Step Away from the Microwave

Growing up, including while you were in high school, you likely had the luxury of a parent cooking for you on a regular basis. Each morning, you had breakfast ready to go before school, a lunch packed (or lunch money ready), and dinner waiting for you when you returned home. If you’re at all like me, you completely took this for granted.

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Even during my first year of college, I didn’t realize how nice it was to never have to cook for myself. I lived in my college’s dorms, so I had a meal plan, meaning that anytime I wanted to go to the cafeteria, I knew there would be a variety of options waiting for me when I arrived. My sophomore year, when I lived in my sorority house, we had a chef who cooked all of our meals. Again, I never appreciated how nice it was to have hot meals available 24/7.

That is, until my junior year. That is the year I moved into a house, and I had to start grocery shopping, cooking for myself, and cleaning my own dishes. This was not something I was prepared for. At first, I did what many people do the first time they grocery shop for themselves — I bought all junk food, which was awesome for about two weeks until I started to feel sick.

Even after I put down the Cheez Its and mint chocolate chip ice cream, I noticed something: I began to buy food that required either no or very little preparation. I bought food like cans of soup or frozen chicken nuggets, which I could just throw into the microwave, or yogurt, which I could simply grab and go.

This food, while not as bad for me as the junk food I had been eating, was not providing me with proper nutrients. Home cooking is important for overall health, and can save you money in the long-run. Nothing brings out the nutrients in food like freshly preparing a meal, and frozen meals (often packed with chemicals, salts, and other preservatives) do not count as healthy substitutes! In addition, if you believe you can get the same benefits of home cooking by eating out, I implore you to add up how much all of those $5 meal deals cost you.

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I, of all people, understand that life gets in the way. We get busy and don’t have the time or energy to prepare meals for ourselves at home. So don’t worry, because there is nothing wrong from grabbing a salad or sandwich from your on-campus deli every once in a while, nor is there anything wrong with the occasional Lean Cuisine — so long as neither of these become your go-to routine.

Instead, spend some time each week meal-prepping or learning a new recipe. Once you learn the basics of cooking, the task doesn’t seem so daunting. Planning out your meals ahead of time, and putting time and energy into preparing your own food can incentivize you to eat healthier. As an added bonus, preparing a home-cooked dinner can be a super romantic date. And let’s not forget that all the money you save can be applied to your weekend shenanigans!

What will be the next meal you learn to cook? Tell me on Twitter and I might retweet you!

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