Will walk for food: Life beyond dining halls

Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor
Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor
Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor

By Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor

Welcome to the Continuing Misadventures of a Displaced Duquesne Student, a series in which Features Editor Seth Culp-Ressler grapples with his newfound life off campus. For the veterans of apartment life, feel free to laugh at his incompetence. For non-veterans, perhaps the mistakes he chronicles are valuable lessons.

Chapter Two: The Food

Knowing how to properly stock a fridge is a woefully underrated skill. I realized this as I wandered the aisles of the South Side Giant Eagle, trying to gather all the necessary foodstuffs for my new apartment. How do I know what to buy? What if I forget something? Where do I even start? Can’t I just buy 20 boxes of Captain Crunch and be done with it?

One of the joys of adult independence is the fact that, yes, you can eat cereal for all three meals of the day. I, however, wanted to maintain some amount of dignity for at least the first few months of living on my own. Why not start off strong, right?

Anyway, back to the arrow-straight, never-ending aisles of the grocery store. My roommate and I needed to gather all the necessities for cooking and perhaps some superfluous indulgences as well. We also had to carry everything we bought just over 10 blocks back to our apartment. And it was a sweltering mid-August afternoon. And I, for whatever reason, wore jeans.

Top tip: Don’t wear jeans in the middle of August when you have to carry seven bags of groceries a mile and a half home.

So, admittedly with my roommate calling most of the shots, we filled up our cart. We got the predictable things: eggs, butter, pasta, lots of produce. Also chips and ice cream because we’re adults, and parents with their “nutritional guidelines” and “concerns about health” have no control over this shopping trip.

Being self-sufficient concerns more than just spending money at a grocery store, though. It’s not something you think about when living in a campus dorm with access to professional chefs and a fully-stocked meal plan. In that situation, when you’re hungry food just sort of magically appears.

It gets more complicated when you lose the well-trained cooks.

My roommate and I are lucky in that we both have some prior cooking experience. Besides, cooking is really just a test of your ability to follow directions. I like to think I mastered those skills back in grade school.

So we just kind of…started doing it. Obviously, being mostly broke college guys, we load up on foods that are easy to make and fill you up fast. Rice. Pasta. Beans. All great options, and there is an endless amount of recipes to be found online for any and all of the above. I promise, it’s actually not that hard. It just takes time. OK, maybe for that reason it’s not always the easiest thing to do.

Unfortunately, cooking is just one piece of the convoluted but necessary task of giving my body the food it needs to keep me alive. (I mean, that’s really all I’m doing, right?) There’s also the issue of eating on campus. Without a meal plan, there’s no way I’m shelling out the amount of money necessary to buy food up here. So that means lots of microwave macaroni and cheese and plenty of sandwiches. They can get old, but, hey, they’re cheap.

Speaking of which, remember how we made our first big shopping trip to Giant Eagle? Yeah, not always the best plan of action. While Giant Eagle is great due to being a fully-stocked grocery store, it’s also expensive. The solution? Aldi, Aldi, Aldi. Sure, some of the products are questionable, but still. When you can get a full backpack of groceries for under 30 bucks, don’t complain.

Also, with that, having a big backpack has been a blessing in disguise. Our apartment is on 12th Street, and Aldi is on 27th. You can do the math, but I’m not walking that. Sorry. Our solution is just to bike. It’s fast, it’s easy, there’s no sweat (OK, maybe some on the hot days). And if you don’t want to exert any energy, just hit up Amazon Prime Pantry. Dry groceries shipped right to your door in two days. Amazing.

All in all, I’ve been able to scrape together enough each day to not die from starvation, but we haven’t seen the hard stuff yet. That will come in a month or two when we have to go grocery shopping in the sub-30-degree chill. I can’t wait.