“Adulting 101” is a series of six blogs to help make your transition from college to the real world a little easier! So far we’ve covered job and apartment searches. Now it’s all about eating right and staying healthy.
Once you’re on your own, you can’t pester mom or dad about “what’s for dinner” or stroll to the dining hall in search of food. Yep, that’s right—you have to learn how to cook (cue stress-inducing music).
Some of us may have grown up learning how to cook, but others may not have. You don’t need to be a master chef to keep yourself fed, but mastering the basics will go a long way to keeping your stomach and your wallet satisfied.
Before you can turn on the oven (or the microwave), you have to go grocery shopping. Before you shop, look up recipes online or ask your friends and family for dishes that fit your skill level and tastes. Make a list of what you need to buy to avoid purchasing things you won’t use. From experience, my greatest advice when grocery shopping is to eat first; it never ends well when you go to the store hungry.
When your budget allows, start stocking up on basics like salt, pepper, spices, flour, sugar, and rice. Never buy basic kitchen tools and utensils from the grocery store though. Grab these at dollar stores or secondhand to save a ton of cash.
When looking for recipes, you don’t need to look in the fancy cookbooks from Grandma. Instead, try looking on sites like Pinterest and searching for “easy” recipes or three- to five-ingredient dishes. You can also find tutorials online for basic cooking skills like preparing certain meats, cooking eggs, cutting up vegetables, and making basic sauces.
There are also plenty of recipes online for things like making your own bread, which is far less expensive than buying it, if you have a little time and want to start simple. With these basic skills in your repertoire, you can invent and alter recipes of your own with just a little creativity. Also check out this cookbook, originally designed for cooking on a SNAP budget, that has lots of simple, customizable recipes for cheap.
Hand-in-hand with eating right is staying healthy. For healthy options when buying groceries, look up local farmers markets during the summer and fall, plan and prep meals for the week, and designate time to cook if you know you’ll be busy to avoid the temptation to order pizza or fast food all the time. Outside of vegetables, locally produced items like eggs or bread have fewer preservatives as well.
Portion control is a big part of keeping healthy, so look up single-serving recipes if you’re just cooking for yourself to keep from making more food than you’ll need (though if things will keep, leftovers are a great idea for lunch the next day or nights when cooking is just not happening). I especially love single-serve mug cakes when I have a sweet tooth and know I won’t have the self-control later if I make a whole batch of something.
When it comes to exercise, you don’t have to drop a ton of money on a gym membership to stay active. If you can, try walking to work, on your lunch break, while running errands, or to the park to take a stroll. There are lots of resources online (and plenty of apps too) that provide exercises you can do in your living room floor with no equipment.
If you have somewhat of a budget, enroll in a fitness class to stay healthy physically and mentally. Speaking of mental health, always be sure to make time for yourself when you need it, do things you enjoy, hang out with friends and family to stay connected, and go to the doctor when you need to.
Adulting is hard, but eating and living healthy go a long way to keeping the rest of your life in check.
Next up in Adulting 101: health care and insurance. And for more college living advice, check out our Student Life section.