Welcome to WalletPop's series "You've graduated. Now what?" Our bloggers have a wealth of suggestions to help you find you way through that time of amazing transformation, from student to working stiff.


So you've graduated from college eh? Congratulations. Now what? They're telling you that now you're a real adult, with real responsibilities, real bills, a real job. Or not. One thing you probably have, however, is a real appetite.

If you haven't already, one day soon you'll be moving out of the roommates/futon classes and into an apartment of your very own (or in cahoots with a significant other). That means you'll be outfitting your first real "home." Nothing says "adult" more than being able to cook something other than spaghetti and meatballs and Top Ramen for dinner.
Why should you learn how to cook? For one thing, being out on your own for the first time is expensive. You no longer have your meal card from college to ensure you're well-fed, and you can't afford to eat out every night on your entry-level salary. Knowing how to cook, for yourself and your friends, will mean you can live within your means AND enjoy a creative outlet after a long day at the office. Let's not forget also that being able to whip up a nice meal for two will go far when it comes to impressing dates.

In any event, knowing how to cook decently will serve you well your entire life. You need to eat, whether you're 22 or 45, right? So why not learn how to feed yourself well now? Additionally, the skills go where you go. So no matter where you end up, you know you'll always be able to dine in style. And armed with your well-cared-for iron skillet, a chef's knife and a couple of wooden spoons, you're ready to conquer your world well-fed.

Start with the basics. Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" is a great place to start. Simple-but-delicious recipes even you can master, starting with marinating olives to preparing rack of lamb. He also has a "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" for the avowed herbivores among you. Think of either of these books as your generation's "Joy of Cooking." Buy it, read it, use it. And learn from your own mistakes.

Cooking classes -- They're everywhere. Sign up for one if you're really a terrific newbie. The cheapest option here is to tap one of your friends who knows a few techniques and learn from them (you provide the wine, which makes it even more fun to learn.)

Practice -- you're an adult now: time to graduate from the bong party to the dinner party. Better food and you can still get drunk!

Finally: Outfit your kitchen. Life's a learning curve, but it will astound you to realize how little you actually need to set yourself up for cooking adventures. Check out this video of Mark Bittman's expert opinion on how to outfit your kitchen for under $300.

Good luck, and happy cooking!

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