How to Cook for One as a College Student or Twenty Something

by Caroline Hurley

How to cook for one

**Check out my post in the series about which ingredients you should keep on hand and my other post about what kitchen essentials you will need!

They should seriously teach a class on this. I mean its hard enough to cook for one, but to cook for one on a budget is a darn science. To cook healthy, yummy things for one on a budget is a dang miracle. I tried my hand at mastering this fine art and learned a few things about how to make it work. This will probably be a multi-post series so stay tuned for more to come!

First things first I will start with the basics.

1. You gotta commit!

Yeah I’m talking to you with the Bojangles in your hand. If you’re going to buy the groceries be sure you won’t be lured in by your favorite food spots on the way home. There’s nothing more expensive than buying food and not eating it. Kinda like the most expensive thing in your closet is the thing you don’t wear. Am I right? So yeah, if you go out and spend 50 dollars on groceries you need to make sure you eat them. Eating out once in a while is totally fine but just make sure you are eating what you buy.

2. The freezer is your friend.

No I am not talking about pizza bagels and mozzarella sticks (although there is always a time and a place for that). This is how you can buy food without throwing it out before it goes bad, especially meat. You’ll be shocked at what can be frozen.

3. No more…But its only 15 cents more to get the big one!

What are the chances you will use all of it before it goes bad? Slim. Plus, if you have roommates the space in the refrigerator is precious. If you are cooking on a daily basis you probably are taking up more than your fair share already. Groceries are typically sold in quantities meant for families so it will be hard to use a large size before it goes bad. Save yourself the 15 cents.

4. Canned goods are your friend.

There are a few canned goods that you should always keep as staples in your pantry. If you keep these in stock you will be able to whip up a variety of things.

5. Only buy fresh produce that you have a purpose for.

Sure its nice to have fresh fruits and veggies around but some produce can go bad pretty darn quick. This is an expensive mistake. Don’t stock up on produce just because it sounds good. Buy produce with an exact recipe in mind or with the intention to eat them as a snack or breakfast.

6. Buy things with a long shelf life.

Hard cheeses, tortillas, eggs, etc.

7. Learn basic cooking skills.

In order to eat well at home you’ve gotta know how to cook. Pasta with jarred marinara or Alfredo sauce is starting too get a little old by now right? Yep. Don’t be afraid to cook meat. You’ll get the hang of it and you won’t worry so much about whether its done after a few times. Learn how to dice an onion and mince garlic. This will let you cook faster and save you time looking up each step of a recipe. The Pioneer Woman is my home girl. Behind my mom she taught me just about everything I know. Check out her blog for some really good step by step instructions.

8.. Buy multi-purpose ingredients

There are some foods that are great for many uses. Salad dressing can be a marinade, dipping sauce, or just dressing. Diced tomatoes are great for salsa, pasta sauces, soups, casseroles…pretty much everything. Onions can be used to add flavor to sandwiches, pastas, salads, etc.

9. Be able to splurge at home

Sometimes you’ve gotta have that milkshake. Keep ingredients on hand that allow you to splurge without having to venture out to get it. A cookies and cream milkshake is as simple as crushed up Oreos, vanilla ice cream, and milk.


An extra perk of eating at home is you will probably lose some weight while still eating what you want. Sometimes I think we are blinded by how fatty or salty or sweet things taste when we order it from a restaurant. Our plates and bowls are smaller and you are much less likely to make huge serving sizes. I hope this is a good introduction! Like I said there will be more to come! Hopefully I can give some more detailed information and recipes in the future!




4 thoughts on “How to Cook for One as a College Student or Twenty Something

  1. Pingback: College Student and Twenty Something Kitchen Essentials | Loblollies Blog

  2. Mackenzie

    These are awesome tips, thank you! I was wondering though if you had actual single person recipes or a place to find those, I always end up making enough pasta to feed 5 and I’m not much of a leftovers person after the third time around.

  3. Lisa

    Love this post! I’m trying to learn how to master this too because I have the hardest time planning meals for just one. What’s your favorite ‘just for one’ dish?

  4. Pingback: Ingredients to Keep on Hand | Loblollies Blog

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