Every generation of apartment dwellers has contributed to the food choices and cooking methods that go on to become reflective of their times. Tuna noodle casseroles, Top Ramen, Hamburger Helper, and the likes kept young adults alive for decades. Hot plates gave way to toaster ovens, which in turn begat microwaves. What never changed were the tiny kitchens.
Millennials are often minimalists when it comes to their living spaces, as they typically spend a lot of time out and about. But when they do cook at home, they take an approach that’s much different from that of their parents (or even that of their older siblings).
Childhood memories and word-of-mouth used to inspire young cooks to try new recipes. Today, stimulation is often visual. Instagram pictures of food pour from data clouds all over the world, and with a whole TV network dedicated to cooking nowadays, millennials seem to be salivating first and then cooking what they’ve seen. Although these dishes still satisfy childhood cravings on occasion, millennials generally tend to eat healthier than their parents and older siblings.
For all that inspiration, they still have a tough time actually choosing what to make for dinner. Almost a third of recently polled millennials claimed that deciding what to have for dinner was more stressful than shopping for food or cooking it.
A lot of millennial apartments have no designated dining room, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing their cooking alone. A recent study found that nearly 30 percent of millennials cooked alongside a spouse, friend, or child and viewed the shared experience as quality time rather than a chore.
With some of the smallest apartment kitchens in the past century, millennials have no space – or need – for a cookbook cupboard or shelf. A simple browser search on your smartphone or tablet will instantly bring up hundreds of recipes for whatever dish you want, and most of those will even have reviews, difficulty ratings, instant shopping lists, and lists of the kitchen tools you’ll need to make them. Millennials’ top 100 food-based search terms are typically broad in nature: “dinner ideas,” “healthy recipes,” “slow cooker recipes,” and “food hacks” are a few of the most popular. Online videos are also popular among millennials who want to see how to cut a watermelon, avocado, or mango or what food is supposed to look like when served.
Best of all, their electronic devices allow them to either follow recipes or use hands-free voice activation to access audio and/or video instructions throughout the meal preparation process, leaving their hands free to mix, stir, and cook.
Research found that millennials also claim that while they generally follow recipes when cooking, about a quarter of them add personal touches to dishes by substituting or throwing in an extra ingredient.
Many major grocery stores and sources like Amazon accept online orders, which are delivered right to your door so no time is wasted driving, shopping, or waiting in lines. Personal shopping services are gaining popularity because their employees can communicate with customers by voice or text about brands, prices, options, etc. while they’re in the store.
Pre-packaged meals delivered right to your door are also gaining in the food-shopping marketplace. Though they’re more expensive than the food you’d buy at the market, these well-balanced, nutritious meals are generally about half the price of similar fare from restaurants and include fresh fruits and vegetables and a set of simple instructions that even beginners can follow.
Like generations before them, millennials are the most likely to embrace present-day food fads like veganism. A good number will openly admit that they fall off the wagon occasionally and enjoy a juicy, old-fashioned hamburger — typically made from grass-fed beef. Even those who follow more traditional diets comprised of meat, poultry, fish, fruit, and vegetables generally prefer organically-grown and reared products and tend to eat more locally-sourced produce than anything else.
Millennial apartment dwellers are also more likely to make their own snacks at home. Homemade trail mixes, baked potato chips, and hummus are some top choices, edging out packaged chips and frozen snack foods.
Cookware & Appliances
When millennials realize how much money can be saved by cooking at home, they wisely invest in quality cookware. Top choices include enamel and cast-iron pots and pans, high-tech pressure cookers that don’t explode like grandma’s often did, and slow cookers that automatically switch off but keep food warm for hours. Millennials are also more likely to buy a small selection of plates and bowls with multiple functions rather than invest in a large set of specialized dinnerware.
Many apartment kitchens have been downsized to make more room for larger bedrooms and living areas. Major appliance makers have answered the call by producing stoves that are six inches smaller in width, 18-inch-wide dishwashers, and refrigeration units set in drawers. Sales of speed ovens and small convection ovens have risen significantly in the past five years.
Many micro-apartment complexes have communal kitchens open to all tenants. When cooking for a large number of guests, millennials use the assortment of regular-size appliances in the communal kitchen to prepare meals. They then either transport the food back to their own apartments for consumption or serve it in the kitchen’s large dining rooms.