19 Food Hacks For College Cafeterias

Use that fancy college brain to make your meal plan work for you.

1. Turn hard-boiled eggs into deviled eggs.

Peel the eggs, take the yolks out, mix with mayo, mustard, relish, and salt and pepper. Put back in the eggs. Throw some salad-bar bacon bits on that business. BLACK MAGIC.

Check out Ratty Gourmet for more dining hall recipes from two Brown students.

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2. Soft-serve ice cream, meet cereal bar.

Connie & Annie Wu /

This particular high-low combo is olive oil (it’s really good on ice cream, trust) and Rice Krispies. Could also imagine Cocoa Puffs doing something very special here.

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3. Make boring baked potatoes awesome by twice-“baking” them in the microwave.

Mash up the insides with a fork, mix in cheese and anything else you like from the salad bar (scallions, bacon bits, etc.), and microwave for a minute to help everything meld.

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4. Collect ingredients to make your own trail mix.

Chocolate and nuts from the ice cream toppings, dried fruit and sunflower seeds from the salad bar, plus whatever cereal makes your heart sing.

Bring a ziplock bag to the dining hall and take it with you for snacking between classes (or in them).

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5. Steam your own veggies in the microwave.

Instead of dealing with whatever limp, gray vegetal matter is awaiting you in a steam tray, cook raw veggies from the salad bar (broccoli, carrots, peppers, etc) by microwaving them in a bowl with a little water until they’re crunchy-tender. Then you can dress them with olive oil, salt, and maybe a little lemon from the drinks station (if you’re feeling frisky). Get more detailed instructions here.

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6. If there’s chili, layer it with lettuce, tortilla chips, cheese, tomatoes, etc., to make taco salad.

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7. Microwave a toasted bagel with sauce from the pasta line and cheese from the salad bar. Pizza bagel!

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8. Mix peanut butter, soy sauce, and Sriracha to make Thai-style sauce for chicken.

Guaranteed to perk up even the sorriest industrial chicken chunks.

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9. Waffle maker + chicken fingers = infinite chicken and waffles.

Connie & Annie Wu /

Butter, hot sauce, and maple syrup recommended.

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10. Make bruschetta with chopped tomatoes, salt, olive oil, and dried basil.

Most dining halls have a neglected little collection of herbs and spices sitting around somewhere; you might as well give them a workout. Get a recipe here.

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11. Use cheese and veggies from the salad bar to make a quesadilla.

You can do it in the microwave, or use the panini press if there is one.

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12. Microwave caramel sauce from the ice cream bar and dip sliced apples in it.

Dip, drown, whatever.

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13. Customize boring dining hall pasta.

Connie & Annie Wu /

You can add cheese, veggies, butter, spices, and all kinds of things that will most likely make you a better meal than a sad, lumpy tomato sauce loaded with mystery meat. Above is a version with peas, bacon bits, and Parmesan, and here are 10 more smart ideas.

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14. Put anything and everything in the panini press.

This enterprising Middlebury student made an ice cream sandwich with grilled oatmeal cookies.

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15. Cook pita pizzas in the microwave.

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Sauce from the pasta line, cheese and veggies from the salad bar, plus chicken or ham if you’re feeling carnivorous. Toasted English muffins are also an excellent platform for mini pizzas.

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16. Unite the forces of the ice cream machine and soda fountain to make floats.

Vanilla + Fanta = creamsicle. Chocolate + Coke = yum. Infinite possibilities!

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17. Combine scrambled eggs with cheese and beans from the salad bar to make a breakfast burrito.

Try it as a pita pocket if your cafeteria doesn’t have tortillas available.

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18. A waffle maker means infinite mix-in possibilities.

Yeah, you could just put the plain waffle batter straight on there. But what are you, some kind of chump? Put the batter in a separate bowl before you make your waffles and go crazy: peanut butter, sprinkles, nuts, chocolate sauce, cheese and bacon, you name it.

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19. Microwave a sliced apple with cinnamon and brown sugar or honey, then top it with granola to make a personal almost-pie.

Best enjoyed a la mode.

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