by Avery Cooper

Let’s face it, life is busy. And for college students, it’s typically even busier than average due to course load, Greek life, extracurriculars, jobs, internships, fitness, and social life. If you add on chores like laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, errands, and cooking, it’s on a whole other level.

Take these cooking and shopping tips from a current college student whose mother was certifiably OCD and taught me how to successfully “adult” while navigating my own treacherous schedule.

Cooking and Shopping Tips

  • Add to your shopping list as you think of things
    • In today’s tech-savvy world, it’s as simple as making a list on your phone as things pop into your mind. If you have a home assistant, (Amazon, Apple, Google) just tell it what you would like to add to your shopping list. Also, if there are items you always use or will always need like toothpaste and toilet paper, try to buy enough to have spare items stocked up so you never run out and so it becomes a habit to always have those items on hand.
  • Cook It Once, Eat It Twice
    • When making your protein – beef, chicken, shrimp – make extra. Eat it one way the first night and then modify it the next night. For example, marinate skirt steak for a meal and pair with a starch and a protein but cook extra to pop into a quesadilla with cheese and peppers and onions on another night. You get two separate meals but only one night of cooking with the exception of a quick re-heat basically.
  • Shop For the Week
    • Plan your week’s menu ahead of time. Add those necessary items to a grocery list, and shop for the week on a designated day. My shopping, cleaning, and errands day is Sunday, but you can pick whichever day fits best with your schedule. Take into consideration how the first meal is prepared and get all the necessary ingredients but also what is needed for meal two. It may be as simple as adding some cheese, bread, or chicken broth and you re-vamped last night’s meal into a brand-new meal for tonight. This reduces food costs, and you can just freeze any extra protein you don’t need to use at a later date.
    • It’s especially important to plan your meals ahead of time if you’re only cooking for one or two people. When you get home from the grocery store, divide your protein into portion sizes, and put them into the freezer unless you’re cooking them that night. For example, if you buy in bulk – such as buying a whole package of chicken – put each piece into a separate ziplock bag to put into the freezer. This way, you don’t have to defrost all the chicken at once which saves money and food.
  • Always Eat Your Leftovers
    • Throwing away food is a cardinal sin in my book, but if you have already gone through the trouble to plan, shop, prep, cook, and do dishes then definitely don’t throw it out.  If you have leftover broccoli, throw it into vegetarian rice or into an omelet the next morning for breakfast.
  • Download Your Favorite Grocery Stores’ Apps
    • A lot of times, grocery stores have apps that offer discount codes and coupons. I typically shop at Kroger since it’s right next to my apartment and the app always me to apply coupons when I check out and even pay with the debit card I usually use just by scanning my phone.

Eating Healthy

It isn’t difficult to eat healthy if you just know the most important tricks. What people often get mistaken is that cooking and eating healthy isn’t actually expensive and takes a lot less time than fancy recipes you see on your Instagram feed.

My usual meal consists of a lean protein (such as boneless, skinless chicken breast) and either two vegetables or one vegetable paired with a starch. My go-to meals often take me 20 minutes or less to cook and require only one or two pans.

Go-To Healthy Meals

Mediterranean Chicken
Mediterranean Chicken
  • Mediterranean Chicken
    • Ingredients
      • Thinly sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 breast per person)
      • 1 container cherry or grape tomatoes
      • 1 red onion
      • 1 small bag/container fresh baby spinach
      • Crumbled feta cheese
    • 1) Trim fat off the chicken and cut into cubes while raw
    • 2) Cut cherry tomatoes in half and slice onions – don’t dice
    • 3) Season chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning
    • 4) Pour olive oil or cooking spray in the pan at medium heat
    • 5) Add chicken to the pan and cook until cooked through and nice and brown on the edges, remove from pan and set aside
      • Only 8 minutes or so because the chicken is already cut into small pieces
    • 6) Add a little more olive oil or cooking spray to the same pan and sauté onions until soft
    • 7) Add tomatoes and cook until soft
    • 8)Add spinach at the very end and cook until it’s wilted
    • 9) Season all the vegetables with salt and pepper, then pour chicken with the juices back into the skillet
    • 10) Cook a few more minutes
      • A sauce will be made naturally from the water in the vegetables
    • 11) Serve and top with the desired amount of feta cheese
    • 12) Enjoy!
Sweet Chili Shrimp (made with green beans instead of edamame following same recipe)
Sweet Chili Shrimp (made with green beans instead of edamame following same recipe)
  • Sweet Chili Shrimp
    • Ingredients
      • 1 lb bag large shrimp (deveined and pre-cooked – the shrimp will look pink rather than white/grey and raw)
      • Sweet chili sauce (usually comes in a glass bottle on the salad dressing aisle)
      • Frozen edamame
      • 5-minute brown rice
    • 1) Run cold water over the shrimp to defrost for about 20 minutes
    • 2) Add shrimp to a skillet for 2 minutes to heat
    • 3) Pour sauce over the shrimp to coat plus a little extra
    • 4) Add frozen edamame to the pan and stir while you cook the rice separately
    • 5) Plate the rice then pour the shrimp, edamame, and sauce over the rice
    • 6) Serve and enjoy!
  • Italian Chicken
    • Ingredients
      • Boneless, skinless chicken breast (1 breast per person)
      • Your favorite Italian dressing
      • Steamable bag of green beans (find on the frozen vegetable aisle)
    • 1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
    • 2) Put the chicken in Pyrex pan and squeeze Italian dressing on top to coat
    • 3) Bake chicken for 25 minutes
    • 4) Once the chicken is almost finished, steam the green beans in the bag in the microwave so the chicken and green beans can finish at about the same time
    • 5) Plate the chicken and pour more Italian dressing over the green beans on the plate
    • 6) Enjoy!
Hungry Girl – A great place to find simple and healthy meals that any college student can cook!
Hungry Girl – A great place to find simple and healthy meals that any college student can cook!

Following these few simple tips and tricks should add a couple of hours back into any college student’s life, so use those hours for good and not evil and stay out of trouble.

Need More Cooking Inspiration?

For more easy and healthy meals to cook, check out my favorite place to find new recipes – Hungry Girl!