Every college student should have a small refrigerator in their dorm room. You certainly should if you plan to avoid the “Freshman 15” and stay on track with your muscle-building goals. Most colleges will rent one to you by the semester but you can also buy one for about $100, which is a much better deal.
Even though dorm rooms are notoriously tight on floor space, you can place a small microwave on top of your dorm room fridge and get a small microwave cart or a cabinet for stocking a few essentials like pantry items and a few dishes and utensils. You will be amazed at how efficient this makeshift kitchen can be with the right recipes and the right foods in stock.
The last thing you should be doing is relying on the dining hall or neighborhood fast food restaurants for all of your meals and snacks. Dining hall buffet tables are loaded with all of the foods you should limit, such as white potatoes, pasta and breads. They also encourage overeating. The neighborhood fast food and pizza joints should be reserved for special occasions only. If you frequent them on a daily basis, you will go broke fast and get fat even faster.
With this simple kitchen set-up and the right ingredients, you can eat healthy, save money and stay on schedule. You don’t have to worry about lines or any inconveniences because you can eat in the comfort of your dorm room. You have the added convenience of eating breakfast without having to get dressed and run out, which ultimately saves time. Being prepared with these essentials also allows you to put together a power snack whenever you need one.
Here are some groceries you should try to have on hand at all times.
How to Stock Your Dorm Room Fridge
Your dorm room fridge won’t hold much, so it should be reserved for the most nutrient-dense and versatile foods. You will have to shop frequently because space is limited, but you can easily fit enough food in there to feed yourself for a week.
Dairy Items: Organic milk, almond milk or coconut milk is a must-have item. You can use the milk for cold cereal, hot cereal, protein shakes, smoothies and soups. Greek yogurt is another important food to stay stocked on. Greek yogurt costs about $1 per container and has twice the protein (about 14g) of regular yogurt. Organic cottage cheese is another good choice as is mozzarella string cheese. You will also want to stock some organic, grass-fed butter.
Proteins: Three of the best proteins you can buy for your dorm room fridge are cooked chicken breasts, fresh shrimp (have your grocer steam them for free) and organic, pasture-raised eggs. Canadian bacon is another good option that’s fully cooked and very versatile.
Fruits and Vegetables: Try to limit the amount of produce you buy at one time because it does take up a lot of room. Store what you can outside of the fridge to save space, although that, too, will mean that you need to buy just a little at a time so that the food doesn’t spoil.
Some of the best vegetables to have on hand are sweet potatoes (high in protein, beta-carotene and fiber), dark leafy lettuce, fresh spinach leaves, onions and tomatoes. Some good fruits to stock are strawberries, blueberries, apples, pears and bananas. Buy organic at your local farmer’s market. Organic produce there is often cheaper than commercial produce at the supermarket.
Other Refrigerated Items: There are a few condiments and flavorings that will help open up your meal and snack options. Dijon or brown mustard is great on a sandwich, but also good in dressings and sauces. Olive oil mayonnaise is better for you than regular mayo and also comes in handy.
How to Stock Your Dorm Room Pantry
Your pantry area will hold a lot more food than your dorm room fridge, but you still have limited space. Fill it with things that are rich in nutrition and give plenty of variety and versatility.
Grains: Try to keep a loaf of whole-grain, preferably sprouted-grain, bread on hand for sandwiches and toast. Quinoa should always be in your pantry. It’s a complete protein and a great substitute for almost any grain. Use it as you would oats, rice or pasta. Brown rice is another good item to have. It’s always good to have a healthy cold cereal such as Ezekiel for really busy mornings and steel-cut oats are great for a hot breakfast option. Whole-grain tortillas are great for making your own wraps and individual pizzas.
Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters: Nuts and seeds are loaded with healthy fats, fiber and a wide range of antioxidants. The best nuts are raw almonds and walnuts. Pumpkin seeds or pepitas, squash seeds and chia seeds are also good to have. They make a great snack and add a dose of healthy fats to salads, hot cereal and yogurt. Nut butters such as almond butter are better for you than peanut butter and taste amazing. They’re good for sandwiches, spreading on fruits and vegetables or whipped into your protein shake.
Condiments and Flavorings: You’ll be amazed at how creative you can get with just a few ingredients if you have the right flavorings on hand. Coconut oil and/or olive oil should always be in your cupboard. You should also stock Balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar for making your own healthy dressings.
You may also want to stock mirin, soy sauce or other Asian flavorings for soups, vegetables and main dishes. Raw honey is always good to have and much better for you than sugar. Make sure to stock a few simple spices and seasonings as well, such as salt, pepper, paprika, curry powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder and red pepper sauce.
There are a few canned goods that will round out your pantry. Keep some vegetable, chicken or beef broth on hand for making soups and sauces and a few cans of kidney or black beans to add protein and fiber to your meals. A few cans of tuna and sardines are also good to have.
Obviously, you will have several things that you want to keep on hand that aren’t on this list, but this is an excellent base with which to build so many meals. You will use these ingredients over and over again and each of them is so rich in nutrition that they will earn their piece of your limited dorm room space.
Power Snacks That Make The Grade
Here are some of the best power snacks you can make with the ingredients we’ve just talked about. As you can see, there are a lot of options with just a few ingredients.
- Banana sliced in half and spread with almond butter.
- Pear or apple slices dipped in almond butter.
- Vanilla Greek yogurt with blueberries and walnuts.
- Vanilla Greek yogurt, fresh berries and coconut milk whipped into a smoothie.
- Hot quinoa with almond milk, honey and almonds.
- Cooked oats with blueberries, coconut milk and walnuts.
- Sliced pear heated with a little butter and some honey, then topped with walnuts.
- Celery sticks filled with almond butter and topped with pumpkin seeds.
- Quick salad of spinach, strawberries, cooked chicken breast and vinaigrette.
- Easy chicken soup with cooked quinoa, chopped chicken breast, spinach and onion.
- Quinoa with cooked shrimp, green onion, soy sauce.
- Brown rice, black beans, garlic and a few cooked shrimp.
- Chicken salad sandwich made with mustard, chopped apple and walnuts.
- Parfait made with vanilla Greek yogurt, Ezekiel cereal and fresh berries.
- Heated sardines with red pepper sauce, garlic and olive oil.
- Microwaved tomato and mozzarella on whole-grain toast.
- Tortilla pizza with tomato sauce, cottage cheese, spinach leaves and mozzarella.
These are just a small sampling of the great power snacks and quick meals you can pull together right in your dorm, in just a few minutes and for a fraction of what the dining hall or pizza place would cost you.
You can easily create a week’s worth of meals from these ingredients and then be able to go out and enjoy the occasional pizza or hot wing night. Because you’re eating right 99% of the time and you actually have some money left in your pocket, you can enjoy that evening out guilt free and without having to dip into your gas money to do it.
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