How to stock your ‘dorm kitchen’

What appliances and food you’ll thank yourself for buying and what will go unused

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A microwave, mini-fridge, mugs and other items are essential in a dorm. 

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

Ah orientees, so young, so innocent. I remember when I was in your shoes, assuming 150 plus dollars would last a whole semester and genuinely thinking that first O’Hill meal wasn’t so bad. Well trust me, you won’t stay this naïve for long. Before you know it you’ll be eating half of your meals on the Corner and the other half in your room. It’s just a fact of University first-year life. Hopefully after reading this article you will have a better idea of what you should buy to make sure your dorm kitchen can live up to its full potential. 

What you need

A microwave: This one is so obvious and so essential. When picking out a microwave, I recommend finding one that is relatively quiet (roommate!) and also powerful. Also, there is no reason to buy the XXL version — remember these rooms are small and space is incredibly valuable in a dorm. 

What to microwave: Even if you never had oatmeal before college, I guarantee you will unenthusiastically eat it all the time by the end of first year. Oatmeal is reliable, fast and cheap and it beats those terrifying “scrambled eggs” at the dining hall. A little cinnamon can make all the difference here, and if you’re feeling super fancy, you can add some craisins and nuts. Also soups that aren’t ramen — there are so many microwaveable soup options that are healthier and tastier than ramen. Just look in the organic section of your grocery store! It is also worth noting that the Annie’s Organic microwaveable mac and cheese is much better than Kraft Easy Mac. I was skeptical at first too, but you just have to trust me. 

A mini-fridge: I suggest finding one with a freezer, you’ll thank yourself when you see the Halo Top selection at Crossroads. I would stay away from any sort of luxury fridge since chances are you will live in an apartment with a full size fridge next year, making an expensive mini-fridge a pointless investment. Most importantly, make a conscious effort to clean the fridge out every couple of weeks, strange smells thrive in dorms. 

What to keep in the fridge: Greek yogurt is a great alternative to oatmeal in the morning and can also be a filling snack. Hummus is another healthy snack that can also be a meal if you’re desperate. Neither Crossroads nor CVS on the Corner sells hummus, so be sure to stock up when you go to the grocery store. I would also suggest buying pre-sliced cheese you can eat with crackers. It is common knowledge that college makes everyone lazier, and I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am for all those times I didn’t have to go through the exhaustive process of finding a knife, cutting off a piece of cheese, washing the knife, etc. Exhausting!

A Keurig: Keurig’s are less expensive than many people think  — you can find them for less than $100 and will seriously save your life if you are a coffee drinker. Not only is making the walk to a dining hall in February just for a cup of terrible coffee first thing in the morning something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but you will also save lots of money drinking coffee in your room instead of buying it from Greenberry’s.

What to use in your Keurig: I am someone who definitely can taste the difference between different coffees, and I wholeheartedly recommend the Newman’s Own K-Cups. They are cheaper than the Starbucks K-Cups, taste better than Starbucks and a portion of the proceeds go to charity! Order your K-Cups on Amazon since they are non-perishable and will almost always be cheaper than a grocery store. 

An electric kettle: Getting sick in dorms is unavoidable, and getting sick in dorms is infinitely worse than getting sick at home. Tea helps. These electric kettles heat up water quickly and require minimal effort. My roommate brought one to our dorm and I thought I would never use it, I could not have been more wrong. 

What kind of tea: If you need a pick me up but a full cup of coffee seems like a little too much caffeine, try Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice. It’s cinnamony in a way that can make you feel cozy even in the depths of Clem 1, and has a subtle sweetness without tasting artificial. Drink Nature’s Remedies Throat Coat when you have a sore throat or a cough, and since it’s completely herbal you can drink it before you go to bed. 

A Brita Filter: Not only is the water in dorms definitely questionable, but water fountains can sometimes be far away and it’s nice to have easy access to water in your room. 

Mugs of different sizes: A mug is a coffee cup, a bowl, a plate, a baking tin, a pencil holder, need I go on. I was always wishing I had just one more clean mug in my dorm. A good travel mug will also make a big difference in your quality of life if you're a coffee or tea drinker. In my opinion Hydroflasks are worth the money. 

Chip Clips: So important  — stale chips suck!

Small ziplock bags: Great for bringing snacks to the library or class. 

A sponge and dish soap: Use them. 


What you don’t need

Cutlery: Just steal the plastic ones from the dining hall — duh. 

Cups: You will get so many cheap plastic cups during your first year, you definitely don’t need to bring any with you. Chances are you will just use one water bottle for everything anyway. 

Fresh fruit: A for effort on that one, but it will go rotten much faster than you think. Stick with grabbing a banana or apple from the dining hall.  

A plate: Never in my life have I seen someone using a plate in dorms — so unnecessary. You have all those mugs of different sizes anyway! 

Those last three bites of your roots bowl: No, you will not eat it for dinner that night. Yes, it will sit in your fridge for approximately three months before you remember it. 

Keep in mind this is just a preliminary list. After living in dorms for a few months you will have a better idea of what you like and what you don’t. 

One last important piece of advice — do not ever buy groceries from Crossroads. They are ridiculously overpriced and the selection is consistently terrible. If you are desperate to stock your “dorm kitchen” and can’t catch a Northline to Barracks Road, stop by CVS on the Corner!

Marlena Becker is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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