For most, the college cafeteria is heaven, with its mountains of pizza, ice cream and snacks. But for vegans? Not so much.
Sure, there is plenty of fruit and a salad bar available (only on weekdays at my school), accompanied by a shelf full of granola bars and even vegan cookies – but sometimes I want an actual meal.
As I entered my first year of university I didn’t expect to be faced with such limited options in the cafeteria. My school advertised its eateries as healthy and affordable, with vegetarian and vegan option. It’s not. When there are vegan options, besides fruit, cereal and granola bars, it is in the form of fries, deep fried tofu and vegan poutine. I can see why the freshmen fifteen happens. And for the outrageous prices, it is just not worth it.
I try to cook for myself as much as I can, but I’m not allowed any cook-wear, including a microwave, in my dorm. As well, the meal plan is mandatory at my university, meaning that if I don’t eat at the caf’, my meal card will maintain its dauntingly high balance while my bank card does the opposite.
So, what is your resident vegan to do when the only options presented to her for dinner are apples, granola bars or the incredibly enticing, hot option of steamed green beans? Get creative.
My favorite cold meal to throw together in the caf’ is an amped up cereal concoction. My cafeteria sells juice box size containers of soy milk and single serve cereal boxes. On their own, they’re not much of a meal. However, throw in a crumbled up granola bar and some local fruit and it starts to look more filling – and appetizing.
For a traditional dinner, you may need to compromise. Once a week I venture into the horror that is my floors communal kitchen and cook a large pot of rice that will last me days. Pick up a pack of soy sauce and those slimy, steamed vegetables from the caf’ to mix in for an Asian inspired dish.
If you are brave enough to use the communal oven, you can even bake banana, oatmeal and chia muffins. They’re cheap and easy to make and great when you’re on the go, or whenever the caf’ lets you down.
As a final caf’ tip, buy your fruit there with your meal card and use it in smoothies. Sticking to whole, seasonal fruits will keep your costs down as well, versus buying the pre-chopped, exotic fruits.
But when all else fails, don’t feel bad about succumbing to those vegan cookies in order to halt your hunger. You are in college after all.