As a professional chef and father of three, Yves Dechaine believes there is “always” time for students to prepare a home-cooked meal.
Dechaine, who works as the executive chef and learning kitchen manager with the Greener Village food bank, said students should try cooking together. He said students can save more money by grocery shopping and cooking with friends to take the pressure off.
“If you have an exam and you need to study, your roommate may be able to make a pot of pasta that you guys can share and [vice versa],” said Dechaine. “If you’re already hanging out with your friends, you can kind of be productive in a collective kitchen.”
Since students tend to have fewer sources of income throughout the school year, Dechaine recommends checking for sales at the grocery store. He said most have flyers, and mobile apps like Flipp compile different flyers into one spot.
Dechaine said students should try shopping on certain days of the week for the best bargains and not to be afraid of racks with larger discounts, which typically contain products close to the end of their shelf life.
“Just because it’s half off doesn’t mean that it isn’t good,” he said, adding programs like Community Food Smart are budget-friendly alternatives for receiving fresh food.
For many people, Dechaine feels food is the last thing to cross their minds. Making food a priority and planning out meals in advance can relieve stress, he said. Dechaine added it is important for students to “be educated shoppers.”
“If you just go in saying, ‘I need food,’ chances are you’re going to buy everything off the rack,” he said. “Your best bet is to go in with a plan, go in with your list and stick to it.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Dechaine said there has been a renewed interest in people wanting to cook for themselves. Cooking was a throwback to other activities like knitting, which, he said, was second nature more than 50 years ago.
“You didn’t go out to eat. You made your own bread, you made your own pickles,” said Dechaine. “[People] realized that they didn’t have to rely on convenience and it could be just as easy and even more rewarding cooking for yourself.”
Before the pandemic, Dechaine taught cooking classes to community members and local schools at Greener Village’s community kitchen. But because of Public Health protocols — on top of a small kitchen space — they can’t be held in-person.
Still, Dechaine found a workaround.
He now holds the classes on Facebook Live through the Greener Village Facebook page every Friday at 11 a.m. He said the transition has allowed more folks the opportunity to watch the lessons, with some videos receiving upwards of 800 views per week.
“A lot of people really appreciate it. It’s nice to see. It’s very supportive,” said Dechaine.
One of the reasons Dechaine enjoys cooking for himself is because he knows what is in his dishes. Supporting local markets and farmers gives him peace of mind, knowing his ingredients are fresh and organic instead of processed.
He also finds cooking is an art form and his stress reliever.
“You can take a steak, I can take a steak and cook the same cut from the same store and have it taste completely different,” said Dechaine.
“That’s the fun and challenging thing about food – you can interpret any recipe to make it your own. It’s a real personal thing.”