College Student Food

Last week I saw on the news that a house near a local college had burned down, and when I saw which house it was, I was flooded with memories. During my freshman year of college a friend and I had rented a tiny apartment in that very house for the princely sum of $180 a month. She and I lived there only for about 6 months, but it was my first try at setting up housekeeping, the first time I lived on my own, and the first time I cooked for myself on a regular basis.

Back then my diet was heavy on carbs: mac & cheese, ramen, spaghetti, and raisin bran, with yogurt now and then for protein. If I’m remembering correctly, veggies factored in rarely, if at all. It was also the era of ‘laying out’ in the back yard slathered with SPF 2 tanning lotion. Ahhhhhh…..  At least my roomie and I weren’t into partying.  In any case, I have quite a few fond memories of being in charge of myself and making every penny stretch while living in that little house. (Yeah, I was a tightwad even back then!) I’ve thought for awhile that it’d be fun to put together a food guide for college students similarly strapped for both time and money.

Photocredit: The Frugal Girl

Photocredit: The Frugal Girl

I’d definitely want them to discover the ease of pizza made from french bread cut lengthwise and slathered with sauce, pepperoni and cheese. It’s a meal that can hit the oven in 5 minutes flat. Click over to The Frugal Girl for a more detailed recipe, but honestly, it is just as easy as it looks, and very yummy and filling.

If I’d know a bit more back then, I’d definitely have made omelets much more often.  They’re another quick and affordable meal.  In fact, eggs are some of the cheapest protein out there.  Here’s a video from Jaques Pepin showing the ins and outs of traditional omelet-making.  I love to stuff mine with mushrooms and plenty of cheese. And cilantro, just to gross out my kids.  (HOW can anyone not like cilantro?  And cheese?  And mushrooms?)

Here’s another video showing how to make traditional Chinese fried rice.  The only trick about this is that it really is best made with cooled rice, which takes more forethought than the average college student possesses most of the time.  But the results are worth the wait!

Here’s a recipe for Easy College Student Stromboli that looks great.  And here’s my recipe for Easy Veggie Ramen Stirfry–I wish I’d known back in my college days how much better ramen tastes with a few additions.

What did you cook in your early days on your own?  What do you wish you’d known back then?



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  1. A LOT of boil in a bag rice. My diet was “low fat” back then and rice was fat free. 🙂 Then I moved into a time of “Triscuit Nachos”. Lay 9 Triscuit crackers on a plate. Pull apart one string cheese and layer on crackers. Microwave to melt and add salsa. I now know I have Celiacs so Truscuits are out – but it still sounds good!

  2. Oatmeal! Dirt cheap, warm and filling (for any meal!), and can be dressed up for a treat if wanted (brown sugar, etc).

  3. Great idea!! A home made ‘college cookbook’ with simple and easy ideas and a kitchen tool assortment would be a great high school graduation gift!

  4. Hello,
    I just watched the fried rice video, what spices/sauce did she put in? I couldn’t hear over the sizzling rice. White pepper?, salt, agave?, soy sauce and then something else……..

  5. Oy. I ate a lot broccoli and potatoes baked in tinfoil (didn’t own baking pans!), spaghetti, canned soups and apples. And Wheat Thins. Lots of those! My first place was a dive, and I only lasted there for 6 months — when spring came, the bugs awoke, and I moved out May 31! 🙂

  6. I was actually cooking full meals for my family since middle school, so I generally had reasonable food when I was in college, not counting the occasional hamburger helper. Plus, I worked at Subway and was given a free meal each shift, so I had combos of that several times a week. All sorts of creations that may or may not have been on the menu, for both subs and salads. At least those were relatively healthy as well, unlike those unfortunate people working at the greasy burger places. I baked my first full Thanksgiving dinner from start to finish when I was a junior. However, I realize that was/is not the norm for most college kids, and I think (if it doesn’t exist already) a cookbook for new grads would be a great idea.


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