Dorm hacks: fueling the mind with few appliances


CW/ Keely Brewer

Kinsley Centers, Contributing Writer

It can be a tough transition moving from a kitchen filled with various appliances such as stoves and ovens to only having a sink, refrigerator and a microwave. As students who live in dorms may have access to a larger kitchen elsewhere, it begins to become a hassle hauling their grocery items to and from just to cook a meal.

Students make things convenient by adapting to the appliances provided for them by creating nutritional dorm hacks to maintain their healthy diets. As Dining Dollars can dwindle quickly, healthy options on campus begin to become scarce when it comes to budgeting, so students decide to make their own meals and snacks.

Katelyn Kirby, a freshman majoring in nursing, said she only has access to a microwave and fridge in her dorm room. She finds herself going to the market that her residence hall offers to get healthy snacks like fruit throughout the day.

“They always have, like, fresh fruit, but other than that, I buy the steamed fresh frozen veggies that are microwavable, and that’s, like, my favorite food in the world,” Kirby said.

Kirby encourages students to buy frozen vegetables and foods to microwave, as they will last for quite some time. Frozen vegetables come in bags that can be steamed in the microwave, and students can add spices, cheese or any toppings to add flare to their meals.

“There’s a lot of things that you can microwave, like you know, you can cook a sweet potato in the microwave, you know, there are ways around it,” Kirby said. “Like buying peanut butter, bananas, apples, rice cakes and nuts instead of turning to the, like, unhealthy processed foods.”

For inspiration, Kirby said she enjoys looking on the Tasty Facebook page for various easy-to-do recipes that can be dorm proofed. She gets creative in the kitchen when it comes to making lettuce wraps. Lettuce wraps are dorm proof, as they can be filled with veggies or deli meat.

Kirby said she tends to be a stress eater, so when a test or deadline is quickly approaching, she knows students like herself may be on a time crunch and cannot cook something up quickly. She suggests instead of grabbing a candy bar to snack on, to grab an apple to fuel the mind.

“Buy the frozen veggies and fruits instead of going downstairs to the vending machine, which can be so much easier at times, but stay away from that,” Kirby said.

For students who may not have cars to go grocery shopping, Kirby suggests they visit the Tuscaloosa River Market, which is walking distance from some parts of campus. The weekly farmer’s market offers various options of locally grown foods that can easily be stored in refrigerators or on the counter.

“The River Market on Saturday mornings is, like, a perfect place to get fresh fruits and veggies. I’ve been there a time or two,” Kirby said.

Kennedy Chase, a freshman majoring in news media, focuses on budgeting when it comes to planning meals throughout the day and month as a student.

“For me it’s budgeting, like make a budget on what you want to spend on food every month because you can easily really spend a lot of money on [food], especially, like, with food that you really don’t need, like, fast food,” Chase said.

Chase invested in a toaster and brought a blender from home so she can create food beyond the microwave. She is able to use her blender for smoothies when she wants to create a protein filled smoothie or a simple fruit smoothie.

Chase said her go-to dorm hack is her favorite food, edamame. Edamame can be purchased from the local grocery store in the frozen section, and all the prep it needs is to be steamed in the microwave. Sea salt or other spices can be added to give it extra flavor. It is not uncommon to see edamame at Asian restaurants, but it is convenient for students to be able to purchase to have on hand as a snack or mixed into a salad.

“There’s lots of microwavable meals you can do,” Chase said. “I’m a big edamame fan, so I like steam my edamame in the microwave.”

Chase suggests for students like herself to eat toast with almond butter for breakfast or as a snack, as this is quick and easy for students to fix when they are on the go. If they want more, they can easily slice a banana to put on top.

Chase said her favorite snack is apples and peanut butter, which can provide a balance of natural nutrients and satisfy a sweet tooth. But if someone is seeking something even sweeter, Chase suggested her personal favorite, Halo Top ice cream, that can easily be stored in the freezer.

Gracie Johnson, a freshman majoring in new media, suggests for busy students who maintain healthy diets to meal prep so their meals are ready to quickly heat up when they are on the go. Students could do this weekly and take advantage of the larger kitchen offered on different floors in the residence hall they reside in.

“Even if you couldn’t go home, there are kitchens on certain floors in the dorms so you could, like, meal prep on the weekends, which would probably be a good idea,” Johnson said.

If a student dreads going to other communal kitchens, they can always meal prep right in their dorm with their favorite plant-based meals such as salads or wraps.

Johnson said it is always helpful for students to keep fruit in their dorm and other snacks on hand like granola bars. She said during her time living in a dorm, she took advantage of the markets inside the residence halls that gives students access to meals and snacks.

“[Presidential Village] has the Witt Center and it has, like, a miniature grocery store in there, so they have, like, already premade sandwiches and apples with peanut butter in little packs and stuff, so I did that a lot as well,” Johnson said.