Young, Independent, and Hungry – Finding Reasonable Eating Habits While Living On Your Own
At the age of 21, I packed my bags and left my childhood home for a one-bedroom apartment in the Chicago suburbs. While living on my own with my rescue pup has been pleasant, one of the biggest challenges that I have faced has been building new eating habits. Growing up, my mom cooked dinner every night, and my meal options were pretty healthy and well-rounded. Rice with beans and plantains, grilled steak salads, and sandwiches stuffed with sliced avocadoes and greens were staples back at home. I didn’t have to worry about planning the meal, buying the groceries, or cooking the meal. All I had to do was set the table and clean up the dishes.
Now I am on my own, and everything from grocery shopping to cooking is in my hands. While this may sound great to those of you who are still with your parents, trust me when I say that balancing a grocery budget, throwing together some semblance of a meal plan, grocery shopping, and cooking is a major hassle. What really has thrown a wrench in my eating habits is that I don’t like to cook. I am not sure why, but nothing seems to taste right when I cook. Some people have described cooking to me as an artistic, soul-liberating process. For me, it is an overwhelming chore.
To keep from blowing all of my budget on eating out, I have had to develop a game plan to get my eating habits back on track:
- Buddy up. My boyfriend and I have a system where I will go grocery shopping, he will cook the food, and we will divvy up the spoils in containers for future lunches. Maybe you hate cooking, but you have a roommate or boyfriend who loves to cook? Talk about dividing the grocery tab, and in exchange for their cooking offer to do the dishes. Everybody is fed, and everybody wins.
- Make a meal plan. I get really overwhelmed when I go to the grocery store, and can spend a full hour wandering around aisles wondering what to buy. Before I head out, I make a list with ingredients for breakfast, snacks, and dinner (my lunches are usually leftovers from dinner). Going in with a plan makes the trip faster, and also keeps me from impulsively throwing things into my cart that I won’t end up eating.
- Toss in variety. I usually eat out when I am bored of the food options I have at home, so I try not repeating meals too often. Some people are comfortable with having the same staples every week (Meatloaf Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, etc.) but I need variety. For example, I will usually plan to have oats with berries and almond butter as one breakfast option, and hashbrowns with eggs as a back-up option. If I get tired of one of those meals, I will switch them out for protein pancakes or yogurt parfaits. There are a ton of meal ideas online – search the internet and make a list of meal ideas that you would like to try out.
- Pack it up. Like I mentioned earlier, I usually pack leftovers from dinner for lunch. One of my co-workers cooks and packs the next day’s lunch before going to bed. Having something pre-packed and ready-to-go makes it easier to ensure that you won’t run to the fast-food joint next door or skip lunch all together.
I hope that this article is helpful to some of my readers who are also struck with dread when it comes to managing a kitchen, or to those looking to attain more regular eating habits.