Advice for the budding senior cook

Veronica Peterson ‘14 cooks in the kitchen of her South Commons apartment. Such attempts prove that, for those bold enough to try, dining out is not the only option for those living in senior housing. Photo By: Spencer Davis
Veronica Peterson ‘14 cooks in the kitchen of her South Commons apartment. Such attempts prove that, for those bold enough to try, dining out is not the only option for those living in senior housing. Photo By: Spencer Davis
Veronica Peterson ‘14 cooks in the kitchen of her South Commons apartment. Such attempts prove
that, for those bold enough to try, dining out is not the only option for those living in senior housing. Photo By: Spencer Davis.

Living in senior housing can be hard. You have to change your own light bulbs, attempt to furnish space without anything upholstered and resist the urge to turn your SoCo porch into a rocking chair sanctuary. While these challenges are substantial, perhaps nothing is as burdensome as cooking for yourself. Here are some tips for providing your own nourishment:

1. Invest in at least medium quality appliances and cookware. While the nine dollar toaster seems like a good at the time, in reality it will probably break or even cause a fire. Instead, consider what appliances you will need and what might make your life easier. For example, a rice cooker can take the guesswork out of cooking rice and save you time, while a cupcake maker,though flashy, may not be used very frequently. By purchasing appliances early you allow the greatest return to your investment.

2. Follow the sales. If you don’t have strong preferences in regard to what you eat, take advantages of sales which can both save you money and give you meal ideas. For example, a sale on egg noodles could lead you to make chicken soup. Stocking on basis when on sale can also save you money in the long run, so keep an eye out for sales and coupons.

3. Start slowly, and use a recipe if at all possible. For those without a great deal of experience with cooking, it’s best to start out with something easy. Attempting elaborate dishes can leave you feeling hungry and frustrated. So it’s best to start out with a simple recipe that can have a lot of variations. For example, if you see a recipe for broth based soup, the skills you can learn from it can be useful in making other similar dishes. Once you get a feel for how a dish is made you can vary the recipe for what you like or even what you have on hand.

4. Find recipes that you like and want to make. You could find a good cookbook from which to gain ideas or find recipes online. If you aren’t sure what you want to make, you could try finding a food blog that you like or surfing Pinterest. Pinterest is a great tool to keep track of recipes that you want to try all in one place. Alternatively, you could have a family member email you some of your favorite recipes from home.

5. Learn from friends. Even if you have just taken up cooking, some of your housemates and friends may have long illustrious cooking careers and be willing to help you learn how to cook. Said friends will be more than willing to assist if you are offering free food for their assistance. You could also offer to teach them how to make a dish that’s your specialty.

6. Cook in bulk on the weekends. By cooking a lot of food on the weekends and eating it throughout the week you save your time and yourself from eating pasta every night because you are in a rush. If you make more food than what you can eat over the course of the week freezing food can also be a great option. This will save you the trouble of altering recipes when cooking for one.

7. Coordinate with housemates. While every house is different, you could try schemes such as having each person cook a different night. If not everyone in your house will agree on meals try finding one other member you can share the cooking with one or two nights. Overall, this will help ease the burden of cooking into more manageable blocks.

8. Be careful not to injure yourself. This may sound obvious but getting a second degree burn from tossing a pepper into hot oil is fairly easy to do. And so is cutting yourself when chopping tomatoes.

9. Prepare the night before. To truly become a senior housing cooking master, you must forsake the Retreat as much as possible. Try challenging yourself to bring meals from home by packing a lunch and munching on some homemade snacks. You can also get a jump start on the day by preparing breakfast and lunch the night before.

10. Stay motivated. The senior meal plan roughly works out to $10.50 a meal. With that much money you could easily cook a fantastic meal or go to Bacios. Moreover, cooking is life long skill which prove useful time and time again once you leave Vassar.

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