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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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. Thanks.


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) :)


Hello, 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 :) -Julie


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!!


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