Meals at home save students money, allow for more creativity

Food Columnist and Food Columnist

Cooking seems like a daunting task if you’re not sure where to start.

Many off-campus students living on their own for the first time think it’s easier to order take-out than to cook. But staying in and preparing a meal is cheaper, healthier and a lot more fun.

With a little know-how, cooking can be quite simple.

“My go-to meals are usually really simple,” said Lin-z Tello.

“I like to make pasta with a canned sauce, along with some sautéed veggies and some chicken. Usually I buy a rotisserie chicken, shred some of the meat, sauté it with whatever vegetable I have (I’ve used summer squash, kale and swiss chard in the past), and then top the pasta with the chicken, veggies and sauce,” Tello said. “It’s really filling and not too expensive. Plus if you make a lot of food, you can easily heat up leftovers for a really quick meal.”

For students new to cooking, Tello’s suggestions are spot on.

Buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from Kroger or Meijer. They are affordable and perfect as a meal in itself, or you can shred the meat to use in pasta dishes, tacos, salads, sandwiches or pizzas.

Also, making big batches of pasta, casseroles or soups means you don’t need to worry about cooking for a couple of days. And leftovers equal the ultimate fast food — a quick heat-up and they’re ready in no time.

Ashley Lojko’s blog “Cookingforone.ashleylojko.com” offers many recipes, ranging from gluten-free to vegetarian, that are healthy and easy to make.

Lojko, a professional in her twenties, recommends chopping fresh vegetables and storing them in Glad containers or Ziploc to make meal preparation less time-consuming. Her storage tips and “quick and dirty” recipes accommodate cooks of all levels.

Washington Post columnist Joe Yonan (http://www.joeyonan.com/) shares the joy of solo cooking in his cookbook “Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One.”

With wit and charm, Yonan shares healthy recipes guaranteed to get you to eat your greens.

Additionally, he gives wise advice for freezing farmers’ market vegetables to use all year round, and menu planning for a week at a time so you can use that whole bag of carrots instead of just one, saving readers money.

Just remember the more you cook, the more familiar you will become with your kitchen and culinary talents.

Once you master a few meals, even easy ones like breakfast-for-dinner or minestrone soup, you won’t need to follow a recipe and you’ll feel more confident to flex your culinary abilities.

Sure, cooking at home is more affordable and healthier, but there are other benefits as well.

“I really enjoy cooking, and sometimes it can even help me de-stress from a long day,” Tello said.

Cooking can be a form of meditation, and it’s been known to improve mathematical skills, too. It’s time to put down that take-out menu, pick up a pan and get cooking.