Back to School Week: College Cooking

Since I lived in the dorms, I chose the meal plan. It included 2 meals a day, 5 days a week. Since I had to fend for myself on some days, or I didn't feel like trekking it to campus, or if I needed a late-night study snack (cafeterias aren't usually open 24-7), I chose to make my own food occasionally. It saved $ and time.

The Freshman Fifteen truly exists. Think about it: you're going from regular home-cooked meals to completely fending for yourself. While it's easy to order pizza everyday, the weight piles on fast. Plus, for some, college/boarding school is the time of much partying and that leads to much weight gained. So how can you survive? What if you aren't a good cook (see ME for an example)? Elle Sees has you covered.

  • SAFETY: First, know the dorm rules of what appliances are allowed. My dorm was actually a campus apartment with a full kitchen. Some places are particular about what appliances are allowed, so (disclaimer: these are suggestions, not requirements! Don't get in trouble and don't sue me!) use this advice with caution.
  • SAFETY: Always unplug (and hide if necessary) the appliance(s). Keep anything flammable away! Don't leave the room while cooking! Clean up asap to avoid those nasty critters. Don't leave food in your room over the break. Common sense goes a loooong way.
  • EQUIPMENT: I highly believe in a mini fridge & microwave (that communal kitchen can be gross). Sometimes these can be rented from the school. If you have a roommate, split the cost! I used the front of my mini-fridge as a dry-erase message center! Try it--it really works.
  • EQUIPMENT: I also recommend at least one of these options: an electric grill, a hot plate, a rice cooker, a skillet/frying pan, a pot, a crockpot, a coffeemaker, toaster or toaster oven or even your iron can be used to cook food. The pic above is called a breakfast center, but can be used for more than that! The toaster oven and electric grill are my top pics. Visit a Goodwill or garage sale to get these even cheaper. Check the campus bulletin board for former students who are selling/giving away these items!
  • UTENSILS: Many stores carry a kitchen-in-a-box type deal, with cutlery, sharp knives, bowls, plates, cups, can opener, etc. I had my own pitcher (for juice, water, or sweet tea) bowl, fork/spoon/knife, sharp knife, cup, travel mug, and plate. It all depends on what you want to cook (assuming you are gonna cook something since you're reading this post!). Don't forget paper towels/napkins.
  • OTHER ITEMS: I had one roommate that brought a spice rack! She never used it. Not required, but if you're a serious cook, by all means bring on the spices! Butter and oil, eggs and milk are other staples you could have on hand. I keep my food stuffs on a shelf or crate and ate at my desk (can't stand crumbs in the bed).
  • BREAKFAST: In addition to cereal, breakfast bars and granola are great for on-the-go meals, and fresh fruits, and breads are nice options. 
  • LUNCH & DINNER: Sure you've thought of sandwiches, but what about a nice grilled sandwich, like a panini? Use the toaster oven or wrap the sandwich up in foil and use the iron! Frozen healthy meals do exist and work if you're pressed for time. Spaghetti is cheap and easy. So many meals come in a bag ready to cook, like stir fry. Soup is another great choice. Ramen noodles are THE classic college food. I ate so many in college that I've never touched them since. 
  • SNACKS: I always kept some crackers or trail mix for a healthy snack. Nachos can be made very easily. Make mini pizzas using English muffins, cheese, and some spaghetti sauce. Quesadillas are easy too! Stay away from instant mac-n-cheese. It's delish and is a comfort food, but high in calories. The same goes for frozen burritos!
  • BE CONSIDERATE: Does your roommate get offended by certain smells, like popcorn or tuna? I had one friend who couldn't stand peanut butter, so I tried to be considerate but didn't stress over it. Be careful of cooking popcorn--burnt popcorn smell is THE worst in a dorm and easily tips off the smoke detector and others that you've been cooking.
  • LINKS TIMEThis article is how to eat on $2 Aussie dollars a day. Wow!
  • Budget Bytes has super cheap recipes.
  • Some tips on making those lunches yourself to save $!
  • Over 100 lunch ideas!
  • Microwave cooking (actual cooking, not reheating last night's pizza) recipes, crockpot recipes, and indoor grilling recipes!!
  • How to cook with 5 ingredients or fewer, for those who are novice cooks!
What did YOU cook in college?
Any questions you want answered during BACK TO SCHOOL WEEK? I'll answer them on FRIDAY!
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  1. I adore the 100 lunch ideas...I used to grab something on the go each day... I so wish I knew about those cool tips before:)


  2. These links are great not only for dorm-cooking but for all beginner cooks as well. Thank you so much for sharing! I'll definitely be checking them out some more in the coming weeks.

  3. Great advice! Love reading these posts even though College days are gone :)

  4. Haha, me and pretty much every friend I had in college had a little oven like that :)

  5. I was in a sorority in college so I usually ate there!

  6. I had never thought about using an iron to make panini sandwiches! You're totally right though--it does get the job done!

  7. Two words: Ramen Noodles. Still eat them all the time.

    xoxo, Ashley

  8. My freshman meals consisted of Kraft mac and cheese (the microwave variety, not even the real kind) and lots and lots of booze. I never want to recreate that diet again!

  9. Spag-Os in the hot pot. Oh so many cans of Spag-Os.

  10. A mini fridge is the BEST thing you can get for a dorm room!

  11. You may want to check out Frugal Scholar's blog as she has done a series on cooking in a dorm room!

    and ways to save on the dorm meal ticket.


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