At first, Danielle Hausberg was just taking photos of her meals to show family members she was cooking on her own and making healthy choices.
A friend’s suggestion to post her meals on Instagram followed, and before she knew it, the Sociology student had thousands of followers on her account, @CollegeCookin. Today, that number exceeds half a million.
“I’ve always been a naturally healthy eater. I wanted to be able to eat what I liked at school, and that’s why I decided to cook,” said Hausberg, who is in her last year of a Sociology degree.
“I like food, and I like eating good food. So, eating out wasn’t the best option for me, because it’s harder to find healthy options at restaurants – and restaurants didn’t appeal to me as much as my own food. So, I thought, I might as well cook.”
Peruse through her account and you’ll see bright, colourful and artfully arranged photos of salads, soups, seafood dishes, breakfast foods and much more. Below each post Hausberg shares the ingredients used in the meal. Each is an example of a realistic, affordable, easy-to-make and relatively quick meal and snack options any student could replicate.
“A lot of my ideas come from my mom and things she’s made – she’s a big cook,” Hausberg said, adding she visits food websites and watches The Food Network regularly for inspiration.
In just two short months – after starting @CollegeCookin in November 2013 – Hausberg had garnered more than 10,000 followers. From there, her audience grew quickly, she said. When the number of followers reached 100,000, Hausberg decided to give back by publishing an e-cookbook featuring all of her recipes.
The e-book is available on her website, at college-cookin.com, or from Amazon’s Kindle store for $5.
All her efforts are to promote healthy eating, Hausberg noted, to show students like herself it is possible to eat healthy while studying away from home. It’s not as hard as one might think, she said, to cook for oneself and eat healthy on a tight budget.
“I think I spend on track with your average student. I go grocery shopping just as much as all my friends. When you’re buying healthy ingredients it can cost more money, but to me, it’s worth it because I could be going out for all these meals and spending way more,” Hausberg went on.
“I don’t over spend. I buy what I need, always. You have to prioritize what’s important – a girl might spend money on getting her nails done, but I would do that less so I could go grocery shopping more. It’s all about budgeting.”
More and more, Hausberg is finding herself working with various brands and food companies. Last year, she teamed up with Disney to promote the Helen Mirren culinary movie, The Hundred Foot Journey, in which a restaurant owner hires chefs based on their ability to make an omlette. Hausberg got to make her own omlette and even attended a private screening of the movie at Universal Studios.
@CollegeCookin has also expanded its social media platforms to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. And while this side project may be time consuming for someone who is still a full-time student, Hausberg intends on letting it run its own course.
“I’m not giving this up any time soon. It’s a part-time, sometimes full-time, job for me. We’ll see where it goes. I could never imagine I would be here right now. It’s growing in its own direction,” she said.