After first-year, dorms are in the past, and it is time to move on and out. Moving out of a dorm means moving away from the mini-fridge lifestyle. That’s right — it’s time for the big leagues, and by that, I mean a normal-sized refrigerator, equipped with a freezer and all. You’ll also get a full kitchen with an oven and stove top, so microwave meals are in the past. Will this finally be the year you learn how to cook?
But just because you’re a big baller now, you have to stay grounded, and remember you’re still a college student, which means you’re most likely going to have to ball on a budget. Do you get a meal plan? What is the most efficient way to acquire food? If you’re a first-year signing your lease now, you still have a year until these issues become a reality. Before you have to leave the comfort of your dorm, study up on how to adjust to apartment life.
While mini fridges may seem cute solely off of appearance, there’s truly nothing cute about them. You can fit one leftover Roots bowl in there and maybe some yogurt containers or other miniature snacks but nothing sufficient. The freezer section typically can’t even fit a pint of ice cream, so it’s basically pointless too. Luckily, these are primarily first-year problems because you will probably have full-sized fridge the rest of college if you move into an apartment. Don’t get overwhelmed with the space, though, as you’ll most likely be sharing it with several other people.
I’ve found the best ways to organize a refrigerator is to either divide into sections, where each roommate has their own area or simply just to organize it by type of food. Just have some sort of organization so you don’t lose perishables and then only rediscover them when the smell has become so pungent because something has finally rotted.
Now that your fridge is sorted out, we can move to the freezer. To be completely honest, I have minimal advice on how to organize it, because it will most likely end up flooded with frozen meals shoved in every which way because you bought Trader Joe’s frozen orange chicken again even though you forgot you still two bags hiding in the back corner. But that’s fine because frozen food is forever — kind of. But frozen food is truly the best and most convenient, so I do recommend stocking up for those lazy nights in. I also recommend stocking up on ice cream because why not? No one’s stopping you. No one can tell you it’s “unhealthy” to have ice cream for breakfast or irresponsible to down a pint in one sitting, so go ahead and have ice cream for every meal, now that you have a place to keep it.
So you’ve got places to store your food, but what about cooking it? The aforementioned frozen meals are great, but you should probably learn to cook at some point, and there’s no better time than the present. I recommend getting a recipe app or check out “The New York Times” cooking section for some delectable eats. Paprika is a smartphone app where you can share recipes with friends, which is great for if you ever want to do a family-style type of dinner. It’s also helpful to have a few basic recipes on hand, so ask your mom or dad to teach you one of your favorites from home so you can make it at school if you’re ever homesick or craving comfort. But if all else fails, there’s always pasta or toast. They’re pretty hard to mess up.
Living off Grounds means you’re no longer tied to the unlimited swipes meal plan. While some of us couldn’t run away fast enough from the occasionally pink chicken in Newcomb, others might still want to reminisce on dinner dates in Pav over what feels like “free” Chick-fil-a and Subway from a meal swipe. I recommend doing the 50-meal swipes option first semester to ease your way into supplying food for yourself all the time. It also comes with either 200 or 400 plus dollars — which cost $760 or $965 per semester, respectively — depending on how much you want to splurge on Starbucks or other luxuries on Grounds. If I didn’t have time for the grocery store one week, it was helpful to take a to-go box from the dining hall, load up on veggies from the salad bar and then cook them in my kitchen in olive oil and my favorite seasonings.
For second semester, either tough it up like a real adult and rely on your own responsibility to grocery shop each week or try out the Elevate meal plan, so you can continue to live off of pre-made, prepaid food. With this option, you can choose from 45 to 105 “swipes” to use for certain selected meals at your favorite restaurants on the Corner. These also roll over for the rest of your college career, so you don’t have to worry about wasting swipes like you might at the dining halls. This is also convenient for off-Grounds living because the restaurant locations are likely much closer to your new home than the dining halls are.
Moving on from first year might mean moving off — off-Grounds. While this may seem like a scary transition that’s full of responsibility, it doesn’t have to be so tough. Use this as an opportunity to advance your culinary skills or maybe just eat ice cream for every meal. Either way, there’s no parents to judge, and the dining halls can’t hold you back anymore. Finally, adult life — kind of.