It’s never too early to learn a skill. The ability to cook is vitally important. Everyone wants to be healthy, and learning to cook healthy is important. If you have a child heading off to college soon, it’s a good idea to help them learn to cook as soon as possible. Even though they may have minimal equipment and little access to kitchen spaces, it’s still possible to make tasty meals. If the dormitory kitchens aren’t open or they want to give a party, teach them how to avoid costly take out and create dishes that will please the palate.
Access to Storage
The first thing you need to teach them is to know how to shop for ingredients. Let them know that they want to have only ingredients they’re going to use. Many dorms have small fridges or communal fridges you can use but will need to share with others. Tell them to take advantage of such spaces to store items like dairy products, butter, and most cheese. Fruit, grains, and pasta, in contrast, can be stored anywhere cool and dry.
Plan Your Cooking
Chances are that your child might have already had a meal plan, depending on their university. This plan may cover all or some of your meals. However, advise them that they will still want to prepare snacks and other meals on occasion to have more variety. Meal planning should begin each week based on what they plan to cook. For example, many dorms only offer two meals on weekends. You don’t want your child to go hungry, so be sure to let them know to prepare full meals on those days so they can stay full. Your son or daughter will obviously want to enjoy college, so tell them that if they plan a party, they will want to prepare adequate meals or sacks to serve their guests.
A Few Recipes
It’s a good idea for them to develop a few go-to recipes that they can rely on for a fast meal. They might know how to make a nice mac and cheese or a quick stir fry, but now is the time to think about other kinds of meals they can make. As a college student, they don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone but themselves with their cooking. So if they feel like trying out a new omelet idea or perfecting a good bowl of soup, now is the time to start.
Cook in Batches
If your child has time on a weekend when they’re not studying, it’s also a good idea to teach them to make things in batches. For example, they might make a large casserole that they can easily freeze it for later in the week. This way, if they don’t like what’s on the dorm menu at any given time, they can have a meal all ready to go. Freezing is also ideal if they get really busy with homework or finals and don’t have time to run to the meal hall or if it’s after hours and they’re hungry. Teach them to be sure to label all meals so they remember what they are.
Use What You Have
When living on campus, students may or may not have access to lots of cooking facilities. The same is true when they leave college. Now is the time for them to perfect their cooking ability and remind them they don’t necessarily need lots of tools to make a great meal. For example, a single hot plate or stove burner can help boil water for pasta, make scrambled eggs and reheat your leftover soup. Look for things that can be made from few ingredients, heated in a microwave, but still taste good. Almost anything can be cooked with a microwave and a mug.
Look for Shortcuts
College students are very busy. Whether taking classes, writing papers, or collaborating on projects, many college students are on the go nearly all the time. Your child will want to fit meals into their life when you have time. A proper understanding of cooking allows them to take shortcuts. They can make quick, low carb meal plans that allow them to stay healthy on the go. You could give them a crockpot so they can throw in a few ingredients, head out for classes, and come back to a nice meal. Tell them to keep cans of things on hand like beans, sun-dried tomatoes, and marinated artichokes so they can make a fast and delicious salad.
All of these suggestions will not only help your student stay fresh, re-energized, and prepared for college life, but also give you peace of mind as a parent in knowing that they will be able to support themselves and enjoy the college experience.
About the Author
Paisley Hansen is a loving mother of three children. Being a mother has been the most fulfilling part of her life. When she’s not out with her kids, you can find her at the gym or curled up with a good book.