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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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. ENJOY!

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 SOUP!!! 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 -Cereal -Sushi must haves to make life easier: -Mini-fridge -Toaster oven -French Press -Kettle 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. --Bob


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.


Heidi, 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.


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