How To Make The Best Out Of Your Meal Plan

Tired of cafeteria food? Craving some new and healthier dishes, but still want to make the most of your meal plan? The solution: Get inventive with what’s offered in the cafeteria and whatever else can be bought with dining dollars. Here are some tips to maximize your culinary experience:

Don’t be scared to use kitchens: In suites with kitchenettes, getting your inner chef on is pretty easy. For those who don’t have stoves in their room, although it seems inaccessible, there are kitchens at the bottom of most dorms that have many supplies (and are often empty).

There are plenty of things you can take to-go to snack on without having the to-go box. Fruit is a great item to snag on the way out of the dining hall before your next class without a to-go box. A to-go cup can also hold many things (and you can ask for one even if you’re dining in), like cereal for a snack or later breakfast. If you’re really hungry and low on time, the gluten-free refrigerator has bags of cookies and other grain-based goodies that taste pretty good (as well as small packages of cream cheese, honey, and butter), but keep in mind that these snacks are meant for those with gluten restrictions, so use minimally.

Check out the lemon wedges. These are often near the coffee and tea, and are easy to put in a water bottle and make your daily drinking experience a little more exciting.

Utilize the fresh greens in the salad bar. If you do have the opportunity to take a to-go box, you can fill one with various greens and vegetables (my personal favorites are the peppers and cucumbers) and add some hummus for a later snack. You can also stir-fry/steam these and add any sauces on your own.

Also take advantage the whole eggs in the omelette station. This is probably my favorite hack; if you have a mini-fridge accessible, having several eggs in your room is always helpful, since they can be added to almost any meal and can be an easy breakfast if you’re in a rush. This is also an item you can take in a to-go box.

Rice is nice. At Hopkins, the FFC always has some sort of rice available at lunch and dinner. You can top your rice with greens and vegetables from the salad bar, an egg and/or some grilled chicken from the meat counter, and stir fry everything with any combo of seasonings. Note that difference between this version of fried rice and one the cafeteria may offer is that you know exactly what’s going into your food.

Other starches are also nice. Taking extra pieces of bread or bagels to go never hurts. French toast is an easy meal to make if you have eggs, milk, and cinnamon (you can get the first two from the cafeteria to go), as is using bagels to make egg sandwiches for breakfast (just add cheese from the deli station, eggs, and breakfast meats, or make a scramble and slap it in the bagel).

Take advantage of dining dollars. Some things that are helpful to buy and last a long time include soy sauce and sriracha (there’s a very tasty paleo brand provided in Charles Market), but having milk, sweet potatoes (easily heated up in a microwave and can be put in salads/ soups!), and peanut butter are also great ingredients to have on standby.

Remember: While using to-go boxes is easy and helpful, it does produce a lot of waste. Compost and recycle as much as possible.