DIY tips for keeping food fresh in dorm rooms

Keep your dorm room properly stocked with healthy food to help avoid weight gain.

Keep your dorm room properly stocked with healthy food to help avoid weight gain.

Many factors of college life conspire to make eating in college dorms a whole lot nastier than eating Mom’s pot roast. Too many fatty foods, costly fresh fruits and vegetables, crazy work and study hours, difficulty storing and cooking good food, and the dreaded weight gain. Food can easily get stale and who really knows whether apples should go in the fridge or on the shelf. Here are some food storage do-it-yourself dorm tips for college students.

Think smart when snacking. “Do the exact opposite of what I did,” says Corrine Fischer, Registered Dietician, in “20 Quick & Healthy College Snacks + Free Download” posted August 12, 2013 on Keep Your Diet Real. “As a college freshman, my dorm room was always stocked with lots and lots of cheap refined carbs…crackers, cookies, ramen noodles, pizza, cereal, granola bars, chips, etc. Don’t do that. Fill your mini fridge with some fresh foods like yogurt, cheese, fruits, raw veggies, hummus, etc. Keep nuts, seeds, nut butters and other whole grain crackers and cereals on hand for a quick meal or snack.”

Food storage tips. Peggy Wang offers “27 Ways To Make Your Groceries Last As Long As Possible,” posted October 22, 2012 on Buzz Feed:

  • One rotten apple can indeed spoil the whole bunch. Remove any apples showing signs of spoilage from your pile.
  • Wrap the tip of a bunch of bananas with plastic wrap. The wrap allows bananas to keep 3-5 days longer. Never put bananas in the fridge.
  • Put a piece of paper towel in your salad leftovers. The paper absorbs moisture preventing leaves from wilting quickly.
  • As an alternative to plastic Tupperware, store perishable items in mason jars, which keeps food fresher longer.

Many healthy foods don’t need refrigeration. According to dietician Erin Coleman in “Healthy Foods That Stay Fresh in a College Dorm,” posted on Healthy Eating in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Bananas, apples, oranges, dried fruit, applesauce, canned fruits with no added sugar, tomatoes and low-sodium canned vegetables are examples of fruits and vegetables that can be kept in a dorm room without refrigeration.” More room-temperature fruits: avocado, pineapple, potato, nectarines. Also not needing refrigeration: peanut butter or almond butter, breakfast cereal, nuts and raisins, low-fat microwavable popcorn, whole-grain crackers, instant oatmeal packets, can tuna, can soup (get low-salt varieties).

Healthy snacks you can keep in the fridge. Make room in your mini fridge for fruits and veggies: grapes, strawberries, melon, cucumber, celery, carrot sticks, cherries, mushrooms. Also keep on hand low-fat yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese and soy milk. And try some hummus on pita bread as a late-night study snack.

Make your own trail mix. Store-bought trail mix is very expensive and comes in tiny packages of a few ounces each. Make and mix your own for a lot less money. Combine a can of mixed nuts, bag of M&Ms, and box of raisins into a large bowl and separate into Ziploc bags. This healthy snack on the go will help keep you energized. For more ingredients, add pretzels, Chex cereal, craisins, and chocolate chips.

How to keep the fridge clean. That joke about growing your science project in your fridge is just that… a joke, not an aspiration. Once a week, examine each of the contents of your fridge for spoilage. If it’s bad, throw it out. If it’s on the edge, eat it today. Wash the inside of your fridge with warm water and dish soap. Soak any solidified spills for a few minutes by covering with a wet cloth. Then scrub off with a non-abrasive sponge or cloth. Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel before putting fresh food back in.

Essential utensils for the dorm kitchen. Keep on hand Ziploc bags, paper towels, can opener, bottle opener, vegetable peeler, pot holder, mixing bowl, coffee maker, toaster, ice cube tray, microwave bowl and plate, basic cutlery (spoon, fork, knife), cups, garbage bags, and, if allowed, a hot pot. (Check with your school’s rules on cooking appliances allowed or forbidden in your dorm.)

What are your tips for dorm room food storage? Let us know in the comments.

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