Often, grad students are inexperienced with cooking and think that they don’t have time for it. The student who eats out frequently for convenience and buys prepared foods from the grocery store has great potential to reduce his spending on food by starting to cook and prepare his own foods. Students already experienced with cooking but looking to take it to the next level may find additional savings with batch cooking and meal planning.
As a beginner cook, you should start slowly with learning various techniques and recipes so as not to become overwhelmed. Try to master only one recipe at a time and choose simple recipes that involve a small number of ingredients and no difficult techniques. Cooking doesn’t always have to involve elaborate dishes or adding heat. To make this process seem less intimidating, think of it as food preparation or food assembly rather than cooking, e.g., salads, sandwiches. You also don’t have to eat something different for every meal out of the week. Having a few recipes that you rotate through for each of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, can take the pressure off of masting new recipes while still giving you some variety.
Batch cooking can be a major time-saver for busy students. Batch cooking is when you cook more than one meal at a time, which enables you to eat leftovers on subsequent days and spend a comparatively small amount of time reheating the food. You will likely have to be amenable to eating the same or similar meals multiple days in a row if you are cooking just for yourself. Freezer cooking is a form of batch cooking in which you freeze the meals you have prepared to be eaten weeks later. Batch cooking is also a frugal choice because you can spend less money on food by buying in bulk and using the ingredients you buy fully, and you will be less tempted to eat out for convenience if you have food already made.
Meal planning can be valuable for reducing impulse purchases and waste. To meal plan, you simply decide what you will eat for each meal during a week or month, assemble a shopping list with only the food you need for the plan, and buy and eat that food. When you meal plan, you can make sure that you are buying exactly the right amounts and types of foods so that extra ingredients neither build up nor go to waste. Meal planning and batch cooking work very well in concert.
Further reading: Meal Planning: The Definitive Guide to Planning Your Meals Stress-Free;