The 7 Worst Things About Dorm Cooking (and How to Deal with Them)

published Aug 27, 2015
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(Image credit: Danil Nevsky)

Dorm cooking is kind of a double-edged sword. It feels liberating to branch out from the meal plan, finally eating the foods you want to eat, and cooking for yourself. But as anyone who’s tackled dorm cooking can tell you, it’s only a little while before you realize cooking in your dorm is tough and full of challenges.

In squeezing three squares a day out of your limited space, the best tool you have isn’t your microwave — it’s knowing how to handle each and every one of these common challenges.

The 7 Worst Things About Dorm Cooking

1. You don’t have an actual kitchen.

Welcome to dorm cooking, where you will miss all the things you took for granted in your childhood kitchen — a stove, oven, large refrigerator, and especially all the counter space and cabinets.

Yes, a stove and oven, along with proper cookware, make cooking a lot easier, but there are other ways to get the job done.

→ How to deal with it: You might not have a kitchen outfitted with the convenient appliances you know and love, but home-cooked meals are still within your reach. It’s time for you to get acquainted with your microwave and some smaller appliances.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

2. You do have a kitchen, but share it with random people.

First, count yourself lucky that you actually have a kitchen. But sharing a communal kitchen with people can be challenging and frustrating.

→ How to deal with it: This probably won’t be the last time you have to share a kitchen, so the sooner you can master this potentially tricky situation, the better. The first step in the right direction: clear communication (and maybe labeling your carton of yogurt). Make a plan for how you’ll share the space, as well as a cooking and cleaning schedule.

3. Healthy meals are hard to make with packaged foods.

Cooking when you’re living in a dorm (and on a tight budget) is hard enough. But when you’re dedicated to cooking and eating healthy meals and snacks, it’s even more tough. Know this, though — it’s not impossible.

→ How to deal with it: Yes, you can still cook and eat healthy meals, even when you live in a dorm; it just takes some serious planning and smart shopping. Buy produce that’s in season, and plan meals based on what’s on sale instead of choosing a recipe first.

4. There’s limited access to fresh ingredients.

When you’re stuck on a college campus, access to fresh produce can be hard to come by. If you do have it, count yourself lucky, and take advantage of it.

→ How to deal with it: If fresh produce is hard to come by, or just isn’t in your budget, opt for the next best thing: frozen veggies. They’re inexpensive and pretty versatile. And keep an eye out for smart ways to get fresh vegetables, like on-campus farmers markets.

5. You’re totally broke.

If you’re cooking in a dorm, that probably also means you don’t have a lot of money to spare. I feel you, we’ve all been there. Yes, this makes things challenging, but it’s all about budgeting well and being a smart shopper.

→ How to deal with it: Cooking on a student budget isn’t without its challenges, but it’s also totally doable. The key is creating a budget you can stick to and shopping smart.

6. There’s no dishwasher.

Throwing all your dirty dishes in the dishwasher sure is convenient, but it’s not a luxury you’re likely to have in your dorm room.

→ How to deal with it: It’s time to be your own dishwasher, so get out a sponge and some soap. If you’re planning to cook, then washing dishes comes with the territory. It’s not fun, but there are some ways to make it suck a little less.

7. Your roommate ate your food.

I feel like this is a rite of passage for anyone that lives with roommates. It’s probably going to happen to you at some point in time (if it hasn’t already), and it’s super frustrating.

→ How to deal with it: You can always go the route of labeling your food, which may prove useful when there are multiple roommates sharing the kitchen. But again, communication is key. The best thing to do is lay down some ground rules early on.