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How Do You Cook In A Dorm If You Only Have a Tiny Kitchen and a Shared Fridge?

Cooking in dorms can be tough. Don’t get me wrong, I love my dorm— I love the cheerful dorm manager, the cozy lounge with comfy couches and even my old, creaky wooden bed. So what’s the issue here? Well, to put it simply, there’s often a two-burner kitchen next to a single refrigerator for every resident to share, leaving little opportunity to make all the scrumptious-looking meals on Instagram no matter how “quick and easy” the cooking guru claims it is to make. Dorm dwellers like us often don’t have the space for the required equipment or the ingredients, and are left to reluctantly opt for ordering UberEats, eating out, or buying cheap instant meals from the convenience store. This little college struggle inspired me to share a compilation of tips from lifestyle gurus, fellow university students, as well as some of my own on how to make healthy and delicious oven-less, dorm-friendly meals for ourselves. After all, you can’t be in a good mood without good food!

1. Invest in a pan and a blender
One thing I’ve learned from my trial and error experience of cooking in dorms is that if you can only invest in two kitchen appliances, it would be a good frying pan and a blender. The reason for investing in a pan speaks for itself: you can pretty much cook-up any stir-fried or one-pan dishes! From Kung Pao Chicken to one-pan tomato pasta, your pan can work wonders for your cravings. But a blender? Hear me out. You’re probably thinking, blenders are great for smoothies and whatnot, but what else? Well, you’re right, they’re perfect for those energy-boosting fruit smoothies, but there are so many other possibilities. A blender can be used to make sauces and dips, homemade nut butter, and even pancakes! Blenders can be such a godsend when you least expect them to be, especially when you’re in a rush, and it’s about time that you add it to your dorm kitchen arsenal.

2. Stock up on healthy foods with a long shelf life
If you’ve also been in the same position as me and have tried googling “college dorm meals”, chances are, you’ve come across the word “canned tuna” at least once. And canned tunas are truly awesome, but let’s go beyond that! Let us not forget the wonderful existence of other healthy foods that don’t spoil easily like nuts, dried fruits, dark chocolate, and dried herbs. These little things can go a long way, and you’d be surprised how many delicious meals you can make with them.

3. Microwaves and mugs: A love story
From mac-and-cheese to nutty, sweet breakfast cookies, with a single mug, you can create anything as you wish. Take a look at this article: “Whole-food ingredients like peanut butter, bananas, and oats serve as the base for this single-serving breakfast cookie. Our mouths are watering, and our minds are blown.” The only equipment required here is a mug and a fork or spoon. And voila! From savory classics like Mac and Cheese to sweet treats like cookies, French toast and chocolate cake… all can be made instantly in a microwaved mug.

4. Give your comfort food a funky spin
Admittedly, we can’t exactly replicate our mom’s dishes in our dorms. But that doesn’t mean that our food has to taste bland all the time either. I don’t know what your ultimate comfort food is, but I’m pretty sure that there are easier, simpler versions of the recipe that you can recreate in your dorm. My go-to, easy-to-prep dorm meals usually consist of sandwiches and wraps, but when I’m feeling fancy or extra motivated, I like to whip out a pan and cutting board to start cookin’. As mentioned above, with a pan, you can cook anything; since I was raised in a Korean household, I love making classic Korean dishes like bulgogi or spicy pork stir-fry with my pan.

5. Safety first before anything else!
Here are some very important safety tips and reminders that you should all keep in mind before you start cooking that Jamie Oliver dish you found on Youtube. First and foremost, make sure to go over the rules of your dorm and ask your dorm supervisor if you are unclear about anything. Always, always, always be careful when working with fire— you never know what can happen in the span of a few seconds. After you cook, make sure to clean up after your mess and leave a clean space for others. Also, never skip out on food safety; you don’t want to spend days in excruciating pain with food poisoning!

Audrey Har

Waseda '23

Hi there! I’m Audrey. Born in Seoul, (partially) raised in Vancouver and now living in Tokyo, I’m a photography enthusiast, cafe and restaurant hopper, and an avid baker. If you can’t catch me at school, you’ll probably find me spending an entire day in my room watching Netflix, or exploring Tokyo on a mission to find local hidden gem restaurants.
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