When Di and I decided to return to college last year, it’d been awhile since either of us last stepped foot in a classroom. When we got married at age 19, the realities of rent, bills, and jobs quickly pulled our attentions from scholastic affairs to those of survival. Quite a few years had passed since our last semester at USC in the spring of 1999, and nearly a decade of aimless gallivanting and misguided adventure separated us from the promising academic futures we once had.
Or so we thought.
Over the past 6-8 months, I’ve discovered that the stability and established routine of our married lifestyle is extremely conducive to good study habits, focus, and overall academic success. Gone are the times of weeknight partying until dusk and late-night end-of-semester cram sessions; replaced by quiet, yet leisurely nights of reading textbooks, researching projects, doing homework, studying, or composing papers. Also gone are the times of fretting about grades; replaced by expectations of high scores. We’ve learned that even with full-time jobs, it is possible to attend college full-time and excel academically. Our bosses have been more than gracious with time off and have allowed us to adjust the office hours to accommodate our class schedules, so we are incredibly grateful for the latitude they’ve allowed us.
On the other hand, being an older student is not all positive. I’ve found that at age 28, our bodies simply cannot handle the nonstop fast-food and frozen-dinner diets the way they once did. A decade ago, we could thoughtlessly fuel ourselves on nothing but ramen, pizza, french fries, and snack food. These days, a week of that crap can cause more problems than I’m willing to detail — or you’re willing to read — here. Fast-food and prepared or frozen dinners are just so quick and easy, and it’s hard to avoid them if you’re constantly on the go or too preoccupied to cook a decent meal. Besides the incredibly poor nutrition from such feasts, those on-the-go meals often leave us feeling groggy or sometimes even more hungry than before. I gained my freshman 15 back when Clinton was still in office, but could easily claim another sophomore 15 over the past few months. Maybe 20.
That must stop.
So this time, we plan to spend the entire week before school starts cooking, canning and freezing enough quickly-preparable meals to last the whole semester. Home-made frozen dinners and canned veggies. Besides saving a ton of money, we’ll get to eat decent food specifically prepared by and for us. No preservatives, low sodium, and no funky additives, fats, or oils. 12 quarts each of yellow squash, green beans, and black-eye peas from the farmers market. Slow-cooked roast beef, baked chicken, meat loaf, and Salisbury steak. We even plan to make a bunch of pre-plated meals. Freezer to the microwave and ready to eat in 5 or 6 minutes - faster than a trip through the drive-thru at McDonald’s and not saturated with crap!
Anyhow, we’re getting together a monstrous grocery list, and I’ll try to remember to update everyone on the success or failure of our home-cooked semester experiment. So stay tuned, we’ll have another weigh-in in December.