An iconic part of the Princeton experience is the illustrious eating club, or rather, 11 eating clubs. Usually, if someone outside of the "Orange Bubble" is asking me about Princeton, they’ll mention an eating club. However, what many people tend to forget is that there are other systems in place so students can eat: staying on the dining hall plan, joining a co-op or being independent (currently the system I am using). Choosing the independent dining option at Princeton means that you have the ability to arrange your own dining. This means that you can cook on your own, eat at other campus dining places or eat at local resaturants.

Before starting my junior year, I was nervous about being independent. I never had to cook for myself, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for such a big step. My sister teased me and said I would starve, so it wasn’t looking great on the homefront in regards to support, either. Nevertheless, I packed the car with the bare minimum of kitchen supplies I thought I would need; I knew I would be using a hall kitchen, so I couldn’t bring everything I was using at home.

My parents brought me to the grocery store on move-in day, and I stocked up for the week. Very quickly, I realized I was going to have a hard time; I had never even been to the grocery store by myself, and now I had to become celebrity chef Rachael Ray overnight! I knew I had to learn, and fast. Here are a few things I have found useful during my short time dining as an independent student thus far:

  1. If you have a friend with a car on campus, bribe them with snacks and see if they will drive you to the store. If not...
  2. The Weekend Shopper, a campus shuttle, that runs every Saturday and Sunday takes you to a variety of places, including Whole Foods, Wegmans, Walmart and Trader Joe’s. It’s free and easy to figure out!
  3. Join the Free Food listserv. Princeton has free food everywhere, all the time. Sometimes you can even find full meals through it! Other times, you can find a nice snack. Either way, it’s definitely something to make use of!
  4. Independent students get two dining hall meal swipes per week, so make use of them!
  5. There are a few quick, relatively affordable options on Nassau Street if you’re looking to treat yourself (i.e., Tacoria, Jammin’ Crepes, Olives, Panera, Qdoba and more). Use this option sparingly; the costs add up!
  6. If you have friends in eating clubs, they get a few guest swipes per semester!

I am sure I will learn more as the days go by!

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