Editor’s Note: Food is important – it sustains life, it brings people together, and it tastes good! As a graduate student, however, finding the time to cook can sometimes be tough. In this post, the HDS Graduate Assistants share their food-related tips and tricks, from their go-to recipes to their favorite Harvard Square haunts.
Graduate life can be busy, do you plan your meals for the week ahead of time?
Maggie: I always plan out all of my meals for the week before I go grocery shopping to make sure I’m buying the right amount of food so that I won’t be hungry or wasteful. I also try to hold onto every recipe I love so that when I’m lacking inspiration, I can flip back through them and see what sounds good.
Colin: I would use a weekly meal prep method when I was working full time. Now, I have a little more flexibility to cook so I carve out times to cook when I can. I like to start my mornings off with a light breakfast – usually bread, yogurt, granola, oatmeal, or eggs. For lunch and dinner, I choose to do a combination of either eating at home right before class or, if I am on campus all day, eating at a dining hall. Sometimes I’ll bring leftovers to campus for dinner!
Kailee: I love to cook and try out new recipes! At the beginning of each week, my partner and I look online and through our cookbooks to find recipes and buy the ingredients for meals that look interesting. I try to plan a good mix of new and tried-and-true recipes for each week. Basically, everything I make produces leftovers, so we always have extra food for lunch!
Francesca: I usually plan to bring my lunch to campus most days, and I also have a weeknight dinner rotation with my three housemates – we each cook for the house one night a week. The rest of the time we fend for ourselves or go out to eat with friends!
How do you budget for food?
Francesca: Budgeting for food has been an important part of staying on top of my finances since starting at HDS. I spend between $30-$50 on groceries each week (closer to $50 when I’m stocking up or cooking something really special!) and cook for myself most of the time. Market Basket and Wegman’s are great cost-effective supermarkets in the Somerville area, though I love to go to Trader Joe’s, too, for tasty snacks and frozen foods!
Maggie: I actually don’t budget for food. I love to cook, and eating meals that make me feel nourished and fulfilled is super important to me, so I don’t intentionally limit my spending on food. I think not budgeting for food is made a lot easier by the fact that I rarely eat out, so I don’t really incur a lot of food costs outside of my weekly grocery run. It’s also super helpful for me to list out all the ingredients I need ahead of time so that I don’t end up buying random food items that I don’t need or that would end up going to waste.
What is your go-to recipe?
Maggie: Almost every day I start my morning with a smoothie bowl. I just throw a banana in my blender with water and frozen mango, pineapple, and sometimes strawberries and blend it up until it’s perfect! It’s like liquid sunshine, especially during the winter!
Kailee: Mushroom risotto. I started cooking it when I was an undergraduate, and I’ve since perfected the recipe. It has become my comfort food in all its creamy, cheesy, mushroomy goodness. It does take a while (yes, you must stir almost constantly!), but I find it relaxing to take a break from my work and cook a meal that I love.
Colin: My partner and I go back and forth with cooking so I will share two recipes! The first being a Kimchi Jjigae and the second being Fried whole fish, both of which you can remix around and are a little time intensive but really low maintenance!
Francesca: I make my own challah at least once a month and especially when I host Shabbat dinner. My favorite recipe is “My Favorite Challah Recipe” from Joan Nathan at the New York Times.
What is your go-to spot around campus or Harvard Square for a quick bite or snack?
Francesca: Though I enjoy cooking, my budget also allows me to go out to eat 2-3 times a week, and frequenting local coffee shops is one of my big indulgences. I love Broadsheets Coffee right by HDS, 1369 Coffee House in Inman Square, and Bloc Cafe in Union Square for my coffee fix! I also enjoy delicious vegetarian food around town, and some of my favorite spots are Veggie Galaxy, Life Alive Organic Cafe, and Naco Taco.
Colin: The cheapest places are usually the cafes and dining halls on campus. You can find whole meals for under $10 and they’re good! Be sure to go around all of campus because there are multiple spots for food with varying options! There are also freebies like hot chocolate, tea, and more snacks around campus!
Kailee: I live in Boston, and I try to pack my lunch and bring coffee or tea with me on the days that I have to go to campus, so I don’t go to the restaurants and cafes in Harvard Square often. I do love the hot chocolate at L.A. Burdick’s – it’s delicious and probably the best hot chocolate in the world. I’ll also make the trek out from Boston on a weekend night just to get Felipe’s – I’m obsessed with their chips and queso.
How do you build community through food?
Kailee: Each week my friends and I do “Sunday Study & Supper” where we keep each other accountable for getting homework done on Sundays before cooking and sharing dinner together. It’s a great way to combine homework with food and friendship!
Francesca: I love sharing Shabbat dinners on Friday nights with members of the HDS and wider Harvard community. There are frequent Shabbat meals for graduate students hosted by Harvard Hillel and the HDS student-run groups HDS Kehillah and Jews for Liberation. I feel so lucky to meet a wide range of Jewish folks through these meals (and score some free falafel, matzo ball soup, bagels, pizza, and more!).
We hope this article provided some helpful tips about the all-important topic of food! There are excellent options around campus and so many beautiful restaurants, bars, cafés, and farmers markets around Cambridge, Somervile, and Boston that are great spots to share in community and make friends. Be sure to check them out!