I'm now in my fifth year of living in a dorm (four years of college, and then since June in dorms for college students and interns), and let me tell you, cooking can be a challenge. Especially here in New York where I don't have a dining hall as an option for at least one meal a day. So I'm here to share the wisdom I've gathered over the last few years on how to make living and cooking in a college dorm bearable.
Instant noodles are such a college student staple. DO NOT depend on them for every meal, even though they're cheap. But, I'd say have them on hand for late night cravings or if you need something semi-fast. You don't even need to do them on the stove. If you have a suitably big microwave-safe bowl, you can cook them for about three and a half minutes, and they'll be good to go.
-If you don't like the broth, drain most of the water after cooking, then add the seasoning packet, stir it in, then drain the rest of the broth (carefully so you don't lose any noodles). If you do like broth, add the seasoning packet before cooking.
-Add enough water to cover the noodles (and break them into smaller sections).
-I usually cook mine for about two minutes, take it out and stir it, then pop it back in for the rest of the time.
-Make sure you cover your bowl, and know your microwave well. At school, I never had issues with the water boiling over, but I have at my dorm here.
Do not skip breakfast, especially if you have a bunch of morning classes. Keep dry cereal or bagels and cream cheese in your room. Granola bars are okay as a last result, but they won't hold you. I'm lucky because my dorms have all had toasters, so I could toast my bagels or make peanut butter toast. I did oatmeal a lot, too. If you have an actual kitchen in the dorm and the time in the morning, the occasional egg can be a great option.
The All-Important Mini-Fridge
Hopefully you're allowed to have a mini-fridge (or your school provides one). If you are, splurge for one with a separate freezer compartment. Trust me, you'll want it. Even when I had a single room and a fridge all to myself, I was constantly running out of space so imagine trying to share a teeny little one with a roommate. This also means you'll have more space for...
As you get closer to adulthood and living on your own, you'll learn the value of meal prepping, especially if you have classes into the evening or an internship or a job. If you can cook a big dinner on the weekend and then have leftovers all week, imagine how wonderful it'll feel coming home, knowing you just have to pop something in the microwave! Basically, I'll make pasta sauce (and actually have enough to freeze, too) or stir fry or even taco casserole, eat a serving that night, and then portion the rest into serving-size Tupperwares. Then I'll put those in the fridge and be all set! There's even some great recipes for this purpose on Pinterest. You do have to be comfortable eating the same thing for several nights in a row, but if you vary what you do every week, then it won't get so tiresome. (Plus home-cooked food usually tastes better than caf fare anyways.)
My dorm this summer didn't have an oven, and I didn't realize how much I'd miss one. Great things to do in the oven are frozen pot pies and baked potatoes (or baked sweet potatoes). I love, love, love baked potatoes because they're filling and you can put a bunch of toppings on them - cheese, sour cream, broccoli, bacon... If you haven't made baked potatoes before, scrub them lightly and prick with a fork before placing in a preheated oven (425 degrees Fahrenheit is usually what I do). Then bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on the potato's size. Something else you can do in the oven is a casserole of some sort that can then serve as meals for the rest of the week (including breakfast!).
It's so easy to eat junk food or tons of frozen meals as a college student, so to balance that out, keep some veggies or fruit in your room. One serving of either/both a day is better than nothing! This summer, I got really good at keeping grapes or blueberries in my dorm fridge, and I'd get baby carrots and ranch dip, too. Clementines are a good winter option. Also, invest in a good pot and steamer basket so you can steam fresh veggies (instead of frozen ones). Or invest in a good pan that you can saute veggies in. That way you can have a side of broccoli or something similar with your leftover pasta.
Sandwiches Are Your Friend
If you're an intern in a big city, you do not want to go out to lunch constantly cause that'll eat away at your food budget quickly. Instead, make a sandwich (that morning or the night before). I rotate out turkey and provolone with peanut butter and jelly, and then I mix up my sides for variety. Some days I'll bring pretzels; other days, it'll be pita chips and hummus. This is also when you want to utilize those fruits and veggies you bought.
Learn How to Cut Recipes
If that really good-sounding Pinterest recipe serves 6-8, you definitely need to cut it in half. Some things can't be halved easily (like eggs or certain measurements), so look for recipes that use even increments...or learn the metric system and find recipes that utilize that. Google can help you figure out the correct increments too. This is especially useful if you don't have the space to save lots of leftovers.
Be Budget Conscious
You're a college student who's probably working a part-time, minimum-wage job. So use coupons (even if it makes you feel old) and get the Target Cartwheel app. Buy things that will stretch a long way. Don't buy big quantities of fruits and vegetables if it's only gonna be you eating them because they'll go bad really fast, and then you'll have wasted your money.
What other tips do you have for cooking in a college dorm?