One of the biggest changes about living in an apartment rather than the dorms this year is cooking meals for myself.  It takes a lot more time and dishes than you’d think to whip up a simple meal.  One of my friends confided in me yesterday, “All I’ve eaten since I moved into my apartment is PB&J, cereal, Hot Pockets, and Bagel Bites”.

Delicious? Absolutely.  Nutritious? Absolutely not.

Delicious? Absolutely. Nutritious? Absolutely not.

It does take a little extra effort to make sure you’ve got a balanced meal, but the result is well worth it.  Here are a few tips I’ve found to save time and have fun when you’re cooking your own meals:

Cook twice as much as you can eat. Leftovers are a lifesaver for those days when you’ve got a lot on your figurative plate and not enough on your literal one.

Get together with some friends. Making a dinner date to cook a simple meal together is a good way to catch up with old friends.  Everyone splits the grocery bill, prep time goes by a lot faster with one person in charge of each task, and doing dishes isn’t so much of a chore if you work together.

Choose your dishes wisely. I like using ready-made foods but adding variety and interest to them by adding fresh ingredients.  One thing I learned to do from my coworker Natalie is how to make a great pasta sauce quickly: brown some ground meat in a pan, sautee white button mushrooms in the same pan, add pasta sauce and heat it all together.  This makes a hearty pasta sauce that really sticks to your ribs, and there’s only one pan to wash at the end.

I made a quick and fun meal following all three of these principles tonight when some friends invited themselves over for dinner.  We laughed and conversed over ravioli, meat sauce, salad, garlic bread; it was a great time without too much hassle.