You’ll first notice it the second or third night in residence. The Kraft Dinner, ramen noodles, or Michelina’s microwave dinners have already run tiresome.

The biggest adjustment from living at home to coming to university is that your mom, dad, or whoever else cooks you delicious homemade meals won’t be around. But if you’re looking to keep off the notorious ‘Freshman 15’, quick and easy dinners aren’t the types of food you should be eating regularly. And let’s face it, going out for dinner every night can empty your bank account pretty quickly. So, how do you find time to eat well while dealing with your new busy university life?

First, it’s important to have some staples on hand at all times to make sure that you have something to eat in between trips to the grocery store. Some staples to keep around the kitchen include: pasta and your favorite pasta sauce, rice, peanut butter, canned soup, dried fruits and vegetables, crackers, granola bars and cereal.

These kinds of food never really go bad and allow you to have something to snack on so you don’t waste money at fast food restaurants. On top of that, you can control what you’re eating and that will help to keep the pounds off.

But just those must-haves will not suffice for every meal. It’s important to know what to buy, and how to buy it.

The most critical aspect of the shopping trip is budgeting. It’s important to give yourself a budget so you don’t buy things you really don’t need. It’s difficult at first, but once you figure out what you do and don’t eat, shopping trips become a breeze. Another important tip is to pay with cash so that you can’t go over budget using credit or debit cards. Keeping track of what you spend will help you save money in the long run.

Freezing food is something that a lot of people overlook. You can get great deals on food that is near its expiration date. But what are you supposed to do with nearly expired meat and bread? Freeze it of course! Food can stay fresh for longer in the freezer, which means it can be left in there for months and taken out when needed. For example, freezing half a loaf of bread and keeping the other half out to use means that there is less chance that it will go bad before you get around to eating all of it. Another great way to stay prepared is to cook on your days off and freeze entire meals. Then, if you do find yourself strained for time, you can just pop something in the microwave.

Meal planning is another helpful skill that all students should learn. Planning ahead helps give an idea of what you need to buy in order to make meals for a week or two and also makes grocery shopping easier on you. A common problem for students is working around classes.

If you’re not prepared, you will find yourself scrambling to get ready 15 minutes before your class and you may end up stopping by a fast-food joint on the way to the lecture hall.

Lastly, don’t forget the wealth of recipes that most families have. Most of these recipes are foods that students eat at home all the time, and usually they are quick and easy enough to make that they fit into the busy student lifestyle. Before you move into residence or into off campus housing, ask a family member to give you a few of their favourite recipes. That way you can have home-cooked meals whenever you want!

Eating right can be tough, especially when you’re just starting to learn how to live on your own. But planning ahead and shopping smart can save you money and help keep the pounds off. It’s important to cook well, and by giving yourself the time to do so will help residence, or any house you may live in, feel just a little bit more like home.