One of the most challenging parts of being away at college is planning meals, often without a full kitchen – or someone cooking for you. It can be challenging planning for a schedule that varies from day to day, sometimes leaving limited time for meals.
Breakfast is often the easiest to plan for, since cereal, bagels or yogurt can cover you much of the week. It’s easy to jazz these staples up, though. Add some fruit, granola and honey to yogurt, and you’ve got more of a meal. (The same can be done with oatmeal.) You can also add scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, and shredded cheese to a tortilla for an easy breakfast burrito.
PB&J or deli meat sandwiches are great lunch basics, and you can’t go wrong with grilled cheese and soup. Some shredded rotisserie chicken and sauce can transform that grilled cheese into a delicious barbecue sandwich. Another simple and fun snack is our 20-minute Easy Chicken Quesadilla recipe. And let’s not forget everyone’s favorite Mini Pizza Bagels recipe.
How to Make Perfect Grilled Cheese
Ready in just 10 minutes, this version of grilled cheese uses mayo, cheddar and Havarti for a flavor that can’t be beat.
Salads can supplement any meal, or become the meal, depending on how you build them. Combine your favorite greens with standard toppings like croutons, cheeses and nuts, or add grains like quinoa or couscous. With beans, berries and nuts, a Chickpea and Berry Salad makes for a filling “flexitarian” lunch or dinner.
It may be difficult to dream up dinners, but pastas are always a great place to start. (Ramen noodles are a college tradition, right?) Cook any noodles and meats and add a favorite bottled sauce and some cheese, and it’s bound to mix well. Our Lazy Skillet Lasagna has all the flavor of the oven-baked variety, without any of the hassle. Tuesdays usually call for tacos, but any night should welcome a quick-prep Taco Tortellini dish.
The College Grocery List
Having some favorite easy recipes is a good start. Now it’s time to put together your simple college grocery list for your easy meals.
Taking inventory of common foods and ingredients will help you keep a running grocery list. (Tip: Keep your list in a note on your phone so you’ll never forget to take it to the store.)
Assuming you have a refrigerator and enough room to store pantry staples, here are food essentials to get you started:
- Eggs or egg substitutes
- Cream cheese and hard cheeses
- Fresh fruits/vegetables
- Canned fruits/vegetables
- Condiments (mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, barbeque sauce, etc.)
- Various sauces (pasta sauce, tomato sauce, meat sauce, soy sauce, etc.)
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Vegetable oil and cooking spray
- Deli meats
- Hot dogs or sausages
- Rotisserie chicken (can be added to salads, sandwiches or wraps)
- Other cuts of meat, as needed for recipes
- Pasta, rice, quinoa, etc.
- Cereal and instant oatmeal
- Granola or protein bars
- Raisins and nuts
- Rice cakes
- Potato chips
- Bottled water
- Instant coffee
- Soft drinks
- Frozen juice concentrate
- Premade smoothies
Keeping most of these items on hand will enable both purposeful meal planning and on-the-go snacking.