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McKissick: Learning to cook at home will change your life

Chicken, green beans and garlic bread being prepared for dinner Nov 7. (Photo illustration by Grayson Reed | The Collegian)
Chicken, green beans and garlic bread being prepared for dinner Nov 7. (Photo Illustration by Grayson Reed | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

College is a time associated with meals that are nutritionally lacking. Instant ramen, TV dinners and a lot of takeout come to mind when people think of their four years at university.

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But it doesn’t have to be this way. Learning how to cook while you’re in college can change your life for the better.

Considering that financial destitution is a longstanding issue in college, cooking at home is the frugal choice. According to a 2017 Forbes study, you can expect to spend around $4.31 per serving cooking at home. The cost per serving in a restaurant is nearly five times that at an outrageous $20.37.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and who knows what delicious meal you’ll come up with when you decide to cook intuitively with pantry staples you have on hand?”

Delivery is equally as expensive, with the same Forbes study finding “on average, it is almost five times more expensive to order delivery from a restaurant than it is to cook at home.” They also found that even meal kit services are “almost three times as expensive as cooking from scratch.”

By all metrics, cooking at home from scratch is the cheapest option, and in college — as many of us know — every penny counts. Not only is it cheaper than eating out, but according to a study published in Public Health Nutrition, people who cook at home are shown to have overall healthier diets.

Barring the financial aspect, incorporating cooking into your routine is therapeutic in several senses of the word.

Physically, you’re often on your feet and using your shoulders and arms. Preparing food thus exercises hand-eye coordination, and laborious mixing or kneading food by hand gets the blood in your muscles flowing.

Mentally, focusing on the process of cooking can alleviate stress. When you’re so in the moment, your other worries and stressors fall away. Even if it’s only temporary, that can be a lifeline at times. Cooking with others — like a significant other, family member, friend or roommate — can also help foster relations, and you’ll look back fondly on that quality time with someone you love later.

You’ll never go hungry, and you can easily impress your friends, family and potential suitors with your culinary skills.”

Cooking has been used to treat eating disorders, addiction and other mental health maladies such as anxiety and depression. In addition to the calming benefits mentioned above, it encourages creativity, especially when you are cooking without a recipe.

Becoming acquainted with spices and learning what elements they add to a dish can help you learn how to cook intuitively. Cooking intuitively saves time and, according to Jeffrey Miller of the food science and human nutrition department at Colorado State University, allows you control over what you eat. 

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“Mostly we cede control of our lives to other people,” Miller said. “Cooking is one way to regain some of that.”

Julia Moskin of New York Times Cooking recommends keeping a handful of essential items on hand to throw together a recipe that doesn’t break the bank at a moment’s notice. Moskin lists items like eggs, chicken parts, “tomato paste, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce,” stocks, oils, vinegars and baking ingredients (like flour, sugars and baking soda) as necessities for any well-stocked pantry.

Keeping such items in your home at all times ensures you’ll always have the ability to feed yourself, even if the meal may be lacking some variety. Necessity is the mother of invention, and who knows what delicious meal you’ll come up with when you decide to cook intuitively with pantry staples you have on hand?

You can also add some flare into your meals by buying weekly rotating specialty items, like pickled produce, chili peppers, tahini, capers and artisanal items.

Cooking at home consistently provides mental, physical and financial benefits. You’ll never go hungry, and you can easily impress your friends, family and potential suitors with your culinary skills. What do you have to lose?

Reach Nathaniel McKissick at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @NateMcKissick.

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