Former Starving Students Unite!

My sister Marlee volunteered me to teach a 1 hour class about meal planning and preparation for college students this Saturday. HELP! I can barely remember things I ate, and they weren't usually particularly good or healthy. What posessed her to think I'm qualified, I really don't know. I do have some tips and recipes, but not many. I'd love any advice you have on the topic. I'm looking for quick, cheap, relatively healthy...though I'll take anything really, and just general tips that you've found to be helpful in planning, shopping, and cooking.

Feel free to leave a comment or email me at natalielarson at gmail dot com


  1. I really don't remember much of what I ate in college but I do remember setting up a one night a week with roommates and that was good, so you only had to worry cooking one meal for everyone once a week. Also I have a super easy recipe to share....
    Apricot chicken
    2-4 chicken breasts
    1 c russian dressing
    3/4 c apricot preserves
    1 packet onion soup mix
    mix dressing preserves and soup mix. place chicken in 8x8 or 9x13 pan cover with dressing mix. Bake at 350 for one hour serve over rice...

  2. To be honest I think most of my meals were fruit loops.

    Chicken breast over and over again.
    Grilled cheese and tomato soup, you can't go wrong there.
    My favorite though is going in together with all of your roommates and making a big pot of chili...of course I don't have recipes for anything.
    Meatless lasagna

    I think everything I ate went through the George Forman.

  3. ditto on the cereal meal plan! We would have a once a week meal with my roommates too. We'd cook lasagna- because ground beef is cheap, or spaghetti- same reason, or "taco" potatoes- same reason, hamburgers- same reason...or just grill chicken and cook a bag of frozen microwave veggies and rice. We always made sure to make cookies or brownies though to get the full 'home cooked' meal experience ;)
    my one tip would be that a microwave, a microwave save bowl, a small amount of water, and plastic wrap make your very own steamer for veggies, perfectly sized for one and super cheap.

  4. I've used a system for meal planning for several years that really simplifies things: http://handsfullmom.blogspot.com/2009/01/time-for-new-menu-plan.html It was originally introduced to me by Marie Ricks, and she explains her system here: http://houseoforder.com/food.htm

    Have fun!

  5. Costco/grocery store rotisserie chicken and then chicken salad or sandwiches with the leftovers. And then if they want to get ambitious they can make stock with the bones for soup.

  6. 我對自己的信心已超越別人對我的評價........................................

  7. that last comment says "I have confidence in ourselves has exceeded my assessment of others"
    umm....anyways, nats, the reason i volunteered you is that girls my age assume that you did something right, seeing as how you are married and living in a legit house, as opposed to us. so whatever you say will be pearls of wisdom to us.
    love your guts!

  8. Marlee, thanks for clarifying...both the previous comment and your reasoning. That totally makes sense.
    woman with house and husband = WISDOM.
    I guess I was just too humble to realize how MUCH wisdom I have to pass along. Do I have to limit myself to just teaching about meals?

  9. I am so glad for Angela's post. I heard about that recipe once but wasn't sure if I had all the ingredients correct. ANYWAY, here are a couple recipes from my blog that are super easy.





    So those are all cheap and easy. Good luck!!

  10. Oh I forgot, so the best thing is a FREEZER. So you make something that makes a couple serving. Store them in quart freezer bags and you have a microwave dinner for those days that you get home at 7 (or 8 or 9...) The key is to freeze that bag laying flat on a cookie sheet. That way when they are frozen, they stack nicely. But I'm sure this is all old hat to you ;^)

  11. Meal planning. That's all I have to say. It's helped me as a mom and it would have helped me as a starving student. If you plan what you'll have for every meal (Usually lunches are all the same for us...pbj or left overs), then you always know what to buy for groceries. Saves a lot of time and money. I also would sometimes make big meal on Sunday and then I had left overs for lunch every day that week.

    My biggest recommendation (without reading what anyone else said) is to try to cook with someone else more often. It's easier to cook a balanced meal for more than one person because it just is, end of story.

    Plan fruit for snacks instead of granola bars (although those are quite tasty and easy, but so is fruit) that way you always have fruit in your diet.

    And lastly, always mark your food! :) ha ha. I'm so glad I don't have to do that any more!

  12. Whoa - I'm not sure I can remember that far back to my college days...especially what I ate! Whatever it was, I'm sure it wasn't all that healthy! A few ideas or things I remember having:
    * cooked spaghetti noodles sprinkled with Molly McButter
    * baked potatoes with canned chili
    * tacos, or even just broiling a tortilla with cheese on top
    * caramel corn (I have a great recipe if you need it!)
    * those cheap pot-pies from the frozen section mixed with rice

    That's all I can think of right now. I also just wanted to say how much I love your blog. You have such a gift or expressing yourself! I've never been great with putting thoughts to words, so I especially appreciate this gift when I see it in others'. You've got it, and I love it!
    ~Heather (your neighbor)

  13. Natalie,

    If you check your email this morning before you do your little class thinger, I thought I'd offer a few thoughts on when I cooked in college (which wasn't that long ago, and cooking as a single person wasn't that long ago, either!).

    First, college is hectic. It's not a 9 to 5 job. You have school all day, then evenings are spent studying away. Classes can be spread throughout a day, so needless to say, weekdays can get long and weekends are spent doing homework and church.

    The number one thing that helped me survive college (and even my first professional job!) was choosing one day in the week when I cooked for the rest of the week. I know it can be hard with roommates sharing a fridge, but my section of the fridge was always stacked up with little tupperwares of ready-made dinners that I could heat up in the microwave. I took advantage of the microwaves on campus, and often planned a time in-between classes when I'd pass by one to heat up a lunch I carried in one of those soft, insulated lunch totes.

    I also tried to keep it simple. I cooked a lot of rice in my mini-rice cooker, and had skillet chicken grilled in olive oil with some variety of sauce and a steamed vegetable.

    I also really took advantage of the crockpot. Cook a few meals one day and put them in tupperwares, then have one day where you cook a Crockpot meal and have that last you the rest of the week. Lunches don't have to be sandwiches; eat for lunch what you eat for dinner, then have a healthy breakfast and healthy snacks.

    Here is a list of my fave "leftover lunchies" tupperware creations:

    - Indoor Barbeque (chicken cooked in bbq sauce in a saucepan, instant potatoes, some canned baked beans, and some canned corn)

    - Hummus, veggies, and tortillas (in a blender, blend a can of chickpeas with half the water, lemon juice, S&P; veggie sticks of all kinds, and whole wheat tortillas or pitas)

    - Skillet chicken, pasta with any sauce (packets of alfredo or marinara), and steamed broccoli

    - Crockpot Italian Chicken: chicken breasts, one bottle of spaghetti sauce (or tomato sauce/diced tomatoes with seasonings). Over rice or noodles was awesome.

    - Crockpot Stroganoff: Stew beef chunks, can of cream of mushroom, can of French onion soup, can of Golden mushroom soup, water, sour cream at the end. Over rice or noodles with peas is awesome.

    One more thing: I didn't always worry about having to have a vegetable with everything. The spaghetti sauce is good for you, I ate apples during the day, etc. Sometimes simplifying things was okay, and over the course of the week, I was eating a balanced diet.

    Overall, I think my advice would be to plan ahead, and you'll save yourself a lot of stress with a college schedule.


what do you think?