Preparing Healthy and Low-Cost Meals in a Dorm

With the newfound freedom of college, it's important that students take the initiative to eat well and within their budgets on their own. Here are two indispensable cooking methods for doing just that.

With newfound freedom comes newfound responsibility, and for college students suddenly calling the shots when it comes to choosing their daily meals, that can often mean taking advantage of all-you-can-eat dining hall buffets, cheap local eats, and the junk food that keeps well in a dorm with few amenities. It can also add up to a certain famed 15 pounds (although, contrary to popular belief, students are more likely to gain three to five pounds in a year!). Still, when parents are no longer in control of serving healthy meals, controlling portions, and limiting junk food—not to mention footing the bill—it’s important that students take the initiative to eat well and within their budgets on their own. Here are two indispensable cooking methods for doing just that. Just keep in mind that both devices, as heat conductors, may not be permitted in all dorms, so students should check with RAs and/or student life offices to make sure they’re following the rules!

Slow cooking

Slow cookers, also known by the brand name Crock Pots, are available in smaller sizes that fit perfectly on a dorm room counter. Small slow cookers can be purchased for under $30 in many different retail location or online stores. And provided a college or university allows them in the dorms, they provide easy, one-pot meals that can be delicious and very healthy. Soups and stews are easily made in the slow cooker and there is no need for frying, oils, or butter, making it much lower in calories than other types of meals. Not only that, but preparing meals in the slow cooker is super easy. There are an infinite amount of slow cooker recipes available for free online, many where you just put all the ingredients in the pot before class in the morning and then come home to a piping hot, ready to eat dinner. Once you are finished, there is only one pot to wash, so clean up is easy too. Because the slow cooker renders down meats, it allows you to put in tougher cuts of meat that are less expensive but normally would not be as palatable using other cooking methods. But they are tender and juicy in the slow cooker! Soups and vegetables are another way to make inexpensive but healthy meals in one little pot. Slow cookers can also be used for entertaining friends and making covered dishes if you ever have the need to bring a dish to a party or event.

Sandwich or grill press

Another great kitchen tool for college students is a sandwich press or grill press. These are available for low cost in many different retail locations or online stores as well and are a great option for making sandwiches and much more. The nonstick surface makes for easy clean up, and the nature of the press also cooks much of the fat off of grilled meats, lowering fat and calories significantly. For students on the go in particular, there are plenty of sandwich combinations to try, especially when you can rock a mini fridge full of different fillings and breads. Also, whether it’s sold as a sandwich or a grill press, both can often be used to prepare a few other things as well, such as omelets. Just pour scrambled eggs in and add vegetables and cheese. Anyone can experiment making different things in a grill press and become a master at it making easy, low-cost meals in no time.

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