When moving to a new place, a lot of questions pop into your head. Having experienced such, one of the questions that plagued me before my first year of living in a College dorm was this: What the heck do I eat?!
This blog post is dedicated to nervous College freshmen, blossoming Domestic Divas and men who can’t cook, but have microwaves. Because living busy lives doesn’t have to mean skimping on the little things that could make life sweeter and more manageable. If you’re about to spread your wings and become an independent man/woman/somewhere-in-between, then I suggest that you keep reading.
Moving away from home was one of the most drastic things that I ever did. I don’t mind being alone, and I’m not particularly the clingy type, so homesickness wasn’t really a problem for me. In fact, I reveled in my new-found freedom. I spent my first few weeks in College exploring the campus, and trying as many different kinds of food as I could. The long line of Katipunan restaurants can be merciless to someone who can’t control her appetite. Sooner than expected, I was already in danger of gaining the “Freshman 15”- which was out of the question, because I was already quite chubby. Though budgeting was usually one of the last things that I thought about at that time (I’m really bad at anything to do with numbers!), I knew that if I kept eating out, I wouldn’t have enough money left for other things. Unlike my hometown, Manila was a big city- full of opportunities, interesting restaurants, books, boutiques and people. So I thought, It would be such a shame to be broke or fat here.
My dormitory had one microwave and one toaster. It reached a point when I just got sick of having to buy food from restaurants, fast food chains, and even the cafeterias in school. I wanted to eat healthy, so I started making my own food.
I loved mixing things up in my “kitchen” in the dorm- which was basically just a microwave, a toaster, a knife, a small bamboo cutting board, a bunch of mixing bowls and Ziploc bags for storage. Though I won’t be going into detail about my triumphs and disasters with the microwave (I’ll save that for future blog posts), here are the 15 things that I always have in my dorm pantry. Things that made my past 3 years of eating in the dorm easier and healthier. I hope you find them useful, too!
1. Granola bars/Muesli bars/cereal
These are perfect for those times when your alarm clock betrays you, and you wake up 10 minutes before your class or appointment. Skip the panic/self-pity/whatever you’re feeling, cleanse and dress as fast as you can, grab a granola bar and run! If you have cereal, store it in Ziploc bags in the fridge- to keep it fresh and save space.
If you have time (or if you have a water dispenser with heat), invest in a small, leak-proof tumbler or thermos and bring some tea to class. I’m always groggy in the morning and this wakes me up! If you’re more of a coffee person, that’s fine too. For Midterms, long tests and finals, I always turn to Assam tea, English Breakfast or any kind of black tea. These can be a little bitter when over steeped, so put in some honey while you’re at it. It’s good for you too.
Even with more expensive kinds, the most you’ll spend for a good cup of homemade tea would be 30-40 pesos. Generic tea brands are priced at around 10 pesos or less, per tea bag! You’ll save a lot more doing this versus buying from coffee shops or tea houses everyday.
Aside from using it as a sweetener for tea or mixing it with cereal, yogurt or peanut butter sandwiches, honey has a lot of health benefits. For those of you who suffer from chronic allergies or colds, honey’s a great home remedy. It really sucks when you can’t sleep because of an itchy throat, or a stubborn cough. My piano teacher used to get irritated with my coughing (I have terrible allergies during pollen season!) and told me to take 2 tablespoons of honey everyday. It helped a lot. I heard that honey helps in building up your resistance, too. Darker honey is usually better. Sometimes I eat a tablespoon of honey to ease my sugar cravings, which only get worse when the paperwork piles up!
If you’re living in a place where you can cook, then salt is a necessity. If you’re living in a dorm like mine, it’s still good to have a small amount- just in case. I’ve used it to cook pasta and add flavor to fish and vegetables (still in the microwave), but I was most thankful for salt during that one night when my throat felt like it was being attacked by an army of red ants. It was raining hard, and I didn’t want to go to the pharmacy to buy medicine. I ran out of lozenges and hot tea, so I did what Manang would always do when she was sick- and mixed some warm water with salt. The red ants disappeared in the morning.
Sandwiches are the easiest thing to make in the dorm, and if you’re feeling lazy, you don’t even have to put them in the toaster. I store my bread in the fridge to make it last longer. If you want something for lunch, and fast, make yourself a sandwich! For afternoon snacks, I like toasting baguette slices with cheese.
5. Olive oil
There aren’t a lot of things that don’t go well with olive oil. Dip your baguettes in olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar, or drizzle olive oil on any kind of bread, toast it and it’s like magic. If the heat of the sun dries your skin, olive oil is a great moisturizer. If you have a microwave, you can cook your fish with some sauce and olive oil! You can use it for cooking vegetables in the microwave, too.
These are great with sandwiches, pasta and salads. You can eat them raw too, if you like that. Tomatoes are great with basil and mozzarella (or almost any kind of cheese) on bread or whole wheat tortillas (which taste like super thin pizza slices when you toast them!) Make sure you add the basil leaves after toasting. You can make your own pasta sauce too, if you’re the more patient type. And yes, you can buy all of these ingredients in the grocery.
For sandwiches, pasta and…well, almost anything. I’m a cheese lover, and I like having different kinds of cheese with my food. Parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, cheddar, ricotta…and of course, my favorite Gouda. If you’re my friend, you’d know how crazy I am about this stuff. I love Herbed cheese, but sometimes, the grocery runs out of stock. And let’s face it, Gouda is really pricey in the Philippines. I wish it was a lot cheaper, because I’d love to have it in my fridge all the time. Last week, I was craving for Herbed cheese, but since we didn’t have any, I toasted some bread with Quickmelt (a local cheese brand) and Italian seasoning. It was pretty good.
8. Canned tuna
There are so many variations of canned tuna, it’s difficult to get bored. One of the things I like to do with tuna, is to put some balsamic vinegar and heat it up in the microwave. If you don’t like its slightly bitter aftertaste, the vinegar removes this, as well as the fishy smell.
9. Herbs and Spices
Pepper, basil, oregano, rosemary, garlic, ginger, etc. These can spice up any boring dish. If you had some food delivered and you find it bland, feel free to add some spice. I find that garlic, pepper and Italian seasoning are the most useful.
10. Fruits or nuts- dried or sliced
Dried fruits are convenient because they’re healthy but not messy. Keep them in Ziploc bags (if they aren’t in Ziploc containers already) and refrigerate. Nuts (especially almonds) are great snacks for those of you who are dieting or trying to eat healthy. Raisins, prunes, cranberries and other dried fruits are packed with anti-oxidants. If you like fresh fruits, I’d suggest keeping grapes in a Ziploc bag. They make great snacks, for work or school. You can just pop them in your mouth and nobody has to see. Sneaky! Apples are great too, but they turn brown after a while, and you might not like that. My doctor friend told me that they can keep you awake better than coffee, without the unnecessary caffeine!
I really think that people can live on bananas. They’re so filling, and super nutritious too! Ladies, the banana is your best friend during that time of the month. In my opinion, it’s the best natural remedy for PMS or cramps.
12. Calamansi/Philippine lime
This fruit’s juice is a potent source of Vitamin C. And also, it lightens dark spots! If you don’t want to squeeze these one by one to make juice, groceries sell Calamansi puree- which you just have to mix with water.
Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is a great snack that aids digestion. It’s a great source of protein, too. If you’re tired of eating oatmeal for breakfast, try having Greek yogurt with fruits, nuts or muesli. I keep lots of yogurt in the dorm because it keeps me full when I’m craving for pastries or chocolate in the middle of the night.
Yes, you can cook pasta in the microwave! Put pasta in a container, submerge it in (clean) water, add some salt, and put it in the microwave. Different kinds of pasta take different amounts of time to cook. Angel hair pasta takes around 2 minutes, fettuccine takes around 5 minutes, and whole wheat pasta takes forever. It also depends on the microwave. I guess you’ll just have to get to know your microwave better and figure that out for yourself.
15. Pen and paper
You will need this. To take note of all the stuff you have in the pantry, to write down food ideas, to take note of your food intake, and in my experience…
To make a list of all the places in your area that offer food delivery. You know, just in case you’re having a lazy day, or if you’re too busy to think of making your own food!
*All the images in this post were taken from various online sources. Though I usually take my own photographs, this post was a very spontaneous idea. I tried my best to choose nice pictures, and hope you guys appreciate them too. If you own any of the images below and wish for them to be removed, just comment (or email me) and I’ll gladly do so.