Tag Archives: Psychology

Cooking 101: How to cook in grad school with no money and no time

Written by Alia Wulff, Cognitive Psychology Ph.D. Student

I’m sure most of you have been on your own for at least a few years. You’ve probably dabbled in cooking, maybe tried your hand at baking. You might make your own breakfast or bring lunch to the office. But a lot of you have probably (and totally understandably) been ordering food more often than you should be. It’s easy and delicious and even healthy on occasion. But it’s not cheap. And in grad school cheap is a top priority.

Alia’s turmeric-spiced garbanzo beans and chicken on rice with lime

This blog post is not intended to magically turn everyone into amazing cooks. I just want to show you that it is possible, even easy, to grocery shop, cook, and meal prep like a pro while in graduate school for way less than it costs to eat out.

The number one thing to figure out is what you have to have in your pantry at all times. My staples are pasta, rice, beans (black, garbanzo, and refried), tortillas, tomato sauce, chicken, yogurt, eggs, bread (probably in bagel form), some fruits and veggies, and hot sauce. I can make a different thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for a week out of those items. Oil and seasonings are also pantry staples, but they rarely need to be replenished so they don’t really count.

The next order of business is figuring out where to get your groceries. It’s really hard for me to get to a grocery store and back because I don’t have a car, so I use Amazon Fresh. It costs me less for a monthly subscription than a Lyft from the grocery store twice a month would. With that service, my pantry staples cost me less than $50 a week. I generally order food twice a month and pay about $80-$100 each time. I’ve never spent more than $200 a month on necessary groceries. Don’t ask me about my Pringles and Twizzlers budget, though.

Alia’s avocado toast with hard-boiled egg and Tajin seasoning

Next, plan your meals. You don’t have to go crazy and make a chart with dates, lists, and bullet points. Just know what you have in your pantry and make a list of things you can make that week. Then, when you get home you can check your list, find something that matches up with the energy you have left, and make that. Don’t try making a complicated feast when you’re dead on your feet or you will never try cooking again. My go-to lazy meal is to microwave some beans, pop them in a tortilla with some leftover chicken and rice, dash some hot sauce on there, and eat it without a plate because laziness and washing dishes do not mix.

Speaking of leftovers, here is an actual tip: make too much food. I know some people have weird issues with leftovers, but you are a grad student now and literally cannot afford the time or money to have wasteful beliefs about food. Make too much food on the weekends, pop the extras into containers, and then you have multiple meals for the week. Made too much chicken? Put leftovers in the fridge and have it with pasta or rice the next day. Made too much pasta because determining how much pasta to make probably requires the use of black magic? Pop some sauce (or some butter, I won’t judge) in it, portion it into containers, and – voila – you have lunches for a few days. Made too much rice? Make rice pudding for breakfast with flax or protein powder and use honey instead of sugar so you can pretend you’re not just eating pudding for breakfast (even though you are and that’s perfectly valid).

Pudding for breakfast is a reminder of the biggest point of this post: it’s important to not feel bad about food. You can ignore everything in this post as long as you remember this one thing. If you end up eating out more than you should have, if you eat unhealthy food for a few days, if you always put an extra bag of chips or pile of candy bars in your cart, you are not a bad person. You will always find something to beat yourself up about. Don’t let your personal method to replenish calories be one of them.

A Day in the Life

Written by Alia Wulff, Cognitive Psychology Ph.D. Candidate

7:30am My alarm wakes me up. I press snooze. It goes off again. I press snooze again. It goes off again. I finally give in and grab my phone to check my emails and social media. I am so not a morning person.

8:30am A full hour after the initial alarm went off I decide it might be time to get out of bed. I wash my face, fix my hair and makeup, and make breakfast. Eggs on toast, a yogurt smoothie, a banana, and a full water bottle. The water is important. I often forget to drink water while I’m working. Dehydration is extremely detrimental to brain function, so I always drink a full bottle in the morning as preparation.

8:45am I anxiously check my phone because I know my research assistant is beginning a study session right now. I don’t have any messages and I sigh in relief. I’ve had to run to campus to avert disaster before and that’s never fun.

9:30am I walk to school, which normally isn’t terrible since I live so close. However, it’s raining today so by the time I get to school my coat is soaked through and I think I smell like a wet dog. It’s unpleasant.

11:30am I’ve been working on my computer for two hours straight. I’ve read two ten-plus page papers, taken multiple pages of notes on each, graded forty activities for the class I am the teaching assistant for, and answered all my emails. So far, so good.

12:00pm It’s time to go to my lab meeting. We have one every couple of weeks with all the graduate and undergraduate students. This is one of my favorite parts of the week, because I get to hear about all the amazing projects my lab is doing. Most of the time graduate students in the same lab are working on completely different projects, so it’s good to get together and discuss ideas and issues. Today we are presenting our posters for the conference several of us are attending soon. I make my first mug of tea for the day, so I have something warm to hold. I don’t drink coffee. Cue jokes about how I could ever survive grad school without coffee.

1:10pm The lab meeting ran long, and now I only have five minutes to get ready for the class I TA for. It’s across campus, so the walk isn’t short. I check my email, throw my notebook in my backpack, and put on my coat. It’s still damp from this morning.

3:00pm I’m back in my office and I have four more papers to read, two more emails to deal with, and forty more activities to grade. I make some microwave mac and cheese and a mug of tea. I have leftover spaghetti in my fridge from last night that was supposed to be my lunch for today, but I didn’t remember to grab it before I left my apartment. I kind of prefer mac and cheese anyway, so I’m not that sorry.

5:30pm I finished grading, dealing with emails, reading papers (I only got through two more, but even I have to admit that over fifty pages of reading in one day is pushing it), taking notes, and merging and converting data files from my study. I even managed to write discussion questions for class on Monday. A huge tip for graduate school: if you have time to do something right now, even if it’s not due for another week, do it. You’ll thank yourself later, because you are never guaranteed to have time to finish it in the future.

5:45pm I listen to music on the walk home. It’s been an eight-hour day, which is fairly average so far. Some people can work from home, but I am not one of those people. Everything I need to do, I do at the office. There are far too many distractions at home for me to be productive.

6:00pm I get home and make my third mug of tea for the day while I reheat my spaghetti. It wasn’t too rainy when I walked home, but it’s still dreary out and nothing goes better with a grey day than some hot tea. I eat my dinner while watching Netflix in bed. There is no shame when it comes to self-care.

9:50pm My roommates are both still out and I’m getting ready for bed. It’s a Wednesday, and since I have plans for the weekend, I don’t have to be social at all this week. Right before I go to bed I check my phone. Three new emails, but they’ll have to wait until tomorrow.