How to Feed on a Crappy College Dorm Kitchen

If I had one wish for college students, it would be for universities to allow them to keep Instant Pot in their dorm rooms. But it’s clear that young people can’t be trusted with appliances that generate heat, and dorm dwellers are often forced to use one refrigerator and cook most of their food in the microwave. It sounds sad, but it is not.

It’s orientation week for freshmen at Lifehacker! This week, we’ll share how to break out of the summer fog and plunge into the autumn burst of activity, whether you’re heading to campus for the first time, getting your kids ready for school, or looking for ways to simply be more productive in school . So buckle up your Guardian Hunters with Velcro, apprentices. The class is now in session.

The key to eating well while living in a dorm isn’t consistent takeout meals. The key is to learn how to cook really good food that requires little or no cooking, and to use the microwave to reheat items other than Hot Pockets.

Eating in a hostel is a bit like camping – you need to be prepared. Foods that you can mix and match to create varied dishes will make you as happy as possible, which means you’re less likely to order fast food out of sheer heartbreaking boredom.


First of all, outsource the meat. You don’t have the resources to roast, fry, or braise, and there’s no shame in letting someone else cook some animal protein for you. Grilled chicken is not for nothing the icon of convenience foods. Use your parents’ Costco membership to buy it, and write your Sharpy name all over the plastic container, accompanying it with dire warnings for would-be thieves. (You can also get non-Costco grilled chicken, but I like them the most.)

Canned tuna and salmon are good, hearty, cheap food too, just like fake crab . If you prefer the vegetarian option, buy Trader Joe’s fully cooked lentils, which are nearly flawless in terms of lentils, as well as some canned black and pinto beans. If you want eggs in your life, I have good news: you can microwave them . You can also purchase hard-boiled eggs, which is great if you don’t have access to a stove.


For carbs, keep good sandwich bread, a stack of instant tortillas and ramen, and crackers with you. If you want to really fantasize, buy Vietnamese summer roll wrappers that require nothing more than warm water to make. Microwaveable disposable rice bags might seem like a lazy choice, but you’re in college, my friend, and you should be thinking about school, partying, and consensual sex, not like MacGyver’s pot of rice. in the dreary kitchen of the hostel.

Fruits and vegetables

Foods that don’t need to be preserved or handled are your friends, as are plant parts that taste good raw or lightly steamed ( which you can do in the microwave ). A large bag of tangerines will last for a long time, as well as a container of cherry tomatoes. I also recommend onions as they are very flavorful and have a long shelf life. Have a bag of frozen chopped vegetables ready for you to add to your meals as needed to prevent scurvy. If you have salad cravings, buy a salad on your birthday.


Never let anyone tell you that you can’t eat cheese for dinner. You can. Many stores sell “extra slices” of fancy cheeses for a dollar or two apiece, and you should take advantage of this feature. Buy sliced ​​cheese for sandwiches, sprinkled cheese if you like plates and salads, and some cottage cheese if you like that sort of thing. Even though it is not cheese, I would also recommend a little sour cream to you, because I really love sour cream.

Condiments and other additions

This is where you can add some real light to a dull kitchen; Like your sexuality, this is another arena that you should experiment with in college. First, take a seasoning mixture that works for everything and then apply it to everything . ( We have a lot of recommendations. ) Buy a good salad dressing or some oil and vinegar if you like.

Find a hot sauce that brings you absolute joy, and never let it slip away. Nutritional yeast may be a darling of the vegan community, but everyone can enjoy the rich, umami, almost cheesy flavor it brings to whatever you sprinkle on it. Of course, you will also need pickled foods and olives. (You can pickle onions without a single heat source , and you must.)

Collect and eat

After collecting all the pieces of the culinary puzzle, you can start creating dishes. Part of the fun of college is playing and learning what you like, and that extends to food as well, but that doesn’t stop me from telling you what to do.

  • Rice Bowls: Microwave one of these servings of rice, then chop the grilled chicken, heat it up, and mix with your favorite hot sauce. Drain the black beans, heat them if desired, and stir in the chicken. Put this pile of protein on top of the rice and top with your favorite cheese, pickled onions, olives and sour cream. You can also make a deconstructed California roll by taking cooked chilled rice and mixing it with rice wine vinegar, chopped cucumbers, avocado, crushed nori, pickled ginger, and chunks of artificial crab. Serve with soy sauce and hot mayonnaise (just mix plain mayonnaise and sriracha).
  • Lentil bowls: Grind the pre-cooked lentils in a bowl and mix with olive oil, vinegar, and your favorite all-purpose seasoning. Take a carrot and cut it into nice ribbons with the Y-scissors. Toss them with lentils. Add cherry tomatoes, some chopped feta, flavor and season if necessary.
  • Salad wrappers: Summer shrimp rolls are great, but you can turn any salad into a summer roll – even a bulky wedge – and we can show you how here .
  • Ramen (yes): You don’t have to use the super-salty seasoning bag if you don’t want to – you can mix it with sour cream to make the sauce! – but ramen is a great base for filling, cheap food. Boil some water in the microwave and add a handful of frozen vegetables and a few thinly sliced ​​mushrooms along with the noodles. Add some shredded chicken or a spoon to a microwave poached egg and enjoy. You can also remove the noodles completely from the broth and brush with butter, parmesan cheese and more black pepper.
  • Tacos: Again, grilled chicken comes in handy, but don’t sleep on canned fried beans or black beans. Add some crumbled keso frescoes, pickled onions, and whatever you like and eat.
  • Chili Potatoes: Pierce the potatoes with a fork several times and place in the microwave for about seven minutes . Whisk your favorite canned chili peppers, chop the potatoes and top them over. Sprinkle with cheese, sour cream and garlic on top.
  • Fancy Cheese Platter: Grab slices of cheese from your favorite grocery store, arrange them artfully on a plate, and eat your cheese with high-quality crackers, honey, olives, and gherkins (which cost $ 2.99 at TJ’s).

It’s also worth noting that you should never be ashamed to eat a bowl of cereal, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or an unprocessed bowl of shitty ramen. Education aside, the whole point of going to college is to learn how to make your own (questionable) decisions, even if those decisions mean eating popcorn for dinner.


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