If you’re used to home-cooked meals, adjusting to the University’s dining-partner style meal plan may be stressful.
Freshman residence halls like Thurston and Potomac halls have communal kitchens, but there are obvious drawbacks to sharing a cooking space with hundreds of your peers. The kitchen appliances are often left in sloppy conditions, which could deter even the most motivated college cooks.
But there are still ways to avoid the communal kitchen while keeping your GWorld dining expenses to a minimum. Here are some tried-and-true tips for cooking in the comfort of your own residence hall room.
What to bring
Dish soap, reusable sponges: Don’t wait until dishes pile up on your desk to wash them. If you purchase dish soap and reusable sponges, doing dishes in a bathroom sink where you wash your face is not as gross as it seems. As long as you bring your own soap and sponge, you can always carry your dishes to a larger communal kitchen in your residence hall.
Plates and reusable utensils: If you want to serve your friends a home-cooked meal, make it BYOP – bring your own plate. You’ll likely rely on the same two forks and bowls for the entire academic year, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as they’re cleaned in between meals.
Reusable containers: Whether it’s an on-the-go jar for breakfast in your 8 a.m. class or larger containers for leftovers, reusable containers will help limit food waste and keep your food fresh. For those who enjoy meal prepping, whip up overnight oats with milk, frozen berries and nut butter or assemble a batch of pasta salad.
Toasters and pressure cookers: Relying entirely on a microwave to prepare meals can make cooking boring. If you can sneak these items past a resident adviser, bring a mini rice or pressure cooker and a small toaster. With a toaster, you could wrap a sandwich in parchment paper and toast any of your favorite bites for a perfect melt. Rice cookers are useful for a pasta dish. Throw in half of a box of dried pasta, a jar of sauce of your choice, water, salt, olive oil and some cherry tomatoes for a meal that will make you feel at home again.
Electric kettle and French press: Coffee makers like Keurigs can make a watery mess, so use the space they would take up for an electric kettle. You can boil water in minutes and add tea or instant coffee for a hot drink. You could also use the boiling water to prepare ramen noodles or oatmeal.
Groceries to buy
Counter-safe foods: College schedules are busy, and it can be difficult to use all of your groceries before they go bad. Foods like bread, nut butters, dry pasta and jarred sauces – which can be stored at room temperature – will stay fresh longer.
Frozen produce: Frozen produce has just as many nutrients as fresh produce and will last months. But if you want fresh produce that is ready to eat when you return from the grocery store, invest in items like citrus, herbs, mango, avocado or onions.
Single-serving beverages: Any drinks that you don’t use on a daily basis might sit in your fridge until a pre-winter break clean-out session. Instead of buying drinks like milk or juice in half gallons, find the pint size containers and opt for soda in cans rather than large plastic bottles. A reusable water bottle is a must for filling up water at several refill stations around campus.
Serving a crowd: If your residence hall room becomes a social hub, serve your friends classic snacks with a twist. You could add mango to your guacamole or dark chocolate and dried cherries to microwave popcorn. Charcuterie boards are another easy party plate: Pick up a few different cheeses, a package of pre-sliced cured meat, a fresh baguette and pull some jam out of the fridge.