Kitchen Essentials

Just because we’re all college students doesn’t mean we should survive off ramen and pizza rolls for four years.

In the days before the pandemic, UT students could rely on the campus dining halls for a nice, hot meal, but as rules and regulations shift in response to the virus, many students are beginning to prepare their own meals.

Not every dorm has an accessible kitchen available to students, however, and many small appliances like toasters and waffle makers are prohibited, thus limiting most students to their microwaves.

Limited fridge and freezer space also make storing ingredients a hassle.

Luckily, there are an infinite number of dorm-friendly recipes available on the web, and stores now sell ingredients already prepped and portioned into manageable containers. Here are some meal ideas for the struggling student.

Mac n’ cheese

Sure, it may seem easier to buy the blue box and pop that in your microwave, but you can actually make a way better version of that in about the same amount of time.

Shredded cheese is your friend here, and you can probably find a thousand other ways to use it, so it’s a good thing to keep around.

Dried pasta is cheap and essentially doesn’t go bad. Made by Monique has a good recipe with only three ingredients — it can even be made in a microwave.

Upgrade your ramen

In college life, there only two certainties: paying out your nose for textbooks you’ll never open and eating ramen.

There’s no reason you should be eating the same old ramen all the time, though. There are so many ways to kick your ramen game up a notch. Crack an egg into the broth while it’s still bubbling and watch it instantly poach, or stir it around and make your own version of egg drop soup.

Most major supermarkets carry fresh or frozen vegetables that can be steamed in the microwave, so those are good for students looking to make ramen healthier.

Additionally, there’s no reason you should limit yourself to the sodium-laced flavor mix in the packet. Who says you can’t buy a jar of your favorite pasta sauce and mix that in?

Or, make your own sauce. A favorite across the web is whipping up a quick sauce with peanut butter, Sriracha and soy sauce for some “poor man’s Pad Thai.”

Baked potato

A baked potato is the perfect blank canvas for all sorts of tasty toppings, and there’s no reason you should miss out just because you don’t have an oven.

Take a russet potato, and clean it really well. Make sure it’s super dry, and then poke a bunch of holes in it with a fork.

On a microwave-safe plate, cook it for about seven minutes — turning halfway through to ensure even heating. If your potato is still not soft after this, keep cooking it in one-minute increments.

After that, the world’s your oyster. Add bacon, cheese, sour cream or any toppings you wish.

Fried rice

While you won’t get the same smoky, savory goodness as you would from a takeout place, microwaved “fried” rice is totally doable.

You can also mix and match veggies and meats, and it’s totally fine to substitute regular rice for low-carb cauliflower rice.

Again, precut and frozen veggies are your friends here — and you probably need a reason to use up all those spare soy sauce packets from Panda Express anyway. Tasty has a good recipe.

Good places for ideas

There is no way one could fit all the microwave and dorm-friendly meal ideas out there in one article. A quick Google search yields millions of results. However, there are some really good resources out there.

Tasty has recipes with videos, so even the most novice chef can cook up something gourmet. Reddit is also an invaluable resource, with communities like r/eatcheapandhealthy and r/budgetfood where users post cheap and easy recipes, many of which can be adapted for dorm-room, microwave cooking.

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