Tips from Janani

College Students and Food – A Breakdown

Hi guys! I am here today not to share a recipe (one’s coming real soon though, so stay tuned!), but to share what the food situation is like for a college student, directly from a college student! I was pondering what to cook a few days ago and ended up making one of the tastiest dishes I have ever made. No, I’m serious… this meal was so delicious that I struggled to leave some for the week ahead of me. What is this magical dish, you ask? Lemon garlic cream fettuccine! I know, it even sounds super fancy. I certainly enjoyed garnishing it, pretending to be one of those fancy chefs you see on TV with their own cooking show 😉 But that’s not what this post is about, is it? Nope. I am here to give you the inside scoop on college students and food, and talk about my own experiences with vegetarian food and food in general these last four years.

So I am about to graduate in a few weeks, and that means I’ve lived through four years of being away from my parents’ food and honestly it has been the biggest and one of the most challenging and rewarding growth experiences of my life. I’ve lived through dining hall food, a year of living solely on Trader Joe’s frozen Indian food when I got homesick, as well as me finding my niche in vegetarian cooking. So I have done it all, and now I am going to spill what all of that is like.

I was inspired by…

As a college student, there is this (very true) rumor going around that we can not exactly “cook.” And why would we? We spend the first year (some of us spend more) eating semi-decent dining hall food. I can definitely say that vegetarian options exist, albeit not really appetizing or anything really to look forward to. I say “cook” because a lot of people I know, me included sometimes, live out our days after dining hall food eating instant ramen and Trader Joe’s easy microwavable dinners as we slog into the wee hours of the night studying for never ending exams. Now, I’m not here to bag on good ol’ TJ’s, as they have some insanely yummy frozen dinners, on which I have indulged far too many times. But as someone who takes refuge from stress and adulting by cooking and blogging, it only seems logical that unless I am literally dying of hunger or exhaustion, that I should use all that nervous energy from school, and direct it into making some delicious meals.

Expectations vs Reality

I do not think that anyone expects college students to be chefs. But I also did not foresee some real technical challenges to cooking and eating well that hit me over the head. First of all: time. I think I had this expectation that just because my class schedule started at 8 am and ended by 3 pm that I would have all the time in the world to cook. Big mistake. Somehow, regardless of how few classes you may have in a day, something or the other eats your time- club meetings, office hours, trying to work out, STUDYING FOR THOSE CLASSES, etc.

Second logistical challenge: your apartment kitchen is so tiny that fitting more than one person in it at a time turns into a zoo. Literally cannot find enough counter space to keep all your ingredients and cooking supplies.

Third logistical challenge: you literally have none of the cookware you previously had access to at your parents’ house. I learned this the hard way one day when I was making marinara sauce and totally forgot I did not have my mom’s hand blender. Or when I was making those mint cupcakes (go check out that recipe!), I did not have an electric whisk and was forced to use a whole lot of elbow grease.

What college students really eat

I have never seen people around me and myself rely so much on outside food. At least 3 people in my apartment of 5 eat something outside every single day. We have a campus plaza with Chipotle, pizza, boba, In n Out, you name it- right across from campus. It’s no wonder that we rely on it so much. But it truly is shocking how much food we eat outside as opposed to make ourselves.


College students are notorious for eating pasta every single day. All kinds of pasta. Spaghetti. Penne. Rotini. Bow-tie. Honestly, you name it- we eat it. This is not a myth. I live in the generation of memes, and strongly believe in the power of memes to communicate popular culture’s social problems. In fact, I found this meme on Google (you’re welcome) and I think that if you swap out “Italian” for “College Student,” it is the most accurate image ever.

And tying this back to my earlier mention of my very successful experimentation of lemon garlic cream fettuccine, I decided to embrace pasta, as opposed to seeing it as the “easy way out” and simply boiling some penne and throwing on some store bought marinara sauce. Pasta doesn’t have to be generic- there’s a whole culture out there that has been doing some wild things with it and it is time for us to experiment with it! I have made a ton of really yummy pasta dishes, including this fettuccine recipe, spaghetti “bolognese,” “sausage” lasagna bake, and more. All these recipes will catch up here, I promise! Between getting ready for graduation and finishing up classes and job hunting, I’ve got a full schedule. But I’m not making any excuses.

My point is

The whole idea of this post was to write a first hand account of what it is like to be a (vegetarian) college student and where we get our food from. And the common denominator turned out to be pasta! So what I am saying is you can expect to see a lot more “not your run of the mill” pasta recipes here on The Vegetarian Carnivore.

Do you guys love pasta or do you love pasta?! Tell me in your comments below!


Janani <3 <3






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