Get Ready For College Now
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What to Eat

As simple as feeding yourself may sound, it is actually the downfall of many budgets & even more waistlines.

That's why we'll hit 3 major topics here.  How to eat in a dorm room, how to eat cheaply & how to eat well.

                                        
                                            DORM "COOKING"

The dorm will leave you with limited options, so that makes things quite challenging.

Cooking anything in a dorm room is just plain cumbersome & even a little gross.  The only cooking device most dorms allow is a microwave & the only place to wash dishes is your bathroom sink where your roommate just shaved her legs.  And let's not even talk about how everything that everyone cooks stinks up the whole hall.  (If anyone ever goes out for a seafood dinner & dares to re-heat their leftovers in their room, do the right thing & let their roommate hide out in your room until theirs fumigates.)

So, with such limitations, how do we eat?

First, cram the freezer section of your mini-fridge full of microwave meals.  They're convenient & hot.  Many are low-fat & you can find a wide variety to help minimize culinary boredom.

Second, Elizabeth used to keep a stockpile of potatoes to bake.  They'll keep for a long time in your closet, under your bed, wherever you have room.  She said they were filling, dirt cheap & flat-out delicious with Ranch dressing & cheddar cheese.

Third, you gotta love the good ole Ramen Noodles.  They have become cliche' for a reason.  They are so easy to cook, are super filling & you can add almost anything to them.  Try leftover meat of any sort or cooked or raw veggies.  You can even stir an egg into the water for some rich egg drop soup.

Fourth, if you have access to a dorm kitchen, use it every once in a while to make a big batch of something.  I loved making a massive bowl of pasta salad & grazing on it for days until it was gone.  You can also make a pan of brownies, batch of cookies, etc. to snack on if you're in need of some comfort food.

Fifth, keep yogurt & milk in your mini-fridge at all times.  You can grab yogurt on the way out the door if you need breakfast on-the-run.  You can keep a box of cereal in your closet & eat it with milk if you have a few minutes to sit down for breakfast.

Sixth, Ginger recommends having a constant supply of individually-packaged snack foods for emergencies.  If your nap ran a little long & your Biology final starts in 7 minutes, you can grab a pack of peanut butter crackers & haul butt!

Lastly, if you're stuck in the dorm, eat in the campus dining hall occasionally.  If nothing else, you will need a salad twice a week just to keep your nutrition balanced & they can keep all the fixin's much fresher than your dorm room can.


                    HOW TO GET FULL WITHOUT GOING BROKE

The temptation to order a pizza or go grab some take-out will be almost unbearable.  Some of us succumb to it more often than others.  (Remember my credit card story from the budget page?  Mostly food.)

Don't beat yourself up if you occassionally splurge on your food budget.  It's just gonna happen.

BUT, get your butt back on that wagon A.S.A.P..  Here's how you can make up for any financial food fiasco.

First, keep no less than 4 packs of Ramen Noodles on-hand.  Like we said earlier, they're plenty tasty on their own & are extremely versatile.  With a few creative add-ins, they can quickly turn into a cheap, well-balanced meal.  There are actually entire cookbooks devoted to this college staple.  Consider picking one up especially for your sophomore year when you're even broker & might have a kitchen at your disposal.

Second, follow Elizabeth's potato tip.  They really are cheap & filling.  Even better news is that they keep for a long time & are just as versatile as the Ramen Noodles.  Try them with salsa & sour cream, butter & Cajun seasoning, broccoli & cheese, Ranch dressing & bacon bits...sky's the limit!

Third, although we discussed some convenience foods in the Dorm "Cooking" section, you want to limit these for your budget's sake.  They should be used in emergency situations where you just didn't leave yourself enough time to prepare anything.  They are several times more expensive than the other options.

Fourth, stock up on canned soup when it goes on sale.  There are some surprisingly filling & downright delicious options out there now.  Just wait until you have a coupon or they're running a sale & fill your closet.  The same goes for canned ravioli, beef-a-roni, chili, etc.

Fifth, make sure you do some research.  Ask about what other people are eating, take some of your Mom's recipes, look on the internet.  I highly recommend a cookbook that I used.  It's The Starving Students' Cookbook & it came in real handy my junior year.

Lastly, if you're really broke, attend any campus event that offers food.  It's amazing how mouth-watering a few slices of cheap, lukewarm pizza can be when you're starving!  And, who knows, you might actually find Student Government, the French club or whoever else offers you free food, pretty interesting.


                HOW TO AVOID THE DREADED "FRESHMAN FIFTEEN"

This is probably the most common sense-based topic we cover.  But, if it were that easy, no one would put on any weight in college which couldn't be farther from reality.

There are a few key factors that pack on the pudge.

Increased calories in food.  Increased calories in beverage.  Decreased aerobic exercise.

1- Food

I didn't eat more in college than I did at home, but I ate crap.  I'm just being vulnerable here.  Instead of having a nice, balanced, healthy dinner like Mom used to make, I'd hit Arby's for a chicken finger meal with curly fries.

I thoroughly understood the concept of nutrition, but I just can't tell you how subtly your lifestyle can creep up on you. 

Elizabeth & her roommate cooked in their apartment a lot.  They would make aluminum foil pouches that held a boneless, skinless chicken breast & vegetables (carrots, celery, potatoes) that they could bake while studying.  It was healthy for them & wasn't something they had to babysit & stir every 5 minutes.  Smart.

You can find the balance that works best for your body.  Nobody should deprive themselves of all the fun.  Go celebrate with your friends after the game.  But when you go,  share a normal entree' with a friend (the portions are too huge for any normal person's diet).  This will keep you in your skinny jeans & out of the poor house at the same time!


I don't remember where she heard it, but my Mimmie once told me...  "Eat a little bit of everything & not too much of anything." 
Sigh...There's that pesky "moderation" again.





2- Beverage

There's a reason it's called a "beer belly", folks.  Alcohol is comprised of a lot of sugar & even more empty calories (especially beer).

Now, this category is as much about balance & moderation as food is (once it is legally able to be a part of your life, of course).

I am a huge fan of moderation!  Yeah, yeah...I know...you're about to head to another website right now because mine isn't telling you what you want to hear.

But moderation will save you from all sorts of suffering.  Your flat abs will thank you, you'll save yourself a ton of money, you are less likely to wake up next to a stranger & you will most likely remember whether or not you danced on the table at Applebee's (Classy!!!).

That being said, if/when you choose to enjoy a cocktail, make it one with a conservative calorie count. 

Stay away from any blended drinks like pina coladas, margaritas, daiquiris & mudslides.  Also avoid full-bodied beer.

Instead, try to choose a lite beer, a glass of wine or a mixed drink with a non-caloric mixer like soda water or diet cola.

I'm not going to pretend that drinking is not prevalent in college both legally & underage.  But I am going to advise you to obey the law.  You think waking up in a strange dorm room sounds scary, I bet waking up in a jail cell would scare the hell out of anybody!



3- Exercise

This is not a problem for a lot of college students.  You can walk to class, bike to class & take raquetball as an elective.

However, if you were more physically active in high school than you are at college, you're in trouble.

Those of you involved in intense sports in high school got way more of a workout then than you will doing all of the activities mentioned above.  I'm speaking from experience.

Plus, I double-dog dare you not to drive your car to your 3:00pm class when it's 94 degrees & 94% humidity out.  That aerobic exercise just slips through your fingers like tiny grains of sand & before you know it, BOOM!  Who's that in the mirror?



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