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Freshman 101: Cheap Food Ideas For When You’re Out Of Meal Points

As the semester rolls on and temperatures begin to drop, you’ll likely notice your supply of available meal points is quickly dropping as well. Luckily, there are plenty of cheap meals and snacks you can make right in your own dorm room.

Living in the dorms can be tricky given the lack of space and amenities, but you’d be surprised at how easily you can whip up decent food without the luxury of an oven or stove. Remember, the main idea here is to save yourself money by setting aside ingredients in bulk as opposed to buying individual meals over and over again.

Here are a few ideas to point you in the right direction:

Meals in a Mug

College students everywhere stock up on mugs to get their caffeine fix in the morning, but you can use them for way more than just coffee. In fact, you can whip up anything from oatmeal to French toast to macaroni and cheese inside one. These easy meals only take minutes, and some don’t even require a microwave.

No matter what meal you choose to make, mug meals will save you cash simply because you’re not buying meals by the individual package. Those purchases will eventually take a toll on your wallet. Instead, try to buy a few ingredients, like noodles and cheese, periodically to set aside for your mug meals.

Microwavable Meals

Most college students limit their microwave use to popping popcorn or heating up leftovers. However, microwaves are a lot more versatile than you might think. For example, consider microwavable scrambled eggs in the morning — the great thing about this one-minute meal is that you’ll always have the option to prepare the eggs exactly how you like them (and eggs are a great source of protein). You’ll just need to make sure you have a microwave-safe bowl in your room.

But don’t be fooled into thinking you have to fall into a routine with your meals. You can use your microwave to be a little more adventurous with your choices. If you’re feeling creative, try setting a potato aside to make your own chips right inside the microwave. You can even make kale chips in just a few minutes; the microwavable option is a lot cheaper and healthier than buying snacks by the individual bag every time.

Refrigerator Meals

While warm meals are satisfying now that it’s starting to get chilly outside, don’t let your refrigerator collect dust in the corner of your dorm. You can make plenty of meals simply by mixing a bunch of stuff together and sticking it in the fridge to chill for a while. The best part about these? They’ll be waiting for you when you get back after a night out or once you’re done cramming for that exam.

These cold meals can range from the fancier side, like making your own hummus, to simply throwing a bunch of vegetables into a container for a salad. For an easy serving of protein, for example, consider making oatmeal to stick in the fridge overnight. You’ll generally just need to mix rolled oats with whichever fruit and yogurt combination you choose. For those who take a little longer to get situated in the morning, refrigerator meals are the way to go.

No Bake Meals and Snacks

Though the dorms at Penn State provide students with a microwave and fridge, for some meals, you don’t need either of these. Again, these meals can cover quite a range. From simply keeping a few sandwich ingredients aside to preparing your own tuna salad and cracker combination, the options are endless.

If you want to spice it up a bit, try your hand at whipping up no-bake Nutella bites. Simply roll the Nutella into balls using oats, coconut, flax, and agave (you can play around with these ingredients as you choose). Keeping these inside a container in your dorm for a quick source of energy for when you oversleep or only have a short break between classes.

Pasta, Pasta, Pasta

If all else fails, grab a box of pasta or two from the grocery store and cook it up in your dorm kitchen or in a friend’s apartment. The best thing about pasta is that you can heat it up if you have a little more time in the morning or just eat it cold — it all depends on your toppings. Some of your salad mix-ins and dressings can double as pasta combinations, so you can make enough pasta on Sundays to last you the week and never get sick of the same old lunch.


Fret not, freshmen, for there are options for when you rip through those meal points too fast. If none of these sound appealing, find a friend with too many points and pray they like you enough to swipe you in.

About the Author

Claire Fountas

Claire Fountas is the student life editor for Onward State, as well as a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and psychology. She lives in a suburb of Chicago and strongly disagrees with anyone who hates the Cubs or the Blackhawks (so, pretty much anyone at Penn State). You can follow her @ClaireFountas or email her at [email protected]



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