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Cooking for College Students – Easy Recipes for a Dorm Room

Some colleges allow students who eat elsewhere such as at their home off-campus to purchase meal swipes or points as they need outside of a full meal plan. Depending on how much meals cost in direct cash, students may want to purchase a small amount of points or swipes to use occasionally or to supplement a meal plan that is running low. Choosing the wrong meal plan can cost a student hundreds of dollars, either in the form of unspent meal swipes and points from a too-big plan or the cost of adding additional meals to a plan that turned out to be too small.

Students can ask themselves the following questions to help decide on the best plan. Athletes or other students who exercise frequently may want to choose a meal plan with more points or swipes. Students who take early morning classes — or those who prefer to sleep as late as possible — may skip breakfast in favor of an after-class brunch or even just a granola bar until lunch.


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Students who routinely skip a meal may find it more cost effective to take a lighter meal plan. At colleges with per-swipe meal plans, students who prefer frequent snacks to full meals may find themselves at a disadvantage: a banana and yogurt can count as a full meal and limit students to only three snack-runs per day. Students who rely more on snacks than full meals may want to use a lighter plan in favor of buying snacks off-campus or a use a heavier meal plan to assure they can grab food whenever they want it. Smaller campuses may have more limited dining options, even with menu rotations.

Students who desire a significant amount of variety in their meal choices may want to use a lighter meal plan so they have more funds available for buying groceries or eating out. Students often frequent coffee shops and cafes on campus both for a caffeine fix and as a study spot.

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Students who drink coffee frequently may want to consider a meal plan with more points to help account for this extra cost. Some colleges require students, especially freshmen and sophomores, to purchase a meal plan that will support a standard three-meals-per-day diet. Students living on-campus who have the opportunity to choose lighter plans, however, may want to consider using dorm kitchens and personal appliances such as mini-fridges and microwaves to prepare some of their own meals.

However, students who live very close to campus or spend the majority of their time on campus may want to consider purchasing a heavier meal plan. Regardless of whether they live on- or off-campus, students considering preparing some or all meals for themselves may want to explore how easily and frequently they can go grocery shopping.

Are stores nearby?

Is there transportation available? Colleges may have agreements with local retailers that allow students to use their meal points to buy food and groceries. This means that if a student unintentionally purchases a heavier meal plan than they needed one semester they will not lose all of the excess points or swipes they paid for. Those students may want to err on the side of a heavier meal plan. If a college allows students to add more meals or points to their plan for a reasonable fee, students may want to purchase a less expensive meal plan that they can add to in the event they have underestimated how large of a plan they need.

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Students who unintentionally choose meal plans that are too small may be charged penalties when adding more points or meals. On the flip side, students with larger meal plans than necessary can lose leftover meals or points they have already purchased at the end of the semester. Gauging which meal plan will be the best fit can take some trial and error, so students may want to research whether the school will allow them to change meal plans mid-semester and if the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs.

Colleges and universities often require students who live on-campus and even those who live off-campus to purchase a meal plan. This can present a challenge for students with dietary restrictions that may not be fully accommodated by the school. Many college campuses offer kosher dining options, especially for religious holidays such as Passover.

Some colleges, like Boston University and University of Maryland, College Park have kosher kitchens and even kosher meal plans. For individuals still in the college-selection process, Hillel International and Heart to Heart both offer extensive college guides and directories for Jewish students with special attention to kosher meal plans and dining options.

Some colleges offer halal dining, often in conjunction with kosher options.

50 Ramen Noodle Recipes That Will Change Your Perspective on This College Student Staple

For more specialized dietary needs, colleges will often work with students to create allergen-free meals and dining opportunities. Each college and university will have its own method for determining if a student should be exempt from a mandatory meal plan. These decisions are often made on a case-by-case basis and may require documentation from a doctor or from a religious leader such as a rabbi or imam in the case of religious dietary restrictions.

Colleges generally extend as many accommodations as they can and treat waivers as a last resort. Meal plans can be expensive, so students may choose a lighter plan to avoid some of these costs. In order to avoid the fees associated with adding more points or swipes to a light plan at the end of the semester, students can instead plan out home- or dorm-cooked meals in advance. If students have budgeted their meal points or swipes in advance, they will not be surprised by a suddenly declined meal card.

Students with financial need may be eligible to receive their meal plans at a reduced rate. Students can use ride-share programs or friends with cars to stock up on groceries so they do not have to rely solely on their meal plan.

MEAL PREP AS A COLLEGE STUDENT

This can allow students to sign up for a lighter meal plan and likely save money in the long-run even including the cost of groceries. Common dorm room appliances such as mini fridges and microwaves may cost money when initially purchased but can help college students eat with a lighter meal plan for years to come. For students who are cooking for the first time in college, dozens of guides are readily available that can walk them through the basics and include easy, cheap recipes. Check out our guide on dorm room recipes for inspiration.

Residence halls often have a kitchen that students are free to use. Sometimes they are even pre-stocked with cooking utensils left behind by previous residents. Although living in a dorm room can entail a mandatory meal plan, students who frequently use the dorm kitchen can purchase a light meal plan and prepare many of their own meals.

Campus Cooking A Beginner's Guide | Allrecipes

Students who do not plan on relying solely on their meal plans should try to plan what their home-prepared meals will be. This can help prevent accidentally using more meal swipes than intended and having to purchase more swipes at the end of a semester. Additionally, planning prepared meals beforehand can help make sure groceries do not spoil before being used.

Ramen is an iconic college staple in large part because of its low cost, but it can be easily upgraded to something healthier and more filling. Buzzfeed , FoodBeast , and HerCampus both have useful guides for altering and enhancing ramen noodles on a budget. Students who rely on meal plans may find themselves without food during some holiday breaks and if a meal plan runs out.

In order to protect students from these challenges, some campuses have established food banks. This search engine helps users find nearby halal establishments including distributors, restaurants, and grocery stores.

College Health: Eating and Fitness 101

The Penny Hoarder provides useful tips and tricks for how college students can find, buy, and prepare food cheaply. Are there any great books on the topic? If you have any ideas or suggestions for our epicurean scholar please share them in the comments. Anyone who can work some creative magic at a salad or sandwich bar, let's hear your tricks and tips.

Let's send him back to school with some ideas and inspiration. Skip to content Cookbooks logo. Instant Pot. High Protein. Gluten Free. Follow Instagram. You can probably sense where this is headed, here's the email: " Share this Older Posts. Whole Grain.