Dorm Food Ideas Recipe

A letter from a college student inspired this post. He was wondering what advice or recipes we might have for young readers living in dorms with infrequent access to a kitchen. Looking for ideas on simple, fast and easy foods that are manageable and healthy options for college students.

Dorm Food Ideas

I was hoping I could tap into the collective wisdom here to help a fellow reader and cook. I received the following email from a young man who will be returning to college in New York in a few weeks. You can probably sense where this is headed, here's the email:

"...I have a favor to ask of you. As a college student, I have five weeks until my summer food-nirvana is abruptly ended by the horrors of dorm food and required meal plans. This morning, when looking through 101CB for a recipe or two, I began to wonder what advice, recipes and tactics you might have for those of us in such a position. I'm convinced that your younger readers, many of whom, like me, are stuck in dorms with infrequent access to a kitchen, would benefit greatly from a blog write-up on simple, fast and easy foods that are manageable, healthy and tasty options for the otherwise stomach-cringing college student. Whadda ya say? With lots of appreciate and goodness from N.Y..."

It has been some time since I lived in the dorms - what is allowed? For example, are toaster ovens, crock pots, or panini grills fair game? My guess is no. I remember having access to a microwave, and the bagel toaster in the cafeteria, but I suppose it must vary from college to college. Are there any great books on the topic?

If you have any ideas or suggestions for our epicurean scholar please share them in the comments. Anyone who can work some creative magic at a salad or sandwich bar, let's hear your tricks and tips. Let's send him back to school with some ideas and inspiration. -h

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Thanks to all of you who took the time to offer up your insights and suggestions. All 390 of them! So many things I would never have thought of, so many clever solutions. I’m going away for the weekend, so I’m going to shut down the comments on this post for now. Thanks for making this post such a great resource for all our college bound peers. -h


You just gotta’ find a way and get creative. In college I became a master gourmet sandwich-maker–made my own fresh pestos (including classic basil; also sundried tomato and parmesan/ricotta; anchovies and walnuts), hummuses, good cheeses, veggies. I couldn’t live without a food processor–even if you don’t have access to a stove, you can make soups using a food processor and microwave (use soft, easy to cook veggies). I also had one of those electric hot pots/kettles to heat liquids up (think about it; hard-boiled eggs to put in the fridge? a real time saver later. Other things to make with it: noodles, quinoa, couscous, etc.). Steamed rice freezes great; just pop an individual serving into a ziplock, freeze it, and microwave it when you want it–voila! Almost as good as fresh rice.
Aside from that, explore the idea of eating fresh, raw foods, too. In the summers I never want to cook, and instead find interesting ways to just eat fresh.
Best of luck! My seeds of culinary interest were planted while in college! It’s a great time.


I graduated last year… Here’s my advice for making dorm cooking bearable
Steal from the caf. Go to the salad bad and fill up a bowl with peppers, carrots, mushrooms, baby corn or whatever and use it to make stir fry or other things… the food you make yourself will not be as limp and over salted as caf food. Take bread for sandwiches, butter, tea bags, apples, ketchup. I never felt bad about this and you shouldn’t either as long as you are taking a plate or so at a time. Don’t stuff your backpack with all of the bagels or steal all of the creamer or anything… You are paying for the meal plan, if they aren’t making food you’ll want use their stuff to make something you do want.
Get a little george forman type grill and cook with it. Burritos, grilled asparagus, pitas stuffed with things (Like those vegetables you stole from the caf…), grilled cheese, etc
Yeah, this was against the rules too. Hide it (unplugged) under a pile of dirty clothes when you leave on break if they inspect your room when you leave.
Make sure any food sharing agreements are totally clear with your roommate. It’s best if you really just don’t.
Do go to the caf to socialize. You’ll miss out if you don’t
Those water boiling kettles are great. I made pasta in mine.


I just graduated from college in Montana- totally different from NY, but maybe the meal plans and dorms are somewhat similar. Here are my thoughts:
1.) Being a vegetarian on a campus meal plan sucks. Too often the option was tofu or no protein, rarely other food combinations. The good news is that being an omnivore on a meal plan also sucks, because the meat is really shitty and my friends ended up with plenty of gastrointestinal duress from the food.
2.) Our campus allowed us to bring out one piece of fruit or a bagel and cream cheese. I’m lactose intolerant, and got yelled at for bringing a bagel and pb out, but then something snapped. I became a rule breaker. I wore my ski jacket to the dorms (which plenty of people did, Bozeman being a ski town) and took whatever the hell I wanted from the cafeteria, veggies, fruits, leftovers in small flat tupperware… Sorry to start you off on your career as a campus criminal, but some rules just need to be broken. Justify it to yourself this way: you already paid for the food, why should they care if you prep it differently and eat it outside of the cafeteria?
3.) It is really easy to fall into a food routine, which can be comforting, but also lead to malnutrition or at least a funky tummy. Force yourself to mix things up, salad bar, cereal bar, dorm kitchen, wherever.
4.) Most dorms do have a shared kitchen, which is a pain in the ass to use when you’ve got to bring your own stuff, prep your food all by your lonesome, clean up, take all your food back to your dorm room, blah. Find some likeminded students and take turns cooking for each other (the more cafeteria ingredients, the better, you are on a budget). You’ll have friends, help with cleaning and prepping, AND decent food!

The Valkyrie

I will be a senior in college, and my friends and I survived two years in the dorm by combining dining hall food with food we cooked ourselves. You can use lettuce and veggies as toppings on homemade tacos, or use chocolate chips meant as soft-serve toppings in your own cookies.


When I started college in 1999, I received a book called “The Kitchenless Cookbook” that showed receipes involving no more than a microwave. I would invest in bowls and silverware for at least one. I got huge latte mugs to use as bowls and to fill with coffee when I had to pull all night study sessions. 🙂 Good Luck!


Many schools will allow you to get out of the dorms faster, or cook your own food rather than buying a mandatory meal plan, if you get formal permission from the nurse. While technically you should have some medical reason (allergies, etc) that would make it difficult to eat in the cafeteria, our nurse was happy to let us off the hook if we could show that we had access to a grocery store, knew how to cook, and ate balanced, healthy meals.
I would suggest stopping in to talk, especially if you are vegetarian. You might learn how to get out of the dorms or out of the cafeteria this year or the next. It can’t hurt. The nurses are nice and its a free service.


1.) Hummus. — Keep cans of chick peas around and a small bottle olive oil or even tahini sauce. Some seasoning. You can keep this stuff in a drawer or cabinet, and every once in a while — just make it!
2.) Avocados and tomatoes are very durable. Avocados wrapped plastic in a cool place can last a couple of days. Pick up some bread here and there, and you have a nice avocado-tomato sandwich. I still do this for road trips.
3.) The swiss army knife is your friend. You can use it to open cans, slice up tomatoes/avocados, and if large enough, use it to mash chick peas for the hummus.


All I can say is dorm food has changed a lot since I was a student. Imagine a vegetarian in a southern college (where any cooked vegetable comes with added fatback) on a required food plan. The campus doctor had to give me supplements because I suffered from malnutrition trying to live on nothing but salad (I wouldn’t eat the nasty white bread and they very rarely had rice or pasta, so no grains!). We had no cooking facilities, or microwaves, the best you could do was boil water. My niece on the other hand raved about the wonderful food at her college (in NY state). When it’s good, it’s very good and when it’s bad, it’s criminal. Even so, I enjoyed the camaraderie in the dining halls, and making sculptures out of the reconstituted potatoes (eat them? surely you jest!)


Here’s some insight I can offer from my prior dorm room years:
1) Get an electric kettle, invest in some fresh udon soup packs from a Japanese market, and take baggies of cut veggies from your dining hall
2) Corn tortillas are healthy and delicious. You can heat them up in the dorm’s microwave. The taco/roll-up options are endless.
3) Get creative with your dining hall options. Eat whole foods, avoid late night pizza, or anything smothered in cheese.

Kitty Puzon

I am surprised there aren’t more posts from raw foodists! Since at its simplest, raw food doesn’t require too many appliances (though granted, most raw foodists have loads). With a fridge and a Vitamix, and a book like “Instant Raw Sensations” by Frederic Patenaude, you can make dozens of easy tasty recipes. One of my alltime favorites: diced tomatoes, diced avocados, a sprinkle of soy sauce. Try it… you will be amazed. Another favorite is a salad made from grated carrots, chopped green apples, green onions, avocado, curry powder, and soy sauce (a slight variation of a recipe from the same book).


My suggestion? Make friends with some upper classmen who have apartments and will let you cook! Worked for me… 😉
You can do a lot with just the microwave, though. Steam veggies, use Trader Joe’s frozen packets of brown rice, mix up a little sauce from your refrigerated condiments (dijon mustard, soy sauce, etc.), and you can make an endless number of rice bowl dishes.
Stay away from ramen noodles! They’re cheap for a reason.


When we were renovating our kitchen, I used an electric skillet and mini fridge for months. You can use the electric skillet for eggs, black bean burgers, to make rice, stir fry, pilafs . You can put things on a rack above water and steam- they are really versatile & very easy to clean.


Get a copy of “Apocalypse Chow” by Jon Robertson and Robin Robertson. Great one-dish meals in a hurry–and healthy, too! No refrigerated ingredients. I cook from this when I’m on the road for months in my RV.

Rachel Brett Harley

I face the same problem while staying in Hotel rooms.
I’ve since realized there are three simple rules for food security – whether you are in a dorm, out camping in the wild or live in house with a sophisticated kitchen.
1. Have ready to eat carbs ready .( Might be muesli, bread, tacos, nachos, cereals, rice flakes etc). The last thing you want to do when hungry is to cook !
2. Have ready to eat protein & fat ready ( might be milk powder, canned meat / baked beans / sausages etc)
3. Have sauce / spice / sweeteners / salt / pickles ready ( May be ketchup / mayo/ honey / maple syrup / soya sauce etc)
Once you have these, you can combine them in various combos. All these store well and need no refrigeration.
If you have basic kitchen items like a knife, a thermos ( a thermos flask is a complete kitchen by itself – see ), you can cook up even more elaborate meals. With a thermos, you can even turn out steaming hot meals !
Google One Page cookbooks for more such simple food ideas.


As a recent college graduate who loves to cook, I have both good and bad news. Bad news first: cooking in a dorm room, however simple or tasty you make it, is frustrating. You can only keep so many ingredients in your tiny fridge and hectic schedules often lead to much of your stock sitting in there a little too long. Add too this the minimal counter space, the lack of a kitchen sized sink, etc. and things get dicey (excuse the cooking pun;)
However, I do have one piece of advice that I always share with college cooks. Find an off campus kitchen. You must know SOMEONE who doesn’t live in the dorm. I had a good friend who lived only a few miles from campus. Every Friday, a group of us pitched in for groceries and cooked a huge, delicious meal. If you invest in some cheap tupperware, you can take home some leftovers to get you through the week. We sometimes planned meals with this in mind (stew, casseroles, etc).
If you simply cannot find an off campus friend and you’re determined to prepare some food in your room, I recommend avoiding “cooking” and sticking with ingredients that a) can easily be thrown together without much prep b) are hearty and will last in the fridge c) you LOVE and want to eat as soon as you purchase them. Here’s a few of my favorites that I still lean towards even though I have my own home now: pasta, spinach (much hardier than most leafy greens), onion, nuts, hard cheese (feta is also long lasting), tortillas, cold cuts (get meat and cheese slices from the deli so you can get them in smaller amounts), carrots, lemons, apples, citrus and pears. If you keep a few of your fave condiments on hand, along with some sea salt, crushed pepper, good quality garlic powder and sugar, you’ll be set to whip up some tasty combination’s. Good luck!


When I was in the dorms in college I had a coffee pot, an electric kettle, and a microwave. Nothing else was allowed — no toaster ovens, no hot plates, etc. I’m not sure about the crockpot, I feel like it’s borderline not allowed but I’d check. That would make everything MUCH easier.
I wasn’t the foodie then that I am now, but what I can tell you is that electric kettle was dynamite. With the water I boiled I made tea, oatmeal, farina, and those instant noodles we all know so well. If I had to go back I would go the quinoa / couscous / bulgar route, focusing on vegan / vegetarian recipes (which tend to be great in the flavor and spices department — it will help the food taste distinct, not like you are eating the same food every day) and adding protien as needed/desired. (For me that would be deli meat like rotisserie chicken or already cooked shrimp, for others that would be your favorite unmeat.)


I just graduated, so I remember the dorms well! It is a trick to get good food, and it didn’t help that food produced in mass quantities grosses me out.
We were allowed a microwave and minifridge. Here are some of my tips:
~ Frequent your farmer’s market. This was key for me. Where I went to school, there was one near my dorm on Sunday mornings.
Some of the staples I would get would be tons of fresh fruit, especially those that go well in yogurt and oatmeal. A perfect breakfast! Nuts are great too. No sloppy eggs for you!
I would also get any vegetables that I enjoy raw. Humus too. Hummus + veggies = lunch! Any types of salads or anything they may have, stock up and grab more things to mix in. this adds more to the salads and gets you more bang for your buck!
~ Make lasagna! Get a tube of polenta, slice thinly (maybe 3 or 4 slices per serving). Layer with thin slices of zucchini and pasta sauce. Sprinkle with more sauce and a bit of cheese and microwave briefly to melt the cheese and warm. Enjoy!
Just remember that the years in the dorms will only make you appreciate any kitchen you have after this!


if you don’t have a stove top in your room, i think an electric kettle & rice cooker are the only things you need (no microwave!)
if you are not vegan, i would rely alot on eggs for protein. if you have only sometime-access to a stovetop, hardboil a dozen eggs to keep in the refrigerator to eat plain, make egg salad, put on top of a salad, on rice etc. hardboiled eggs can feel like meal savers!
also keep dried fruits and nuts, buy in bulk to save on that end.
use an electric kettle to make cous cous to put on top of salads (or beneath hardboiled eggs).
buy whole milk yogurt, find a middle eastern store and buy za’atar, i think one of the best spices for making a cheap and fast meal feel like more than eggs and grain (rice, chopped hardboiled egg, dollop of yogurt, sprinkle of za’atar — also super good with fried egg, toast, if you have a stove).
eat the yogurt for breakfast, with dried fruits and nuts.
if you had a stove top in your room, i’d say make omelets all the time, just keep some mustard and capers in your fridge to put inside since their shelf life is basically endless…
my freshman year, no stovetop often eaten-meal: make rice in the rice cooker, open a can of black beans and dump the hot rice on top of the cold beans, mix, oil, salt, pepper, hot sauce. not a huge thrill but definitely not bad & complete protein.
eggs. grains. vegetables you can afford. cans of beans and chickpeas. nuts & dried fruits. oil. a few condiments.


Get a Cuisinart Electric PRESSURE COOKER! It has options to saute, simmer and warm without pressure and of course offers the benefit of quick cooking grains, beans, beets – you name it! Plus it’s totally safe. I use mine everyday.
If you can’t have a pressure cooker, go for the rice cooker! My college boyfriend had one and we ate well.
Good luck.

lisa d

Almost forgot, if you can have a micro and coffee pot in room they sell neat little combo units that will allow you to bake a host of items, create toast, make scrambled eggs and brew coffee or tea. These are usually between $69 and $99. Learn to clean them and it will last your entire school time. You can create a nice soup with a blender and a coffee pot on the heater. Chicken or vegetable stock can come in single serve containers. McButter can be used and Mrs Dash for seasoning. There are a few companies that make freeze dried veggies and fruits that are totally portable. If you can sneak a hot plate like patti labelle does on tour you can have a gourmet meal just like home. Go to Costco or other stores and split the costs with friends.


1. Immediately find the ethnic market in your school area. Take a trip with some friends and get enough for a week or two for your fridge. 2. Find out if there is a kitchen area in the dorm (we had one and did Sunday dinners as a group). 3. If you are into fast food, do it grocery store style where stuff is prepared fresh and you’ll have enough for a 2nd meal. 4. I went to a school that had restaurant quality food, it’s just as easy to get the pounds on this way as eating mac n cheese all the time. 5. Counter the alcohol, from beer to coolers they all pack on the pounds along with being more sedentary. 6. Pick fresh when it’s offered at school. I knew quite a few people that didn’t resort to making crap choices in school and they maintained their weight all 4 years. It can be done. 6. Stock healthy snacks that are low sugar with good fats and high in fiber. Take them in baggies with you to class so you keep the metabolism up between meals.


I’d add that I would mix couscous with pasta sauce and cheese for a pasta substitute that was microwave friendly. Sweet potatoes, veggie burgers/veggie chicken nuggets are fine in a microwave. I break up the burgers and mix with steamed veggies, grains, beans, and my favorite sauce that day. You can make a great tuna melt in a toaster oven. Potatoes with EVOO & spices wrapped in tinfoil will get crispy and fabulous in the toaster oven. Between those two appliances you can do alot.
Our college actually had a build your own stir fry station that was meant for the vegans but was appreciated by lots of us.
Peanut butter and honey bagels from the dining hall are even better when you let the honey soak in for a couple of hours if you need food for times when the dining hall is closed.
At the dining hall: mix Plain pasta with cottage cheese from the salad bar, seasonings, dash of cheese and stir. Microwave to heat through. Nice change from the red sauce they usually offer. Can mix in your veggies of choice (which can be steamed in a bowl with a splash of what by placing another bowl on top upside down.


I’m a college as well, and I sympathize with this young man’s dilemma. I go to a university that once had a serious fire that burned down half the campus, so almost every kind of cooking device is banned, except of course for the approved microfridge/microwave combo.
I can easily steam cook vegetables, fresh and frozen in this device, as well as cook rice nearly as well as at home on the stove. Egg drop soup can also be made perfectly by heating broth and stirring in the beaten egg carefully. Sometimes I add tofu or vegetables.
Yogurt is also a saving grace and I make chicken salad with grapes or apples and seeds or nuts. Wrap in a wheat tortilla and lunch is portable. I tend to eat green salads this way too because there are no dishes to wash!


I don’t remember if they were officially allowed or not, but I lived on food that came out of my rice cooker. It had a little steaming tray — perfect for veggies & tofu. Mostly I made rice & veggies, but also occasionally soups, etc. After a late night, a giant pot of steaming rice & soy sauce was always a hit! (nothing like starch and salt at 4am).


First, check what your school does and doesn’t allow. The university I work at only allows a mini-fridge and microwave combo that you rent from them (unless you’re in suite-style living). There are absolutely NO other electrical appliances allowed because of possible fire hazards.
Remember, plenty of foods can be made in a microwave, especially veggies and starches. You can cook pasta, rice and potatoes in the microwave, add protein and a steamed veggie or two and voila! Dinner is served. Also, canned beans, canned tuna and silken, asceptic-packed tofu can fill up the protein department cheaply and don’t require refrigeration since your perishable space is at a premium. Of course, eggs can be nuked, too, just watch them closely! Oh, and you can even bake in your microwave (Google chocolate cake in a mug recipes).
Be sure to check out cheap grocery stores/outlets near your school, from Trader Joe’s to 99-cent stores to ethnic grocers, there are a variety of places that sell cheap staples if you need them. Also, find out if you can snag veggies and such from your dining hall. Our main dining hall allows students to take food in “to go” containers and those could easily be filled by the cubes of tofu, fruit, veggies and seeds available in our salad bar and stowed away for your future use.
I would also suggest stocking your mini-fridge and/or pantry with a variety of condiments and flavorings — my favorites are hot sauces (Tapatio, Tabasco and Sriracha), teriyaki “glaze,” mayo, mustard (yellow, Dijon and horseradish) and dried herbs and spices, like cumin, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, basil, oregano, parsley and thyme. These will liven up any meal and, by using different flavor profiles, you can make even repetitive meals of starch/protein/veg taste different each time.
For more straightforward recipe ideas, check out any of the college or microwave cookbooks on You’ll find a plethora of choices that will hopefully make it easier for you to eat fitfully and happily in college. Good luck!


You may be best off trying a Foreman grill that has the different grill plates in it so you can do a variety of things. My school wouldn’t allow anything other than a mini-fridge (shared no less), but the Foreman was fast to use and easy to hide!
One of my friends was a strict vegan and was able to get the cafeteria to cook her plain rice, brown beans and black beans every week. She was able to make all kinds of things with those 3 staples and didn’t have to keep a ton of stuff in the fridge. She always had salsa, spinach and her own cheese on hand, but most everything else came from the salad bar or the few odds and ins she could fit in the fridge.
She often made black beans and rice mixed with a cilantro dressing, salsa and cheese…it was really good!


Get a hot pot and cook ramen noodles, but only use half of the flavor package (to reduce sodium) and then cut up cubes of tofu and green onion. It’s a pretty healthy, easy meal when you are stuck with limited space and supplies.


The rice cooker is a great idea. Krups makes one that is a rice cooker, steamer, slow cooker all in one.


I have no idea why people are so terrified of the meal plan. The meal plan at school is EASILY the best way to stick to a diet. The salad bar is huge and everything’s right there for you. There’s ALWAYS vegetable options in the hot food lines and healthy options next to the crap ones. It’s all about choosing the right stuff.


Campers Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
1 frying pan
Any meat – bacon, hamburger, sausage etc.
potatoes – boiled or raw
eggs – as many as you like
any veggies from the garden (zucchini is wonderful)
If using raw potatoes start with them and just add till all ingredients are in the pan and cooked.
We have used this for around 40 years now.


Scrambled eggs, prison style:
1. Scramble eggs in a Pot Noodle cup (or similar, ie Ramen Noodles).
2. Boil kettle.
3. Hold down switch on kettle, forcing the kettle to “over-boil”.
4. Hold eggs in jet of super-heated steam, stirring when bored.
5. Voila! Scrambled eggs, just like Micky The Hammer used to make.


1. Couscous and bulghur wheat are your best friends. Heat water in the microwave (or an electric kettle if you’ve got one), pour over dry grains, wait ten minutes.
2. Other best friends include dried fruit, nuts, and nut butters.
Try adding dried cranberries, walnuts, and arugula to a couscous salad and dress with a mixture of walnut oil and almond butter. Salt to taste. Most ingredients don’t need refrigeration.
3. Wraps are great if you have a cutting board and a good knife. Try using a combination of hummus, avocado, arugula, sun-dried tomato, goat cheese, sprouts, cucumber, or any number of raw ingredients. Fold, wrap in foil, and serve. You can also easily take a wrap with you to classes if you don’t have time to go home and prepare lunch between classes.
4. If you have occasional access to a kitchen, “family style” dishes like lasagne are a good way to use inexpensive vegetables and pasta ingredients in a tasty dish that you can portion into TupperWare and then freeze.


1. Pita bread, cucumber, goat cheese. yum.
2. Grilled cheese (however you like it) with an egg on top (croque-madame)
And for those who have graduated over 10 years ago, most dorms are pretty much police states. You are not going to “get away” with having banned appliances. Sorry, just don’t plan on it.


a small slow cooker would be the best bet, if you could only choose one appliance.
Many healthy one-pot meals would be ready with minimal effort, and be ready to eat when you get back and you might not be too inclined to prepare even a simple salad.
Plus, leftovers could be an added bonus if you also have a small refrigerator to keep them. Many recipes on 101CB could be adapted to prepare in a slow cooker.
If you have extra space–and money–a small rice cooker would be useful to have as well, to make rice and grains.


Don’t rush to buy supplies right away: wait to see how much space you have, how good the electric system is, what you can pinch from the dining hall. My college had good cereals, organic milk, and nice salad bars. The hot food got old, so I budgeted for that.
Amazon grocery delivers (in USPS boxes), which is a great option for dry goods or bulky items, especially if you have limited access to car. Prices are pretty competitive, especially if you “subscribe” to an item.
Definitely bring your own sponges and dish soap. Washing up supplies frequently go missing from shared kitchens (even when it looks like no one is actually washing their dishes).
Check around campus to see if there is a cooking club, food co-op group, student activity house with a banging kitchen. You won’t be able to eat all of your meals this way, but it can definitely help break up the boredom that comes with dorm food.
Good luck!

Rachel B

It has been 2o years since I lived in a dorm but my favorite trick was my electric wok and vegetables from the school salad bar for making fabu stirfries.


Salads are always nice, and I’d study up on how to prepare raw foods. You never know what you might find.

Bob The Fish

I am (technically) a grownup working at a university, and I actually eat at the dining hall intentionally! The food has gotten much better since I was in college. There are a lot of vegetarian options, and the salad bar has decent toppings such as edamame, avocado, roasted peppers, and cubed tofu. Occasionally there is a stir-fry station or an omelette station where you can choose your ingredients. Obviously every school is different and I have no idea if you will have similar options, but I just wanted to say… don’t give up hope yet! It may not be so bad after all. All the best!


I graduated about 2 years ago from a lib. arts school with a pretty terrible cafeteria. Their vegetarian option was usually pasta or rice with cheese, maybe veggies, or a salad bar. Thankfully, there was a stir-fry station where you could cook whatever veggies you wanted. I did eat a lot of salad and pasta, because practically nothing was allowed in the dorm – I had a mini fridge, there was a microwave on each floor, and I snuck in a hot pot for making tea, oatmeal and soup. If your meal plan is required, I definitely recommend plastic baggies to take snacks back with you (my old roommate used to grab sandwiches to take back to the dorm for later) and to keep your fridge stocked with milk and cereal, lots of fruits and veggies that you can eat raw, and to keep as many healthy snack foods as will fit in your dorm room. I definitely lost weight while I was in school, but being able to graze on fruit at night was so much better than pizza or not-very-good Chinese takeout.




A couple of tips that totally helped me get through college:
1. Make friends with the kitchen staff. I found that really helpful in that they would often make a food choice specifically because I had suggested it. I also found that they loved getting new recipes that were easy for them to make in large quantities.
2. Crockpots can be your best friend.
3. Definitely locate the closest farmer’s markets, often they are right near a college campus–or talk with someone in the Student Activities office about creating a weekly farmer’s market. Colleges love having events that increase their exposure in positive ways as well as providing additional services to their students that are unique and build community.
4. Raw food is a relatively trendy concept today, so there are probably lots of raw food ideas you could easily implement at college. I’m working with a friend to create a raw food recipe series on my blog ( which should be up in the next few weeks.
5. Join or start a “Good Food Club” to pool your resources together with other students. There’s safety in numbers, and it will be helpful to know you’re not alone!
Hope those help.


Coffee makers are normally permitted , my son would use that to make hot water for soups and the ungodly packed noodles that he learned to doctor up .. Getting inventive looking in the instant rice and other sections helps .. Crockpots helped him alot also He was the king of WONDERFUL smells when he would buy a small roast and pop in some veggies


You’ll be in New York!! Eat at a chuck wagon at midnight! Nothing like it.
For real, though, I know where you’re coming from. I went to college in a tiny town in Florida and had to get take out from checkers at 2am when I got off work because it was the only thing open. I also didn’t really know how to cook, there was one communal kitchen for my entire floor (about 100 people), and I worked 30 hours/week plus school. Don’t flip out if you have to eat out a lot, there’s great food in NY. The greatest! And on the cheap, brother! And it’s college, you can catch up with your home-cooked heaven later. You’ll need all the time you have to meet new people, get activist about stuff, and get all your work done in there somewhere.
But that rice cooker person up at the top of the list had some great ideas. You can really make dumplings in those? I’ll have to try it.


Oh boy! I feel your pain! I’m going to start my senior year this fall, and I lived in the dorms my first two years.
First off, I’ll second what everyone has said. You’re probably going to need a microwave and refrigerator at least, and I know several friends who did a lot with their rice cookers. If you can get some sort of toaster oven, even better. Technically, probably only the microwave and refrigerator will be allowed, but most RA’s don’t care as long as you don’t burn the building down. Check your dorm’s rules about what’s allowed, and if you have any private spaces- for us, our closets were off-limits to searches except by police, so my friends hid things in there.
Also, the dorm food probably won’t be too terrible. The salad bar is a great thing, and I think most schools have at least one vegetarian option at every meal (I go to a big school in the middle of nowhere, and I know my vegetarian friends haven’t had too much trouble). It shouldn’t be too hard to sneak food out of the cafeterias, either. I once watched a guy walk out with an entire cheesecake in his hands. With as much as they generally charge for meals at our dorm, it’s just about the only way to get your money’s worth. Our cafeterias also have panini stations and a couple of other nice ways to make your own meals, like toasters and microwaves.
Finally, I’d check if your dorm has a kitchen for students to use. My friend’s school had one on each floor, mine had one in the basement- which was kind of a pain in the @$$ when I lived on the 12th floor and there was one kitchen for 600 students, but since it was so out-of-the-way most people didn’t even know it existed! Good luck with school, and you’ll be fine!

Jen T.

Don’t worry about it. You live in America – – one of the most food abundant countries in the world. You will find a way. Seriously, with all respect, there are people truly starving all over the world, and yet here we are…….blogging about dorm life as though it were a real crisis…..


i know that dorm life cooking can be quite limited and apartments can be wretchedly expensive as is buying food etc. i don’t know about other states other than california, but i would highly recommend looking into student housing cooperatives. often fully stocked industrial kitchens with food always in the pantry. cheap housing and fantastic people to live with. my co-op at Berkeley was one of nine (i think) and some of the best times of my life!! good luck!!


I understand from my niece, who graduated about two years ago, that a Panini press is essential. Her favorite to cook was a peanut butter sandwich. And I suspect you could dress it up with bananas and honey or other choices such as peanut butter and nutella. I think brie (if you can have a mini fridge to keep some things) and apples would make a nice combo, on a press, too. Use your imagination and many filling and satisfying things could be made into a nice warm sandwich with a press.


As a recently ex-college student, here’s what I did to survive dorm food: First of all, most colleges have some kind of toaster oven and panini press in the dining hall that students could use. I rarely ate the prepared food and generally stuck with sandwich bread and whatever I could raid from the salad and grill bars. Often there would be condiments from the meal items (sour cream, salsa, grated cheese, pasta sauce, etc) that I would use for meal parts. I had access to a kitchen that was shared by the floor but I found that people don’t often use it, there is space for multiple people, and sharing food is a great way to make friends and ensure you can use the kitchen. In terms of cost, my friends and I used to “dining hall shop” to get most of our ingredients. Again, the salad bar is key here and there was usually a plain grain that we could use. Then all you need is a mini-fridge with eggs, cheese, and milk, spices and some dried/canned foods to round out a meal. It cuts down on cost and keeps you from feeling like you are wasting the money your parents are forced to spend on the meal plan.
Also, most colleges ban hot plates in dorm rooms but very few of them actually check thoroughly to see if you have one. I would say bring one if you want it, make sure you set it up safely so it won’t start a fire or damage anything nearby and then hide it when you know there will be room checks (most schools warn you that they will be checking for violations and they only check ones or twice a semester at most.)


I am lucky enough to be in a Fraternity where I can go and cook when I want/need to, but I also am fortunate enough to go to a school that has great food in my opinion (in California; fresh, great tasting healthy food, as well as the old stand-bys). But, when I didn’t want to eat the food that was offered, or didn’t have access to a house with a kitchen, I would use the kitchen on the eleventh floor of my dorm. Ask around and use what resources you have. I didn’t know until the third quarter of last year that the front desk of the building rents out pots and pans and whatever other kitchen utensils one could need, for free. Also, I didn’t always have to go to the grocery store except for maybe the main protein of what I was making, because we fortunately had a decent salad bar and where I would pick up olive oil and vegetables to cook up. Its all about using what you have, whether that be a lot or very little.


When I was in college, my mother found a fantastic little book called “The Starving Students Cookbook”. I still have it today, and has actually carried me through the first few low income years of my marriage as well as a few of my husband’s fellow co-workers on tight budgets. It’s a small yellow book the size of an old Garfield comic book (anyone remember those?) and has a lot of great ideas for those kitchens(?) that looked and felt more like your office breakroom.


What would Mc Gyver do?
Hey!!! try an Electric Wok a rice cooker and a kettle… (electrics)
and try next: chinezation of Mediterranean Cook or Mediterraneation of chinese cook… I doing all the time is awesome
You just need those three… and imagination… the most powerful ingridients when you are cooking… 😉
Good Luck


No one seems to have mentioned it yet, but a hot pot is your best friend in college! They are allowed in most dorm rooms, and along with microwaves and rice cookers, are a great help. They run about $10-15, and can be used to boil just about anything, so you’re at least set for soups, eggs, pasta, rice, pilaf, oatmeal, quinoa, potatoes, corn, edamame, ravioli, potstickers, and quite a few other things (potentially even meat, with some pilaf and soup recipes). They’re also small enough that you end up cooking for only 1 or 2 anyway, and don’t end up with 10-person servings. Potentially, if you heat some oil in the hot pot, you might be able to brown your meat a bit, and then add cumin, onions, garlic, carrots and rice for a nice central asian style pilaf.
Good luck, and have a great time in college!
One thing I remember pretty clearly from college is that those who can produce a good meal on command tend to be pretty popular with their dormmates, classmates, and study groups, so enjoy it!


One pot meals are your best friend! I used to backpack my dinner, skillet, utensils and all, from my dorm room to the shared kitchen. Learned real fast to make balanced meals in that skillet. And I didn’t give a crap if the kitchen was clean… my cutting board and my knife were spotless, and the pan came and went that way too!

Jeffrey Blaisdell

there are several book by the carle sisters, one being entitle college cooking. they are super simple with many vegetarian options. and you can get them used on amazon at great prices.
good luck!


Just another wave of advice in a sea of comments…when I was in college, I tried making the dining hall experience as much as a fun culinary challenge as possible.
The salad bar was always a good place to start (the bright side: all the chopping, peeling, mincing is done for you). One of my favorite “inventions” was an apple crisp I made in the dining hall. I cut an apple from the fruit bins into a bowl, added cinnamon from the spice racks and cooked in the microwave. A sprinkling of granola or oats from the cereal bar and then a scoop or two of ice cream from the ice cream freezer and voila.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of making requests and suggestions to the dining hall director/manager. Granted, I went to a small private school, but our dining hall was good about offering items that students requested.


Air popcorn popper! It’s as safe as a hair dryer.


Most of the appliances listed are not allowed in dorms, and students risk significant fines or worse for being caught using them. However, with a little creativity, some very satisfying meals can be made with a few basic and “legal” appliances. A flat iron used to iron clothes is very helpful for grilled cheese and heating other foods wrapped in foil. An automatic drip coffee maker can be used to heat/simmer foods, and cook oatmeal and rice noodles. An electric hotpot is great for foods that you need to cook at a higher temperature for longer periods – like wheat pasta. In order to be “legal” though, it needs to have an auto shutoff. But they tend to hold heat well. Most all dorms allow microwaves and refrigerators. I actually kept two small box refrigerators in my room – one used to refrigerate, and the other kept at maximum temperature to keep frozen food. I got a job doing housekeeping for one of the college staff, and in return for a reduced rate for my work, I was able to use the kitchen once a week to prepare meals that I then froze in individual containers.


I’d say get 1 electric stove and a good pot. Hostels/dorms dont allow much so pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, maybe a cuppa or some hot chocolate at midnite – all can be easily tackled with this.
BTW people, I’d really like it if you could visit and/or comment on my blog. I’d really appreciate it.
BTW, i am the newest fan of to this very famous blog!


Break up a brick or two of ramen noodles and cook in enough water to soften ( a microwave or hot pad works just fine here). Add 1/2 of one packet of the seasoning (or add your own spices) and mix well. Throw in your favorite veggies and precooked meat if desired.


I WISH I thought of this before I went off to school! First, when I was in school is when I went veg (sadly, I’m not anymore…and slowly coming back to it). Whatever town they’re going to they should seek out the co-op’s and natural food stores…or check a few places on line (do you recommend any?). I’ve thought of trying the Mail Order Catalog (the Farm Summertown, TN)…but have yet to do it. My locale, is a college town and our natural food store is OK but not that great, so you have to TRAVEL to go and get the really good stuff…and fortunately, it’s still farmer’s market time.
What I wish I did, was get a cheap food processor, and learn a few spreads! I think I’m going to work on that myself. I have a four year old and would very much like to get her off of the deli meat and start creating some natural food spreads. If only I can get her hooked on hummus etc. It seems simple enough to me. With a food processor, you can whip it up in your room if you have to, and clean up isn’t too bad. Add to that, a few favorite canned chick peas, or fresh herbs, and veggies…I imagine, you Heidi of all people have some great spread ideas for them? And me too!?
Beyond that, what I found fun, was grab a few friends and we’d do a weekly “fest”…usually Mexi-fest. And honestly, it was a potluck (invariably a pot of boxed mac-n-cheese was on the table from someone). Whatever anyone could bring they did and we took over the kitchen. If he/she can find some like-minded friends (maybe they have a Peta group on campus?) they could do a Veggie night or Natural Foods Night…and with the leftovers they can feed each other for a week!


I know that my dorms only allowed kettles and bar fridges of no more than 2 cu. feet, no hot plates or the like, mostly because of the risk of overloading the circuts. I usually resorted to dinner in the caf, but i bought stuff for sandwiches and salads and stored them in my fridge, so i had the option of good food. On the other hand, my caf did okay most days food wise, so it was more a matter of paying attention to what i was eating than bad food.
If you have a knife, cutting board and mircowave safe bowl, you could do a great deal of cooking in the microwave, there are dozens of web recipes and cookbooks dedicated to microwave cuisine!


After dinner you try some ice cream with hot gulab-jamun.


If you get to the bottom and read this…
Having been a cook, a vegetarian, and a resident assistant, I feel I can offer some advice with authority 🙂 (Also living on the East coast…)
Get a blender, make fruit shakes, smoothies, and dips, like hummus, guac, many light simple recipes are even found on Heidi’s site. Also, you can make many appealing soups in one pot (usually making them creamy with the blender) as well.
A mini fridge is also a must- you can keep mana bread and eggs (also usually a quick easy one pot meal) and other sandwich fixin’s there.
If you are forced to eat on campus my biggest tip is TOAST your Sandwich bread and make a spread of hot sauce (and garlic if available) with your Mayo. Almost anything tastes amazing with this combination!
Good Luck!


Tough spot. When I went to school in Colorado (I grew up vegetarian and was not about to change) I actually went to pretty extreme lengths to be “exempt” from the dorm program. Its not an option at CU to choose to purchase the dorm food, you automatically are charged (and its not cheap, nearly $9 per meal when the food was fast food grade). The food at CU was beyond unappealing, it was simply unhealthy. I got a note from my doctor explaining that I have food allergies and needed to be permitted to provide my own meals due to health reasons. I am not sure if you have the same predicament but there are ways out of it if you do!
You can be pretty creative so long as you have a hot plate or something that boils water. I made my way with a lot of broth based soups, quinoa dishes (mix cranberries, feta, scallions and almonds is one good one) and raw dishes like humus, vegis, bean salads made with canned beans, and vegi’s. Also if there is a whole foods or nice market around you can buy pre-cut fruits and vegetables and avoid making a mess back at your dorm. That helped alot.


Tasty Snack – Noodle Cakes
you will need a electric jaffle sandwich maker..
boil up some 2 minute noodles.. chop up some onion bacon cheese some peas whatever you want to put in it. tomatoe maybe.. some herbs for flavour.. mix in 1 beatern egg …when cooked.. drain and pour into the hot jaffle iron. then cook this till golden brown .. and thats how yu make nooodle cakes. i know the guys in australian prisons make this.. so the food would be equal to dorm food.. all handy for ppl on the go.. lol …
cheers all


Since there are already a ton of good ideas here for dorm food, I’ll just make one relevant point for those of you headed to school in the next couple of years.
With all the current conversation and action surrounding the sustainable food movement, it’s an excellent time to push for more healthy/seasonal/organic food in college dining halls. The Yale Sustainable Food Project is an incredibly inspiring example of the change that can happen with the support of the student body. And yes, at Yale they did have Alice Waters in on the deal, but now that they have paved the way with a successful project, other colleges and universities may want to follow suit. Don’t underestimate administrators’ desire to be on the cutting edge of the higher education community!
Details can be found on the YSFP website:


The most vital thing I can recommend is a rice cooker! You can make all sorts of things in it — rice (obviously ;D), steamed veggies, quinoa, one-pot type dishes (look up rice cooker curry), you can make different types of rice dishes (throw your rice in with some water, tomato paste, corn and spices and you’ve got spanish rice). It’s easy and small enough that you might be able to get away with storing it in a dorm room itself.


It’s NYC! You won’t go hungry!
Pizza is good and cheap, and don’t underestimate a good street cart – theyr’e not all dirty water dogs. And things are open late in NY. Have fun – as a former New Yorker living in exile in the Boston area, trust me: NY is great!


Rice cooker. The possibilities are endless for this little gem. You can boil, saute, sear, reheat, etc in it. It’s just a matter of regulating the temp using the warm/cook switch. We recently did a kitchen renovation where we were without a kitchen for several months and I used the rice cooker to prepare almost every meal. Between the rice cooker and microwave you are sure to be able to cook almost all of CB101 recipes – aside from any that require baking. Good luck and study study!!!


A lot of good ideas … so I won’t repeat them … but my best piece of advise is to find yourself a nice OFF-CAMPUS friend (upper-year in an apartment or local) whos kitchen you can use … you can even share some groceries and offer some of your tasty food in return … and don’t forget plenty of containers so you can bring leftovers back and nuke them when your not there.
Good luck!


I would highly recommend a convection toaster oven with oven temperature/bake settings (I have an inexpensive Oster brand I just love). Though I am not in a dorm, I use the toaster oven in place of the standard oven to save energy and keep my house from heating up on hot days. It fits a whole pie and at least a half dozen cookies at a time! Perfect for those smaller homemade dishes (a few extra bucks will buy you an entire toaster oven size baking set also). I’d also recommend a counter top grill (Foreman like). They are very handy also, and easy to clean!

Nicole Lewon

Didn’t have time to read all the posts, but I wanted to chime in that not all campus food is that bad. At my college there were about five different cafeterias to choose from during basic meal times and three of those served very healthy and vegetarian options. I believe a lot of college campuses are providing a more well rounded meal plan to suit students maturing palates.
One of the group houses on campus even had a weekly vegetarian/vegan night free for anyone who wanted to come over. I got to try a lot of great new things there.
My staples at school weren’t always the healthiest, but I could never go wrong with a baked potato. There was a small convenience store on campus where you could use your meal plan where I stocked up on potatoes, cheese and sour cream. Also bought plenty of bags of baby carrots and pretzels (great with dijon mustard!) for snacking.
Also, although I ate a lot of pizza at school I can’t recall eating fast food on a regular basis. I was too poor for that!


My dorm only had a microwave and a refrigerator. My saving grace was silicon steamer that you could throw in the microwave, similar to parchment pouches. My normal recipe was some protein (fish, chicken, tofu, beans), some liquid, a ton of veggies, throw in the microwave for 5-7 minutes. Plus you could but the lid back on the steamer and store it in the fridge for leftovers.
It literally save me from a painful death since don’t eat gluten.


I’m a college student and I love cooking, so I’ve been there. I ate in the cafeteria for two years but managed to move off campus after that. My suggestions:
1) A rice cooker, like others have mentioned. Fresh rice makes canned or microwaved food taste more like real food.
2) I used to live on canned or vacuum-sealed Indian food. You can just heat the stuff up in the microwave, make a pot of rice, and serve it with plain yogurt. If I made rice, one can was enough for two meals.
3) Eat breakfast in your dorm room instead of the cafeteria to save time. Get oatmeal, granola bars, cereal, bread, etc.
4) Use the dorm kitchen if there is one, but be weary of keeping things there. If there are cupboards to use, get a padlock for yours. I used to have a problem with people stealing my veggies out of the fridge, so keep everything in a mini-fridge in your room if you can.
5) If you have infrequent kitchen access and a lot of homework, make a big pot of soup, stew, curry, or anything else reheatable. It will last you the week. I really liked making lentil soup.
6) Your fellow students will envy your tasty food! Use this to your advantage. I’m sure your friends would be happy to give you a ride or buy you booze or fix your computer in exchange for a nice meal.
7) In the cafeteria: take advantage of the salad bar. It might be your only access to fresh produce. I used to grab a bowl, fill it with broccoli pieces and spinach from the salad bar, put a little water, butter, and dried herbs in, and microwave it. Use these veggies to supplement the nutritionless slop they serve you. Be creative with what the salad bar has to offer. You could make “hummus” with the chickpeas and olive oil there (plus a fork and a strong arm), a waldorf salad, or any sort of “microwave stir-fry.”
8) Find out your school’s policy on labeling food, offering vegetarian options, accomodating dietary restrictions, using sustainably-sourced food (some schools do), cooking with trans fats (some do, some don’t), etc. If you’re not sure, ask or assume the worst about ingredients (for example, if you’re trying not to eat corn syrup, be wary of everything.)
9) More easy favorites: bean burritos, quinoa or rice salad (serve cold, add chopped peppers, green onion, beans, and dressing), pasta, ramen (ditch the seasoning packet and make your own with soy sauce and veggies), oatmeal, breakfast bagels (egg, cheese, bagel), stir fry, chili…


There are so many ideas, but they take some creative ideas to accomplish and it is not just food-like substances suchas tofu.
Creative Idea # 1
Grilled cheese is easy to make in the dorm room without a hotplate, microwave or grill. Build the sandwich as you normally would and set it underneath an iron (preferably clean) and it will toast the bread and mely the cheese just the same as a frying pan on a stove.
Creative Idea # 2
Everyone loves a hotdog and you can have them in your dorm room relatively easy. Buy any type hotdog that you like and stick it in a curling iron (please clean). Have to be careful though, curling irons get hot quick, so turn frequently.
Creative Idea # 3
Ramen noodles were a main staple of mine in college (the early years). Make use of the group microwave as little as possible. Ramen noodles are easy and if you can go to Wal-mart near you, shrimp pre-cooked can be found in the seafood dept. This helps with the boring noodles. You can dress it up with some spices of your choice. Old Bay is relatively cheap and make the shrimp taste more like southern cooking
Creative idea # 4
This one is more risky to get caught with in the dorm. You can make a homemade grill which can pose as a candle. Take a large can and clean it out. Let it dry! Get some cardboard and wax (baking goods aisle) and melt it in the microwave. Take the cardboard and lay it flat pour the wax over the cardboard and roll the cardboard up tightly and stick it in the can. Take the remaining wax and drench the top of the cardboard. Let it stand. Get some chicken wire from a harware store and set it on top of the can. Light the can and you now have a homemade grill. Best to use outside because the can gets hot. I have cooked many meals on the homemade grill.
Good Luck!

Big Phil

This past year at college I was living without a meal plan and only with access to a communal kitchen 2 floors below my dorm room and across an outdoor courtyard–sounds pretty bad, but I was actually able to eat really well during that time, with the help of some nearby grocery stores and Heidi’s recipes (believe it or not, many of the dishes on this site are quite simple, quick and don’t require too many ingredients, or can be modified to involve fewer ingredients while maintaining their taste).
I went grocery shopping once a week because I am a busy gal at school. I cooked one or two main dishes to last me the entire week, refrigerated them in my dorm room mini fridge and reheated my nightly portions in the microwave. It is definitely difficult to shop/cook for one person given the size of food packaging these days, but, by cooking everything while it is fresh, you are able to preserve it for much longer. Also, I was able to save a lot of time by making Sunday my shopping and cooking for the week day. The only compromise you have to be willing to make with this system is leaving behind a bit of food variety each week. But having yummy, pre-prepared, home-cooked dishes (which do change weekly) makes this an easy pill to swallow.
Breakfast is probably the easiest meal of the day (and my favorite since I love fruit, dairy, and all manner of baked goods). Each morning, I would chop up a banana to eat with my cereal (which I like to mix up a lot), mmm.
For lunch, I generally made myself my go-to salad of mixed greens, tomato, carrots, walnuts, kidney beans and balsamic vinegar (all prepared in my dorm room with a cutting board placed on top of the mini fridge), along with an apple and usually a cookie or two OR my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE granola bar–the walnut and date Kind Bar (so hard to come by, but totally worth the search!).
And don’t forget dessert (I never do). I would keep my mini fridge freezer (an important feature to have if you want to utilize the convenience of frozen vegetables, which allow you to portion out servings for one person without the fear of food going bad and are also easily prepared in the microwave) stocked with frozen yogurt, sometimes mixing it with some fresh berries and, during the winter, to warm me up, I would often finish off the meal with a small bowl of natural (no added sugar) apple sauce, sprinkled with cinnamon, and heated for 35 seconds in the microwave, mmm, just like apple pie!
Anyway, I hope someone finds these ideas useful. Happy cooking fellow collegians!


I recently finished grad school, and it was my first time living in a dorm. Grad student dorms are a little roomier than undergrad dorms, but the rules regarding what appliances you could have were pretty much the same. Mini fridges, microwaves (only those supplied by the college-for a fee, of course-were allowed, coffee makers and hot pots/electric kettles with automatic shut-offs things like that. It was tough, especially during winter and spring breaks when the dining hall was closed. I lived on the 2nd floor and the only kitchen was in the basement which tended to flood during stormy weather.
My best discovery was that I could cook pasta in my electric kettle. I got a little $14 hotpot from the local CVS. I bought regular, dry pasta like Ronzoni or Bertoli, etc. I also kept parmesan and butter in my mini-fridge and had a small number of spices in my food bin including garlic powder, salt and pepper, and cinnamon. You can do up a really nice garlic parmesan pasta in your dorm room. Cook a portion of pasta in your hot pot. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pasta to a bowl; dump the pasta water in the bathroom sink or let it cool and water a plant with it later. To the hot pasta add a little butter or olive oil, a sprinkle of garlic powder and black pepper, and some shredded parmesan (you can buy is pre-shredded at the grocery). I love this, and it makes a hot and satisfying meal. You can also add vegetables as well. I liked peas, so I would add a small handful of frozen peas to the pot of pasta when it was cooked. The hot water quickly thaws and heats the peas. Then just scoop out the pasta and peas together and go from there.


Take out.


Well, in my book, Healthy, Fast and Cheap, The Ultimate College Cookbook, I suggest:
1. Frozen vegetables – easy, nutritious and accessible
2. Beans and rice. A rice cooker is so simple. Even canned beans are still pretty cheap and very easy.
3. Smoothies. A blender is all you need!
Dig it.


oh yeah, can’t forget about canned veggies and a microwave! magic can happen.


a minifridge is essential for storing breakfast and snack foods such as yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit, veggies and salad fixins.
a crockpot is essential for soups, stews and hearty dishes that provide comfort without all the calories of cafeteria food.


I’m assuming you have basic access to a dorm kitchen (stove, fridge, a few pans/pots, some utensils).
When I lived in the dorms, we all had to be on the food plan. I would hit the (pretty decent, actually) salad bar with a tupperware and bring home the raw ingredients for a very respectable stir fry (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, baby corn, tofu, etc.). Keep a big bag of basmati rice, a head of garlic, and some sriracha around and you won’t be that miserable.
Other good bets:
– “Fancy ramen”: Cook the ramen, and drain the water out. Add most of the seasoning packet (to taste but without the broth it may be too salty), then throw back in the pan with a lightly scrambled egg, sliced green onions, and frozen peas. Far tastier than you might expect!
– Quesadillas – I like flour tortillas with decent cheddar, refried beans, and sliced onions. Spray outside with cooking oil or add some butter if you like them crispy.
– Get a decent rice cooker and you’ll be able to make an amazing array of food for all meals. Oatmeal, polenta, rice (duh), rice pudding, bulghur wheat, pilafs…get “The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook” (or see if your library has it or can order it) and you’re set. Cook’s Illustrated recommends the “Sanyo Electric Rice Cooker & Steamer, Model ECJ-N55W, 5 1/2 cups” and it’s only about $60.

Jessica Roberts

I am a current college student and although I do not live the dorms (intentionally avoided them due to my love of the kitchen and garden–seriously cannot live w/out them) I look for creative lunch solutions to take to school with me.
My fav 101CB recipe that I change up for a quick on the go lunch is Heidi’s Ten Min Cous Cous soup. Perfect ingredients to throw in a thermos. Its easy to find somewhere hot water to fill it up and you’re set! AND, I’ve put dozens of interesting flavor spins on the soup.


interesting post! thank you!


I live in the dorms, and we’re allowed a bit of time in a collective kitchen if you sign up for it, a microwave, refridgerator, and blender. So what I do, personally, is dont cook. I’m a raw foodist to begin with so its easy. For the mornings I make smoothies out of yogurt and frozen fruit. Just a quick blend, my blender doubles as a cup and I’m off. Lunch is easily made delicious with simple ingredients like avocado, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, cream cheese, tomatoes on sub bread. Yunmy! For dinner, I like to something simple. Make a large amount of your favorite pesto in the collective kictchen, freeze it in an ice cub tray. Pop a few cubes out and mix with a microwaveable pasta. Sprinkle lightly with some parmesean or goat cheese. Maybe toss in a few veggies! I eat a lot in the cafeteria too, but I attend one of the most vegetarian friendly schools in the country so its easy. 🙂 Another great meal is just chopping veggies and letting them sit in a light italian dressing, sometimes with noodles. It doesn’t take any cooking and it tastes light and delicious! So my fridge is usally stocked with some pesto in the freezer, frozen fruit, some frozen veggies (peas, corn), Raw veggies (lettuce, tomatoe, cucumber, avocado, some lime), cream cheese, goat cheese, yogurt, italian dressing, olive oil. I also like to oven bake cherry tomatoes one a week in the kitchen and keep them in a jar in the fridge for the week. Then some frenchbread kept either in a foodbin, or the fridge, and some pita chips. I’m a total foodie and it keeps me happy! I also recommend Amy’s Meals, they’re veggie, cook great in the microwave, and taste abso-freaking-lutely amazing.


You need to find out what is and what is not allowed inyour dorm room. Where my daughter goes the only way they could have an in-room microwave is if they ordered a combo microwave/frig/freezer offered by an approved company. They can have a dorm sized frig and/or freezer. Nothing else…and I mean nothing else for cooking is allowed in their rooms. They have a kitchenette on each floor so my daughter is in the same boat as this young person. She did manage to survive on the prepackaged nonrefrigerated meals that are now all the rage.


Rice cooker is great. If getting a toaster oven, make sure you have something underneath it as the heat can leave a burn mark on wood. A cheap 12×12″ tile or two works great and doesn’t cost much. I got one for $1.98 at Home Depot.


I only had time to read about 1/8 of the comments so sorry if someone already mentioned this, but in NY, October-March your window sill can double as a refrigerator. Just make sure whatever you put there is secured against wind, pigeons, and RA inspections.


Though I am years beyond college, i recently purchased a cookbook entitled “College Vegetarian Cooking” by Megan and Jill Carle. I recommend it to all.


hello everybody. me and my nine of my friends are living in a dorm in iran.every weekend we have make new food and we enjoy it. i recommend to every dorm living students that make your food and dont eat foods like sandwitch that have a lot of fat in it and in future can harm your health.

Amir Rezaei

A quick search in amazon in the books section, using words “college cooking” gave me numerous hits that all look pretty intriguing and many stress healthy.
To save some money, go to your college library and see if they might have them (or local public library.) IF they don’t, see if they have free interlibrary loan and can order them from another library for you.


We could only have a refrigerator and there was a microwave in the common area… a little known fact was there was a full kitchen in the basement of one of the dorms, you just had to sign it out to use it! Ask your RA if there is such a hidden gem on your campus you may be surprised 🙂


A very important piece of advice I can give to any new incoming college student is to know your rights and the rules. At UC Santa Cruz, we were allowed to tell the kitchen managment what we were allergic to and what our diets contained so that they would have to cater to that and to our wishes. And if you prefer to cook within your dorm, just remember that you will smell-up your room, so be prepared. Try to utilize the cook-ware in the dining hall, like toasters, microwaves, panini presses, or within the dorm-room kitchen, or lounge microwave. Or create a cook-book for yourself with microwave meals that you can either contain in a mini-frige (allowed in most dorms) or pick up in a to-go container from the dorm–you’re paying for the food anyway, grab your basics like lettuce, onion, etc, and store them in containers in your frige for later use. And try to be creative with dining hall foods, like make a basic salad, and then chop the meat they are serving, like baked chicken, chicken nuggets, and place on top of the salad.
Hope this helped!


Hi. When i went to college in PA at Ursinus (what a name) we were able to use our own crockpot. I made amazing Indian meals in it. I’m actually working on getting recipes together for a book and plan to convert everything to the mini crockpot. I really enjoy this site so I’m not engaging in any shameful advertising (I’m a reporter after all!) but seriously take a look at my site when you have a chance. I was eating saag and dals all throughout college and graduate school days. it’s easy and it’s cheap.
oh, and heidi. i’m putting your blog on my site as soon as I can figure out how. I really like it a lot. -Anupy

Anupy Singla

I last lived in a dorm in 1966, before any of you were even born. Back then lots of us used electric popcorn poppers to heat up soup and other things. I would highly recommend a slow cooker and a good slow cooker cookbook. You can make chili, stews, soups, all kinds of good stuff in a slow cooker. You can buy stew meat and vegetables in most supermarkets already cut up. Keep some dried herbs and spices on hand and a couple of cans of broth, beans and tomatoes. You can throw everything in the pot in the morning, go off to your classes and come back to find a delicious meal waiting for you. Good luck!


Two words: pressure cooker. If no stove or heating element or hot plate exists, then an electric pressure cooker. Things rarely burn, smells are secured in the device mostly, and many cookbooks are available to help novice cooks make quick and tasty food to be eaten throughout a school week. I remember my first pressure cooker (bought at a yard sale) that included two pots that would both fit the pressure lid. To this day I miss that first device and the pressure “fry pan” that allowed me to heat things quickly without a microwave. Methinks I would have never gained that “freshman fifteen” if only I had known then what I know now.


I am in the military and live in the barracks, so dorm life is something that is not new to me. I think the best thing you can do is get a toaster oven and or crock pot (if possible). If not, then a microwave will work. I mix plain yogurt, some kind of fruit and granola for breakfast of a snack. Deli cuts from your local deli is always a good route to go too. I can’t give you any good ideas for dinner, as I am still stuck on the frozen meal and ramen kick…lol. Good luck, let me know if you get any good ideas.

Lucas O'Dea

Toaster oven and electric wok were my mos impportant things
In the toaster oven you can make quesadilla style burritos beans vegies and cheese toasted
You can also do somethiing similar with pita hummus and cheese (muenster) with a little avocado and tomato
Pita pizzas too there are a milloin variations of open face sandwiches and toasted quesadillas that can be done
With the wok you can do a wilted spinach salad with chicken sauted with red onion red pepper mushroom and almond seasoned with cinamon and balsalmic. Pur that over some spinach and feta and it makes a good lunch the next day…soo good


When I was in undergrad a few years ago I had a cafeteria that was set up like an all-you-can-eat buffet with a salad bar. If you have one at your school, I suggest buying some rice, nori, tamari, and wasabi (powdered), storing those in your room, and buying a rice cooker. I would take containers to the dining hall and stock up on the veggies at the salad bar, then bring them back to my room to make sushi escondido. The supplies and clean up are minimal. If you can sneak in a slow cooker, do the same with soups and stews (which is great if you’re short on time). Good luck!


they sell organic whole wheat ramen (and soba noodles) at health food stores. it’s not soooooo bad for you…. throw some frozen veg in there, maybe some tofu, but my favorite is to mix in a TB or 2 of peanut butter to up the protein! i have an apt and i STILL eat this when i’m lazy & broke!!


I’m in a PhD program now, so I’ve been a student for nearly forever. Here’s a good one in a pinch: Try just chopping up zucchini in a bowl or tupperware, add a little olive oil, some grated hard cheese (it keeps well in a tiny dorm fridge) and some dried seasoning mix (I use an italian style blend). Microwave for ~3min, and check the texture. It’s quick, and really tasty. Of course, it can be easily adapted depending on seasonings and vegetables.


The great thing about college cafeterias (for creative people, at least) is that they’re designed to appeal to the pickiest people so you have the option of getting very plain food. This means you can take it back to the dorm and add your own touches to jazz it up!
For example, use your meal plan to get a roasted chicken breast. Take it to go, bring it back to the dorm and shred it to make your own curried chicken salad.
Or you can get a bunch of fresh veggies from the salad bar and use a hot plate to make your own stir fry.
Get some sauteed shrimp from the cafeteria. Make “gourmet ramen” by tossing the dehydrated veggies, adding a touch of hoisin, fish sauce, sriracha, sliced scallions, and your shrimp. And if you thought ahead and got a side of plain white rice the day before, you can make some fried rice to go accompany your ramen!
Get a plain baked potato, bring it back to the dorm and microwave to reheat, then add your own toppings.
It helps to think of the cafeteria as more of a grocery store, not necessarily a restaurant! Then you’ll have more options. Good Luck!


I broke the rules and took a microwave to college to supplement my mini-fridge. That being said, I lived off of a Foreman mini-grill and a rice cooker in college, both of which could be easily transported to common room/kitchenette outlet without burning myself. These, a robust selection of spices and sauces, provided a LOT of options as a vegetarian.


Rice cooker is a great tool, as discussed above. One additional use for a rice cooker I don’t see mentioned yet is to cook pasta. At my desk at work, I make all different types of pasta, but my favorite is plain soba noodles with a bottle of good soba dipping sauce from the asian section of the big box store. Delicious and cheap to boot

Scott Olson

There are some really good propane burners on the market, and if you are allowed them in your dorm room, your family can using a foodsaver, freeze meals for you and mail them. Then using a sou vida cooking method (boiling or simmering in water) bring them to temp and voila you have a home cooked meal.
For parents doing this for their college students, you just make an extra helping of whatever your having for dinner and use the food saver and freeze.
A friend and I came up with this idea for her daughter that is going to be living in a dorm this year.


I recommend enjoying crappy food for four years (with breaks for great food when you’re away from school) and drinking the good beer.
Not really, of course.
If your college has an organic garden, volunteer to help maintain it. You’ll probably get goodies.
Trick that worked for me at a small liberal arts school: Schedule yourself to be in class through lunch. The dining hall (or dorm kitchen) likely has a brown-bag option for those students. Ours were much better than dining hall food. Fresh sandwiches, apples, bananas, or oranges, fresh cookies. There was always a vegetarian option, too. Good luck!


You can make quesadillas with an iron. Just put the tortillas between two sheets of aluminum foil. Put a dish towel over it, and iron your way to deliciousness…


Although not a college student any longer I still travel a lot and am on a strict body building diet. I have found that with planning and a microwave you can make some great meals.
The key is the steamer bag available in most grocery stores in the plastic baggie aisle.
They are cheap and reusable too.
I make chicken and fish with herbs and seasonings right in the bag – no oils necessary.
Sweet potatoes and veggies come out great.


Pick up a crock pot when shopping – you can cook up a vat of soups/stews pretty easily & share with dormmates.


Frozen meals can be a good alternative to a healthy dinner if you have access to a freezer or can pick one up just before dinner time. Organic Bistro Frozen Meals are a bit on the expensive side, but they are organic, low in sodium and SO healthy. Taste great too! At we like Organic Bistro, and we’d love for you to try them too. Click here for a free giveaway:


Peanut sauce! Basic ingredients are all more or less shelf stable and a couple minutes in a microwave or hot pot (rice cooker) and you’re good to go: rice, noodles, veggies, tofu, tuna… all can be aquired in small amounts through the dining hall or shelf stable packaging.
Also, muesli. Fruit, rolled grains, nuts, dried fruit, yogurt or milk, and you have a good meal.
Things on top of baked potatoes are very good, and easily microwavable. (cheese, broccoli, spinach… peanut sauce… beans… salsa…etc). Again, you can stock up at the salad bar and then microwave to steam the vegs. and cook a potato (that you aquired yourself).
Infinite variations on sandwiches, dips, etc. Hummus, baba ganouj, bean dips, pesto, etc can be made coarsely by hand (or bought) and wrapped in wraps or pitas easily. Splurge and go to Fairway or Zabar’s for the occasional smoked fish…

Barnard Grad

Being a very recent college graduate, I am finding a lot of the above comments very insightful, but not as practical as they may seem. I was only allowed a microwave and a mini fridge- getting caught with any other appliance meant immediate dismissal from dorms- totally not worth it for a panini! Being broke definitely also came into play… My best advice is to get over the stigma of “cooking” in a microwave and also learn to looooove canned goods (esp beans, soup, and tuna!!). Some of my staples were: Easy mac cups, instant brown rice bowls (add Rotel for spanish rice, veggies and soy sauce, beans onion and lime juice, etc), boullion and noodles (or Ramen with your own seasoning to limit sodium), instant oatmeal cups (with dried fruit, honey, cinnamon), turkey hot dogs (microwave surprisingly well)… whole wheat pitas (to make cold sandwiches and also personal microwave pizzas), and of course whatever veggies I could fit in my half of the mini fridge for salads.
If you have a meal plan- Find out where the athletes eat!!!! More often than not it’s a smaller more hidden cafeteria but it’s most likely open to all students. There are typically better salad bars, steamed veggies, more baked instead of fried options, and lots of lean protein options!! Hope this helps- Best of luck!


I feel your pain. Believe it or not, one can cook quite a few things with an electric water kettle and one of those chincy sandwich makers. If you aren’t allowed those items, my recommendation is to use them anyway with awareness.
Sometimes at the cafeteria salad bar there are some smuggle-worthy ingredients that fit nicely into cargo pants pockets (lined with ziplock baggies!). It’s always nice to have a mini-fridge to keep what you don’t use and hold some essential sauces, eggs, fresh herbs, etc. (If you have good light, a window herb pot is nice to have, like those easy Trader Joe’s ones that combine three different kitchen herbs…not sure if you have those in NY.)
The kettle is great for asian style soups, or fresh italian pastas (both sauce and noodles!) and you can make some great omelets in the sandwich maker. The little triangle depressions on the surface make for less mess and allow for careful stirring, and you can keep ingredients separate –almost like mini shallow frying pans. Make sure to keep a little oil on hand to brush the non-stick surface –it will save you a world of hurt and the awkward cleanup encounters in the community bathroom sink. 🙂 Good luck!


The number one rule to remember in your dorm is knowing what appliances are prohibited and what ones are allowed. While it might seem arbitrary, the simple fact of the matter is many students’ lives are claimed each year by dorm room fires and electrical accidents. The rooms are just not designed to handle many kitchen tools, and certainly not several at a time. Check with your residence hall first and foremost.
I would also recommend trying to make the most out of your friends’ off-campus kitchens, if at all possible. They tend to have better access to storage and prep conditions, but that of course will depend on their lease agreement and how much they care about their own kitchens.
With any luck, more campuses will start realizing that many students are turning more towards organic options and adjust their menus accordingly. In the meantime, though, there are a lot of great ideas already posted here, so you have a plethora to choose from. Be safe on campus, especially in your dorm! Let us know how the endeavor works out!


You can make really excellent scambled eggs on a hot plate, because the slower you cook them, the creamier they are.
Eggs can also keep for a few days at room temperature.
I also second rice cookers.


When I lived in the dorms in Madison, WI, I was in a small room with my roommate on the 7th floor of one of the downtown high rise dorms. The kitchen was in the basement and, while you could rent equipment from the front desk, it was easier to simplify as much as possible. This meant making a home made meal that could last for a few days and needed few tools to put together – a large veggie pizza would last a few days in my mini fridge, granola was an every two weeks activity but I could make enough at once to eat it almost every day for breakfast with yogurt and other versatile dishes like tabbouleh were often worth the time and minimal effort. I used a crockpot for a while but really there was no space for prep and no easy method for clean up in the dorm room. Other than that I made a point of organizing potlucks/study nights at friends’ houses and would come over early and cook double of whatever dish I was making and then have leftovers at the end of the night. In the same line of thought I had friends that lived in cooperative housing in the area. Most of these co-ops have great kitchens and are very open about sharing them with friends, especially if the co-op members get to act as your taste testers!
Overall, the thing about dorm food is not only that it is necessarily low maintenance but it gets added points if it is nutrient dense and portable – life is busy as a student! so the goal for me was always to create something delicious and healthy but at the same time easy to tote around so I didn’t end up buying empty foods during the day out of desperation. It’s a challenge but to the creative food lover it’s by no means impossible!


At my school we weren’t allowed to have anything cooking appliances in our rooms, but we were allowed to have anything we wanted in the floor kitchen. Feel free to bring your panini press, crock pot, etc.; store it in your room and then bring it into the communal kitchen when you’re ready to use it.


A good way of prepping food is making easy salad meals that don’t require lots of time nor equipment. I suggest boiling pasta or grain (rice, or quinoa for ex) and mixing them with veggies and other yummy treats. You can actually make rice in a microwave. Here is a good recipe that is easy to make and is super healthy.
– cooled cooked rice
– baby spinach
– dry raisins
– cashew nuts
– soy beans
– sliced mushrooms
– low sodium soy sauce (to taste)
– olive oil
Mix all the above in a bowl and enjoy.
Simple and nutritious.
Other good mixed are tuna and rice with olives, tomatoes and greens. Or pasta with tomatoes, boconcini cheese and herbs. Sky is the limit on what u can mix. Plus all keeps well. No need for a fridge for up to 1 day. Great for picnics. 🙂

Karine Keldany

cooking in batches got me through undergrad. I would make an all in one meal like shepherd’s pie and freeze individual servings, then when i had a full day on campus, i’d heat up dinner in the common room – it was great to have something warm to eat when i was freezing outside!
hummous, ryvita, cheese all got me through grad school. as did fresh ready-to-go pastas. as well as making ‘salads’ that could be refrigerated and eaten for days (think cous-cous with lots and lots of extras!)
with some forward thinking and creativity there’s no need to eat poorly in university. plus, i always used cooking as a good break from studying…


To everyone who keeps insisting they will bring panini presses, foreman grills and all the rest- THINK AGAIN.
I guarantee you that 99% of dorms will not allow them. When I was in college the only appliances allowed in rooms were mini-fridges and microwaves. Most dorms have access to a shared kitchen in the building (if you’re lucky, you have one on your floor, but otherwise you have to trek to one of the other floors), and then you have access to a stove and/or oven and sink, but in the rooms themselves, its microwaves and mini fridges only, because all other appliances pose a fire hazard if some drunken student happens to decide to make a panini at 3 in the morning and then forgets to unplug the thing while they leave it dangling precariously over the old wooden desk in the corner of the room…..
Healthy eating at college is minimal on dorms. Once I had my own apartment off campus it was easier, but even then it was easier (and cheaper) to make mac n cheese, or my old buddy Ramen Noodles (can’t beat 3 packs for a dollar) than spend the money on healthy foods. If your’e one of those college students who have mom and dad sending you bucketloads of money, then you’re lucky, but for the rest of us we were on a tight budget. I think I went out on a few dates just so I could eat out at a restaurant because I was sick of eating ramen noodles.
Anyway, you can keep things like non perishible snacks, crackers, or baby carrots and stuff in the fridge, but don’t except to have the time or energy to be making gourmet creations when you A) are likely hungover B) have ten papers to write by tomorrow C) have been up till 4 in the morning drinking D) are cramming for an exam.
I guarantee you your healthy eating habits will go out the window in college, but it’s coool, enjoy it while you can before you hit 30 and then your metabolism goes out the bloody window. Woosh.


I wrote an article on this topic last year, and some of the ideas may be of use:
As others here have noted, if a college student can get access to a kitchen occasionally, they can prep certain foods ahead of time that can be stored in fridge/freezer and then warmed in a microwave or hotpot later.

Lainie Petersen

I don’t know if it’s already been mentioned, and I know they look so informercial-silly, but those “as seen on TV” pasta cookers where you just pour in hot water and screw on the lid and let them sit 10 minutes until the pasta is cooked look pretty nifty for a dorm room. You can heat the water in the microwave, along with some frozen veggies. Open a jar of pesto or marinara sauce, and bam – instant pasta dinner.


I would take salad ingredients in togo containers from the salad bar in the caf, and make all sorts of things: grapes, melons, and berries became fruit salads; greens, tomatoes, and grilled veggies ended up on sandwiches; tofu, snap peas, and carrots came back to the dorm and got mixed in with ramen (seriously, without the spice packet and with the addition of sesame oil and some crushed peanuts, ramen can be pretty good).


Ahh, the dorm dilemma…
Back in college (I graduated just a year ago), we were allowed a microwave and a little fridge in our rooms. I also had a tea kettle…we weren’t really allowed more than that. To this day, I’m not sure if I was even allowed the tea kettle. My poor sister’s college won’t allow a fridge and microwave if it’s not rented from the school (which is pretty expensive)! I’ve realized that it’s an attempt to conserve as much energy as possible.
My favorite dorm room meal was probably couscous with veggies. It got me through many a northeastern winter storm, when it was near impossible to get out of the building. I had a nice-sized microwaveable dish in which I would combine cut up vegetables with couscous, some salt and pepper, water to proportion, and then microwave it. Ready in minutes, and yum!
I also kept a bin of quick-cook oatmeal and jars of demerara sugar, cinnamon, and honey around. Just boil some water for the oatmeal or microwave the oatmeal with cold water with whichever combination of additions that you may like. This was generally my comfort food.
Good luck!


I remember having the same dilemmas in school! Here are a few tips I figured out along the way:
1. Pay close attention to the types of appliances you are allowed in your dorm room. I was an RA and if we found you with a toaster in your room, you WOULD be written up! Your appliances are usually limited to a mini fridge/microwave combo, coffee pot, and rice cooker. You might be allowed an electric kettle if you are lucky.
2. With those items in mind, consider using them in creative ways. You can cook a lot of different rice dishes in a rice cooker. Add veggies and meat that are diced small and add them to the rice to cook. Just remember to add less rice to the cooker so you do not overflow the cooker. Use your electric kettle to boil eggs, potatoes, and pasta, create yummy soups, and poach meats.
3. A favorite snack in college was a tomato sandwich. Take 2 slices of bread and toast them. Put a little mayo on each slice, layer some tomato (our cafeteria had sliced tomatoes for sandwiches), add some salt and pepper and presto! I used to make these and bring them back to my room for a late dinner or snack.
4. All schools’ cafeteria policies are different, but I found that most schools’ cafeterias did not enforce any rules about taking food out of the cafeteria. I used to make sandwiches and take them back to my room. I also used to take milk or juice in plastic jugs, bread and cereal in baggies, and salads and fruits in plastic containers. I took a lot of food out of the cafeteria, but my cafeteria was far away from my classes, so I didn’t have much choice. Plus, at the end of the year, even with a bunch of meals left, I always felt like I actually got my money’s worth.
Hope these help and good luck in school!


I always had a sanwich maker in college and came up with some crazy different sandwichs to heat up. I think you could probably have a panini grill in your room if that was allowed so that would allow you to grill a lot of different things as well as use it as a griddle and flat top.


I thought he was looking for some actual recipes. If so, here we go:
Buy one of those precooked rotissere chickens or small can of chicken ( look near the tuna fish ).Get some tomatoes and lettuce. Hard boiled eggs are optional as are croutons, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc. Toss with your favorite bottled dressing. Voila! Fake caesar salad.
Buy can of black beans. Add chili powder and/or cumin 1-2 tsp. Add hot sauce to taste.Warm that up and set aside.
Now put 1 pat of butter in a microwave safe custard cup ( or something small like that ). Put an egg in that and sprinkle with favorite cheese. Cover with plastic wrap ( to keep it from “exploding” the egg). Microwave about 30 sec or longer; you keep track of the egg while watching it– egg shoud be “soft-boiled” looking. Add it to the beans. Eat as is or on tortilla or rice.


I agree with the rice cooker and oven toaster. If you can have a rice cooker, you can make pasta in sauce in it:
1-2 T oil
1/2 lb short pasta
8 oz tomato/spaghetti sauce
2 cups water (hot is better)
1/2 cup evaporated milk (optional)
heat up the cooker, put in the oil and toss the UNCOOKED pasta in it. Pour in the sauce and toss some more, then add the water, and let boil. the pasta will cook in the sauce, but the cooker won’t turn off until it’s dry, so turn it off when the pasta is al dente. Pour in the milk and stir until blended, then stir in shredded or grated cheese. have immediately. As it cools, the pasta absorbs the sauce. It’s still good to eat.
I sometimes use one can of tuna in oil instead of just plain oil, and of course you may add vegetables. You can also cook chicken meat in the oil before adding the pasta.
If you want white sauce, double the recipe and replace the tomato sauce with 1 can condensed cream of mushroom or chicken. For this variation, it would be fun to use colored pasta.
For baking in an oven toaster, make just half a recipe of the cake, and cover the pan with foil. Don’t turn it on for the whole baking time. I bake for 5-7 minutes, turn the pan, and cook for 3-5 minutes more.
If you have a ref, then stock up on vegetables and fruits. Vinegar & oil with spices of your choice will make a cheap salad dressing. Also ketchup & mayo. Get grapes by the vine and freeze them for a snack instead of chips. Blend fresh fruits with some water for a healthy drink. A glass of milk, 1 egg, sugar and vanilla is a cheap protein drink called eggnog (no alcohol!!) and will make a good rush breakfast in case you stayed up too late studying(?).
Have fun! ^_^


If you ask, people at the dining hall can be accommodating within reason…when they’re NOT busy. Never ask for a special order with a line behind you, and you’ll make loads of friends with staff, but don’t hesitate to ask if the Minestrone has a veggie or a beef broth base.
As to dorms…probably toaster yes, blender yes, everything else, no. Consider bending rules, I know many people who brought and responsibly used electric skillets to great effect. However, within the rules I found rice and frozen or fresh veggies the best meal bases plus curry paste and lentils. These all microwave up with minimal ammounts of radiation as compared with beans etc. Whole grain pasta is also very doable, and if you drain and add a glug of oil, garlic powder, and some veggies for an extra minute with a bit of pasta water added back it can be very satisfying. Even just cooking ordinary ramen noodles, but draining and throwing marinara and some ricotta in gives you “baked spaghetti” in a way. Not nearly as healthy as otherwise, but better than ramen.
Don’t despair–some dorms have kitchens. My freshman year I made chili, cornbread, fruit salads, cookies, baklava…you name it. Just work with what you’ve got, talk with people, make friends who have apartments (free food is an excellent friend magnet) and check out the farmer’s market, and you’ll do fine 🙂


Really, really check in on your dorm restrictions. Some colleges fine the heck out of students for these sorts of violations, and a lot have very sensitive smoke alarms (IE, open coil or heat anything that might let of smoke or excessive steam might set them off).
That said, don’t underestimate the microwave! You can steam veggies then dress them with simple sauces (or, ahem, liberate some dressings from the dining hall). Pasta isn’t balanced, but you can make boring pasta with red sauce more protein centric with a can of tuna or some wilted spinach and olives (easy, good, and possibly also avaliable from your salad bar!). Couscous and quinoa are miracles, and you can bump up nutrition simply with nuts or dried fruits that you can add to boring salad bar spinach.
Also, if you go to a dining hall in the off hours, sometimes you can make creative use of the local resources–I knew a guy who would saute onions and mushrooms from the salad bar on the pannini grills to make a kind of simple pasta salad or veggie melt with a bit of cheese on some bread. The trick is to be inventive, and go when there aren’t ton’s of people in lines (or, people to get ticked off by the wait as you master your creations). It doesn’t hurt to get to know the dining staff, either ;).


We couldn’t have any cooking apparatus in my dorm, so I had to go without cooked food in my room.
Two words: fresh fruit
You will surprise yourself at how good (and how universally available) a fresh crisp apple is.
Also, use my “cheating salsa” recipe:
1 or 2 avocados
1 jar of your favorite store bought salsa
1 bag of chips
Mash the avo w/ a fork and add just enough salsa to color it. (Adjust the amounts to your liking and you’ll come up with the perfect ratio. )
Think about it: your favorite salsa has all of the flavors you want and you don’t have to do any prep work. If you run out of guac (and you will!) just finish off the chips and salsa…


I’m a huge fan of fresh gazpacho. Loads of chopping plus a blender, but no cooking.


🙂 Oh, dorm life! I miss everything about college EXCEPT dorm food!
To get by on a budget here are some things I did.
1. rice cooker. Not an expensive one, $30 one should be fine. It can be used for a lot more than rice. For example, visiting my sister her first year away her friends put together all their rice cookers and we made a hot pot meal for eight of us!
2. Free fruit. Most dorms offer that take one piece of fruit policy. Gather your roomie(s) and friends or wear an extra large sweatshirt. Make a fruit salad. nice nibbler for late nights.
3. My favorite place on campus was a Unitarian church. On Monday’s they served a Buddhist buffet. For a minimal fee, I sampled awesome food grown locally and organically.
4. Friend people who live in apts. As a girl who loves to cook, I offered every guy at my judo club the chance for a tasty home cooked meal, if I could use their kitchen to prepare a few meals to keep in my fridge at the dorms. In particular my friend, Andy, loved coming home from a night of drinking to a giant plate of cookies!
5. Remember, you are not the only one who finds dorm food to be a nightmare! Find people who have coffee makers, george foreman grills, mini crock pots, etc. together with planing most recipes are achievable!
Good luck!


I have only one semester of college left and just finished a four-year run living in a dorm (I’m upgrading to an apartment this semester–my own kitchen! It’s hard to imagine). One year, I bought a used Easy Bake Oven for $2 at Goodwill. It was in mint condition, and as you may know, cooks food using an ordinary light bulb. Since Easy Bake Ovens weren’t outlawed directly in the dorm rules, I decided to just go for it and kept it hidden in my closet when it wasn’t in use. It was really a novelty to have around, and I remember that for a Christmas party I went to, I baked a seven-layer cake (mind you, Easy Bake Oven cakes are about 6″ or maybe less in diameter, and you have to cook the layers one at a time) in the Easy Bake Oven. It was a big hit, and a great conversation topic…not to mention just downright adorable!
I was required to have a meal plan while living in the dorm, so I ate most of my meals in my university’s cafeteria. Because I really valued having something fresh and healthy, I’d always make really elaborate salad creations using items from the salad, sandwich, and other lines where you got to pick and choose your ingredients. We also had a taco line frequently and I’d go through it to grab some fresh pico de gallo to top my salad with. I was lucky to have many great vegetables at my disposal…cherry tomatoes, spinach and lettuce, bell peppers, onions, olives, chickpeas, black beans, and more. I’d try to make the salad the biggest thing on my plate (going easy on the dressing and leaving off things like croutons and cheese), and pair it with a side of rice, pasta, tofu, or cooked vegetables (I’m a vegetarian). I know cafeteria food can be unappealing and at times, even kind of disgusting, and I can’t speak for every cafeteria, but I think that there are ways you can find fresh and delicious food in there, it’s all a matter of how you look at it. In my cafeteria, at least, there were different stations with assemble-it-yourself ingredients, and I loved picking and choosing from those to create my own delicious combinations (I spoke of not eating much cheese but once as a special treat there was feta cheese on the salad bar, so I assembled myself a Greek salad! Be creative!) The convenience of the cafeteria was really something I enjoyed, and I have so many great memories of ending a long day with a relaxing dinner in the caf with my best friends.


at my school (and most, for that matter), there is a limit on what you can bring in because of safety codes, etc. the limit is usually based on how much electricity said contraption uses. so basically, you cannot have a crock pot or a panini maker or anything like that. for some reason, however, you are allowed to have a microwave, and mini fridge, and best of all, a hot pot.
hot pots saved my life when i was in the dorms. i used to make a bunch of you recipes right in the hot pot (except for breads and things, of course.) its just a matter of making smaller portions and learning how it heats up. mine tended to be hotter towards the middle, but maybe you can find one where the heating coils are more dispersed.
good luck!


I agree with someone above who said to invest in a rice cooker. You can cook different kinds of grains, etc. Also get a cutting board and some knives to cut produce and whatever else you may need. I would also invest in something that heats up water and some sort of blender.
You can prepare muesli the traditional way by letting it soak in yogurt overnight with some dried fruit, then in the morning add in whatever else you may want. It’s quick, easy, and delicious! It’s great brain food as well.
Other recipes you could look up are sandwich recipes. You can have your staples, and find a way to add in some flair so it’s not the same boring thing. Perhaps varying nut butters, fillings. I make different tofu and nut pates.
This is all I can think of for right now, but I’ll come back if I think of some other things.


OK…I have to admit I didn’t read every post since there are MANY…but my suggestion is a MICROWAVE rice cooker/steamer. I got one at a discount store (Ross) for $5 and it does EVERYTHING! You can cook rice, grains, pasta, steam veggies, make popcorn…it’s a miracle! I also recommend a microwave omelet pan. You crack the eggs in it, mix it up with a fork and cook it for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes and it’s done. You can add cheese, sliced veggies, etc, It doesn’t take any oil so it’s healthy and fast. Plus eggs are cheap and nutritious, perfect for a dorm budget. You are welcome to email me if you have any questions. I LOVE to cook and I HATE junk food so I have lots of quick, easy microwave ideas that I have taught my kids over the years (my son refuses to learn how to cook in the oven). Best of luck to you!

Jennifer H

Oh, man, I don’t miss that at all!
Some ideas:
*pre-cooked brown/wild rice (Trader Joe’s sells this, just microwave!) + flavored tofu
*canned beans+vinegarette+any veggies you can scrounge up (try the salad bar!) = bean salad
*steam salad bar (or grocery store!) veggies in the microwave
*Wild Garden makes shelf-stable hummus in single-serve packs. It is not the best hummus ever, but it is creamy chickpea goodness!

Sarah T

As a UK reader I’m not familiar with US college dorms, but if you have a toaster, a hot plate and a non-stick frying pan and can buy fresh vegetables you can make some delicious and cheap meals with just a few ingredients.
For breakfast scrambled egg sandwiches – spread scrambled egg between toasted and buttered wholemeal bread. It’s good.
Omelettes – finely chop some celery, green & red sweet peppers and scallions (as much as you will think you need.) Beat up some eggs with some salt & pepper and perhaps some mixed herbs. Add the vegetables to the egg mixture. Heat a little butter in the pan, you don’t need much, and when hot add the eggs, leave for a moment and then using a wooden fork or spatula push the mixture towards the middle so the uncooked eggs can cook. When cooked just slide out of the pan onto the plate. Or just stir it around and get scrambled eggs.
For a more substantial meal for supper small dice some potatoes (yukon gold are best) and saute in a litle oil and butter until softened. Add whatever finely chopped vegetables you like, cook until soft and then add the eggs. Cook until firm, slice and serve. Makes a great supper, served with a salad and chunks of bread.
As I said I’m not familiar with US college dorms but I hope you get some inspiration from all the ideas posted.
Happy eating.


Vitamix blender- a must if you are interested in lots of smoothies using ice. I broke 3 blenders in 2 years including one that was for smoothies.
– PB and banana smoothies are great to fill you up, take on the go, and healthy
– chop fruit and freeze to use for smoothies or an easy snack (chop your fruit before placing it in the blender, if you don’t it can break it- blender # 2)
Easy and so delicious!
– Bread, preferably toasted with a little olive oil, smeared with goat cheese, tomato paste with garlic, pesto, and diced tomatoes
Potatoes can be made in the microwave if holes are poked in them then wrapped with plastic wrap.
Clean your microwave with a cup of water. -Place water in a dish and turn on the microwave for 3-5 minutes. Leave it for 10 minutes or so. Take a cloth and wipe off everything that had been stuck on.
If you have a dorm kitchen, use aluminum foil on the rack of an oven to prevent your food from touching what was left by the last person to use it.
Cutting sheets versus boards are handy because they are bendable and it is easier to get your ingredients into the next container. However if you only have your bed to prep food on this may not be the best option.
Powdered milk is a good option to use for cooking if you have a small fridge or don’t use milk frequently.


being in LA my college had a great salad bar and grilled chicken breast at every meal. breakfast would always feature yogurt and granola along with the usual breakfast fare. i remember in the dorms someone had a small george foreman grill (i think he really needed to be able to make steak) and almost everyone had an electric kettle and access to a microwave. soba can be made in the electric kettle, i lived off nori, soba, soba sauce, and little individual sized pack of tofu. you can also make hard boiled eggs (a la alton brown) and have those instead of fried eggs or scrambled eggs at the mess. these days at the asian super market there are prepacked rice bowls that have wild rice and beans and you can also top that with some hard boiled eggs and some tj’s curry. yummy!


Many colleges do actually have at least one communal kitchen in every dorm. My alma mater freshman dorm had two kitchenettes on every floor and a large kitchen in the basement (next to the pool, foosball, and TV). You could put things in the communal fridge, but no one ever did–minifridges and microwaves were allowed and popular–so anything you put in and labeled was safe.
The one caveat is that even if your dorm does have a kitchen, it may not be equipped. No pots, pans, utensils…nothing. If this is your dorm situation, then maybe you should look into getting some basic cookware. At minimum I’d go with a chef’s knife, a paring knife, a cutting board, a good silicon spatula, a cheap 10-12 inch nonstick pan, a decent 3 quart saucepan, and a decent 6-8 quart pot. (8 if you’re a pasta junkie). If you’re into baking, a rimmed baking sheet and 8×8 and 9×13 baking dishes will go a long way. I think NordicWare even offers these things with lids so that you won’t have to rummage for tupperware for the leftovers.


When I lived on campus (a few years ago), I was allowed to have a crock pot, and a hot pot (to boil water). Today, I heard that some universities even have a microwave and small refrigerator in each dorm room. When the school cafeteria was closed, I survived off ramen noodles, spaghetti, canned foods, and other easy-to-make meals. I assure him that he will be fine in college. 🙂


Hello from New Zealand
One of our top Kiwi culinary traditions – at university or just in the school of life – is to make ‘toastie pies’: like a sandwich, but toasted. These days paninis would be the closest match, but here’s a link to the facebook site for a range of recipes that make student life a hell of a lot more fun – in some cases all you need is a toaster.
And for a special treat, I would recommend cerviche – no cooking required. The lime juice ‘cooks’ the raw fish. Just google it.


If this person is headed to Columbia there is a farmer’s market at the campus entrance on Sunday and Thursday for local produce, dairy, and baked/prepared foods; a 24/7 market at 110 and Broadway with very reasonable prices on those mangos and avocados, among other things; and a Lebanese store at 111/Bway whose (multicultural) gazpacho, hummus, and tabbouleh I live on. Also, at orientation keep an eye out for potential friends living off campus who would be agreeable to having you take over their kitchen every once in a while.


-hot pot (cooking veggies, boiling pasta)
-microwave (rice, popcorn, etc.)
-fridge (veggies, grains)
my favorite in college = jasmine rice and quick cook of broccoli in the microwave, covered in that peanut sauce that you make by adding hot water.
and a cup of tea.


Also, the New York Times recently published a GREAT list of 101 quick, simple and very original salds. You can find it here:


I’m sure this fellow knows that as a minimum he needs to start with a small refrigerator in his dorm room. I’d dedicate such a necessity for the *exclusive* storage of essential but perishable items which need to remain cool/cold.
Second on my list would be a hot plate although I understand that there are restrictions on such devices in many dormitories.
Third on my list would be to put together a small larder containing essential spices and flavorings and other essentials.
A lot of what I would suggest has been mentioned here. I think if I was doing it all over again I’d focus most of my in-dorm meals to quick but healthy sandwiches. Find a source of fresh vegetables and tempeh. Lots of it. (Well, not so much that you grow tired of it.) Also, I’d stock up on lots of different kinds of nuts and dried fruit to augment salads. I’ve also found that many ethnic food stores (Asian, Hispanic and especially Indian) have great prepackaged dishes and dishes LOTS of spices which one can easily incorporate into almost any sort of dish. I find (in the bay area at least) that many such stores tend to also be much less expensive than chain food stores.


“Lobio” (Russian Kidney Bean side dish)
I love this as a main course with a salad.
For anyone who loves kidney beans and garlic this is SUPER easy to make and keeps well in the fridge (if you can stop eating it). Is best cold or at room temperature and is very inexpensive and highly nutritious, here goes:-
1/4 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts
1 14-ounce can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or, of course, your home-cooked beans)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin, ideally)
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
1 teaspoon coriander (or less, to taste)
1 pinch of crushed red pepper, more or less to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
Enjoy, and I would love some feedback from anyone who tries it

Karen Cunningham

Working at the university, I know how appealing it is to scarf down tons of pizza, pasta and other heavy slop. If you can keep a small fridge in your room, stock it with you favorite salad dressing (or make some and keep it fresh). Purchase salad greens and add olives, parmesan, whatever pleases you. Buy hearty whole grain roles on occasion to eat with salad. Munch on popcorn, sunflower seeds, carrot/celery sticks while reading or on your laptop, and don’t buy ANY candy or fatty snacks. A few bottles of Perrier water also helps me through the evening without resorting to cokes or beer. (Buddy up with someone else to buy items and store them if you don’t have a fridge.) And always take the stairs…. Best wishes!


I used a coffee pot and a slow cooker. It saved me time. I would use the slow cooker in the morning and turn it on low so it would be ready be 7 when i came home. I used the coffee pot to make soups and sauces. the heating element helps the food stay hot and the water part makes it mix the milk and water well.


This link will take you to DVO and will put you on the e-book page. Scroll down to Cook’n in College which was written by college students for college students. You also can see a list of the meals and on some you can see a picture of how it looks. I hope this will be of some help.


From my own sad experiences of the culinary dorm world, I have learned a few things:
-NO APPLIANCES WHATSOEVER! But why not be daring and sneak a water cooker in there (or a crock pot, anything else will get you black-listed)
-ONLY EAT THINGS THEY DID NOT COOK IN THE DINING HALL. Which leaves you with fruit the salad bar, breads/wraps/bagels, and condiments. The rest is usually quite inedible.
-TUPPERWARE IS YOUR FRIEND. It allows you to sneak the fresh dining hall produce into your room, so that you can work your magic on it in a more appetizing environment.
-STEAMED VEGETABLES AND RICE: place chopped vegetables in a low bowl filled with a little water. Wrap this in plastic wrap and microwave it for about 2 minutes. drain the veggies and season them to your liking. You can mix these with a packet of microwavable rice, or if you are adventurous you can cook pasta in a bowl of microwaved water.
For this you must brave the dining hall; grab a Tortilla wrap (if you are lucky a halved baguette), drizzle it with olive oil, place a sliced tomato from the salad bar on top, and sprinkle it with cheese. Now feed this into the toaster oven and you have yourself a little pizza. Alternatively you could spread cream cheese on the tortilla and cover it with onions and veggies ( be sure to season this after it has toasted)


Even if you’re not allowed a rice cooker (or electric kettle), you can probably have a small microwave. I would invest in a microwave rice cooker, or the largest glass bowl that will fit in the microwave. You can make, as people have noted, rice, pasta, grains, etc. Fresh veggies can be cut up and added in at the last minute. If there’s a food co-op or whole foods nearby that has a salad bar, you can buy pre-cut veggies to ease preparation. I also lived on flour tortillas with cheese and veggies, tempeh, microwave-baked potatoes or sweet potatoes (hold the sugar!) with broccoli and a bit of cheese, and best of all, fresh fruit and yogurt. Fruit will be your best friend because it needs no preparation at all, except a quick washing in the bathroom sink (you’ll get past the “ick” factor, I swear). Also, aseptically packaged soy and cow milk boxes don’t need to be refrigerated, nor do potatoes. Finally, my university actually had a decent cafeteria with a fantastic salad bar available at every meal. It might be tolerable!

Sarah S

Most colleges prohibit cooking in dorms, but many of them have kitchens within the building. A rice cooker works very well for a wide range of recipes. One can make cooked cereals, rice, pasta, steamed vegetables, sauces, and soups and stews. I use one to cook most of my meals. It is energy efficient and convenient. I recommend “The Rice Cooker Recipe Cookbook” which explains how to use the cooker and has hundreds of recipes. These recipes are written for both standard cookers or fuzzy logic ones. Also, it would be wonderful if you added a recipe category for rice cooker recipes.


Most colleges prohibit cooking in dorms, but many of them have kitchens within the building. A rice cooker works very well for a wide range of recipes. One can make cooked cereals, rice, pasta, steamed vegetables, sauces, and soups and stews. I use one to cook most of my meals. It is energy efficient and convenient. I recommend “The Rice Cooker Recipe Cookbook” which explains how to use the cooker and has hundreds of recipes. These recipes are written for both standard cookers or fuzzy logic ones. Also, it would be wonderful if you added a recipe category for rice cooker recipes.


Ramen noodles with chopped veggies, esp broccoli.
sometimes keeping on hand little extras makes all the difference — toasted peanuts, shredded coconut, pine nuts, soy sauce (in packets), whatever — to put on top of or into things.
if possible, i highly recommend a rice cooker, in which you can do rice plain but you can also add in other ingredients/spices to cook along with the rice
spice packets for canned chickpeas etc are also great.


Get a juicer and a blender in your dorm room. Feed some rabbits with the pulp that is left over, and make some nice smoothies from bananas, avocados and all kinds of real fruits and nuts.
Make one in the morning which should last you till night time .. if you dont share that is.
Get some inspiration from the JUICE MASTER! (not me – but another person found on the internet. That picture is a bit of a tease isn’t it!!)


Hey, it’s primarily meant for camping, but if he’s got a hot pot there are lots of ideas on for easy one pot meals.

Paige K

The NYTimes had this interesting article about the variety of things you can do in a rice cooker awhile back along with recipes for bibimbap and biriyani in rice cooker:
I always had rice cookers in boarding school and college dorm rooms – Even if they don’t allow them in the room it may be ok to use in the dorm kitchen (usually there is some sort of communal one) where one can keep an eye on it.
Rice is a great way to extend left overs from eating out (you’ll do a lot of that in manhattan), especially those with a rich sauce. You can also just chop up left overs with fresh or steamed vegetables and do a make shift tossed fried rice with a bit of seasoning/sauce – I always like adding egg and scallion to my left over “fried” rices.


As a former NYU-er, and a vegetarian, I often had to get creative with easy, cheap meals. I liked to prepare meals whenever I could, and I always had: pita bread, frozen corn/peas/broccoli, hummus, rice, peanut butter, bananas, apples and snacks from Trader Joe’s. I also kept hot sauce (transforms bland cafeteria food) , lemon juice, some spices, dried herbs and frozen Indian curries (I liked the Mirch Masala line the best) that I made with microwave cooked rice. I also cooked Maggi noodles in the microwave, adding only half of their flavoring packet (sodium heavy). Instead, I added cooked corn/peas/carrots and some cumin and hot sauce, and it often made for a very satisfying meal.
My easiest meal was taking fruit from the cafeteria and eating that with crackers and hummus or peanut butter, or adding the fruit to a simple salad with some walnuts and dressing.
I loved shopping at Union Square or Chinatown for fresh veggies and Trader Joe’s for everything else. Also, I bought my Indian supplies at this Indian grocery store on Lexington and 26th. I would pick up mango juice as a treat whenever I stopped by there.
Lastly, I can’t say enough about finding restaurants that serve big portions, as paying for one meal often equaled the equivalent of dinner and lunch, making it totally worth it.
Enjoy school/living in NYC… I miss it!


Not all dorms allow rice cookers; most say no to hot plates. Definitely check the housing pamphlet you no doubt got in the mail for restrictions. That said, my college didn’t allow electric kettles, but I and half of my friends kept them on hand for tea/french press coffee. It’s a great way to keep the caffeine bill from skyrocketing out of control.
I just graduated from college in NYC a year ago, and I didn’t have a kitchen for two of my four years, but I managed to eat very well by searching out the communal kitchens that are generally in dorm basements. I just packed up my stuff, headed to a different building and made dinner, usually with a friend. Just keep in mind that the communal kitchens tend to be filthy since no one feels any ownership or responsibility.
My best recommendation is to buy a small food processor. Since they have little to no fire risk, most schools haven’t banned them, and I use my daily to make hummus, tabbouleh, pizza dough, pie crust, lots of Indian food… A bag/can of chickpeas, some garlic, a lemon and olive oil (+ tahini and any goodies you want mixed in) will make much more delicious hummus than you can buy, and it will cost you 75% less to make it yourself.
As others have mentioned there are tons of places to get cheap good food. Trader Joe’s in Union Square might be the most hectic and unpleasant TJ’s in the world, but it IS cheap. The one in downtown Brooklyn is a lot nicer and has a better produce selection. Fairway (132 & 12th ave in west harlem, 74 & broadway on upper west side, red hook brooklyn) is everything you wished a New York grocery would be and then a little bit more. That store alone kept me sane.


I was a House Adviser (like the not-evil version of an RA) for three years in the dorms at my college. I graduated two years ago. We were lucky that our dorms had a communal stove/oven and a full-sized fridge in addition to the ubiquitous microwave, though some dorms on our campus only had a microwave and a small fridge.
I’ve seen a few people suggest a rice cooker, which is an excellent suggestion. I once lived next to a guy who had a rice cooker in his room, and he would often offer me (and others) a bowl of freshly-steamed rice with soy sauce and kimchi — it sounds funny, but it was one of the best things I’d ever tasted some days: fresh, hot, fiery, real. And there are lots of things you could put on rice that would complete a meal (curries and so on are not difficult to find in a microwavable format).
Unlike a few of the commenters above, I would actually advocate strongly for going to premium supermarkets sometimes. The whole point is that dorm food is often made of low-quality ingredients in a low-quality recipe for hundreds or thousands of people, kept under hot lamps or in steam tables for a couple of hours. Blech! The antidote is fresh, delectable food that looks good and tastes better. If you can cook on a stove, then by all means go to smaller Chinese or Indian groceries which sell cheap produce and so on: the unusual vegetables are an additional bright spot. But if you can’t cook on a stove, you’re really in the territory of ready-made or nearly ready-made, and that, I think, calls for something a step above the usual mega-mart fare. Something that Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and others do really well.
I often poached from the salad bar — ours had things like broccoli, cauliflower, tofu, spinach, onions… and it was all pre-chopped! Thanks, dining hall! 🙂


What a great idea for a post. I remember this time, eating lots of cereal and scrambled eggs, as those seemed the only safe best in a cafeteria. I feel that if you fill your head with knowledge of what is healthy and good food for you, it is easier to make choice in these types of situations. You will be left to your own devices in teh cafeteria. I am sure there will be a mini fridge. I would fill mine with apples and string cheese, yogurts, veggies and hummus and some protein shakes for early mornings. I would suggest a ‘magic bullet’ mini blender if you are interested in shakes or smoothies!


I have two kids in college. Every year in september, I send each of them off with a cooler of frozen dinners, all made from scratch.
I vary the size of the container for convenience and I also anticipate that they will be sharing.
Single servings of chili and tomato sauce are packed in ziploc bags. I try to balance out the ingredients with an eye towards healthy.
Everything is heat and eat and can be warmed on the stove. I don’t like what the microwave does.
The dinners get rave reviews. My daughter’s favorite is a 3 been vegetarian stew with cumin, ginger and tomato.
This year she’ll be taking a portable indoor grill with frozen marinated chicken breasts.
The breasts grill in five minutes and the extra marinade doubles as a a dressing.
Email me for recipes: [email protected]

stephen etzine

If you can manage it, beans on toast with grated cheese on top. Add some mustard to the beans when you add them to the pot.
Go to your library and look up vegetarian student cookbooks, there are many of them and start copying out recipes.
Good luck!


If you have a freezer, Trader Joe’s frozen food is pretty amazing (do they have TJ’s in NY?). The frozen paneer tikka masala is amazing!!

Shawna Beamish

Sometimes you have access to a community kitchen but… it’s completely understocked and sometimes there’s not oven or stovetop…
What I did was go to a market to buy my daily meals… well, except for breakfast usually which was cereal (I love cereal)…
Some of my favorite meals included zucchini sliced into ribbons with a little pesto sauce, fruit of any kind with whipped marscapone cheese (if you can add a little limoncello or triple sec in there), and jasmine rice with cilantro and a diced avacado sprinkled with a little bit of salt on top.
Rely on canned legumes, just give them a couple rinses if you can, and if you don’t have access to a rice cooker you can always by microwavable rice (tons of different kinds in the market now), it can be just as tasty. You’d be surprised how well you can eat using just a microwave…

michelle k

I loved having my rice cooker, I could take it down the hall with me and it has a steamer on top so I could cook rice and veggies at ones. We had a trader joes near by so I had a variety of sauces to go with. Unfortunate for microwaved chicken and fish but it made due. 😀


During my first semester in college, we were only allowed a hot pot (supposedly for only heating up soups or tea – but ramen noodles and whatever veggies you can imagine are easily done in one of these). Also some friends and I came up with some nice snacks using aluminium foil and an iron. When room inspection comes they might not want to see a grill in your room, but they have no problem with an iron.


Take a look at The Storm Gourmet: A Guide to Creating Extraordinary Meals without Electricity by Daphne Nikolopoulas–though some of the recipes are grilled, most would be great for dorm room eating.


I graduated from a small liberal arts college in ’08, and the appliances allowed in the dorms varied from year to year and dorm to dorm.
As a freshman, I was only allowed to have a small fridge and a coffee maker, and there was a communal (and disgusting) kitchen in the dorm common room. To survive that year, I took to bringing two large plastic containers (one large, one small) to the cafeteria and stocking the large one with fresh veggies from the adequate salad bar. I filled the other with salad dressing. This allowed me to have vegetables and “dip” in the dorm, which was a much healthier snack than EasyMac or popcorn. Our meal plan functioned on a flat rate of “points” per meal (2 for lunch, 5 for dinner, etc.), so it was really an “all you can eat” type of thing. This obviously wouldn’t work well if you go to a school where you pay only for what you eat, but it helped me survive the year.
Another healthy dorm snack that I relied on was my own trail mix, which I was able to make thanks to a nearby organic market. I bought a large bag of granola, then supplemented it with the nuts, seeds, and dried fruit that appealed to me. I kept this in a plastic container in my room, and snacked on it while studying.
The last suggestion I’ll make is to buy the microwavable Indian and Middle Eastern dishes sold at Trader Joe’s–they’re just as easy to make as an EasyMac or a Bowl Appetit, but they actually taste good and are really healthy for you. Plus, they’re easy to buy in bulk and store!
Good luck!


my experience with the dining hall at school was not so bad – you basically just have to avoid the hot meals they prepare for you, and be adventurous with the salad bar. my favorite way to escape their concoctions was to go around asking for single ingredients – they were more than happy to give me a couple of eggs instead of buying their weirdly runny scrambled “eggs” – eggs cook easily in the microwave. since most schools require you to buy a meal plan, i suggest using it to your advantage! i would be surprised if they didn’t have a good salad bar stocked with all the veggies, beans, and tofu you can imagine. And like I said, ask for the raw ingredient if you know if exists in their kitchen but isn’t out on display.


I was at urban outfitters today they had college dorm cookbooks….maybe try that…


Get a hot plate (its a single burner that you plug in about 20$) as well as a good quality toaster oven with a convection bake cycle since it will then act like an oven (about 100$) I’m almost positive that its not allowed in your dorm since they weren’t allowed in mine but just do it anyway. I’m going to be a senior at Binghamton University (New York) so i understand where you are coming from. The food in the dining halls was horrible so i just cooked EVERYTHING. full meals like stuffed shells and chicken pizziaola or chili i even baked an apple strudel in my like convection toaster oven and and just froze everyhting i made in single sercving portions so that i always had easy lunch or dinner to just microwave. theres also probably a community kitchen in your dorm where you can cook larger things if you like. just make sure you hide the hotplate and toaster oven if your room gets inspected and be careful because if you happened to accidently start a fire (the hotplate is kind of a fire hazard) then you would probably be kicked out of school so be careful!
anway both appliances as well as my mini fridge (with a real freezer on top not an icebox inside) and microwave saved me from dining halld food freshman and sophmore years
good luck!


You can cook single poppadoms directly on the revolving plate of the microwave (rather than deep-frying them) and in my (old) machine I think it takes 30 seconds per poppadom. Do several one after the other, then pack into an airtight box to eat later, take on picnics to dip into your hummous, or else crumble into salad, fattoush-style.

Curzon Tussaud

I definately had a crockpot, but I don’t know how allowed it was! But, it can be rather difficult to necessarily -catch- you with an illegal crockpot (as opposed to an illegal dog or cat).
My school had the policy that every dorm had at least one kitchen, but you might have to have an RA unlock it. Also, things like pasta can be made in the microwave.
One thing that I often did in HS more than college, was ramen. Now, this is not normal ramen — I normally had twice as much water (to cut the salt) and added frozen vegetables and maybe some sliced sausage. If you have access to a freezer, that is an excellent way to complement your meal plan.
Good luck in school this semester!


I don’t recall, when I was in college, being overly concerned with what was “allowed”. We full on had several PETS, which was definitely not allowed, let alone a few small cooking devices. If you can hide it or get it out of the dorm rooms during breaks, which is when people might inspect, then go for it. You can do a lot with a fridge, microwave, waterboiler, rice cooker and toaster oven. Just cover the crack between door and floor with a damp towel so they can’t smell your cooking out in the hall.
Also, get to know the manager of your dorm cafeteria. Smile at her, compliment her haircut, get her to like you. Later on, she might let you have a few potatoes or whatever raw ingredients they have lots of that you can’t filch from the salad bar. I used to make curries from borrowed ingredients that way.
My dorm had a communal kitchen — one for about 100 people, but other than boiling water for ramen hardly anyone used it.


Go for a rice cooker that has multiple time settings, and not a tiny one – along with a lot of the other suggestions I have also cooked substantial soups, stews and whole chickens in mine. Also pasta, risotto, wheat, creamed rice, porridge – is that called oatmeal in the States? Mine has a steamer dish, so vegetables and fish are easy to do.
They don’t pump out a lot of steam or heat and for most things they cook really quickly. And they’re easy to clean.


While studying in New York I did have access to a small kitchen in my dorm apartment, and you are probably provided with some sort of community kitchen if you live in a dorm.
For me, living at a low budget and eating healthy didn’t prove as difficult as I thought it’d be. I also lived near a Trader Joe’s, so that helped. But here are some things I did that may be helpful:
– buy a stock pot, this lets you cook anything in bulk
– consider including soy, almond, or rice milk into your diet (if you haven’t already) as these cartons can be stored outside the fridge before use
– stock up on some reduced fat or regular coconut milk cans and bags (or bulk) of brown rice to make big batches of simple yet delicious rice for the week: in a stock pot on medium heat, mix can of coconut milk, fill can up with brown rice and empty that in, then fill can up with water and stir all together, adding salt/pepper/ginger, etc. If you want to get fancy add a touch of honey and siracha sauce or soy sauce. After all this comes to a boil, stirring occasionally, bring to simmer and cover with a lid (I used to use a dinner plate 😉 until liquid cooks into the rice, about 20 minutes. This batch will last you the week and you can mix it with frozen vegetables heated in the microwave, anything canned like beans or curries, or stir in a bit of honey and butter for dessert, etc. etc.
– I also made batches of McCann’s Irish steel cut oatmeal. It takes a bit of time to make as well, but after the toil it provides a quick and super healthy, delicious breakfast every day of the week. Take a bit out of the fridge each morning and heat up or eat cold with honey or maple syrup, raisins, walnuts, etc. Really high in iron content, for those who don’t eat meat.
– Don’t ever give in to badly made foods! Take advantage of New york city’s farmers markets, like the one in Union Square every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday (perhaps more than that?)…it’s not as expensive as you think, and can actually prove more cost efficient and of course, more healthy if you pick up a bunch of carrots, apples, tomatoes, potatoes, etc.
Also, as a side note: find out where the Mud Truck is parked these days! It’s a bright orange coffee truck that I used to stop at on Lafayette Street, and it sells awesome coffee for 1.25 with steamed milk! That and some whole wheat pretzels from the Union Square Farmer’s Market and you’re golden!
Good luck!


Oh – – just don’t get in the habit of eating cup-a-soup or instant ramen noodes. The soup seasoning/ powder/whatever stuff that is them is FULL OF MSG. The msg will make you feel tired, cranky and unfocused over time. The instant ramen noodles are also surprising loaded with fat but zero in nutrients. I know that a lot of students resort to these, so I thought I would warn you.
Eat fresh, dude. And good luck


Trader Joe’s has pre-cooked, vacuum-sealed brown rice. You could top it with fresh or cooked vegetables from the cafeteria. It lasts for quite a while and does not have to be refrigerated. If you don’t have a TJ in your area, it would be easy to have a friend or family member ship you some. I’m sure it’s cheaper than the Whole Foods version. 🙂


My school has good dining halls as far as ‘dorm food’ is concerned, but you definitely get tired of the meals and long for something better now and then. I always tried to create something new out of what they had.
I would order a plain grilled chicken breast then add spices, salsa, marinara or bbq sauce, depending what was around on the day. You can mix up your own honey mustard or spicy peanut sauce, too, if you combine condiments.
For salads, make your own vinaigrette instead of using the fatty dressings they usually offer. Oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, dried herbs, a little dijon.
I would take vegetables from the salad bar (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots) and put them in a bowl with a little water, cover with a plate and use the microwave to steam them. Add a little butter or lemon juice. Salt and pepper.
I liked to think of each meal as a Top Chef challenge. Take the best parts of each area of the dining hall and come up with something they didn’t put on the menu.

Brittany (He Cooks She Cooks)

In college we had a toaster oven and a small refrigerator. After swimming, my roommate and I would cut a bagel in half, top it with a slice of ham and some cheese, and toast it in the oven.
Yum! We eventually had to give these up, tho, because they were a little too good!
If you have a microwave, you can make egg sandwiches like McDonalds by putting half an English muffin in a small container (tupperware makes a good container for this), crack an egg on top, and top with the other half of the muffin. Microwave for about 1 minute.


The best advice I can give for being able to eat healthy in the dorm is to get a George Forman grill. You can pick up nearly anything from a frozen piece of salmon to a chicken breast and, in less than 10 minutes, voila! dinner. You can grill asparagus, meat/chicken, a sandwich…almost anything you might like.


Using anything beyond a microwave or electric kettle in your dorm room would be gross. Have you see the size of these rooms, people? I totally can’t understand how someone could be stewing or steaming or grilling anything in them. Especially if you have a roommate. And, besides, breaking the rules really isn’t the greatest way to start off your school year, is it?
There are a few options – – good ones have already been posted in the messages above – – like getting out of the meal plan, or supplementing the meal plan with healthy extra add-ons. There some really great things you can make in a microwave (white fish fillets, and geeezzz even corn on the cob) but if you’re like me, you probably don’t like living out of the mic.
I suggest you make friends with people who like to go out to eat at great cheap, healthy places so that – – or better yet, find a girlfriend who has her own apartment and, ideally, can help you with your homework 🙂 Or get a part-time job at a restaurant or catering company and eat there. Remember remember remember to make sure you are getting enough magnesium (410 mg) and calcium (500 to 800 mg) as well as vitamins D and B Complex- – – I’m talking fortified boxed cereals (like Shreddies) with milk, a variety of nuts, and spinach. Seriously, it will help you concentrate and keep hunger at bay!


Here in Australia I lived in a non-catered college – so we had fully equipped kitchens downstairs. But (a) the presence of a microwave/kettle/sandwich press RIGHT THERE ON THE FLOOR (cf the MASSIVE distance of a lift-ride away 🙂 and (b) the inherent laziness of the Uni student encouraged any number of innovative practices revolving around cooking whole meals on those three appliances.
Needless to say we all got very inventive and/or ate a lot of instant noodles and toasted sandwiches. I am a bit of a food nazi generally, but managed to jazz up the old favourites like dried noodles to even my satisfaction in various ways. My favourite (so easy, healthy, and not requiring a fridge, as long as you keep the veggies somewhere cool-ish) was as follows:
1 packet of plain instant noodles (any brand, no matter how cheap and nasty, and any grain, buckwheat or wheat or rice or whatever)
1 bokchoy or other bunch of asian greens
handful of mushrooms
2 tspn (or more/less) Chinese five-spice
lots of grated ginger
lots of chopped garlic
bouillon powder to taste
splash of soy sauce
splash of sweet chilli
1 egg, beaten
Cook the noodles in a deep sided bowl in the microwave, with the spice, soy, sweet chili and stock powder mixed in enough water to well and truly cover the noodles (I used lots so that you get lots of delicious broth). Cook about three minutes, then add loosely chopped bokchoy and mushrooms, ginger and garlic. Cook another minute or two, then add the egg in thin stream, mixing as you go. Bung it back in the Nuker for another minute (so the egg gets all frothy and thickens the broth) and voila!
Ah, the memories….


Oh, and another idea could be to go somewhere where you can cook, like home or a kitchen on campus and cook up a big meal or two, like the people who do the “cooking once a month” stuff (haha, so sad…I would be so depressed only cooking once a month) and then freeze the food in portion-sizes and then you can just take them out and heat them up as needed.


I am headed to college this fall to a school with kitchens at least in each dorm building. That simplifies things, but not every school has that so I have also looking into a lot of easy things to eat/cook. If you want a treat…I have just the thing. The microwave cake in a mug has been a great gift for all my college bound friends and I have created my own version to make it healthier ( I’ve also found that I can make cookie dough and scoop it into balls on cookie sheets and freeze it then just take one cookie out at a time and microwave it (timed depends on power and size of cookies) for a cookie with a unique texture.
As for actually healthy foods, I recommend a blender. Blenders are amazing and enable you to make smoothies with frozen fruit or make a pureed vegetable soup that you can then heat up in a microwave. There are also lots of cookingware out there designe especially for microwave cooking, like for making pasta or cooking vegetables (although that is easy enough to do in just a regular container). This dorm food post idea is a good one…the cooking blog community should dedicate a post one day or week to a specific dorm food idea/recipe.


Wow! Things have really changed for the better in the last few years. As the result of some pioneers such as Alice Waters, the grande duena of California cuisine and a leading proponent of sustainable food, many campus dining halls are offering excellent and varied menus with vegetarian and vegan alternatives. A good article about some of the changes can be found at Good lick and good eating.

David Levy

I have a crock pot (slow cooker) with a timer on it. Boy does that thing come in handy! Put my ingredients in it set the timer and off you go. Come back to a cooked meal, some even comes with recipes.


Just in case no one else mentioned this, couscous is perfect for the dorm. You’ve just got to get the water hot enough, then wait for it to steam though (approx. 5 minutes). Yum!

Nico Katz

i haven’t read through all the (copious) comments, so apologies if my suggestions are redundant, but i have three recommendations for appliances: hot water pot, slow cooker, and small food processor. the hot water pot, for boiling water, means you don’t have to trot to the kitchen every time you’d like tea. and it’s also great for making miso soup (hydrate miso paste, add dried seaweed, scallions, tofu, edamame, etc.) and oatmeal. my favorite tea is an herbal one, with sliced fresh ginger and lemongrass, that’s simply wonderful.
the slow cooker sounds a little unappealing or unfashionable maybe, but it’s *fantastic* for cooking beans (for use in other dishes, or to eat by themselves, tuscan-style, with garlic and olive oil and herbs), soups, and my favorite, moroccan and indian curries.
the food processor comes in especially handy because it takes the place of a number of other tools, and is a compact little thing that you can tuck away when not in use. i use it for making everything including natural peanut butter, sauces (pesto, tomato, romesco), compound butters, and generally chopping everything that needs it.
as far as dishes, acquaint yourself with low-maintenance dishes–things that don’t require a lot of moving parts, or can be eaten at a range of temperatures, or that need little prep. grain salads with legumes and vegetables, for example, taste great straight from the fridge or heated or room temp. they don’t spoil if you put them in your bag for a few hours. same for snacks like fresh and dried fruit, nuts, and roasted or fried chickpeas.
finally, everyone knows and loves hummus. it’s tasty, nutritious, and cheap–but it’s not the only spread for sandwiches and vegetables. mix it up and try other options such as traditional pesto, baba ghanoush, sundried tomato and white bean dip, and so on.


There are plastic microwavable rice cookers, steaming bags, microwavable pizza, pre-made food you heat up, and you can assemble your own food. I actually never been to college or boarding school but these will work perfectly. My all time favorite foods that you can eat in a dorm is comfort food: Mac & Cheese, Popcorn, Pizza, Smoothies, Bagels, Sandwiches, Soup, and don’t forget that you can order food. The thing that makes food taste better is friends, company, laughter, and chemistry the big 4. ☼✰☯☮♤♨♼♽✺❀☕⌚
|^_^| ^-^ *-* *o* !_!
!!!!!!!Super Savy Sabby!!!!!!!


In my dorms, you weren’t allowed any cooking device other than a microwave, and the limits on fridges meant that you couldn’t store too much, and the freezers on those minifridges are awful.
I’d make mini-pizzas in my microwave though. Small flour tortilla, stabbed with a fork to dock it, a spoonfull of pizza sauce, spices and toppings to taste, and microwave it until the tortilla goes crispy and the cheese melts


I don’t normally give out opinions too freely but this topic is hitting home. Literally. My twin boys are off to college next month and I want them to eat well. Dorm food is typically bad, salty and cold. Two words… Panini Grill. All they’ll need is bread, cheeses, meats, veggies and a few condiments. I grill small steaks on the one we have at home. Chicken breasts are done in 5 minutes. Grilled cheese in 2 minutes. They’re now non-stick and so easy to clean. Sorry to anyone that had this idea first.


My college actually had reasonable food options for vegetarians: falafel & vegetarian chili were offered every day in one of the cafeterias. Grad school, however, ugh!!
Along with the many fabulous tips, I found 2 mainstays in the caf. 1-bagel sandwiches with a drop of cream cheese and a ton of vegetables off the salad bar. 2-yogurt with cereal and any/every fruit that was around.


When I lived in the dorm 2 years ago i brought a knife/cutting board, bowl/plate/cup, utensils, and small pot/pan because i had a kitchen and kept it in a box under my bed. One time I cooked a meal with things foods from the salad bar.
Stir fry: veggies like peppers, onions, carrots, mushrooms, spinach. Meat- plain cooked/grilled chicken from the d-hall. Sauce- this is tough, I grabbed a few soy sauce packets from one of the cafeterias. Olive oil from the salad bar. Cut up the chicken (if not already). Heat the pan, add a bit of oil, add the onions and carrots and stir-fry until onions begin to look translucent, then add peppers and mushrooms and fry for 2-3 min, then add the chicken and cook until heated, add spinach now because it has the shortest cooking time. Next add a little bit of soy sauce and a little water to add flavor and steam the veggies. if you have a lid, cover the pan for .5-1 min to steam the veggies. then its done.


Make some hummus!


Rice aisle in Whole Foods: precooked, rice- and bean-based vegetarian meals in a bag. I can’t remember the brand but there was quite a variety. All you have to do is snip the bag to vent, pop in the microwave for a minute or so and you have a super easy, healthy and delicious meal for the dorm.


Here is one of my favourite recipes, it’s quick, fresh and tasty!
Healthy tip: use whole wheat pita!
Black olives (optional)
Dill (optional)
1) Cut tomato into 6ths or 8ths
2) Cut cucmber into 3 or 4 strips no longer than the pita is high
3) Cut feta into cubes
1) cut pita in 2, open both pieces carefully so you have two pockets.
2) spoon tzatziki in pocket ad spread on both sides liberally. sprinkle in salt and pepper and add chopped dill now if desired.
3) place cucumbers parallel to eacother , leaving a few inches on each side empty (to fold over at the end).
4) add tomato, feta and olives now.
5) fold two empty corners over and enjoy!


my dorm was really strict, basically we could only have hot pots and there was a shared microwave downstairs that was… okay.
i would do smores in the microwave for breakfast sometimes. and some hot pots that don’t auto-shutoff once water boils allow you to cook things like mac and cheese. i would always get packaged soups to make, there are awesome dry mix tom yum and tom kha. i also had the ricecooker.
but also, the food in my dorms weren’t so terrible.


Okay, I already posted once, but I forgot to say in my first post that you should check to see if your school has a convenience store where you can use your meal plan money. My school did, and although it was way overpriced, I could use the money that was already on my meal plan for it rather than buying stuff at the grocery store. Our store had Bear Naked Granola, all kinds of cereal, yogurt, half gallons of milk, blocks of cheddar cheese, etc. Also, don’t be afraid to make requests! I requested stuff all the time (like baking ingredients), and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask! Also, someone else mentioned bagel sandwiches. Can I get an amen?! I did that all the time on spinach bagels! And if I was taking it back to my room to eat anyway, I’d pop it on the George foreman and let it get toasty and warm! Also, someone mentioned making hummus with an immersion blender, and I did that a lot too. It’s really easier, and even if you get canned beans instead of dry, it’s MUCH cheaper than buying hummus, and you know everything that’s in it!


– Ramen soup in the microwave. Use your own bowl or a Pyrex measuring cup to boil the water. Add fresh or frozen veggies and some canned chicken.
– Make a grilled cheese sandwich almost anytime you like , with an iron on ‘high’, no steam, ironing board, aluminum foil, bread, and cheese. Processed cheese is not fabulous, but it keeps well, melts, slices easily without a knife ( about 12″ sewing thread or dental floss, try it !).
Slice the cheese about 1/2″ thick, wrap the assembled sandwich in a foil packet, crimp the edges, and gently hold the iron on first one side, then the other, of the foil packet. It’s done when the cheese squishes under slight pressure.
– Make quesadillas the same way.

KL in N Tx

I saw lots of suggestions for rice cooker but I thought I would throw crock pot out there. Soups, stews and porridges. A good base for sweet and savory. Rice puddings. Bean and cheese dips. Also some really great little smoothy gadgets out there.

Tracy Bunnell

i was a big fan of the DIY pita pizza at school and got pretty creative with the salad bar.
Our cafeteria (dubbed “The Ratty”…I’ll leave your imagination to why) always served pasta and tomato sauce on the hot line, so i picked up my sauce there.
Then, headed to the “bread” station and got a piece of whole wheat pita.
Spread sauce, topped with tons of veggies from the salad bar (brocolli, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes) and shredded mozz and then microwaved it all.
Healthy, easy, fast, and vegetarian-friendly 🙂
good luck!!

Lick My Spoon

We were allowed to have rice cookers and microwave ovens in our dorms. It is amazing how much you can make with those two items. I had a knife and a cutting board and a few bowls and cups.
I don’t know if the reader likes Indian food but you could make rice pilaf and raita. How to make:
cut about 10 baby carrots and a 1/2 cup of freezer peas (you could skip the peas if you don’t have space in the refrigerator).
place carrots, peas, and 1 tablespoon of garam masala into the rice cooker.
add 1/2 cup rice and 1 1/2 cups water.
turn rice cooker on and you will have rice pilaf.
My one suggestion is that, though dorm food can be terrible, don’t avoid the cafeterias all together. They are a great place to make friends with other students — even if it is just time spent criticizing the food. Good luck!


I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid dorm rooms so far in my scholastic journey.
However, I’ve got to say the suggestion to get the microwave/oven is ingenious. There really is no reason to stress about the size since you are cooking for one. If you can swing a microwave, pick up one of those bad boys!
Otherwise, the blender. Find yourself a blender strong enough to pulverize some fresh produce. I think that if you at least start your day off with a delicious green smoothie you will make it through. Pack this with chia seeds, raw cacao, spriulina, nut butter and hemp/flax seeds.
You can also use this blender to whip up raw veggie dips, hummus, some pesto even? Yes, don’t walk, run and grab a blender!
Of course to make life much easier, get a mini-fridge. I think almost every dorm allows them these days. Feast on the raw veg.
If you are allowed a rice cooker would be a perfect addition for those hot meal cravings. Toss in some quinoa, a little lemon juice, some asparagus. Oh yes!
I’m totally on board with doctoring up whatever isn’t fried in your meal plan. Dried fruit, nuts, and if you get a fridge (cheese!) will not only add some protein into the mix, but save you from boredom.
On that note, doctor up some beautiful dressings for your salad. I’d just get one of those large bins from Ikea or what have you and stash your food in there.
And when things get really tough, round up the troops and protest the food offerings at your school. Who doesn’t love a good protest?
Remember to drink plenty of water!
Take care!


I know at my school, there are rules preventing cooking devices but a rice cooker and a George Foreman grill are a must (even if you have to sneak it in!) The rice cooker will not only cook grains but you can easily make soups and with the grill, you can have great sandwiches (as one reader mentioned) along with the usual grilled meats/tofu.
Our dining commons had a wonderful organic salad bar which I took full advantage of by getting my meals to go and packing as much of the prepped produce as I could into my take out container.
Your biggest problem might be sharing your stuff with your roommate after you’ve whipped up a nice “home” cooked meal!


I checked out the blog,
I like the photos and the food looks inviting. Could this be another Heidi in the making? LOL! Perhaps . . .
See for yourselves . . .

Apres Ski

Along with the mini fridge, microwave with oven, pots, pans and slow cooker, one girl’s father also installed a nannycam.
These things were replaceable but your trust is equally as important as your food.
He realized she had valuable things even if his daughter believed all people were inherently honest, he didn’t want her calling home saying she needed a new fridge etc. He respected people, but just wanted some peace of mind while his daughter was in class.
It’s not that he didn’t trust people . . . he just wanted to “keep on trusting people”!
If you’re using camping food, boxed food or canned goods, buy some now and test it out for dinner tonight. Parents can give you some good pointers on what to add or subtract.

Apres Ski

In my dorm room, my roommate and I had a couple sharp knives and a cutting board (not explicitly disallowed), a coffee maker (allowed), microwave (allowed), refrigerator (allowed), hot pot/water kettle (allowed), small food processor (not explicitly disallowed), and an electric skillet (against the rules). Our RAs turned a blind eye to the skillet, some might not.
The food processor got the most use: we ate a lot of homemade hummus and salsa (tomatillo salsa: tomatillos, garlic, white onion, lime juice, jalapeno or serrano, cilantro). We made quesadillas, flautas, scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, and grilled cheese sandwiches in the skillet. A favorite study break was an avocado mashed with salt and pepper, scooped up with tortillas or chips. We ate our meals in the dining hall (the kosher deli station had the best sandwich ingredients and side salads), but cooked or prepared our own snacks in our rooms.
To do any of this, though, you need in-suite bathrooms or apartment-style dorms. Our set-up was two bedrooms rooms with a shared foyer, on one side of the foyer was a bathroom with a sink and toilet and on the other side was a bathroom with a sink and shower. It wasn’t too icky washing dishes in the shower room sink.

Sarah Shapiro

I wholeheartedly second the suggestion above of a rice cooker. My go to meal when I just can’t deal with making something real is brown rice cooked in the cooker, and then with the warm setting on I add some easily wiltable greens like baby arugula, stir them through, and add some grated cheese (usually cheddar) and close the lid long enough to let it melt. Then I drizzle with soy sauce and sesame oil and voila, a satisfying meal with minimal effort.


This isn’t exactly gourmet, but to make the best of the required meal plan, I used to make bagel sandwiches… sometimes vegetarian with hummus, spinach, red onion, and tomatoes from the salad bar, other times with lunch meat, spinach, and a small dash of raspberry vinagrette (all from the salad bar). Best of luck!


A small slow cooker for rice/beans/quinoa. I really don’t like microwaved food. But if you have to, then use it. Make your own taboule with quinoa. That will keep for a week in your fridge. Fresh veggies, Newman’s own salad dressing doesn’t have any bad stuff in it that I know of if you use the balsamic vinagarette style and it is delicious. Fresh fruit. Buy bags or cans of fresh nuts and all kinds of seeds. The only thing with Asian is to be careful of the extra sodium. I cook Asian all the time, but it would be difficult for you to pick and choose in a dorm room. Veggie soups in your slow cooker and I like Kitchen Basics again, no bad stuff in any of it. Good luck have fun and remember to eat your protein. Hard boiled eggs, rice and peas, beans, nuts. PLEASE. God bless, Bev Jane

Beverly Jane

I WISH I was in NYC so I could offer the following (but hope that someone else will take the reins on this)… If I lived in the city, I would offer cooking services to college students in exchange for housesitting, dog walking, errands, etc. Someone could start an incredible trade/swap with this. You could cook a full week of meals (micro heat and eat) and end up with some great help around home.
As a secondary option – that Ready Set Express thing sold on TV is great – I got one (a little too much wine while watching TV) and now I can make omelets, paninis, etc. in no time. And no open elements that would violate dorm restrictions.
Enjoy your college years – they go fast!


I suggest getting a magic bullet. You can make soups and then microwave them, also great for fruit smoothies. I take one with me when I travel to make my own protein smoothies.


What a great topic! Dorm food sucks. I am a mother of 4, an avid cook and just went back to university to finish a degree and to keep things simple and cheap, I lived in the dorm for the first time in 30 years. It was a revelation. Now I know why my children spend so much on food even though we buy them a meal plan. My advice is to forget the meal plan, follow much of the advice in the comments section and search for cheap and good cafes, restaurants etc in the area. Most importantly, keep in mind that this too will pass. You will graduate and can eat well for the rest of your life. For the interim, good luck! FYI – I survived on burritos, but that has disadvantages. Now, I hate burritos.

Kate Hedges

In the fall I’ll be a college junior, so I can really relate to this post and your struggle to feed yourself healthy foods while living on campus. One of the best things I can suggest is to buy a Senseo-cheap and allowed in dorm rooms, it is supposed to be used for boiling water in less than a minute to make coffee and such, but put to use with a creative mind it can be a multi-functional life saver. Use it to boil water and steam veggies, heat noodles, make rice and so much more. You can create stirfry, pasta and soup with this little machine-all without a stovetop and the oil you might stirfry with.
When facing the dorm or school cafeteria, the sandwhich and salad bars are your best bet. With a little tweaking you can make anything healthy, gourmet food. Salad ingredients can be used on sandwiches, and if you carry tiny packets in your backpack of things like soynuts and other salad add-ins, and proteins you will have a much easier time. Make sandwiches into wraps by grabbing some lettuce from the salad bar and taking the filling out from between the bread, then rewrapping it in the lettuce. This really worked well for me, because I avoid processed foods and don’t eat white sugars or flours–and most of the sandwiches were on white bread. Just think outside the box of what you are served!


I myself will be going to college this fall as a first-time college student. I won’t have the problem of little kitchen access because my living arrangements are townhouses instead of dorms, but I empathize with the fear of a life of lackluster foods (high school meals aren’t exactly mouth-watering delicacies). I have overcome much of this with delicious sandwich making. I have created so many interesting sandwiches and have received so many compliments on how good they look. Seriously, you can create so many kinds of sandwiches and NEVER get bored of them. You can also pair them with different sides or just an apple for a very healthy, easy, and filling lunch/dinner. Plus, all the ingredients can be kept in your dorm fridge and assembled with absolutely no cooking.


Microwave, ah, microwave! Today’s dorm is ready for the micro!
I’ve got microwave specialty rice cookers, corn cookers, pop-corn cookers, vegie steamers, egg cookers, etc. Quite frankly, though I’ve got all these, I usually just do rice in a large Pyrex, and corn I just wrap in paper towels, and potatoes I just pierce and wrap in paper towels too — I guess what I’m saying is that you may not need all these specialty cookers, especially on a dorm budget.
Alternately, there’s nothing quite like a small toaster-convection combo oven (not necessarily a toaster oven or a convection oven alone, as each by itself has certain limits).
Hopefully, you’ve got a small frig too!


1. Buy a pasta pot with a built-in drainer (here’s one just to give you an idea - Take a wooden spoon from your mom’s kitchen to use with above. Buy pastas, jarred sauces (or raid Mom’s kitchen (see wooden spoon, above. Swipe veggies from caf. Combine with pasta and sauce.
2. If you have a fridge, milk and dry cereal (the latter swiped from caf, of course) is a must. Bowl and spoon from caf and/or Mom (oh, so that’s why I’m missing so much stuff from my kitchen!).
3. DO NOT buy salty, overly-processed things to nuke. You will get headaches, be under-nourished and, eventually, glow in the dark.
4. Take as much fresh fruit as you can carry from the caf. If you have a fridge, great. If not, just get one day’s worth each day and be sure to eat it. It’s good for you and will stop you from eating garbage.
5. After lunch or dinner, take a “sandwich” to go from the caf – bread, lean protein, veggies. Wrap it up. (Hey, no one said you can’t bring tin foil into the caf, right? If you’re timid, wrap in a napkin and rewrap in foil in your room.). You now have a healthy (and FREE) snack, or even a meal. Helpful to keep mustard, mayo, ketchup, etc. in your fridge.
6. Check out the prepared foods if you have access to a supermarket. Maybe some sushi would be a nice treat, and is much cheaper from the supermarket than from a restaurant. Better yet, learn to make it – it’s easy!
7. Mac and cheese. Blue box or (better) organic. No more need be said. Use the pot i told you about and you’re golden.
8. Check to see if your school has a nutritionist on staff. Make an appointment. Educate yourself. Find out is in the caf food. Ask if they can use whole wheat pasta, leaner meats, have veg alternatives.. Make some noise. You’re the paying customer. DEMAND THE GOOD STUFF!!

Mom of Two

It has been a while since I have endured dorm life… but I can share a few things me and my fam do when we travel (hotel life is usually somewhat akin to the dormitory).
We never go to far without our blender… and a magic bullet will also suffice.
I start with a nut or seed milk (1/3 cup nuts… usually almonds, or raw almond butter; 1-2 dates; 1 cup water; 1/2 tsp vanilla; pinch sea salt) and then add anything you like after that. It is a quick and nourishing way to start the day. (If I remember correctly, I was usually running out of my room just before class.) I usually throw in a handful or two of greens, along with some coconut butter/ milk, bit of cocoa, and extra dates or agave nectar to sweeten. Yum!
If you have a small fridge, you can keep an assortment of fruit and veggies. Throw together a salad and top with seeds, nuts, cheese and a vinaigrette. I also soak nuts and then rinse them off to bring with me for a snack.
Thank goodness that apples, bananas and any other fruit are grab and go.
I know I can’t be of huge help with gourmet meals, but I find that its always the easy stuff that keeps me from heading for a restaurant.. or in your case, the cafeteria (shudder…).
Good luck!!!

Erin D

At American University, we were allowed to store appliances in our rooms, but we could only use them in the kitchens– there’s one on every floor. I got by with a stock pot, sauce pan, frying pan, good knife, cutting board, measuring cups, mixing bowl, spatula, and wooden spoon. I improvised a lot (dinner fork + elbow grease = great whisk) and tried to cook meals with as few ingredients as possible.
I did a lot of stir-fries, beans-and-rice dishes, french toasts, pita pizzas, and simple salads. Avoiding prepared foods saves money, but frozen peas (anathema to some of you, I know) can be lifesavers! I used them to make Heidi’s pea & ricotta dumplings in the dorms, which were delicious!
You may consider making meals ahead of time, maybe on Sundays when you don’t feel like doing your homework. I loved to make a pot of lentil soup– lunch for a week!


There are definitely a few tricks to cooking when living in dorms, many of which were covered above. I would add one big thing:
Learn to work with the dining halls.
Yes, dining hall food often sucks, or at the very least gets tedious. However, there are ways to work around this. And if you are paying for a meal plan, you might as well make the best of it.
If your dining hall is all you can eat, then you are halfway there already. Dining hall food is often served in stations but you should never let that limit you. The salad bar is a great source of raw ingredients that can be added to other foods (or if you can take it from the dining hall used in your own cooking).
If your dining hall is set up as a food court, don’t let that stop you either! I’ve seen lots of people take veggies from the salad bar to add to their burrito or stir fry, or tortillas for their sandwiches, etc. This works best if you get to know the people behind the counter (do this anyway!), but can sometimes be tricky when figuring out how stuff should be paid for.
Still, don’t be afraid to be creative with what is in the dining halls! And don’t be afraid to be ambitious even within the confines of your lousy dorm kitchen. I nurtured a sourdough starter my sophomore year and proofed lots of loaves in my modest double!


when I was in school I used my microwave to make alfredo sauce, steam artichokes, make chocolate pudding, and steam other veggies. I learned to take what I could from the cafeteria (fruit, ice cream, butter packets). I made things out of other things in the cafeteria. Best thing to do, make friends w/ a local so you can go to their house on weekends to make some food or share in their cooking.


Dorm rules vary greatly, so I’d be sure to check and see exactly what is allowed. Some colleges allow toaster ovens and crockpots, while others do not even allow electric coffee pots. Most, however allow microwaves and refrigerators. If you can only have those, I’d go with a convection combination, if they’re allowed and you can afford it. If you can squeeze a half size chest or upright freezer, or a smaller full-size refrigerator with a freezer in your room, you can make meals before you go, freeze them, then microwave one for each meal. This worked great for me, when I bought stackable microwaveable containers (I used glass ones, but the plastic ones stack better). You can keep spices,dried peppers and dried veggies to add to pasta or rice that can be cooked in the microwave, and save refrigerator space for eggs if you eat them, and whatever fresh things you can’t liberate from the cafeteria salad bar. Refrigerator free soy, goat, or regular milk saves refrigerator space, too, but I wouldn’t go without a frig if you can help it. That way you can make more intricate meals less frequently, then zap the leftovers when you have less time.


Among the lessons here: ask, and you get. Lots of great comments: surely there’s a book here. Thanks to everyone.
In HOME COOKING, easily available in any bookstore, Laurie Colwin wrote lovingly and enthusiastically of cooking in tiny spaces in New York.
Muesli-style, all-raw breakfast comes together fast: berries, a chopped quarter-apple, sliced raw almonds, half a banana, a few cherries/strawberries and 1/4 cup of raw steel-cut oats and/or a pack of raw quick-oatmeal (Costco), almond or soy milk. No cooking, fuels me for hours when I’m traveling. Get the screwcap soymilk if you can; it can be frozen and then travels half a day in luggage.
Second the tip on buying small. NY is full of little neighborhood grocers and greenmarkets. Get to know them.


When I was an undergrad I was exempt from the meal plan due to my numerous food allergies – however – first year students couldn’t get into the apartment dorms with kitchens!
I brought a Vitamix blender with me.
The thing about the vitamix over an ordinary blender is that you can get it hot enough to make warm soup, or cold enough to freeze sorbet/ice cream and chill smoothies. I had a lot of breakfast smoothies and fresh veggie soups all year long. Worth the investment.


When I was in law school, I lived in an apartment called a bachelor which basically means no kitchen. The one thing that saved me was a george foreman grill!
Not sure for a george foreman grills is legal in a dorm room but maybe its worth it to have one hidden away?
I would buy asparagus and zucchini and grill it on the foreman. Make some instant rice using the hot pot and a little meal.
You can also make a great panini or grilled cheese on the foreman. I would get good cheese like an herbed hard cheese and make grilled cheese out of that. Though it was a little more expensive, it seemed so much tastier than American cheese. I have heard rumors you can also make grilled cheese with an iron and some parchment paper in a pinch.
If you have a microwave, you can make baked potatoes or baked yams. Just poke them all over with a fork and cook for 5 minutes, flip over and cook for 5 more (times make vary, just kind of squeeze the potato or yam with a potholder, obviously you want it to be squishy).
If you have a meal plan you might consider saving money by making healthier meals out of what is offered in the cafeteria. Like asking for pasta plain without whatever icky sauce they are serving and then adding some fresh veggies if you are lucky enough to have a salad bar at your cafeteria.
Or getting instant oatmeal and aiding some fresh fruit and granola to dress it up.
Just keep in mind that though you don’t have a full gourmet kitchen, you can still do a lot, you just have to get creative. But sometimes that is what brings out the true genius of a cook!


Yes, microwaves are wonderful appliances for the college student…but many people are unaware of how many fires are started by students failing to monitor them. I live in the town with the University of Kansas & was very surprised to learn that close to 90% of local fires are the result of microwave misuse…students not paying attention for one reason or another…”under the influence” being frequently the case. So…to the college student (I have one moving into campus housing…counting down 21 days!) please, please, please stay with your appliance until completely done. (microwave popcorn turns up frequently when examining microwave fire causes…inadvertently add an extra 0 and 3 minutes turns into 30 minutes…walk away, forget & it turns into a fire) That said…
An IMMERSION BLENDER could be useful for campus housing residents. My daughter is fond of smoothies/shakes/drinks & uses an immersion blender…cleanup is a snap by just “blending” hot water & a bit of soap in a small container & rinsing/drying. I keep a variety of frozen fruits on hand specifically for this…plain & vanilla yogurt (wish it was sold by the gallon!)…juices for thinning. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc are good flavor enhancers. Nutrition can be boosted by first pulverizing add-ins such as nuts, flax meal/seeds, oatmeal/oat bran/wheat germ/quinoa flakes, etc. She recently spent time in Paraguay as an exchange student & found that a favorite drink for her host family was simply canned peaches pureed with some of the juice to thin for preference…she loved it. And what could be simpler? Yes…it’s canned fruit…which we rarely purchase…but if it helps provide a more rounded diet for a student, then it’s a good thing…canned fruit is better than no fruit. She’s planning on trying other fruits such as pears. So I am reminded, once again, to think outside the box.
I’m thinking that spreads/dips such as Hummus can also be made using the immersion blender…just might not be quite as smooth, but will still taste good. Raw veggies, totillas, breads, pita chips/bread, crackers are options for dipping… or use as a sandwich spread. We’ve turned frozen edamame, canned beans & lentils, jars of roasted peppers, etc into “hummus” type spreads good for uses limited only by ones creativity. A favorite was a can of a three bean blend mixed with garlic & chipotles in adobo sauce (powdered garlic & chipotle would work) thinned with olive oil…sooo good spread on a dense whole wheat bread (top with thinly sliced cucumbers, tomatoes or zuchinni, leaf lettuce or sprouts?).
I use my blender all the time for pureeing soups. I’m thinking that with a microwave to cook veggies such as potato, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, mushrooms, carrots, etc (either solo or a combination), a student could add some milk/broth/water, seasonings, maybe cheese & blend to create an easy soup. So having a small well-stocked spice/herb supply that could be kept in a tupperware type container would be most useful. If you have access to a local health food store, the bulk department will make buying herbs/spices more affordable…plus the ability to buy only the amounts wanted…which makes trying unfamiliar things easier…& fun. We’ve used leftover pureed soups over a baked potato, as a sauce for pasta or veggies. Serve the sauced veggies over a cooked grain such as couscous, quinoa, bulgar or rice and you have a meal.
Nothing fancy…
Oh, yes…take a multi-vitamin daily.
To all of you heading to college life soon…be safe…make good choices… and may you experience an incredibile, amazing adventure!!!


Maybe I’m old-fashioned and out-of-date, but there is a glut of food in a cafeteria, a good deal of which nourishing. At my college there were salad stations, wok stations, etc. I got very tired of listening to ungrateful, spoiled students (mostly the ones who didn’t know how to dig potatoes and snap green beans) fuss about how there was nuthin’ to eat.
Gratefulness does wonders for the spirit.
Of course, there’s always the option of renting an apartment and buying a share in a local CSA… Or go on a juice diet and give the extra money to help fight hunger…the real kind.

Mama JJ

While I wouldn’t break the small appliance rules of the dorm, if there are any, I would check and see if there is a communal kitchen any where. Even if it is gross, it is often possible for you to plug in your own, private (don’t leave it there!) small appliance to cook on or even leave on all day if it is a slow cooker without breaking rules.
I suggest getting a small 2 quart slow cooker. It is perfect for meals for 2. You could cook one day and have leftovers for the next if you’d like and it works just like a regular slow cooker.
If you can’t do that, you can make sandwiches, cold salads etc easily using refrigerated ingredients. And your school might surprise you, dorm food isn’t as bad as it once was and most schools are trying to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, celiac suffers etc which means a revamping of the tired old menus people remember.
Also, you might find that different dorms have better or different food. At my tiny private college there was a main cafeteria that was ok, but there was also a small “cafe” that was open for breakfast and lunch that served food on a smaller scale that was much better and often had interesting dishes and specials. A lot of people would make lunch their main meal and eat it in the cafe and then just have a simple light meal at the Cafeteria (salad, soup etc) for dinner.


Wow, what great ideas!
I had no idea you could do so much with a rice cooker!
I love my slow-cooker, and it’s a real blessing this time of year when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen. A few days ago, I found this neat site where the author did 365 days of using only her slow cooker. She made bread, cake, granola, yogurt, things you would never think of doing in a crockpot. She even details her failures, which are pretty amusing. Here’s the link to her blog, where she details some great ideas to survive well in our recession.


I lived in a tent in Hungary for 8 months when I was in the Army, and found a hot-pot to be most useful. Boullion flavors up almost anything (instant rice, quick-cook noodles, veggies), instant oatmeal, grits, or other grains are nutritious and you can cook them with only hot water, and tea with honey is an excellent treatment for food fatigue. Pick up bread and salad from the cafeteria, along with anything else edible that you are allowed to carry out.


Ditto on the rice cooker. If you do a Google search on “rice cooker dorm” or variations on those key words, you’ll come up with lots of recipe suggestions.


get a rice cooker. you can cook rice, stir-fry veggies, make egg omelets, curries, even toast bread or warm up room temperature mince pies (fruit pies) – just use something to hold the “cook” switch down.


they did a variation of htis on top chef-“masters”. most college kids have basically weak palate development and there isn’t anything to cook on, but a hot plate. overall, not an interesting storyline.
i admire you. especially since you are able to make money and do what you love.


I just graduated from college, and I spent my first two years in a dorm. First of all, I definitely had an illegal George Foreman grill – I befriended my RA and she was cool with it and didn’t tell, and I hid it in the back of my closet during room inspections. Grilled cheese with tomato slices and spinach are quick and easy on the George Foreman, as is grilled PB & J! What I decided was that since I had a meal plan anyway that was already paid for, I should try to use it as much as possible instead of buying groceries, even when I wasn’t just walking into the HUB and buying a meal, so I would get stuff from the salad bar and instead of making one big salad, I would get several whole containers of one ingredient. Then you can take that stuff back to your room to make salads, have veggies and dip, or cook with. All the dorms at my school also have one full kitchen in the basement, so you can always buy veggies and stuff from the salad bar, supplement with a few things from the store, get a pot of soup going, and sit at the table and work on homework as it cooks. I’m not entirely sure if it was allowed or not, but sophomore year my room-mate brought a bread machine she inherited from her grandma, and we made home-made bread in our dorm room all the time until I accidentally threw away the blade! Also, for your information, cookies can be made on a George Foreman grill! They will not look like cookies and they will fall apart, but they will taste like cookies, and people walking down the hall will think they are crazy because they smell cookies baking and know that no one could possibly be baking cookies in a dorm room with no oven! I also recall eating a lot of oatmeal, even for dinner. As you settle in, you may make friends who live in houses or apartments who may let you come use their kitchen if you are willing to share with them the fruits of your labors. Oh! Another thing you can do is use your meal plan to buy bagels, cheese slices from the sandwich bar, and stuff from the salad bar. Just toast the bagel, top it with the other stuff, microwave it, and you have pizza. Good luck!


I haven’t had time to read all the comments so I apologize in advance for duplicate ideas. Like many others have said there are lots of ways that you can make a good meal out of a single microwave or electric tea kettle, but it takes some planning to figure out logistics. Some specific ideas:
– get one of those under-bed (or on-top-of-closet, or behind-door, what have you…) plastic rubbermaid containers to store food & cooking supplies. You really don’t want to attract bugs into your living space.
– get a decent knife and the largest cutting board you can find that will fit into that plastic box. Besides using it for cutting (!), you can use the cutting board as a general prep & staging area so you’re not having to balance tippy bowls of food directly on your bedspread.
– keep a stash of your favorite spices, herbs, oils, & bottled sauces on hand. Lots of flavor without taking up lots of precious fridge space.
– stock up with convenience food to your tastes. Annie’s microwave mac & cheese, single servings packs of shelf-stable milk, soup mixes, couscous mixes, trader joes pre-cooked brown rice, etc.
– if you’re on a budget, hoard and stash free stuff that you use in your cooking… things like s&p packets, sugar packets, red chili flakes from the pizza delivery, soy sauce packets from the chinese delivery, etc.
– two of my favorite college era meals have stayed in my repertoire for the past 20 years. First is an asian noodle thing with thin rice noodles (you only have to soak them in hot tap water to prep), whatever protein you have on hand (those shelf-stable packs of tofu work great), whatever veggies you have (a single carrot & some snap peas from the store, or a salad bar mix of your favorites), and a faux peanut sauce with a spoon of peanut butter from your pantry, along with your stashed packets of soy sauce, chili pepper, and sugar. Mix with water and put that all in the microwave for a couple of minutes and you’ve got a good meal. The other simple keeper is a drained can of chickpeas, a handful of couscous, a handful of spinach, and a teaspoon of boullion. Mix with water & microwave for a couple of minutes and top with green onions & parmesan. I liked this one kind of soupy… my roommate liked it drier.
Good luck – embrace the chance to be creative with what you have!


My college days had years of dorm food and I ended up living out of a “HOT POT”. It is a kettle that the whole top comes off and you can make soups and stuff in it. We weren


You have no idea how excited I was when I read this post!! I’m starting my freshmen year of college next month, and to be perfectly honest the biggest anxiety that I’ve had is getting stuck in a rut with eating… All of the comments have been super helpful! 🙂
I’ve been trying to figure out ways of cooking with the microwave lately, and so far I’ve been pretty successful. I’ve been steaming veggies in a glass container covered with plastic wrap and cooking eggs, but that’s about all the success I’ve had. 😛
Also, Annie’s frozen dinner meals rock! They’ll definitely be in my freezer for those lazy days when I don’t want to make any thing OR go out!


I failed to have the patience to read half of the comments, but as a college grad about to go on to grad school, I gotta tell you, just pretend like your car camping. One of those two burner Coleman stoves saved my life in undergrad. I would just go outside to the nearest picnic table and do any stovetop cooking I needed to. This wasn’t always easy in the winter, considering I did my undergrad in the Adirondack Mtns of NY. But, I bundled up and I survived just fine. Also, with the help of a toaster oven:)


For the dorm year of my life I sauteed portobello mushroom burgers in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper in a toaster oven. But it was always messy and often seemed kind of dangerous cooking in the dorm room.
The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies just opened its new LEED certified Kroon Building which includes a “BYO Cafe” so students can pack and prepare fresh meals. I’m guessing that Yale’s is not the only example, but hopefully this sustainability and health trend that will get picked up and replicated on other campuses.


Colleges differ dramatically throughout the country. Talk to yours and find out what is or is not allowed. Also, investigate the set-up of your dinning hall.
I recently graduated from an awesome university in (unvegetarian friendly) Texas where we were required to live on campus for 3 years and have a dinning plan. However, each dorm was equipped with a micro-fridge (mini fridge and microwave combination).
We only had one dinning hall but it sold everything a la carte, so there were no restrictions to taking food with us. Our dinning hall was set up like a mall food court with stations like BBQ, Mexican, Asian, standard cafeteria food, wraps, salad bar, vegetarian, gourmet salads, pasta, deli sandwiches, and soups. At many of the stations, foods were cooked to order in skillets so I never had problems eating vegetarian. A diet of bean and veggie burritos, black bean wraps, hummus sandwiches, and tofu stir-frys, kept me healthy and able to focus on my studies, instead of my next meal. But even with all these options, I LOVED going home and eating “real” food.
College is time consuming. You need to find quick, healthy, and satisfying. Salads become boring very quickly. Take advantage of what is available to you first and learn how to use it to your advantage, then branch out.
(And yes, we still had an electric kettle and George Foreman grill. I don’t know if they were actually allowed or not, but do mostly to time and the fact that they required cleaning, we never used them.)


You can make almost anything on a George Foreman. When I was in school there was one in the “kitchen” on our floor and a lot of my friends had them as well. Also hot pots are critical, you can make pasta, vegetables, anything that you don’t want to heat up in a microwave.


Ah, college life.
I had a bar fridge filled with food instead of beer. That way food did not go missing from the communal fridge.
Crockpot so when you get back your meal is ready.
Hummous with carrot sticks.
Almonds – protein is important to staying full!
Tortilla wrapped with whatever you like.
Fresh fruit, muesli, yogurt, peanut butter.
Make meat sauce or mac and cheese from scratch or curry when you are at the dorm cleaning up, doing laundry etc. and freeze leftovers.
Make sure you have some snacks with you when you go to class – granola bars, some cheese, crackers, fresh fruit.
College years can be the best years of your life.

Stephanie Anne

I love avocados. I think these are some of the best ideas I have seen. I think you should think about burritos. They are cheap and easy to make. Thanks.

Alex Wright

I just wanted to let Liana know that there are avocados and mangoes in other states besides California. However, I will mention that it is more difficult to find Lemon cucumbers. (But she did not mention those.) Most colleges are bending over backwards to improve their food choices and offer many healthy choices. You might be luckier than you think.


miso paste + hot water + nori, dried shittake mushrooms (no refrigerator required) + tofu, scallion (if you have them) + 5 minutes and an elecric kettle = delicious satisfying easy meal


Take a look at an awesome cookbook/healthy eating guide:
“Healthy, Fast and Cheap: The Ultimate College Cookbook,” by Seth Braun.
It’s terrific, with great recipes and ideas.

cydney smith

Oh my… dorm rooms – yes, I too will be going back to Uni in five weeks, thankfully this year I’ll have my own kitchen, but being a vegan and living on a required meal plan was torture!
This is what got me through:
-Peanut butter
must haves to make life easier:
-Toaster oven
-French Press
I even managed to make microwave chocolate cake and my “Super-Easy-Make-It-In-A-dorm Cheesecake” (pre-vegan times) – the latter impressed my other dorm inmates to no end – and came with multiple marriage proposals!!
I think it is the little things, like baked goods and comfort food, which make all the difference if you can make it in your room. THere are innumerable recipes around to accomplish the task. google “no-bake” or throw things in a bowl, cover with chocolate or peanut butter and you are fairly good to go!


When I was in college, a friend invested in a toaster oven, and I loved it! You can do some individual-sized baking in one, in addition to, of course, toasting. I also used one of those electric kettles to make pasta when desperate.


I work in student affairs, with a busy college-life schedule, even though I have my own kitchen and use it frequently for my picky appetite, I often feel like a college student. In addition to the rice cooker suggestions, I’ll also recommend an electric kettle (great for making hard boiled eggs, instant grains, and beans), microwave & safe bowl, and dorm fridge w/ freezer. For all those worried about missing summer fruits and veggies, cut em up and freeze em! Mangos, corn, snow peas, and strawberries are my favorite to freeze, they stay good all year.
I also want to mention the stigma presented about campus cafeterias here. Depending on the school, many campus dining service areas are moving toward supporting natural and organic diets. Many small liberal arts schools partner with local farms for thier food source and to compost in return. In 12 years of working (and attending conferences) on college campuses, I’ve never not seen a salad bar. Take a look around your cafeteria, they might have a whole grain section, or a grill where you can ask to have your own combo from the salad bar heated up. Find (or start) a student club that tests and suggests recipes for everyone to enjoy. If you do want to cook on your own, I used to ask for a take out container, graze the salad bar, and made a stir fry at home, with plenty of raw leftovers stored in my fridge for the next day.
College cafeterias are not all the same, and a lot of work goes into dining service units to support student health and nutrition. In the end if you’re still unhappy about the situation, there are a lot of great schools out there, and take your food interests to a school that supports your passion as you live and study what you love.
good luck!


Another cheap and cheerful option is couscous, preferably the wholegrain variety. All you need is a kettle, or other means of boiling water – you pour twice as much water as couscous over it, and leave to stand for 10 minutes. And if you add (say) a tin of chick-peas, drained and rinse and perhaps some feta cheese…. yummy!
I do think it’s worth at least trying the cafeteria, especially if it is included in your accommodation, but I think everybody wants the option to make at least an occasional snack. And not all halls (dorms) are catered – my daughter’s wasn’t. There was a cafeteria but it was expensive and nasty, so she only really used it as a last resort, and mostly did her own cooking.

Mrs Redboots

In the dorm room: lara bars, lara bars, and more lara bars. Also, rice cakes with almond butter and lots of fruit.


When I was in college I was vegan, and I found myself eating tabouli and salad everyday in the cafeteria. When I got sick of that I moved on to eating a baked potato with salad. I used to bring Annie’s goddess salad dressing to the cafeteria with me.
I also made a big stink to the food service manager of the school, and to residential life about that fact that the cafeteria was only supplying me with minimal options, and eventually they started stocking a small fridge in the corner of the cafeteria with soy cheese, nayonaise, and various packaged fake meat, which isn’t awesome, but definitely better than nothing.
In my dorm I had a small fridge that had a little freezer section, freshman year I didn’t have a microwave but I had an “illegal” hot plate that my roommate and I used mostly for making tea. Sophomore year I had a microwave and an illegal george foreman grill.
I used to keep things in my room like various nuts, fruit, almond butter, soymilk for making hot chocolate and cereal, granola, rice cakes, premade tofu salad in packages.
Avocado and tomato sandwiches on baguettes were definitely a major college staple.
I used to also make thai kitchen noodle soups and add lots of frozen vegetables, or some kind of packaged smoked tofu, if I couldn’t make it to the cafeteria.
Annies frozen foods definitely work in an emergency too.
When I had a small foreman grill I used to make the Annies California veggie burgers and eat them with mustard, lettuce and tomato.
Also its good to get to know people who live in campus housing that does have a full kitchen (often juniors and seniors) friends of mine would let me come over and cook dinner at their place and then I would take the leftovers back to my dorm.
Its definitely a challenge to eat healthy in college, first of all because you have very limited resources, and depending where the college is, (mine was very rural) you might not even have a good grocery store to go to. Secondly eating healthy is a challenge because many of the people around you do not have any concept of healthy eating at all. The cafeteria is full of highly processed foods, often your peers come to school stocked with top ramen and nature valley granola bars.


When I was in college eons ago, we could not have any appliances but smuggled in a rice cooker. You can do marvelous things with it – while the rice is cooking, go to the cafeteria (I assume you are on a meal plan) and hit the salad bar for fresh stuff to add to the rice to steam with it. Also, lots of stuff is good in a tortilla that can come off the food line – beans, veggies, cheese, etc. These days, schools are far more enlightened regarding the food choices in the dining room so don’t count your choices out until you see the menus. Most colleges offer a wide variety of food – vegetarian included as there are way more international students that are vegetarian than in my day. Good luck.

jan canyon

Here in “The Assisted Living Facility” we have the same problems: Fridge and Micro in the rooms, shared range/oven in “the Rec Room”. Most of the elderly ladies here had real kitchens at home and are now in shock at what they have. The place doesn’t do badly on institutional meals, but they are a fixed meal plan.


Oh, and for the people who say you just shouldn’t cook in your room-
I went to a small college- our caf was awful. I ate mostly lucky charms, waffles, and pizza when I went there.
Our dorm didn’t have a community kitchen- we had to walk through the botanical gardens and into another dorm to get to the kitchen.


What is allowed varies from college to college, and probably between different states and cities, too, depending on ordinances.
In my college we could have a microwave, crockpot, or toaster oven- but we could not have a hot plate or regular toaster. It couldn’t have an exposed heating element, basically.
I made veggie soups in the crock pot all the time.
If you are lucky enough to be allowed a toaster oven, that greatly expands what you can do, especially with the bigger ovens they make now. Just invest in a few toaster oven size pans, and you can do muffins, pizzas, and pretty much anything you can do in a regular oven.
I made some great microwave scrambled eggs in college.
You can totally boil noodles in a microwave.
I would suggest getting a raw diet cookbook. Even if you aren’t actually interested in a raw diet… it would certainly give you some cooking appliance free ideas.


The ad for the bleach and toilet cleaner is really dissonant with your whole message here of healthy living. It’s actually a little shocking for me, who hasn’t put anything like that into the water supply for many, many years. Please reconsider.
HS: Agreed, I asked that it be pulled last week. I think my network is having a hard time finding it in the system. If you see it again, and can snag a screen shot of it & email it to me, that would be helpful. -h


My partner and I have both spent a lot of time as starving students–undergrad and then grad school–and even now have to eat on a tight budget. It’s not hard to eat healthily and cheaply, just don’t be tempted by pre-packaged meals that have more than five ingredients that you can’t pronounce, and don’t buy food in boxes. Produce and fresh food can be affordable if you eat with the seasons (eg, don’t buy strawberries in December). Although that might mean eating a lot of apples and forgoing packages of tasty ramen noodles for dinner, you body and budget with thank you! My partner isn’t much of a cook, but it never ceases to amaze me how many different kinds of omlettes he can make from a few basic ingredients. Good luck!


I wish I had known in college that you can cook eggs in the microwave. Scramble them, add cheese, baby spinach, or whatever else you like. Spray the bottom of a wide-base mug lightly with cooking spray, and pour the scramble mixture in. It may take a few tries to figure out the temp and time for your particular microwave, but you will end up with a little egg patty that is perfect for a quick morning sandwich. Stick it on top of an English muffin and you’re ready to go.


You will be in NYC. You could not have landed in a better spot… There are amazing food stores that have these fantastic salad bars that you can buy by the pound..there are great cheap places to eat in NYC. From felafel to to Pizza to great Chinese take-out…and the two appliances I would take with me would be a panini press(or George Forman Grill) and a crock pot. That should keep you in everything from Sandwiches to Soups and Stews and even desserts. They have these really small crock pots and a small Forman Grill. Good luck and thank your lucky stars you aren’t in some little one horse college town with no cheap eats.


_The Garden of Vegan_ by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard has an excellent chapter on dorm food. It has recipes that only require microwaves and hot pots or rice makers, and there’s everything from soup to curry to bread and dessert. I wish I’d had it when I was in college…


I say go simple. There are farmers markets in the city that are not only going to provide you with tasty good for you foods, but it will be good for the soul, too. If your mind stays healthy and alert, you’ll keep treating your body that way.
Eat lots of veggies- i always prechop everything so it is easy to eat and at hand. Also, on the simple note: smoothies. a blender, some yogurt, and a few fresh fruits and you are on your way to a rejuvenating morning start.
dinners can be tricky, but really, if you avoid the nastier foods that your college may be providing and stick to the things you enjoy that are also offered, you’ll feel great.
Lastly, TASTY BITES! They are easy to cook and are so good! If you have access to a range, boil in a bag brown rice with tasty bites cooking in same pot. So so amazing and a quick healthy meal.
have a blast!


I wasn’t a strict vegetarian in college, but I was scared enough of the poor-quality, poorly-cooked meat to stay away for about 4 years in any dining hall/fast food place. I ended up eating a lot of hard-boiled eggs. I cooked a half-dozen at once and kept them in the fridge. Not haute cuisine at all. I was lazy and had no idea how to cook.
Amazing how when I was in college, cooking and food quality was not a priority for us at all. We just ate to survive, I guess.
Maybe check if there’s a campus food co-op? There’s one down here at U of MD. I know there are a lot of health-conscious vegetarians that enjoy it.


Honestly, I wouldn’t try cooking in the dorm room unless the options on campus are truly terrible. You have limited storage and can only use certain appliances, and it makes the whole room reek of food. I had a roommate who used to make crockpot chili occasionally, and I thought it was gross to be making it in such a small, bedroom space.
Typically you are forced to sign on to a meal plan, so there’s no sense in buying a lot of food outside of the dining hall. My college had a fantastic dining hall, with lots of fresh vegetarian options. A lot of universities have improved their food in the last decade or so to accommodate special diets and gourmet palates.
If you really enjoy cooking and feel you would miss it, you have two options: 1) Cook at your parents’ house when you visit (a great option if they are within driving distance), or 2) Use the communal kitchen that dorms typically have. I found that in college I had way too many other things to do than cook everyday.


E-mail me. I will tell you what I did to survive living in my ASU dorm. I have a gluten allergy so the school food was out of the question. I had a microwave and a frige in my room. I had a pyrex dish with a glass cover, a good quality cerated plastic knife and two soup spoons, two forks and two coffee mugs, one ceral bowl, one plate, a few pieces of tupper ware and four dish towls, small bottle of antibacterial dish soap, dish brush, roll of plastic wrap, salt, pepper, old bay spice, garlic powder, dried basil and rosemarry. I kept everything in a large tupper ware container that fit underneath my bed. I washed dishes in my sink. I had my own sink, but some did not and would wash them in the community bathroom. I know your think gross but you don’t have to let the dishes touch the sink when your washing and rinsing. So if you want some recipes and more tips e-mail me directly at [email protected]
good luck,


You really can do some decent “real” cooking in microwaves.
1. Chop up onions & fresh mushrooms. Drizzle with oil (olive is best). Nuke gently until onions are translucent.
2. BACON!! The sure sign of a benevolent and loving God, you CAN do bacon in the Nuker. You can buy plastic appliances for it, or I just lay it on a paper plate with paper towel over top to stop the spatter.
3. spraWl-Mart (or other big box stores) have a variety of plastic cooking devices for use in microwaves. My favorite is a rice/pasta/vegetable steamer.
I survived 11 years of college and grad school, and now teach outdoor cooking to Boy Scout leaders. Decent dorm food IS attainable. ;.)


The rice cooker and electric kettle are terrifis
ideas- I have cooked many a potatoe & veggie in the electric kettle (even at the library!)
But the best tool for me wasa small convection toaster o ven – the flatbread/pizza crust/ baked potatoe/roasted veggies that I could cank out with that sustained me for 2 1/2 years – I also made large batches of cashew cheese which can make even shoe leather taste good – but you have to have blender for that…an appliance co-op is helpful…


At my school in Philly, we could have a mini-fridge, and that was IT. I had an electric kettle that I’d cook ramen in, not the best choice but it worked.
I eventually scoped out the best places on campus to eat- I got pasta with garlic and sun dried tomatoes, fresh made veggie hummus from the bagel stand, and the most fab beef and brocc from a sidewalk stand, all on my meal plan. It just took some detective work. I also found out where and what not to eat- I walked out of a checkout line and left my tray there when a cloud of fruit flies as big as my head left the balsamic bottle as I was about to dress my salad.
A friend did a semester-long project on her school’s caf food, and discovered that they were outside of all the FDA’s guidlines. Food Services refused to release nutrition info to her, which is illegal, so her prof had to pressure the school for data. Use your common sense when choosing how to eat on campus- you may be horrified, but you may also find a few surprises.


Get a good rice cooker with a “porridge” setting, which is also a crockpot, or slow cooker, and lay your hands on The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann ISBN 978-1-55832-203-5 with recipes for risottos, pilafs, polenta, chilis. soups, porridges puddings and more. There is no exposed coil in a rice cooker, so this should be okay in most dorms.
I’d also suggest taking a sea salt grinder, a pepper grinder and half a lemon to food hall with you, along with your favourite sweet chili sauce; these will transform most food you will encounter there!

Curzon Tussaud

If allowed, a small food processor is great for making nutrient dense dips or sandwich spreads, like hummus, pesto, raw veggie dips. Nuts and seeds are wonderful brain foods. Herbs are a great way to add vital minerals to a mineral-lacking dorm food diet. The dips make great late-night snacks with some whole grain crackers or pita. Also great for an impromptu party in your room. Forget the greasy chips and processed stuff! Get a food processor.

Marirose Piciucco

I definitely echo the idea on making a microwaved “stirfry” out of the salad bar. I think this was all I ate during my senior year. My college had great condiments, so I would also make a little peanut sauce for my stirfry: natural peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, hot pepper flakes, and a bit of hot water from the coffee/tea area.


I am going to be a senior next year and will be living in a real house with a real kitchen for the first time! I feel your pain! My college has pretty good food but it gets old after about a month. My favorite creative things to do:
1. tortilla from Mexican food station, lettuce from salad bar, grilled chicken from grill, caesar dressing, olives, and parmesan cheese make a great wrap!
2. beans from Mexican station, grated cheddar cheese, and tomatoes from salad bar make a nice little bean salad thing.
3. toasted wheat bagel with cream cheese and tomatoes and cucumbers on top with a little salt and pepper is delicious
4. spinach, beans from mexican place, cheese, and microwave it a little bit is good protein
5. almost vomit at the thought of any food from the dining hall and drive to the Met (fancy grocery store) for dinner.
Sorry I can’t be of more help. Living like this does make you appreciate your family’s kitchen way more! Good luck!


Electrical Tea Kettles are a must in the dorm! Add a cafe tier.
Ramen Noodles
Electric Tea Kettle
Italian peasant dish: heat up water in the kettle. pour over ramen noodles. wait until finished cooking. Drain water in nearby sink. Grab an egg from the mini-fridge and crack over noodles. Sprinkle cheese from mini-fridge over eggy noodles. Blast that thing in the microwave. Steal pepper and salt packages from cafeteria. Badabing Badaboom. If feeling skinny and malnutrition, add a can of green beans, haha.

Anna Proffitt

Having been raised in NYC and gone to school in upstate NY, I feel your pain. However, it’s not really pain as it’s really rather easy to get great fresh ingredients all across the state, even for vegetarians.
First, have a mini-fridge on hand and be sure to hit local markets like Wegmans (if upstate), farmer’s markets in the more countryside areas (also upstate), and Trader Joe’s and farmer’s mkts (if in NYC).
Stock up on dried or canned beans and fruits, and have frozen stuff on hand like veg sausages, dumplings and even rice.
Second, invest in a George Foreman grill for your dorm room. If your school forbids them, just make sure to clean it, unplug it and hide it under your bed or in your closet after every use.
Also good to have a crock pot or rice cooker on hand. Those are available at any ethnic food shop or even Walmart and dollar stores. These are pretty much common items in dorm rooms, particularly among the Asian student populace, so there will be no crack down on these appliances.
If your school requires you to have a meal plan as a freshman and sophomore, then research the menus and ingredients offered by their food service provider. Most, if not all, of the main ones, like Sodexho, have built-in vegetarian and healthy food options for years now, in addition to Fair Trade coffee beans, usually from Green Mountain Coffee. They also include sample menus on their website and a rather good salad options in most of their schools.
Also, check if your college campus or the town surrounding it has a food co-op, whether run by students or some other group. If in NYC, this shouldn’t be a problem considering we’re chock full of healthy outlets. If in upstate, there’s lots of NYS agriculture and appreciation for it, too, so many environmental student groups will either run their own veg co-op or affiliate with local organizations that have one.
Good luck! And have fun this year!

Heather C.

As a safety thing, please, college people, unplug whatever you are not using at the time. Thank you.

Sue M.

Check out Mark Bittman’s 101 salad ideas column from the New York Times. It’s currently the most e mailed article.


If you’re paying for a meal plan in the dining halls like I was, you might as well get your money’s worth. The dining halls at the small liberal arts college I graduated from a few years ago had a salad bar, sandwich bar, spice rack, rice at every meal, and microwaves. You can do some amazing things with the salad bar veggies, spices, some melted cheese, etc. I had friends who would make mexican beans and rice in the microwave, which was also great for steaming vegetables. You can bring in a small bag with the stuff you can’t get in the dining hall (miso paste, almond butter, pesto, favorite spice or salad dressing, real maple syrup, etc.) and spend a few extra minutes making your own delicious meal.
If they make you pay for 2 or 3 meals a day anyway, you might as well take advantage of the already processed veggies they’re offering you. I’ve been out of school for years now, but I really miss having vegetables already chopped and ready for me when it’s time for a meal!
If your dining halls don’t have a good salad bar, at least figure out the best methods for sneaking food out of there so you can have snacks later on. You might have to be furtive about it, but cargo pockets with tupperware in them could get you a “free” bagel or salad every day.


I wish I had known about this website while I was still in college because all of you have fabulous ideas!
I was not as fortunate as some in terms of having a kitchen in college. My freshman year was spent in a typical dorm setting, where, if you left the microwave on for a second too long, either it would short the whole dorm or cause the fire alarm to go off. My second year, while I had a kitchen, my roommates and I dare not use it. It smelled horrid and I’m convinced it’s from the age of the flood! Once you became a junior/senior, you had options with living but by that time, microwaveable food had become a staple. Of course, once I had a decent kitchen, I used it EVERY chance I got and whipped up the most decadent meals ever! (If I do say so myself!!)
Anywho, enough of my ramblings. I totally took advantage of the salad bar at school. They had AMAZING things available and all sorts of fruits/veggies. My favorite thing quickly became a toasted bagel with hummus and tomato with a side salad. They also had a “Mongolian Grill”. You were able to pick out what you wanted in your stir fry from the veggies to the meat or tofu.
If you caf isn’t as adaptable then you must get creative with your microwave! I used to buy cans of lentil soup and then get some veggies from the caf and have one of the workers chop them for me. (It pays to be nice to the cafeteria workers!!) I would drain the lentil soup bc it was kinda salty & gross (I’d allow for a little bit of the liquid to remain) and then put it in a microwaveable bowl with the veggies & cook. It wasn’t the greatest mock lentil soup ever but it sure beat the Cream of Hamburger soup that the cafeteria put out!
Once you get a handle on how long it takes rice to cook in the microwave, the world opens up! You can essentially make anything in the world in the microwave, it just takes A LOT of trial & error!
I also suggest finding a friend with a car so you can get to the store if you need to. Stock up on things like canned stock, but look for the low sodium ones, beans, rice, etc. When needed try to get to the store & get fresh fruits & veggies or just load up at the cafeteria. Depending on the size of your refrigerator/freezer, you can get some frozen fruits/veggies. And as a few people mentioned PEANUT BUTTER!!
Good luck, college is a blast & it just takes some getting used to & improvising. I have faith that you’ll be fine especially with all the awesome ideas people are giving on here!


I think it is wonderful that so many ideas were given. One caution: When I was at school one room caught fire because of an illegal appliance. As much as cooking is fun and necessary for the soul please be careful. Most dorms house a large number of young lives that I would not want to be wasted.
What about getting one of the raw cookbooks? Great food and no cooking needed. Just a thought.


Even if you can handle eating the cafeteria food, I remember that dinner time was so early. I always brought little ziplock bags into the cafeteria with me. I would make myself a bowl to take away – with raw carrots, celery… sometimes I would take watermelon and other cut up fruit. When no one was looking I would transfer the contents of the bowl into the little baggies. The dorms obviously don’t condone this and usually limit big backpacks, but I had a small purse that worked perfectly for this purpose. Then I would place the bags in my mini fridge in my dorm room and have access to healthy snacks throughout the day


anything not involving a heating element is usually allowed, and nearly everyone rents a mini-fridge; smoothies for breakfast, salads and raw food recipes would all work. I ran into some good salad ideas here: –though these might not be satisfying once it gets cold. what about a variety of broth-based soups, like miso? small immersion heaters are allowed in dorm rooms, and would work for reheating.


There is a very good book by Australian Womens’ Weekly, called: superfoods for exam success, it concentrates on good foods for keeping the brain alert, it gives easy recipes, many heartwarmingly nice others fast and others raw, it is very good, simple and delicious. … and cheap!


I’d be careful about bringing things that aren’t allowed. I’ve had friends that were kicked out of housing for having banned appliances. Learn to use what you can have.


Totally understand… I chose not to live in the dorms for a couple reasons including dorm food. It is amazing how many amazing dishes can be created in a microwave, and in a hurry.
Steamed veggies in the microwave are great.
Here are a couple of my other favorites:
Cheese sauce- can be used over baked potatoes, ham, steamed broccoli, or add salsa for an improv nacho sauce. This recipe feeds my 5 person family, so you may need to adjust proportions.
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup powdered milk
2 cups warm water
stir. Microwave one minute, stir, repeat until the sauce thickens. Add cheese to taste ( I prefer 8 oz for really cheesy sauce).
Quick snack dessert:
1/4 cup Chocolate chips
1-2 Tablespoons peanut butter
Microwave 30 seconds. Stir.
Dip graham crackers in chocolate/pb mix. Eat.


I brought a copy of Carole Raymond’s Student Vegetarian Cookbook with me to college and found it indispensable in making simple, real meals. The food at the dining hall never left me satisfied. Some favorite recipes included: black bean sweet potato quesadillas (so popular, it made it to the school newspaper), sauteed zuchinni pita pizzas, lentil soup, avacado-pear salad, post-modern chocolate pudding (made late night studying so much more rewarding!) and really, just about everything else I made (excluding the pancakes). I pick up copies used to give to friends in college whenever I come across this cookbook.


@Cathy: Your niece is probably fine using the microwave provided she uses dishes with lids. For other appliances, she may be able to get a doctor’s note about the celiac disease prescribing access to private cooking appliances. I doubt a school will allow her to cook in her room, even with a note, but they may allow her to bring her own appliances for use in the dorm kitchen.


Just to reassure you, the college I went to had wonderful dorm food. There was always at least 2 vegetarian options, a full salad bar with soups, a sandwich bar during lunch, and for brunch on Sunday they had made-to-order omelets. Food service was also open to students’ suggestions and requests. So, if the dorm food doesn’t meet your needs, speak up! You’re paying for it!


Trio bars! Mrs. May’s naturals Trio bars are incredibly yummy and would satisfy your epicurean desires. I’m in no way affiliated with them but I now only buy those bars for my family for snacks. They are vegan, gluten free and really satisfying. Really the best in terms of nutrition and flavor that I have found in a warehouse type store (I buy in bulk I love them so much.)


With some cooked rice….the possibilites are endless.
You can add some veggies, canned tuna/chicken ect….some mayo based dressing and create some great tasting and healthy wraps.


Wow, this has gotten a ton of comments, so I’m probably repeating, but here are my few NYC-related cents.
1. GREENMARKET!!!! Seriously, use it for fresh fruits and veggies.
2. Trader Joe’s for good frozen and prepared foods. I go to the one in Brooklyn, which is much easier to shop in.
3. Fairway is awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome.
As for what’s allowed, I doubt much is. But if you can ‘get away with’ a rice cooker and panini grill (“George Foreman”), that would be a great combo set.


I had a micro-refridgerator combo in my dorm room and there was a very, VERY small stove across the hall. My roomie and I had a rice cooker, a small crock pot, and a small sandwich press. I don’t know if the sandwich press and crock pot were entirely legal, but we concocted some great toasted sandwiches. We also had a microwaveable egg cooker. Another suggestion, you could keep some of those veggie packets on hand that steam in the microwave.

Cooking Bride

Each college has different rules, but they are always published in the handbook or dorm paperwork.
When I went to college, prohibited appliances were anything with an exposed heating element. So…hot pots and coffee makers were ok but hot plates/extra burners were not. A rice-cooker/food steamer is probably OK. Electric grills were in limbo depending on how generous your RA was. I also don’t think we were allowed individual microwaves, but the dorm had one in one of the public spaces. There was a size limit on fridge capacity, but it did allow for the “large dorm” fridges that actually have a real freezer compartment with it’s own door.
The other complication is space. There are a lot of appliances that are presumably acceptable, but most dorm rooms have very limited storage space in which to keep them. Another question is how much tolerance you and your roomie have for filling your sleeping space with cooking smells. (Crockpots probably fit the letter of the law, but they are a bad idea unless you have a safe place in the dorm (besides your room) to put them.
I think recipes from the raw foods movement and any cold/no cooking recipe would be helpful, as would any recipe on how to dress up canned goods.
As I was writing this, and idea popped into my head. If you are a dorm student with mad cooking skills, you might be able to find a student in an apartment with no cooking skills to make a sort of good food co-op. Split the cost of food and exchange your cooking skills for use of the kitchen and make things that will reheat well and keep for a week in your dorm fridge.


One can do relative wonders by combining the cafeteria’s soup(s) with all manner of ingred. pickings from the salad bar, and hopefully some rice from the hot-food line, maybe some V-8 juice.. Bring your own (larger? combining) Bowl, plus some sprouts (as mentioned) if you’ll have chance to do such dorm-room-cultivating. …
SOON >> You’ll meet like-minded foodies there, too, perhaps someone who HAS an off-campus kitchen where you as group can meet sometimes to cook potluck-ingredient style and meet healthier friends.
Good vibes and health to you students, all.

MAPP in Iowa City

I loved all the ingenius comments I have read above. Should I ever be in a limited cooking arrangement, I shall try to have a George Foreman Grill and a rice cooker.
I am a grandmother now and look back over the food attitudes I have had through life. What i find for myself is that I am so much happier now that I have let go of much of the control I used to need when it came to food consumption. Food no longer rules my life although it still plays a most enjoyable role. I enjoy other creative pursuits more now (I have always found cooking so creative). I prefer my work to cooking and eating. (My work is art.) I have learned to relax and enjoy what life has to offer even when it doesn’t fit my idea of comfort. Savor what is right in life instead of what is not. If food is not available to savor, focus on what is available. Learn to relax and be happy no matter what is going on. You have lots of life ahead of you; embrace it all. Flexibility builds comfort. Comfort builds happiness. Happiness builds health.


Dorm room cooking can be tricky not only because of all the restrictions on space and equipment, but also because cooking for one is a lot less fun and cost-effective. If you’ve got access to a floor or suite kitchen, or if between you and your friends in other dorms/apartments there are a couple of kitchens, I’d recommend scheduling a weekly group dinner and making one person responsible for cooking – or making it potluck. Everyone gets to eat, it’s great non-bar social time, and because there’s a big group going in on it the cost per person goes down. So if you long to work with recipes that call for good goat cheese or fancy mushrooms or whatever, you have a way to cook with nice ingredients that spreads the cost out a bit. Bring tupperware for leftovers and stick them in your dorm fridge for the next day and you’ve gotten even more for your money.
New York is expensive if you’re constantly going out to sit-down restaurants, but the great thing is that you never run out of cheaper options, either. Make a meal out of a fresh bagel with tofu cream cheese and tomato for under $3. (My fave in the city: Absolute Bagels on Broadway and 108th St.) Hit up smaller bodega-style markets (lots in the Columbia U neighborhood!) for interesting produce, including plenty of avacados, at low prices. Go to a market/deli in Korea Town and stock up on tasty snacks and desserts that are easy to store. Pick up your Chinese food and pizza rather than eating at the restaurant or having it delivered – you won’t have to dip, and sometimes the exercise is as nice a study break as the meal itself.


Well…you could stock your fridge with sliced veggies and avocados for sandwiches. If you get it all prepped and in containers, they are ready to go-to all week. Take some bread, spread some avocado on both slices (instead of mayo) and add some tomato, cucumber, sprouts, carrots, spinach….the next day use slices of cheese or veggie cheese instead of the avocado. All you need for that is a knife, a fridge and some containers.


Small problem for me. No microwaves allowed in dorms. yeah…


I’m from the Pacific Islands and I guess going to college is a little bit like traveling through the Pacific Islands on a cargo ship.
So what is the only healthy thing available on a cargo ship? Boiling hot water. Same thing at the College. The hot water dispenser is always at some corner of the mess hall and even in the entertainment areas.
So if you have a good deep ceramic bowl, a ceramic soup spoon and your own chop sticks – then just go into China town and find enough dry (even spicy) ingredients (mushrooms, ginger, crispy fried onions etc.) from a chinese noodle shop.
These ingredients cook in your bowl of hot water in about five minutes if you can wrap it with a piece of aluminium foil and a table cloth to preserve the heat better. You could even make roasted duck Laksa if you add coconut powder etc…
You can also grow your own lettuce in a pot or grow bean sprouts overnight in a wet cloth so you can have these in a soup. All fresh vegetables that you put into the noodle soup should become cooked in less than five minutes of contact with the hot water.
I think that if you have a good soup every now and again, you can better manage to stomach college food. And campus bread tastes better in a good soup. You may even toast the bread before putting that into a soup.

Martin Maden

think slow cooker. even if you can’t keep in in your dorm room you might be able to use it in a shared kitchen. or you could make friends with the kitchen staff at the college and ask ’em if they’d mind plugging in and unplugging a pre-prepped slow cooker recipe. i’ve made friends with school kitchen staff and so long as it doesn’t add extra things for them to do they’re usually fine with making life a little better for friendly students. i wouldn’t spread it around though, otherwise it will be too many students asking them to do things like that. i have a slow cooker which has a timer, when it’s done it just switches over to warm. you can start a recipe in the evening and it’ll be finished in the early morning. a refrigerator would be good in your dorm room so you can store your cooked meals and ingredients. then use a microwave to heat up as needed. good luck.


Stock up on salad toppings like almonds, sweetened cranberries, chow mein noodles, croutons, walnuts, raisins, etc. Having these handy makes it easy to make a delicious salad without having to have much fresh food on hand. Keep your lettuce and salad dressing in the fridge, and voila!


Possible option … make your own “Dorm Fresh Salad” and buy one of each variety pack (1 & 2 ) … No worry about a refrigerator, MSG, and adjusting portion size. It is a complete package. Delicious hot and heat up is very short, excellent portion, great fiber balance, and no refrig required. I was not a fan of the pizza.


Hello, Dorm-Food Sufferer!
I’d like to suggest a few things which have stood the test of time, given that they may be “flawed” slightly, if you cannot find access to certain kinds of cooking equipment.
Is ALL cooking equipment barred, in your dorm?
Okay. Now, can you find a way to refrigerate anything???
Here are a few tips, first:
Buy pre-shredded cheeses, such as those packaged by SARGENTO or KRAFT. They save time and energy, and the cheese is wonderful, as I am sure you know.
Get some pre-washed lettuce or salad mixes.
Buy some tinned tuna, red or pink kidney beans, chopped beef salami, Carl Budding smoked turkey or ham slices, etc.
Oh, and get some Paul Newman’s Salad Dressing.
Okay. For ease of prep, make sure you have a t least 10 – 15 minutes and patience to boot.
Get a salad bowl and salad forks to toss the greens, etc.
A great salad is: Mixed greens, shredded Mexican Cheddar, Pink Kidney beans, drained of course, some shredded shaved turkey, and Italian or French Salad Dressing.
Another tummy-filler is Mixed Greens, Cottage cheese, drained albacore tunafish flakes, and Russian Dressing, topped with freshly chopped and seeded Green Pepper.
“The Italian Scallion” – or the Rocket Balboa Salad, my own invention: Mixed greens, plus the addition of “rocket” leaves, Italian Dressing, Beef Salami, Shredded Mozarella, plus a dash of white pepper and garlic.
Top with chopped Spring Onions (Scallions).
Here are some nice desserts, too, especially if you’ve got a friend to visit you on campus: Buy about 4 packets of Instant Pudding Mix (vanilla or chocolate). Use half cold milk, and half soft cream cheese, and beat them like the dickens with an electric mixer. Pour into bowls lined with crushed biscuits or biscotti, top with shaved or powdered cocoa.
Number two, an old favourite: Buy Toasted Muesli from your health food isle.
Add it to top some fruit salad or tinned pears or peaches, and top with Greek-Style Yogurt or Vanilla Ice cream, and dust with cinnamon.
Hope these are useful

Mollie the Wonder Dog

If the dorm rules allow slow cookers, my children found those to be real life savers because you can cook vegetables,meats,soups,stews,cassaroles,most anything in a slow cooker. And my children loved for me to make them big batches of CHEX SNACK for them to have on hand for quick snacks,which is a healthy high energy food because of the cereals and nuts in it.I would always add extra nuts to it for them. And if you have a mother or grandmother who will do it for you,ask them to send you plenty of homemade cookies and muffins and things like that. Also, you might want to keep plenty of dried fruits and whole grain breads or crackers on hand and bottled water,so you have something to grab and go,as well as nuts and peanut butter. If they will let you have a hot air pop corn popper please get one. Popcorn is healthy,almost calorie free and very filling,as well as cheap. You can buy pre cut veggies like carrots and celery at most grocery stores,which is also a good idea to have on hand. And if you really want to go cheap,you can microwave boxed mac and cheese,eat canned tuna,or ramen noodles and if you get creative you can do wonders with ramen noodles by using less of the liquid and add some meat,like left over from a restaurant,and add some veggies and you have an instant ” cassarole’. Good luck,God bless you and you WILL get through it with out starving,believe me, I have six children who made it through it!


I went to college in NYC, and our dorm rules included nothing with a heating element (no toaster, coffee makers, toaster ovens) and certainly not the plug in skillet that my roommate brought in.
i think a lot depends on your dorm, and how much you can get away with.
I had a coffee maker for years
and a plug in skillet and a crock pot and no one seemed to notice or care.
Since we were required to be on the meal plan if in the dorms, I gathered most of my materials from the cafeteria and came back to my room to make up any stir fries possible.
I feel like, that as long as you have a fridge- one of those small dorm sized ones, you can keep just about anything.
so the short of this is- wait and see? and don’t forget about farmer’s markets around the city! fresh produce keeps longer than anything you’ll find in stores


If one has access to a method to boil water [coffe/tea maker?], tabouleh is an almost instant option…..


At the college I will be going to in about 3 weeks, we are allowed a George forman Grill, mirowave. Grilling some tofu and mix it with some frozen vegs and pasta. coscos is easy to cook too. I like this post. Glad someone ask. Good Luck everyone heading to college in a few weeks.


Grow sprouts!


When I was at university (decades ago) a group of us formed “The Supper Conspiracy”. We were not eating well, too busy to cook. So a large group of us rotated making large dinners, several nights a week, over two weeks. The deal was you cook once, but get dinner several nights a week. You could come and take your food and leave, or stay and visit. We packed them in. It was one pot chile and salad, stove top casseroles. Borrow an apartment kitchen of a household that might want in on it. We ate well! and stayed healthy.


microwave. ok if you have to… but i have a better idea. stop! save all that money you are going to spend on the overrated college education. find a small studio that will allow you to have a kitchen. continue to cook or get a job in a kitchen or anywhere the food or the culture inspires you. follow great blogs like this one and wander around your world satisfied in heart and body for having lived so well. (you will end up not only healthier and happier but with less debt and a better education) 🙂


I’m looking at this from the angle: what can you “cook” without any cooking devices? I love to cook, so even though I had a meal plan, I still made my own concoctions whenever I could. There are some great raw salads that you can make using fresh herbs. There are several kinds of herbs that can be grown successfully indoors such as chives, oregano, and rosemary. Fresh herbs are key to livening any dish, even salads. When the thought of salad makes you groan because you’ve been eating the SAME salad from the salad bar for days at a time (I’ve sooo been there), try ones that are not based on lettuce greens. For example, I love whipping up a fresh tomato salad, or cold tofu salads. If you really want to start an experiment in your dorm, try sprouting your own garbanzo beans or lentils. It’s surprisingly easy and they’re tasty additions to salads, plus it’s fun to watch them sprout! I bought the book, “Rawsome”, which has a lot of great recipes for raw foods. I don’t have a food dehydrator, and there were still plenty of recipes I could make. I even went so far as making my own nut milk. If the lunch hall has hard boiled eggs, you can bring them back and make an awesome egg salad maybe. I guess maybe using the salad bar as a type of fridge to come back and make your own healthy creations. You can shred leftover chicken, throw it with some nuts and dried cranberries from the salad bar,and make your own versions of chicken salad back in your dorm. If you do venture out to the store from time to time, you can create a low-key pantry of items that you can have on hand such as canned salmon to make salmon salad sandwiches, and you can make your own mayo with basically a whisk, egg, and canola oil. It’s little things such as homemade mayo and fresh herbs that can transform a dish from ordinary to extraordinary. Plus with homemade mayo you can add wasabi paste at the end, or adobo sauce to make your own spicy variations. The dorm situation does force you to be creative, which makes it all the more satisfying when you come up with something great when starting from not much of anything 🙂


if you have the time to just research the Internet you’ll be surprized how simple things are now a days with the click of a mouse … you can get menus in your mail box every day of the week from foody blogs … good luck with your appetite ….

Janete Vargas

My two must have plants: basil; baby tomato.
As long as you have a sunny window, basil and tomato plants grow like weeds and are the tastiest to prune. You can toss some basil with cheap ramen and tomatoes with a iceberg lettuce *it lasts the longest*.
If your plant dies do not worry about it because the plants themselves are pretty cheap.

s0y p0p

Peanut butter! Big jars!


I just graduated from UGA and I became a master of open faced sandwiches. Our dining hall had a toaster oven available and I would get bread from the sandwich bar then head over to the salad bar for spinach, red onions, tomatoes get and balsalmic. I’d layer and toast until the feta melted. Delicious and best of all free.
We also had pasta bars with whole wheat noodles and I would make pasta salads with the use of the salad bar and dressings.
I suggest making your own egg salad at the salad bar based off heidi’s amazing recipe with improvising.
Good luck and it’s not as hard as you think it will be to get creative. Hopefully you will have some good raw materials to start with.


Reading the comments so far, most seem to be focused on cooking in a dorm room or moving off campus into an apartment. I know there are many types of colleges out there, but it’s important to also talk about the eating lifestyle at a school where dining halls are an important part of student social life. The idea of college students alone in their dorm room with a microwave or hot pot just makes me a little sad.
I went to a small liberal arts college in New England, and everyone ate in the dining halls for three meals a day. We had 4-5 dining halls, so there were many options. I opted toward the dining hall with a huge salad bar and spice rack, and this allowed me to “cook” in the dining hall. I approached the dining hall like a market of ingredients, and one I saw what there was I went to work creating my meal. Usually it ended up being what I called a “hot salad” which is similar to many recipes featured here – veggies, a grain, tofu or a meat, and then olive oil, vinegar and some spices on top. You also can bring spices into the dining hall with you – I knew several people who brought their own “add-ins” to make their meals tastier.
Just eating what is served in the hot line is not usually a healthy option, but eating just from the salad bar can leave you unsatisfied and craving late-night pizza. Also at a school were dining hall costs are built into tuition, if you don’t utilizing what they offer you’re wasting tons of money!
I guess it depends on the school, but you have your whole life to cook, and there is something amazingly convenient about a dining hall providing you food when you’re busy and stressed with studying. Grad school has been much harder for me to manage because living on my own I’m always cooking at night when I should be studying!


Your best bet, and good for character building…get a job in a restaurant. You’ll be glad you did and you’ll at least get one decent meal a day!


As a veggie, I also LOST “the Freshman 15” living on the salad bar, rice and the occasional taco bar. Heidi, boy do I wish i could have read this 10 years ago. Despite going to school in SoCal, my dorm’s idea of veggie fare usually involved broccoli and cheese, usually together.
Three cheers for the rice cooker and the George Foreman. Now that I have just finished grad school and lived for three years crunched for time and money (though not a kitchen) i have a score of easy, fast and cheap recipes. If you can learn how to innovate now, life will be so much easier when you go abroad, take summer work in a tiny town, or go to grad school : )


I think people feel far too negative about microwaves. Its impressive what you can cook in a mircowave, you need to get yourself a large pyrex bowl to use in it. Anything you can boil you can microwave so any grains, pasta’s are good to go. Generally takes 15minutes for one cup but it depends on the microwaves power, a few trys and you’ll be okay. Potatoes are good too, just chop them up into small chunks and they will boil fine.
After that you can add in tinned veg, sauces or any prepacked bagged or jarred veg to make something quite tasty.


I am thinking along the lines of investing in a turbo oven, like so:
I wouldn’t know personally, as I don’t own one, but my brother has one (another brand) in his apartment and loves it.


I know we are all fans of unprocessed, whole foods. But in a dorm situation — with only access to a micro– some corners may need to be cut. Trader Joe’s has good packaged meals: pre-cooked brown rice, lentils, polenta, along with some indian and thai packets full of garbonzos, curries, etc. that can be layered with fresh veggies steamed in the microwave. I also find organic frozen veggies are not so bad in a pinch. Salads are good too and require only a knife, cutting board, and can opener (for beans, tuna, whatever). I second the advice of readers who suggest thinking about camping foods.
And remember — keep all this stuff if your mini fridge in the dorms or else it will walk away!
Ah the joys of communal living — but so much fun too!!


I second everyone who has recommended a rice cooker. Get one with a “porridge” setting so you can make soups and oatmeal and stuff. A great and cheap breakfast is steel-cut oats (you can put them in the night before and they’ll be ready on the “keep warm” setting when you wake up). I like mine with dried fruit, walnuts, and a bit of olive oil (nothing that needs to take up room in the tiny dorm fridge).
And for an easy and affordable rice cooker lunch or dinner: make rice, put it in a bowl with spinach (the heat will wilt the spinach), add some soy sauce and toasted sesame oil, and stir it all together. For protein you can add some smoked tofu (not watery and no need for further cooking) or frozen edamame (you can thaw them in a microwave or toss them into the rice cooker a few minutes before the rice is done).
Also, hummus and pita and carrots/cucumbers/peppers/any veg you like to eat raw makes a great meal or snack, as a sandwich or just dipping bread/veggies in the hummus.
If you have a blender, hummus is incredibly easy to make with canned chickpeas. Dried chickpeas are even cheaper, and if you don’t have access to a way to cook them, you can sprout them instead (soak for a day, drain, keep in glass or ceramic container that can breathe a bit, rinse them 2x/day for a few days until they have tails, then keep in fridge).
Also, I saw that a lot of folks have already mentioned great salad ideas, so here’s a simple dressing: zest and juice a lemon, mash a quarter of a garlic clove along with some salt into a paste with the side of your knife, put it all into a jar with a tight-fitting lid along with some olive oil and shake it up. Taste, adjust the amount of oil, and grind some pepper in there. Any herbs or spices could of course be added but that’s the simplest one. And you can use as many lemons (or limes, or both) as you have and just make extra (I usually only zest one no matter how much juice is going in); it keeps well in the fridge (you just need to run the jar under hot water before using in order to melt the oil and shake it all together again).
One last money-saving tip: find a store where you can buy spices (and grains, nuts, etc.) in bulk. You’ll pay 32 cents for cumin instead of $4.
More ideas in Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating, and


I second everyone who has recommended a rice cooker. Get one with a “porridge” setting so you can make soups and oatmeal and stuff. A great and cheap breakfast is steel-cut oats (you can put them in the night before and they’ll be ready on the “keep warm” setting when you wake up). I like mine with dried fruit, walnuts, and a bit of olive oil (nothing that needs to take up room in the tiny dorm fridge).
And for an easy and affordable rice cooker lunch or dinner: make rice, put it in a bowl with spinach (the heat will wilt the spinach), add some soy sauce and toasted sesame oil, and stir it all together. For protein you can add some smoked tofu (not watery and no need for further cooking) or frozen edamame (you can thaw them in a microwave or toss them into the rice cooker a few minutes before the rice is done).
Also, hummus and pita and carrots/cucumbers/peppers/any veg you like to eat raw makes a great meal or snack, as a sandwich or just dipping bread/veggies in the hummus.
If you have a blender, hummus is incredibly easy to make with canned chickpeas. Dried chickpeas are even cheaper, and if you don’t have access to a way to cook them, you can sprout them instead (soak for a day, drain, keep in glass or ceramic container that can breathe a bit, rinse them 2x/day for a few days until they have tails, then keep in fridge).
Also, I saw that a lot of folks have already mentioned great salad ideas, so here’s a simple dressing: zest and juice a lemon, mash a quarter of a garlic clove along with some salt into a paste with the side of your knife, put it all into a jar with a tight-fitting lid along with some olive oil and shake it up. Taste, adjust the amount of oil, and grind some pepper in there. Any herbs or spices could of course be added but that’s the simplest one. And you can use as many lemons (or limes, or both) as you have and just make extra (I usually only zest one no matter how much juice is going in); it keeps well in the fridge (you just need to run the jar under hot water before using in order to melt the oil and shake it all together again).
One last money-saving tip: find a store where you can buy spices (and grains, nuts, etc.) in bulk. You’ll pay 32 cents for cumin instead of $4.


Some of my favorites:
Pour Trader Joe’s soup into a bowl. Add frozen veggies like corn, spinach, or green beans. Heat in microwave. If you are close to a store that sells rotisserie chicken, or dinner-ready chicken breasts, you could add that, too. (If you want the extra protein.) Tofu works well, too. Fresher & less processed than canned soup.
Open a can of black beans. Mix with salsa. Serve with tortilla chips to get a grain in. (To activate the protein in the beans.) Or if you go with the rice cooker, eat with rice. Option: melt cheese on top, or top with sour cream.
Very filling, high energy, and can be very low fat.
Put raw chicken in the crock pot or rice cooker. Cover with salsa. (Pace is a good one.) Cook until done. Chicken may be cooked in either large or small pieces. Check it and stir it periodically.
Fill up on natural proteins to avoid processed foods. The following are often mistaken for being “bad for you” but they are nutritious, and they contain “good for you” essential fats. Plus, if you’re full, you probably will be less tempted to eat junk food.
-Dried apricots
-Peanut butter & banana
-Gorp: peanuts, raisins & M&Ms – easy to carry to class.


A tub/jar of miso in the fridge will keep forever. You can whip up miso soup with various toppings in a flash, with the staple hot water heater. Dried seaweed and dried mushrooms also go a long way.
Megan and Jill Carle have a college vegetarian cookbook, too. I haven’t seen it yet, but I plan to!


I lived in the dorms as an RA. One of the benefits of being an RA is I got a free meal plan for the cafeteria. I really enjoyed this perk. Greasy food aside the cafeteria offered vegetarian dishes, and an amazing salad bar. I ate much healthier choices because it was all right there for the taking. All you could eat veggies is a good thing.
Consider this as an option. I am glad I did. It helped me avoid the freshman 15.


Often dormitories will allow you to rent a small refrigerator. If so, make sure it is stocked with vegetables, fruits, cheese and dips for quick and interesting snacks and sandwiches. Also keep salt, pepper, dijon, mayonaise, crackers and bread on hand.
Interesting sandwich combinations for ‘foodie’ cravings include:
– granny smith apples, cheese and dijon
– tomatoes, boccocini cheese, fresh basil and lettuce
– avacado with an assortment of thinly sliced vegetables
Crackers can also be transformed with interesting toppings
* Remember that a little salt sprinkled on tomatoes brings out their freshest flavour all-year-round.
Wishing you a successful year!

I go to college in Maine, so maybe the rules are different in NY, but we’re not allowed to have anything with open coils in our dorm rooms. We have a common kitchen in the basement of my building, but I pretty much refuse to use it. It’s grungy and old. It’s probably fine, but I just can’t make myself do it. Instead, I have an electric frying pan, an electric tea kettle, and a panini grill. When I want to cook I just set up a card table and go to town. It’s a little cramped, but it works. If you can’t fit all three of those things in your room for some reason, make sure you at least get a good sized electric skillet. That way you can do quick sautees or even relatively small amounts of soup. Just be careful not to plug too much in at one time. I’ve blown fuses before and finding someone to fix that can be tricky on a Saturday night! Have fun and be creative. It’s amazing what you can actually do.


I must admit my freshman year when I was required to have a meal plan I didn’t really know what to eat other than salad and fruit from the caf so I ended up losing 15 pounds within the first couple months…scary (I hadnt been that weight since I was like 13) But then I got a george foremen grill that I was allowed to use in the hall, and I started using my neighbors rice cookers. I realized I could gather more like ingrediants from the caf and mix them with stuff I bought from the store to make whole meals.
Now that I don’t have a meal plan, there is absolutley no problems (and I can assure you I gained back those 15 pounds)
Something amazing has happened on my campus. Our school offered a vegetarian and vegan (or at least what they disquised to be vegan) menu (it was really more like a salad bar and one side or at one of the eateries they had a veggie sandwich a day). Veggies spoke up and at the end of the year they announced that in the fall (which will be my junior year) they will have an extensive veg menu for us!!!! To bad I don’t do meal plans anymore, but anyway the point is speak up you can create change!


Thanks to everyone who has given such thoughtful advice!


When I was living in a college dorm, I used to eat soba or udon on weekends. (The cafeteria was serving all the leftover junk on weekends.) If you have a hot pot (a small pot that simply boils water which is only like $10), you can cook noodles or pasta in there.
A bottle of “men tsuyu” (which can be used as soup base or dipping sauce) and dry noodles can last for a long time. You can try different kind of toppings like tofu, scallions, wakame, carrots, spinach, etc. Hope this helps. 🙂

Kitchen M

if you ask me, the REAL challenge for dorm living is the combination of no kitchen AND no money! you could eat really well in NYC without having a kitchen, but it would be prohibitively expensive. make friends with easy to cook grains (like oatmeal, which microwave well) and use them as a base for savory dishes as well. i have a small microwave rice steamer that works great! i got it for about $5 in the international district. i wouldn’t use it to cook brown rice, but white rice or millet soaked overnight isn’t a problem. also, take advantage of the WHOLE foods that your dining hall provides and keep a stash of condiments and seasonings so you can spice them up healthfully. at my school, i would often ask for just brown rice at the “asian” station, pico de gallo & avocado at the “burrito stand” and then go to the salad bar to get lettuce and beans to make my own meal.


It doesn’t really matter what is and isn’t allowed in terms of equipment, the point is that in a dorm you don’t really want to use it because then you’ll have to clean it!


As a recent college grad myself (although from the plain ole Midwest, not the big city), i was pleasantly surprised by the cafeteria at my small liberal arts college. Although the hot entrees were usually awful, we had an excellent salad and fruit bar, bagels and breakfast fixings all day, and even a deli counter with a huge selection of breads, cheeses, meats, and veggies. There was also an international “station” that rotated mainly between Asian and Italian inspired dishes, but the chef who ran it really new what he was doing. I guess what I’m saying is that you might be surprised by what the caf has to offer– give it a try!
As far as my dorm room, we couldn’t have anything except a fridge and an electric water kettle. There was a kitchen in tne basement with a stove/oven, larger fridge with a freezer, and a microwave. I usually kept fixings for PB&J, cereal and milk, granola bars, and as much fresh fruit as my half of the fridge could hold. If you keep healthy snack foods around, you’ll be forced to EAT healthy snack foods. (Of course, that’s not counting the “candy bag” my roommate and I stocked– and emptied– frequently.)
Good luck!


One can black beans-rinsed & drained if possible, one avocado cubed, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped fresh tomato, chopped fresh onion, juice of one lemon, salt, pepper, cumin. With chips and cheese if you want. Yum – simple, no cook, packed with protein!


@ Liana. Don’t worry, you definitely won’t have to do without avocados or mangos! Almost every little greengrocer in new york carries a big variety of fruits and veggies, and cheaper than a grocery store will. The trick is to find one you’re comfortable with… some of them are definite holes in the wall, and not in a good way. If you’re not ready to go hunting around, there’s also pricier farmers markets in places like Union Square…
(hope you come back and see this. as a onetime NY college student myself, good luck!)


AS someone who recently graduated and is a native new yorker, most of the dorms in ny have kitchens. If you are one of the unlucky few, you should inquire about how often the rooms are checked for “illegal” appliances. My freshmen year, my roommate had a george foreman grill and I had a rice cooker. I don’t think either were really allowed but we managed to have some good meals.
If you can you should consider one of the electric plug in woks. I knew some people who used those and kept dried shittake mushrooms around to make stir fries.
Also friends who have kitchens are a wonderful thing 🙂
good luck

recent grad

Yep…. dorm food was pretty bad some days. I relied far too much on potatoes (often in a deep-fried form). I suggest asking cafeteria staff if they have frozen veggie burgers– they often will try to accomodate you.
I brought frozen leftovers from home when I could, and either smuggled them into the dining room or microwaved them in my room.
Also, something fun to alleviate the boredom if you don’t have much variety: Get a wrap, spread it with cream cheese, and wrap up your salad.
Nevertheless, I was glad to move into an apartment!


Having just gone back to grad school in New York myself, I may now have a kitchen, but no time!
In undergrad (Heidi- UCSD, too?), I had canning jars full of salad toppings (nuts, dried fruits, wonton noodles or croutons), a few canned things (tuna, mandarin oranges, olives), on my bookshelf and kept greens and a few precut veggies in the minifridge. You can even keep a bottle of olive oil and whatever vinegar for dressings or buy bottled. Although you won’t live exclusively off the salads, it was nice to be able to whip up a fresh meal with just a fridge. Cafeteria salads were always so expensive on my plan, too. Good luck!


Good for you for not succumbing to EasyMac and pizza!
When I was in college, we were allowed to have mini-fridges and there were microwaves in the dorms. I also was a big fan of the electric kettle (get the cheap kind without the auto-shutoff and you have a way to boil pasta, etc). I didn’t have a rice cooker but now can’t live without mine, so I advocate that, too.
If your dorm doesn’t allow such devices, I advise keeping them unplugged in plastic bags and tucked inside an unlikely place (as I recall, my well-wrapped off-duty electric kettle lived in a rolling suitcase under my bed).
Another option, if you are willing to risk plastic in the microwave, are those steamer bags. They will let you cook veggies, tofu, fish (if you eat it) and chicken (sliced very thin, toss with soy sauce and a little ginger and garlic – delish). I’ve also had luck with Trader Joe’s shelf-stable rice and lentil pouches – 90 seconds in the microwave for fully cooked beluga lentils – well, it’s hard to beat that. Soba noodles and rice noodles are also microwave friendly.
If you’re on a required meal plan, think of the dining hall as your grocery store. If they have plain pasta or whole wheat pita or salad greens or veggies in the salad bar, then those can be your ingredients. Where I went to school, there was always a selection of items outside the hot food line – and, as a result, I hardly ever ate the “entree” they had each day.
Finally, talk to the dining hall staff – they may have additional tips or be able to point you in the right direction.
Good luck!


I just graduated, my biggest piece of advice is simply to move off campus ASAP, if your school has a required meal plan thing.
While I lived on campus, we were not allowed any appliances in our dorm rooms, but there was a communal kitchen with stove top, microwave, an oven if you were lucky, and a fridge. A COMMUNAL FRIDGE. Basically if you put food in you were donating it to your hallmates. Ugh. I did have a single large pot and one cookie sheet for the oven, and that sufficed for the food I made in the kitchen. I really have to support group cooking when that’s a possibility–potluck style, or meeting friends in the kitchen to cook…for me, it functioned as catch-up time, and i was BUSY so that was helpful for my calendar, and also it was cheaper because other people would help out with the food and kitchen utensils and objects and such.
Also, definitely talk to the school if you have an allergy. It was really rough at my university to get off the mealplan, but it was possible…but then you really needed to be prepared to deal with the horrible dorm kitchens. The school did nothing to accommodate severe food allergies or vegan diets. I think (or deeply hope anyway) most schools are better than that, but just a heads up that some schools are definitely pretty…close-minded? cheap? careless? about nutrition and food.


Easy microwave meal:
Baked sweet potato, topped with black beans, hot sauce, and cheese. Just nuke the sweet potato til tender, top with some canned black beans and cheese, heat another 30 seconds or so. Sprinkle on hot sauce! This is one of my favorite lunches at work (where we have only a microwave). If you want to be fancy you could add chopped tomatoes and cilantro.


In college I survived with:
1 small cutting board & decent knife
1 large bowl & small strainer
1 “hot pot” hot plate
Electric skillet & Microwave
Even if the electric skillet is not allowed in a dorm room, odds are you can find a common area or electric outlet somewhere where people won’t mind its use.
I would cook up large batches of plainly seasoned chicken that could then be frozen in the tiny freezer of my small fridge and pulled out to enhance any other basic pasta or soup later on.
Cheese and crackers were a mainstay and along with an apple this made a decent lunch many days. Pasta, soup, rice, sandwiches, and stuffing were other items that I found simple and easy to make with limited space and utensils.


I bring a lot of food with me on road trips and manage to eat well. My two important pieces of equipment are a hot pot (with no exposed coils, so it might be acceptable in a dorm) and a French press. I can not only make good coffee, I also can make MTR Indian dinners with boil-in-a-bag rice, Thai kitchen instant rice noodles, instant mashed potatoes, and oatmeal. None of those things needs refrigeration, so they won’t take up precious dorm fridge space. The hot pot I have is designed to heat up canned soups and such, so you could even choose to do that.
These aren’t as good as homemade meals, but could help out during the times when you are too busy to cook.


My Oldest Son is in college ! and he loves his ultra Blender he can live without it~ smoothies~ for his morning runs…
Good Luck 🙂


I was lucky enough to never have to live in a dorm (I always had an apartment with a kitchen) but pretty much everyone I know did. The dining hall doesn’t have to be bad – our dining halls have sushi and stuff. The salad bar is obviously a great place to go. Stay away from the dessert items!
The best suggestion I have is to always bring your backpack with you. Load your tray with fresh fruit and subtly sneak it into your backpack. This way you will have it all day during classes. At our dining halls we aren’t allowed to leave with anything (sometimes one piece of fruit, but that’s it) so that’s why the backpack is key.
Also, some of the contraband items are easy to hide in a dorm room, like an electric teapot. As long as you have a cool roommate and can hide it from your RA, you should be fine. They can’t really search your room for no reason. (Make sure you know those rules too if you’re going to hide a panini grill in there.) If you’re lucky enough to have a refrigerator with a decent freezer, try to get some individually wrapped portions of home cooking from your family every once in a while.


I read about these packaged meals in USA Today
They are made for camping adventures. They don’t even need refrigeration. I’m not sure how natural/healthy they are. I can’t vouch for their taste either, but they seem appealing.
However, with all packaged foods you have to be wary of the sodium and the preservatives.


I don’t know if your reader is vegetarian or not, but I second PETA’s Vegan College Cookbook. They sent it to me as a sample, to review, and I thought I would hate it (and at first I did), especially since I’m not in college, but its actually a pretty good book, not only for college, but for times when you’re on the road (my husband takes it with him when he goes away), or just don’t feel like cooking something elaborate.
As for what is in a college kitchen, I have no idea because my college had some of the best dorms in the country, and I always lived in a suite with a full kitchen (not that I used it then….shameful!). But again, the recipes in that book are SO easy, and I don’t think you need much more than a microwave for any of them.


At my school rooms came with a microwave and small fridge. We weren’t allowed anything with a exposed heating element. I had a hot pot anyway and I know one girl who had an entire kitchens worth of small appliances hidden carefully in her closet (she was also allergic to gluten and eggs which made the dinning hall difficult).
I had no budget for much grocery shopping and got a lot of stuff from the dining hall. Some schools are stricter about this than others. So long I wasn’t obvious about occasionally packing a tupperware container or I just used the plastic cups by the drink machine I could slowly stock enough for a couple of meals and then keep it stocked.
I made a habit of taking whole fruits and vegetables from the salad bar and sometimes soup (the tomato and beans soups were really good) from the dining hall. I’d freeze them to reheat later. I also kept dried lentils, black beans and canned tomatoes around to cook in the hot pot, adding the reserved veggies at the appropriate time. Pasta would also work well.
I was friends with someone who kept antiseptically packaged tofu in her room and pretty much lived off pre-prepared and packaged foods from Whole Foods. There was a really good bread store (Great Harvest or something like that) half an hour away and I could occasionally catch a ride with someone who was headed there.
It really depends on your budget and how sneaky you’re willing to be because some schools are really strict (though some RAs practice don’t ask, don’t tell).


If you have a microwave in the cafeteria, you can make all sorts of things while taking advantage of meal-plan food. I would often put veggies from the salad bar (which almost always includes chickpeas or tofu or meat of some kind) in a bowl with some water and salt and seasonings, microwave for 2 or 3 minutes and voila — instant soup!
If this fits in with your schedule and general eating habits, eating early in each meal phase (unless your cafeteria just has similar food out all the time) will result in food that’s had less time to sit in the warmers and get icky. And if you’re going to be starving by 9 if you have dinner at 5:15, smuggle out a bagel and fruit or whatever for snacking later.
I’d also recommend asking upperclassfolks if there are any hidden good things. Often even really sad cafeterias will have, say, a particular stir-fry that’s actually good, or real pizza.


[Quick aside to Cathy – have your niece contact food services and her college’s office of student life. I’m sure she isn’t the first student with celiacs and generally they’re very willing to help students be successful. Also, the office of disability services/whatever it might be called at her school, sometimes it’s adaptive services, may be able to give her a dispensation about having her own cooking tools if it’s a serious safety issue.)
This depends a lot on where he goes to school. I finished up at a college in NYC last year and our dining hall actually wasn’t so bad, with some pre-planning. Remember you can bring in your own condiments (hot sauce can help a lot).
What I used to do when I spent a summer in a dorm with just one communal kitchen was plan ahead for my meals – I would cook some ground beef and some tomato sauce over the weekend, store in tupperware in my little fridge and make various things all week (spaghetti and sauce, tacos, quesadillas, etc). My current favorite grad school treat is goat cheese on bagel chips – easy to toss in a bag to eat quickly between classes but keeps well in a small fridge. Dress up ramen noodles with a poached egg and some random veggies and soy sauce (just toss the egg in when you put in the noodles and it’s perfect).


A few years ago when I was working on my undergrad in Graphic Design I thought there was a void in the cook book market for books that were nice looking but had easy to make recipes.
So, I made my own:
Most of the recipes had been floating around my family for years, and some do require a basic kitchen, however most dorms do have a kitchen for student use.
Perhaps the last two are not so simple, but at least they are delicious.


The good ol’ George Forman grill can double as a panini maker – it makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches!


My neice is entering college in the fall and she had celiacs disease, an allergy to wheat. Does anyone have any tips? She isn’t allowed to have a microwave or any small appliances in her room. There are some in a common space, but we are afraid of cross contamination.


It does depend what is allowed. At my daughter’s college, they couldn’t cook in their rooms, but the kitchens were only shared between about 6 students, so bearable (if filthy, as everybody waited for everybody else to clean them!).
I would suggest at a bare minimum an electric kettle (always allowed in the UK, don’t know about the USA), and ideally a microwave and a crockpot. I doubt electric frying-pans would be welcome.
Pasta and grated cheese is good and cheap, although obviously not a balanced meal – you’d need a salad or something to round it out.
And, of course, for vegans, beans come in tins…. very useful of them!

Mrs Redboots

PETA recently came out with a vegan cookbook aimed at college students. I was given a complimentary copy to peruse, and though most of the recipes are super simple to prepare, many of them sound better than meal-plan fare.


My son loves his rice cooker. He uses it for rice and veggies. The added bonus is moisture in the room! I perfected a microwave Chocolate Mug Cake, with ingredients that are easy for the dorm or office. It’s so much better than the recipe floating around. I even make it at home when I need a chocolate fix!
He also makes couscous in the microwave…so easy and if you add seasonings and fresh veg, it is well balanced.
Good luck!

Diane @ 2 Stews

It’s been over ten years since I was in my college dorm with communal kitchen, but I also had a freshman year dorm with no kitchen. I had a hot plate, upon which I could set one pan or one pot. Many universities have access now to greenmarkets as well — in both rural areas, as part of an agricultural program, in suburban areas as part of a food program, and in urban areas as part of a city or university sponsored program. Anyways, I suggest easy things such as soaking rice noodles in hot/boiling water and then cutting up some fresh vegetables and tofu and nuts and various sauces. Or making really great sandwiches. Or quick stir fries, pastas, all of which can be made in one pot or one pot and one pan. Salads, of course, are no-brainers. Mark Bittman has a 101 Simple Salads list in the NYT food section right now, which also happens to be one of the most e-mailed articles, and if you search the NYT archives, he’s also written up 101 Summer Express dishes, 101 appetizers and 101 picnic foods, most of which are easy to make in a dorm setting.


I have recently started reading a blog, She is a college student and manages to do some pretty nifty things with her microwave (wraps, sweet potatoes, nice egg white scrambles chock full of veggies, and breakfast oats with fruit and chocolate). Look into the posts she has made when school is in session. I’m sure you’ll find some inspiration there. Luckily I have a kitchen to use at school so I don’t have to figure out how to cook with the micro.


When I moved my cousin into her dorm at university she had a fridge and a microwave in her dorm (rented – not everyone has one). I’m guessing most dorms also have an electric kettle.


This is not related to the current post, although I do live in a tiny two room apartment and my cooking surface consists of the sink drain board and the stove top, so I can relate, but I really just wanted to say that I baked the zucchini bread today and was devastated when I realized that I had completely forgotten an entire cup of sugar. I thought it was a total loss. BUT, I’m happy to say that with just a bit of unfiltered honey spread thinly across a slice of this wonderfully spiced bread, it’s heaven!!! I couldn’t be happier! Thank you, Heidi.

Mara Mouse

my dear friend and I started a food blog during the past year to celebrate how well we can eat while still living in a dorm. Granted, we have a full kitchen, gas stoves and all, which I’m quite grateful for, even when they can be quite disgusting… We’re both not living in a dorm right now because of summer, but come September, and back to school again!


If you can afford it a small home style vaccume food saver is great. Use your dorm kitchen when you can,cook up heaps, then cryovac individual meal portions.
You can freeze them or they will last for weeks in the fridge.
Offshore sailing in Bass Strait Australia all we do is boil some water,turn the heat off, put the bag of food in and let it rest for ten minutes.(That’s a bit safer than trying to cook a meal when the boat is angled at 30 degrees!)
Snip off the top put itinto a bowl and enjoy!
In Australia you can buy a cryovacc machine for around $100 US, the bags are around $ 25US a roll but you will get heaps of use .
Best of all: come home late and tired, there’s your meal!
Have fun at college!

karen parker

Dear Friend,
I understand you dilemma! I am living in a “studio” apartment without a kitchen, and barely a sink (just from the bathroom, where I wash the dishes). So I have learned to improvise quite a bit.
A few quick tips, if you are willing and able to break a few rules regarding electronic devices…
You can bake in a crock pot. Just find a little glass dish that fits inside the ceramic insert. It doesn’t brown things as much, but almost any casserole works, and you can adapt many things to work in a crock pot, sometimes sacrificing some crispy texture here and there. But I have found the result incredible. I just don’t recommend leaving it on while you go to class!
A toaster oven can do almost anything an oven can do, but you are certainly restricted in size.
Also an electric stove, or even an electic skillet, you can fry up so many stir-fried dishes.
So with a small investment (I would say around 60 bucks for those 3 devices), and a roommate you keep well fed and silent, you can eat pretty healthily. If you have a trust-worthy gang living in your dorm, I imagine that you could store these things in a common space.
Good Luck!


Plain bagels & salad were my staples in the college dorm cafeteria. I’d take in my own salad dressing.
Good luck! If you exclude the dreadful dorm food, it university life can be so wonderful!


regarding the dorm ‘what’s allowed’ situation: what i remember was nothing with an open coil, which means no hot plates, toasters, george foreman grills, etc. frustrating! BUT a microwave is a beautiful thing!!!
as far as the meal plan goes….
after i studied abroad my junior year, i came back and it literally made me ill to eat at the cafeteria…not sure why, the food wasn’t terrible! anyway, i was told that i had the option to visit the school nutritionist and ‘plead my case’. i went and saw her, explained that i was living in an off-campus dorm with a full kitchen, that i had studied abroad last year, and had been a vegetarian for the last three years. without question, she understood and signed my paperwork, as well as giving me some great nutritional advice about iron and protein and things. after freshman year, i think they were required to give us an option (though every university is different)…they just have to make sure you won’t live on easy mac and beer either.
have fun at college! it’s a blast!


There are some great ideas here already. In addition to cous cous, quinoa is another grain that you can just pour hot water over to cook and it’s packed with protein!
Also, PETA has a new cookbook perfect for dorm living: PETA’s Vegan College Cookbook.


A crock pot is a good way to make tasty stews as well as bean recipes, thus it gives the possibility to keep things healthy.


I used to have couscous and a can of something eg. beans, fish…couscous is the best choice because you don’t even have to cook it, just pour hot water!


I’m right there with ‘alfe’ on the rice cooker, but some schools don’t allow any kind of cooking appliances in dorm rooms. I just graduated in May, and this was the case at my school. I, ahem, hid my rice cooker during room inspections.
With many food allergies, I have a lot of experience throwing together small meals and snacks in dorm rooms without cooking appliances. A couple of ideas:
– Keep salad greens (those pre-washed packages are great if you don’t have access to a kitchen sink), cherry tomatoes, and raisins, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, etc., and olive oil, vinegar or a mixed dressing on hand and throw together whenever.
– Canned beans. If your dorm has a microwave, heat them up and throw on some salt and olive oil. Microwaving spinach along with the beans is great, too.
– Steam veggies in the microwave.
– Make your own trail mix by throwing together pretzels, nuts, chocolate chips, whatever.
– And it’s already been mentioned, but who can overstate the glories of peanut butter? I like it with raisins.


Hey, I’m a 3rd year and I just moved off campus from my dorm. I’d say a rice cooker is your best bet. Before the rice is almost ready, I add in some sprouts/mushrooms.broccoli on top of the rice to steam.
Instant anything is good – curry sauce, miso soup mix, canned soup.
If you add some chicken flavor (boullion or liquid) to the water in your rice before cooking, it becomes chicken-flavored rice! Then sautee some simple veggies (spinache w/garlic is good), and you have veggies and flavorful rice.
You can add spinach and mushrooms to pasta sauce. You can use the same spinach in a salad or sandwich.
Fried rice.
Rice in miso soup.
Lentil and onion soup.
Baked sweet potato.
Frozen dumplings. Frozen anything, really.
Hope that helps!


I’d suggest a rice cooker with multiple functions on it. Its surprising how much stuff you can actually cook in a rice cooker. Rice, obviously, but they can also double as a slow cooker, you can also sautee ingredients and then add liquids to create soups from scratch, and you can steam stuff in them. There is a growing repertoire of Japanese recipes for rice cooker cuisine as they take up little space and don’t draw a lot of electricity. For a second option, I would add a toaster oven. Fabulous little video series by Eric Ripart on the range of stuff u can do in a toaster oven


Often the best thing to do in New York, in terms of rationing money, time, and precious kitchen space, is to have an open mind to buying food when it saves a buck. I cook a lot, and it can be done cheaply and well. (If you’re going to Columbia, shop at Fairway, where 125th hits the Hudson. If you’re going to NYU, shop at Trader Joe’s.) But don’t be too proud to get a $3 falafel for dinner, or to buy a slice of pizza and roast some asparagus at home and call it a meal.


I don’t exist without avocados. In college, I always had a mini – fridge and a microwave. I would end up with the strangest foods: Avocados mashed with tofu and mixed up with veggies over rice (rice that I had made in the dorm kitchen, frozen, and kept for weeks). It was interesting. My college had a salad bar and I was always just getting the basics and bringing them back to the dorm to “give some flare” with spices, adding some tofu, or some fancy cheese that was cheap at Costco. Favorite add-ins? Flax oil, ground flax seeds, cajun spices, and brewers yeast. In the cafeteria, sometimes I would get a scrambled egg, microwave some veggies from the salad bar (If I closed my eyes it was a fancy omlette) (there was a microwave in the cafeteria), get a pint of fat free milk and call it good. I always remembered to buy a bag of apples and a jar of peanut butter. I am sure Heidi will have much better ideas! 🙂 Good luck!


I recommend getting a rice cooker. They’re allowed in dorm rooms and can be used for almost any dish. Flavourful rice and chicken dishes, soups, steamed vegetables, buns and dumplings and all be made with a rice cooker. it’s easy to maintain and healthy.


Oh, the horror. Dorm life! If colleges think that this Sophisticated Gourmet (points at self) if not going to bring a panini grill, hot plate, crock pot, toaster oven, and all of the above. They better think again because I’ll end up breaking every rule in the book just to have some good gourmet food. I wouldn’t dare eating KFC or something. It sounds snobby, but it’s just gross.
But, I do have some tips for the college student, even though I’ll be in college in about a year.
One tip is getting one of those microwaves that also double up as an oven. It’s a bit pricy, but if colleges allow you to have any microwave, why not have one that can bake stuff?
Also, don’t over-buy when you’re in your dorm room. Buy what’s needed and just keep some healthy snacks in the refrigerator. When you want to cook something, well, go to that trusty microwave that bakes. I happen to like baking most of my foods.
And if you have to sauté something, take a microwave safe bowl, and just pop whatever you have to sauté in the microwave for a bit, just be sure to stir every once in a while.
Additionally, if you are going to a college that has an actual kitchen for the students to cook (I know a few colleges in NYC do b/c I am a NYer myself), I would suggest utilizing that kitchen whenever you can! Even if it calls for waking up at 6 in the morning.
I know as a soon to be in one year college student, I’ll be on a pretty tight budget, unless the college that I want to go to is nice enough to give me a full ride. So, I would suggest avoiding Whole Foods and other expensive stores. I know, it may seem horrible that you can’t eat everything organic, but there’s an upside to my madness.
If you know how to use the “great” transportation system that we have in NYC, you are bound to find tons of cheap markets, especially Jackson Heights and Chinatown, which are bound to have great quality ingredients for cheap. Also, if your recipes call for expensive nuts, spices, or foreign ingredients, Chinatown & Jackson Heights are the places to go.
Because I don’t know what college you are going to, I wouldn’t know how far you are from Chinatown or Jackson Heights, so I would suggest shopping for produce in those two places if you are near them because that will surely satisfy your pockets.
Additionally, I believe that some colleges ban “real people knives” because they consider them weapons. So, I would suggest buying some good butter knives to cut with. Butter Knives that can cut through a tough piece of meat.
Also, one thing to keep in mind is to avoid going out to restaurants (and eating out) as much as possible, unless you can afford it. I know, it’s tough especially living in NYC, but if you are a “stomach cringing college student” you’ll keep those words in mind. Also, I would suggest buying a cookbook for dorm cooking on Amazon. Just type in “Dorm Cookbook” in the search tab and you should see quite a few affordable cookbooks.
I guess that’s all the input I have on this subject considering that I have one more year ’till college.
Good luck!

Kamran Siddiqi

I had access to a stove and oven, but in my dorm room itself, all I could have was a refrigerator (and there was a shared microwave on every floor).
If you can keep a supply of fresh vegetables, tofu, and canned beans on hand, you have the basics for some great salads.
If there is a shared kitchen, you’ll be able to whip up a big batch of cooked grains or beans and those pair nicely with all sorts of condiments (siracha, chipotle peppers, etc) – just keep your refrigerator stocked!


I suggest getting an electric table grill pan, maybe a smaller one than they usual have in japanese restaurants. I used a teflon layered one when I didn’t have a kitchen. they aren’t very pricey – I got mine for 30 EUR, and I managed to cook almost everything in it. I don’t know if that is allowed in American dorms, but it’s just something you plug into the socket, so…
with an electric table grill pan, you can at least do a lot of stir fry and one-pan dishes.


You have no idea how much I appreciate this post. In exactly one week from today I’m moving from Northern California to New York for college, and it’s completely and totally terrifying me. I love to cook, and I’m worried about the dorm kitchens and having absolutely no money. I’m a vegetarian, and I’m worried about maintaining my nutrition. I’m a California native, and I don’t know how I’m going to deal without avocados and mangos.


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