“When we were in university, my now-wife and I would do something we called fish and chips Fridays as a weekly treat: We would buy a nice bag of chips and a couple of nice tins of fish,” he explains. “High-end canned fish is so next level—there are restaurants that do nothing but charge people to open tins they’ve imported.” Look for treats like these at specialty stores or order them online from vendors like Conserva Culture.
If you’re not a fan of fish, there are other options. It could look more like indulging in a fancy block of cheese, or trying out a tropical fruit that you’ve never had before. It’s a splurge, sure, but you’ll likely still spend less than you would on dining out—and it alleviates a lot of the college-eating monotony.
8. Brush up on your food safety.
If it’s your first time being in charge of buying, storing, and cooking groceries, there are a few things you should know beforehand to do it all safely. For one, cross contamination is a legitimate concern. This occurs when food becomes contaminated by something else, like if you were to cut vegetables for a salad on top of a cutting board that still has raw chicken juice on it, or if you forgot to wash your hands before handling ingredients. When potentially dangerous microbes from different sources are given a chance to mingle, you’re at a higher risk of developing foodborne illnesses in general, as SELF previously reported.
“Be sure to cut vegetables first, then meats,” says Le. “That way you don’t need to wash your knife and cutting board in between cooking steps to avoid cross contamination,” he explains. As long as the vegetables are clean and not molding, you don’t have to worry about anything from them contaminating your raw meat. To clean your cutting boards without a dishwasher, take them to a larger sink where you can wash with hot, soapy water, rinse with clean water, and then either air dry or pat dry with unused paper towels, per the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Replace when they become worn or overly grooved.
If you’re cooking raw meat, be sure to allow it to reach safe temperatures before eating: That’s 165 degrees for poultry, 160 degrees for ground meats, and 145 degrees for beef or pork chops or roasts and fish, according to the USDA. And if you’re nuking any leftovers, they should be heated to 165 degrees as well. (A food thermometer comes in clutch here.)
Finally, don’t forget that almost all fresh ingredients have a relatively short lifespan. Yes, some vegetables, like hard, un-cut squash, can last for months if stored at the proper temperature. But most veggies, like broccoli or carrots, will stay good in your mini-fridge for a week or two, max. And leftovers will generally only keep for three to four days in the fridge, per the USDA.
9. Use a few smart tricks to make clean-up easier.
Because garbage disposals and large sinks are few and far between in dorm rooms, Geiger says it’s important to have a few cleaning hacks up your sleeve.