupperware. Then, when you need a quick meal sometime, simply take off the tupperware lid and defrost the soup in the microwave. 


Camille Balhorn

Chopping onions can add a lot of prep time when cooking. To alleviate this, I chop up an onion or two and then freeze them. Then when I'm cooking, I simply toss as much as I need into the skillet. This also works well for recipes that call for only a portion of an onion. 

3. Go easy on yourself

The phrase "work smart, not hard" applies to pretty much everything, and that includes cooking as a college student. 

Garlic in water

Camille Balhorn

Fresh garlic is a classic, but it's also cumbersome to cut up for each recipe. Thus, I am a loyal user of minced garlic in water. It's easy and fast, and it keeps for months in the fridge.

Crock pot liners

Camille Balhorn

Crock pot liners are a life saver! Liners are special heat-proof plastic bags that you can place in the dish before pouring in the food. Then, when you're cleaning up, you can pour it into a Tupperware and have little to no clean-up of the crock pot. Because who likes doing dishes, right? 

Tin foil

Camille Balhorn

Tin foil follows the same idea as crock pot liners: minimize the clean up. This is key for all the chicken nuggets college students tend to eat.

While I get sick of my family's tactics at times, these cooking tips have saved me a lot of time, money and energy while at college. I encourage you to try them out for yourself!