Strengthening Friendships One Meal at a Time

The term “broke college student” is one that the 18-25-year-old knows far too well. The jobs we work primarily pay minimum wage, our hours leave something to be desired, and we have to worry about paying for school, paying for housing, paying bills, paying books, and paying and paying and paying. Not only does it feel like being in college leads to a loss of money, but to a loss of friendships as well. How can these relationships be rekindled? Through home cooking.

Many college students living on campus have opted for university meal plans to get their daily meals. It’s more convenient and cheaper than buying your own groceries. Students living off campus, or students who do not utilize the meal plan tend to opt for quicker and cheaper options for meals than cooking full healthy meals.

However, food shopping does not need to weigh heavy on the wallet. Many grocery store chains, like Meijer and Kroger, offer customer reward programs that are free to enroll in and award shoppers with coupons. Bulk sale stores, like Aldi, provide products in large amounts for small prices. Putting money from paychecks toward a grocery fund can also allow student shoppers to buy necessities, like bread and eggs, cheap while being able to spend a bit more on healthy choices and fresh foods to cook for themselves.

How does grocery shopping and cooking help bring friends closer together? 

Grocery shopping with friends can be a surprisingly fun way to hang out! I’ve gone out grocery shopping with my friends on many occasions, and we always find ourselves playing in the toy aisles or looking through the discount clothes and movies together. It also gives us time to catch up after not seeing each other for weeks, or sometimes even months at a time.

Shopping is fun, but cooking is where the magic really happens. It can bring friends closer together and teach you new skills in return. The more often you cook, the better you get at cooking. You also learn to enjoy it more. Your friends will not only love getting a meal when they come over to see you, but also getting to share that meal with you while catching up.

An easy way to cook for friends is by making a meal that can be served buffet style. A favorite of mine is tacos: easy to put together and fairly cheap. Making polls in group chats to determine everyone’s favorite fillings and sides makes shopping easier, or even better than taking your friends to the store with you. Everyone can pick out the toppings and sides they like. Then, everyone is able to work together in the kitchen to make something great. suggests throwing a “soup party” for close friends. A soup party is exactly what it sounds like: a party where you make soup and have your friends over. Soup is quick to make, can be made in advance, and is cheap.

Find a soup recipe that sounds good, or even make soup out of a can and make it your own by adding other vegetables or sauces. Ask your friends to make soup and bring it over in crock pots to keep warm. Once you’re all together everyone can sample each other’s creations, comment on what they like, and spend ample time together.

Don’t have time to cook a full meal? Choose something easier! A tradition among my friends and I is what we call a “cheese time.” This is essentially a casual soiree where each of us brings either a cheese, bread, sparkling juice, or fruit. We all work in the kitchen together cutting up slices of cheese and artfully arranging them on a platter.  We then all pick at our cheese tray while we play party games like Cards Against Humanity. Occasionally having casual parties with my friends has brought us closer together and produced so many good memories.

Cook for your friends. It lets them know that you not only enjoy their company, but that you want to spend time with them as well. It may be a simple gesture, but it shows that you appreciate them as much as they appreciate your home cooked meal. 

TACO RECIPE FOR FOUR (with Meijer prices)

1lb meat of choice (Ground beef: 3.29)

1 medium onion, chopped (1.19)

1 packet McCormick taco seasoning (.85)

1 tbsp. Taco sauce + more for topping (1.39)

2 tsp. Sugar (1.39)

Garlic powder, to taste (2.99)

Salt and pepper, to taste (1.99)

(optional) Lime juice, to taste (.99)

Shredded cheese (3.49)

Lettuce, shredded (1.69)

Tomato, chopped (.42)

1 box of either Spanish rice or cilantro rice (1.25)

(Optional) Salsa or queso dip (3.29)

(Optional) tortilla chips (1.50)

Tortillas (1.99)

TOTAL: $27.71 ($21.93 without optional ingredients)

  1. In a medium saucepan or pot on high heat, brown the meet. Drain any excess fat and move the meat onto a paper towel lined plate.
  2. Turn down heat to medium-low. In the same pot, heat the chopped onion until fragrant. Mix in taco sauce. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. 
  3. Return meat to pot, combining with onion. Pour in half a cup of water to the pot, then mix in taco seasoning and sugar. Boil off excess water and add in lime juice. Adjust seasoning accordingly.
  4. In a medium size pot, make rice according to package instructions.
  5. Set out warmed tortillas, meat, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, rice for guests to put together as they like. Serve tacos with tortilla chips and dip of choice.

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