Something that comes with living in a dorm is eating in a dining hall. Your dorm will most likely have a dining hall connected to it or very close by, and you're going to be spending a lot of your time there. Dining halls are a great way for freshmen to start socializing and getting to know each other. Everyone needs to eat at some point and no one really wants to eat alone.
However, you might eventually get tired of dining hall food. Some nights you're going to go out to eat with friends or bring take-out back to your room. Other times you might just be in the mood for a snack.
Now, believe it or not, there are right and wrong ways to eat in a dorm room. Here are my two food-related packing lists and six tips for dorm room "cooking."
Packing List 1 - Essential Dorm Food Supplies
- Utensils – It's always a good idea to have some spoons, forks, and knives. Plastic or reusable, whichever you prefer.
- Plates and Bowls – It's nice to have something to eat on/in or for warming up food in the microwave. I personally prefer paper for easier cleanup.
- Cups and Mugs – Both of these are great for having a cold drink in your room. You can also bring just mugs instead of any bowls, depending on your preference. Again these can also be reusable or the red solo variety.
- Brita Filter – If you're someone who worries about the tap water this is definitely a cheaper alternative to water bottles.
- Ice cube trays – I love having something cold to drink after a long day of classes, but I also have the tendency to leave my glass of water out all day, so these were definitely a life saver.
- Dish Soap and Sponge – If you're going to bring reusable utensils and such then you're going to need a way to clean them.
- Reusable Water Bottle – I personally love having water with me at all times so this was a must have for me.
- Ziploc Bags – I bought a small box of about 10 or so before going to school and it lasted me until the end, but they were still useful. If I opened something but didn't finish it right away it was nice to be able to put it away so there was no mess and it stays fresh longer.
- Chip Clips – You're bound to get a bunch of free ones at different tables and booths throughout the year, but you can never have too many.
- Napkins or Paper Towels – If you're eating in your room, then you also need to be cleaning. Also, these are useful for your dorm anyways.
- Straws – I know this may be a little controversial at the moment, but there are alternatives. I have a stainless steel one which I love to use. Just make sure you have a way to clean it.
Packing List 2 - Best Type of Foods For a Dorm
- Something Sweet – Your favorite brand of cookie or candy will be the perfect fix after a hard day and your parents are nowhere to be found. However, be sparing with what you bring in order to avoid that "freshman fifteen."
- Gatorade (or some other flavored drink) – Bringing your favorite drink to school with you can make it feel more like home. I know it sounds weird, but whatever helps. And I mean the extra electrolytes can't hurt either, because remember as my older brother taught me "Gato for the Hango."
- Granola Bars – These are my go-to snacks to throw in my bag before a long day of classes. Bringing some from home will help save some money and satisfy your hunger.
- Easy Mac/Ramen/To-Go Soups/Etc. – Sometimes you need something more filling than a little snack and these are going to be some of the easiest things to make.
- Nutella – To be honest, I was never the biggest fan of Nutella, but lately, it's grown on me. I've discovered it can be the perfect little chocolate addition to pretzels or crackers. And let's be honest some days just need a little chocolate.
- Coffee, Tea and Hot Chocolate – As someone who only drinks hot chocolate, I don't quite know the best ways to make tea or coffee in a dorm, but I know you'll probably make it better than the dining hall.
- Your Favorite Snacks – The dining hall isn't going to be stocked with all your favorites like your pantry back home. For instance, if you know you always love to have a bag of popcorn, some Goldfish or a Poptart then you need to bring it from home.
- Breakfast Foods – If you're someone who doesn't want to get up in time to run to the dining hall, it can't hurt to bring food with you for the morning. It is the most important meal of the day and will definitely help you survive a long lecture.
Tip 1: Make Use of To-Go Boxes
A lot of dining halls offer a to-go option for when you don't have time to go to the dining hall. Getting a to-go box is perfect when you have a late class, you have a ton of work to get done, or you and your friends want to eat somewhere else.
Tip 2: Always Put Water In Your Easy-Mac
Easy-mac, ramen noodles, soups on the go, mug cakes and whatever other mini meals you can think of are some of the best dorm food. However, while they are super easy to make, they're also surprisingly easy to mess up for a lot of people. Trust me you don't want to be the person to set off the fire alarm because you forgot to add water to your easy-mac. That's an easy way to not make any friends on your floor.
Tip 3: Leftovers Are Your Friend
Let's face it you're a college kid on a budget. If you decide to go out to eat with your friends, but don't finish the food, bring it back to your dorm. You can store them in your fridge until you need a late night study snack.
Tip 4: Clean Up
Remember your dorm is a shared space, so make sure you clean up when you're done. Leaving a mess of half eaten food, crumbs, or wrappers all around your room will only annoy your roommate and create tension.
Tip 5: Limit What You Bring
First of all, don't bring any kitchen appliances that aren't allowed. Chances are you're going to get caught and they're going to get taken.
Also, if you know there's food you only eat from time to time, or if it's something the dining hall has then maybe leave it at home. Personally, I brought two boxes of cereal with me, but it ended up being too much. First, that was just a lot of cereal and second I always want milk with my cereal, but rarely had milk in my dorm. And lastly, there was always a ton of cereal in the dining hall.
Tip 6: Check With Your Roommate For Allergies
When I was packing for school I made sure to check with my roommate to see if she was allergic to anything.