Budgeting, cooking essential skills for college life

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Overdraft fees, credit card payments and Top Ramen dinners, oh goodness. Being able to cook and budget are essentials for college students seeking for a life with less stress. 

Professors and students here at Dixie State University see the need for people to be smart with their money and eat quality food. Yet, there are still some of us that struggle with these skills. 

According to BestColleges.com, “First-time college students are highly susceptible to overspending. With parents out of the picture, at least for a semester, students are suddenly given free reign to manage their time and finances as they see fit.”

As for cooking, nutritionist Joy McCarthy said, “I often tell people, ‘Do you want to feel better? Do you want to have more energy?’ Because great health starts in the kitchen.”


Helen Saar, an assistant professor of finance, said being able to budget should be a primary skill for people, just like being able to read and write. Because a lot of people dislike math, they are turned off when it comes to financing, she said.

When it comes to students, she said they live by the code of “ignorance is bliss.” Saar said if they never know how to do a budget or if they don’t pay attention to how much money is in their account, budgeting never becomes a problem for them because they aren’t thinking about it. Saar said budgeting is hard and time is required, but it takes discipline. For students, Saar recommended they use a budgeting app like “Mint“.

“The basic concept of budgeting is you should never ever spend more than what is coming in,” Saar said.

Shandon Gubler, an associate professor of business management, gave seven tips to follow when it comes to money.

  • Keep a money journal
  • Make a chart of essential and non-essential items
  • Review the essential and non-essential items and see what can be reduced from the list
  • Set goals and write a budget
  • Put 10 percent of each paycheck into savings
  • Credit cards should never be used unless they are paid off every month where no interest can be accumulated and credit can be built
  • Aggressively strive to avoid loans if possible; grants and scholarships are preferable 

He said when purchasing various items, people sometimes don’t think about all the additional payments that come with it. He used the example of how easy it is to buy a car. He said what people don’t realize is that cars produce additional expenses like oil changes, car insurance and car payments. 


Many students are having to learn how to cook on a low budget. 

The following are simple, cheap and quick recipes that every college student can follow, no matter their cooking experience. 

Josey Harris, a junior physical therapist assistant major from Dubois, Idaho, said she often makes this burrito skillet dinner for her and her husband. 

Burrito skillet dinner


-1 lb. of ground beef

-1 (15 oz.) can of ranch-style beans, drained

-1/2 cup of rice

-1 cup of diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained

-1 dozen tortillas

In a skillet, brown ground beef; drain. Add beans, rice and tomatoes. Cover; simmer until rice is tender. Warm tortillas. Put meat in tortillas. If desired, add sour cream and grated cheese. 

Aubrey Cook, a junior nursing major from St. George, said this meal was a staple for her during her freshman year of college.

Seasoned chicken breast with sautéed zucchini


-1 Chicken breast

– A little salt and pepper

-2 teaspoons of garlic powder

-2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning

-Cooking oil (olive oil or unsalted butter) to keep the chicken from sticking to the pan

-1 small or medium zucchini

Season chicken breast with one teaspoon of each spice per side. Place chicken in skillet and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Once cooked through, it shouldn’t have any pink on the inside. Set chicken aside. Slice zucchini in 1/4 inch segments. Place zucchini in the same skillet and season with salt and pepper and garlic if desired. Cook on medium to low heat until tender.

Amanda Soliai, a senior physical therapist assistant major from Santa Clara, said German Pancakes can be made for any meal.

German Pancakes/Dutch Baby/Hootenannies 


-6 tablespoons butter, sliced

-1 cup of flour

-1 cup of milk

-6 eggs

-Maple syrup, powdered sugar, peanut butter or fresh fruit 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place butter in 9×13 baking pan and let it melt in the oven. In a medium bowl, add flour, milk and eggs and combine with a mixer. Remove pan with melted butter from the oven and pour batter into pan. Return to the middle rack of oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until fluffy and risen. Cut and serve hot with syrup, powdered sugar or fresh fruit. 

Soliai also said she follows some basic cooking tips when it comes to every meal she makes. The following are tips she suggests other college students follow.

  • Read the recipe thoroughly ahead of time to make sure you have all the ingredients
  • Always follow the cooking times and temperatures
  • Follow the recipe
  • Measure all ingredients
  • Don’t overcrowd pans or baking dishes
  • Don’t leave the kitchen while cooking 

The DSU Food Pantry is there to meet the needs of those at DSU who are going hungry. There are items there that can help one make dishes like the ones above. Plus the food is free – no questions asked.

For additional information on the DSU Food Pantry, be sure to check out the Dixie Sun News’ article titled “Donations for Food Pantry needed.”