How I survived a dorm with my grand food ambitions
If you have been keeping up with my section here in the paper, you may know me for my recipes. However, there are a good number of the recipes that I have written about that I have been unable to make since I came to school because of the challenges and limitations presented by dorm life.
Nevertheless, I am a very stubborn person and love cooking way too much to have ever let that get the best of me. That said, there are quite a few things that I have been able to manage.
For instance, I have baked cookies, brownies, roasted vegetables and microwaved some pretty complex ramen bowls.
I want to relay some of my strategies to you all so that if you happen to find yourself crunched for space and resources, you can still create your own good food!
If you’re in a dorm, do not overlook the power of a minifridge and a microwave
Seriously, having the ability to store a few things in your room makes all the difference. You can keep leftovers and take out, and even store sauces and condiments.
I ordered a pretty cheap set of tupperware containers on Amazon at the beginning of the year and have been using them to store vegetables and other things that I get from dining center takeout.
Which leads into my next point…
Take absolute advantage of your meal plan
I know this may seem a little bit contrary to cooking your own food upon first glance. However, I got the majority of the ingredients for my dishes and baked goods in the form of takeout from the dining center. Also, I am not trying to tell you not to eat a meal at the dining center. They can have really good food.
I have roasted carrots and broccoli from the salad bar (toss them in the box with the oil from the salad bar and the spices from DIY and bake in a pan at 450ºF for at least 30 minutes). I have also bought flour and my own spices to bread and roast the tofu from the salad bar!
The peanut butter, berries, chocolate chips, eggs, cream cheese and so much more can be used for baking as well! As a freshman with an unlimited meal plan, this was all unbelievably easy to obtain and use.
Bookshelves aren’t just for books
Personally, I prefer to sleep close to the ground, but I have had my bed lofted all year to make room for my fridge, microwave and my bookshelf full of food. Yes, you read that correctly. I have this really amazing collapsible bookshelf that I kept underneath my bed and next to my fridge.
This baby has been such a blessing to me. It’s cradled my coffee maker, snacks, sugar, flour, spices and more. A bookshelf is really the perfect low-budget food storage setup for maximizing your space.
The kitchen in the basement is your friend
I will admit, I was hesitant to really go out and use the kitchen in the dorm because I was just so bummed that I didn’t have a space of my own to work with. However, it really is a nice thing to have, and not many people take advantage of it, so it was always available for me to use.
There is an oven, dish sink and even a microwave to use in case you do not have your own. There is also a full size refrigerator, but I preferred to use my own because of the four day storage limit and potential for someone to take my food.
You can also rent a wide variety of pans and utensils from the hall office.
I would often run down to preheat the oven, then run back up to prepare whatever it was I was making in my room before bringing it back down and popping it in.
The point is to be creative
Everyone’s experiences and resources are going to vary. The point that I am really trying to send home is just to be creative. There are limitations to being in a dorm or small space, but it doesn’t have to be the excuse to not try.
“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
― Julia Child