Living in a dorm room without access to a kitchen can often be a challenge. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the top ten healthy staples that will help you survive during those long hours when the dining halls are closed. And for all of you living off campus, I included a couple extra must-haves to make putting together a quick and healthy dinner just a little bit easier.
1. Oatmeal – Oatmeal is probably one of the most versatile of dorm room staples and that’s why it made the top of the list. Because of its high fiber content, it leaves you full for a long time, making it the perfect breakfast food to get you through a tough morning of classes. You can also snack on this staple anytime of day, or have it for a late night dessert. Just drizzle on a generous amount of honey and a splash of your favorite milk. Also, you don’t have to listen to the instructions. If you buy quick cook or basic rolled oats, just pour hot water over them, cover for 2 minutes and they’ll be ready to go.
2. Nut butter – Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter…whichever is your favorite. Pair with an apple, banana, or a piece of toast, and you have the perfect afternoon snack.
3. Boxed beans – I once made the mistake of buying a large supply of canned beans. Only problem was, who has a can opener in their dorm room? While I could always go and buy one, I prefer to be lazy and just by beans that come in an easy tear-away container. While there are hundreds of bean varieties, black beans, kidney beans and garbanzo beans are great to have on hand for a quick meal.
4. Nuts/seeds – Perfect as a snack, sprinkled on a bowl of oatmeal or tossed in a salad.
5. Sweet Potatoes – This may seem like the weirdest item to be on a top ten dorm pantry staple list, but it’s a must. Poke a couple holes in a sweet potato with a fork and microwave for five minutes and you have yourself an easy no-cook side dish or snack. Plus they are incredibly good for you and supply a super-dose of vitamin A!
6. Dried Fruit – Apricots, raisins, figs, cranberries, mango; dried fruit is much cheaper than their fresh counterparts and supplies more concentrated flavor. I recommend getting fruit without added sugar–fruit is sweet on its own!
7. Boxed soup – Again, its just more convenient than a can! I like the twist off top soups because you can pour what you want and save the rest.
8. Olive oil– Olive oil makes every dorm room snack taste gourmet. Drizzle over soup, on top of a sweet potato, on a bowl of beans, on a piece of toast, you get the idea…
9. Honey – Honey is the perfect staple for a pantry because it virtually lasts forever. I like to use it in place of sugar in recipes, and especially in my tea. It adds a lot of sweetness but also beneficial antioxidants if you buy it raw.
10. Tea– Green, black, herbal, or red… whether you use an electric tea kettle, or microwave a cup of water, having tea on hand is essential whenever you need just a little boost of caffeine or a relaxing cup of chamomile. You’ll also save a ton of money making it yourself and won’t have to make the trip to Starbucks!
For those of you with apartments or access to a kitchen I would also add the following:
1. Whole wheat pasta/brown rice/quinoa
2. Dried Lentils
3. Canned tomatoes
4. Whole grain tortillas
5. Spices – Salt, pepper, curry, cumin, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, ground ginger