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Eating in the dining hall is not always convenient. Aside from the probability that the food is unappealing, the college mess tent is also not accessible 24/7 – and neither are the local eateries, for that matter. Now is the time to practice the art of dorm-room cooking/food preparation. Since your locale limits your options, you won’t be preparing gourmet meals. You will, however, need two major appliances: a small microwave and a mini-refrigerator, which are the only appliances the campus powers-that-be normally allow dormitory dwellers to house. Arrange with your roommate beforehand who will bring what appliance, and ask your college’s office of student life to check if appliances are for rent. So, here are some ingredients for dorm-room cooking success.

  • Soup
    Keep it simple. Opt for canned soup over brewing your own stock. Remove the lid with a handheld can opener, pour contents into a bowl, and nuke according to the label’s instructions.
    Nutri-tip: Choose brands with fewer than 400 mg of sodium per serving.
  • Bean Burrito
    You’ll find these in the campus mart’s frozen food section. Heat burrito according to the package’s directions.
    Nutri-tip: It might taste like junk food, but with all the protein it packs, a burrito is basically a healthy meal.
  • Microwaveable Veggie Burgers
    You can find these healthy yet palatable patties with the frozen foods. Follow the heating suggestions on the box. Place the burger on a bun. (Do not nuke the bun!) Add your favorite beef burger toppings.
    Nutri-tip: These faux burgers are full of real nutrients, including peppers, zucchini, and lentils.
  • Ragu Express
    Akin to Kraft Easy Mac and Cheese, this spiral-pasta-and-tomato-sauce concoction requires only water, a bowl, and a microwave. It takes about three minutes to prepare. And you can choose from three flavors.
    Nutri-tip: Each serving only has 200 calories and 2.5 grams of fat!
  • Frozen Dinners
    These can be expensive, but frozen meals quickly satiate your hunger and offer the most variety.
    Nutri-tip: Choose healthy meals, not the ones with enough sodium and fat to give a lumberjack high blood pressure and a heart attack.
  • Teriyaki Vegetable Stir-Fry
    Empty frozen stir-fry vegetables into a bowl. Cook on high for about four minutes. Stir in teriyaki sauce. Cook on high for 30 seconds.
    Nutri-tip: For a change, substitute any vegetable for the stir-fry veggies.
  • Tuna Sandwich
    Before you open the can of odorous fish, clear it with your roommate. Drain the water in a sink. Use a bowl to mix the tuna with a dollop of mayonnaise.
    Nutri-tip: For your heart’s sake, select whole-grain bread, reduced-fat mayonnaise, and water-packed tuna.
  • Egg Salad Sandwich
    Again, because of the pungent aroma, check with your roommate before cracking open a couple of hard-boiled eggs, which you can grab from the dining hall. Combine the eggs and a spoonful of mayonnaise in a bowl.
    Nutri-tip: Since they have only 15 calories and no fat, consider using just the egg whites.
  • Cereal
    If this requires instruction, you may want to reconsider going to college at this time.
    Nutri-tip: Reach for low-sugar brands. Sweeten naturally with fruit. Use skim or 1 percent milk.

Tools and Rules for Dorm-Room Cooking Tools

  • Refrigerator
  • Microwave
  • Microwave-safe dishes
    • Medium-sized bowl
    • Small bowl
    • Plate
  • Pot holder
  • Handheld can opener
  • Sturdy plastic utensils
  • Dish soap
  • Pot holder
  • Sponge
  • Dish towels
  • Paper towels
  • Cookbooks
    • The Healthy College Cookbook, by Alexandra Nimetz, Jason Stanley, Emeline Starr
    • The College Cookbook, by Geri Harrington, Constance Oxley (Editor)
    • A Man, a Can, a Plan, by David Joachim
    • Where’s Mom Now That I Need Her? Surviving Away From Home, by Kathryn J. Frandsen, Kent P. Frandsen, Betty Rae Frandsen


  • Buy some crates to store dry goods.
  • Be prepared by keeping your refrigerator stocked.
  • Put only microwave-safe dishes in the microwave. That means no metal or tin. Glass or Corningware is the wisest choice.
  • Always cover your food with wax paper or a paper towel before you microwave it to avoid splattering.
  • Use a pot holder when removing anything from the microwave.
  • Keep the bugs away.
    • Clean your dishes immediately after you finish eating.
    • Try to eat at your desk to avoid getting crumbs on the floor or in your bed.


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