Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Culture Pick: How to cook efficiently in on-campus housing

CW / Shelby West

No air fryer, no toaster, no instant pot, big problems. Cooking in a dorm can feel like an impossible task when you’re not allowed to bring helpful cooking tools such as an air fryer or toaster oven. For students living on campus, it’s a roll of the dice as to whether you have access to a stovetop.  

Between classes, extracurriculars, work and a healthy social life, cooking as a college student can seem like an impossible balancing act, especially when living in the dorms. Here are some tips that can help you succeed in college cooking.  

Stay organized by meal prepping 

Setting aside one day to prepare food for the entire week can be useful for managing time. Instead of having to set up and clean the kitchen every single day, meal prepping saves time by turning kitchen cleaning duty into a once-a-week occurrence.  

Junior international studies major Isabela Malo emphasizes being respectful of communal areas.  

“You just need to make sure to clean up your space after you cook, because you don’t want people to leave their mess for you, so why would you do that to others?” Malo said. “Then probably make sure to wash your dishes right after so it’s out of the way and the next person can come.” 

For students living on campus, it can be a challenge to effectively plan cooking. Since most on-campus students must walk to a separate room to cook, having a caddy that can hold cooking supplies to and from the kitchen in one trip can be useful for saving time.  

Additionally, having a checklist of items that are needed can be useful for saving time and making sure that items aren’t forgotten. Also, ensuring that all the required ingredients and tools are out on the counter before starting, and putting things away as they are used can cut down on cleanup and help keep cooking on track.  

Keep it simple with the rule of three 

Cooking is not just about the how, but also the what. An easy formula to follow for college cooking is following the rule of three: a combination of some sort of protein, vegetable and starch.  

For example, baked chicken, roasted broccoli and rice is a meal that can be made in an hour. Once that combination starts to get old, the ingredients can be easily swapped out for different options. Protein like pork tenderloin, vegetables like zucchini or carrots, and a new starch like potatoes are all tasty ways to other delicious options, like mashed potatoes.  

Namie Franco is a senior studying microbiology on the pre-physician’s assistant track, and one of her go-to items and pantry staples is rice “because it’s easy to make and it’s a good base for a lot of different dishes.” 

Finding easy casserole recipes is a great option for students with access to larger cooking areas and stovetops. The ingredients and directions are easy to follow, don’t take a lot of time, and produce multiple servings that can be eaten throughout the week.  

Shop smarter, not harder, during grocery trips 

Time is money, so it’s important to make the most of every single shopping trip. Another way to make trips to the grocery store more effective is by organizing your list by category and the order in which you will grab the items.  

Divide up your list into simple categories based off the layout of the store. One way to do this is categorizing by produce, dry goods, protein, dairy and freezer products.  

“I personally just make it in my notes app,” Franco said. “I try to make it when I’m not hungry, because when I’m hungry I tend to put more food down than I really need and then I end up buying more. I also try not go to the grocery store hungry as well, because then I end up buying things outside my list.” 

Deciding which grocery store to shop at is important too. Frances Abbott, a sophomore nursing major, recommends Aldi because “you can get a lot of cheap ingredients and use them to make something really good with variety.”  

Despite the stress of managing time and figuring out what to cook, Franco describes the process as fun. 

“Honestly, it’s fun. I really like using the kitchen appliances that they provide us. People should take advantage of the common areas that we have in the residential dorms. It’s a really good way to build community,” Franco said. “Food is a really good common ground to share with others, especially if you haven’t met them before.”  

Recipe ideas 

Malo lives on-campus in a dorm with a kitchen that has a stove top. Her suggestion is to make a tuna melt on the stove. She makes it by buttering bread and cooking it on the stove. In the middle, she puts tuna, parmesan cheese, seasonings like garlic powder and paprika, a few onions, and mayo.  

“It’s delicious with a side of carrots and chips,” Malo said.  

Oatmeal is another healthy, easy and stress-free option for students cooking with limited time and space. Franco enjoys oatmeal because it doesn’t take much time and “you can make a lot of it for really cheap.” 

Good platforms to find recipes include Pinterest, the Food Network and Delish. 

Here is a link to a Pinterest board that features recipe ideas for on-campus cooking with lots of oven-only options for students who live in dorms without stove tops.

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