If you’re on a college campus this year, it may be a good idea to stock up on groceries so you can prepare meals in the privacy of your own dorm. Since many school dining halls are transitioning to take-out only models anyway, you won’t miss much in terms of the communal eating experience if you make your own meals. Plus, this way, you can control the quality of food you eat and make sure it works with your health needs. Browse this list for some ways to mix up your basic routine. Each option is a no-cook meal (which is helpful if your access to appliances is limited), and everything is totally customizable to suit your palate!
No-cook Meal 1: Sandwich Pinwheels
Tired: a boring sandwich. Wired: wrapping all your favorite proteins and toppings into a tortilla and slicing into bite-size pinwheel pieces. If you’re feeling extra fancy, secure it together with a toothpick and skewer a pickle or pickled onion on top. Tortillas take up less room than bread in your mini fridge, and eating your meal this way will definitely feel like a step up from your usual routine. If you eat meat, turkey is a great base for your pinwheels. For a veggie option, go for hummus instead. Then go wild with your favorite sandwich toppings.
Hot tip: If you’re adding veggies to your pinwheels (like cucumbers or carrots), cut them into strips rather than slices so that they roll up easier.
No-cook Meal 2: Loaded avocado toast
Top your favorite toasted bread with smashed avocado, then add a drizzle of olive oil, and layer on some sliced tomato. Garnish with red pepper flakes and a dash of salt and pepper. Many dorms come with common area kitchenettes that have basic appliances, like a microwave and toaster oven. But if you don’t have access to a toaster, this meal can still work with no appliances if you use a fresh bakery loaf that has a hearty crust.
Hot tip: To cut your avocado, use a sharp kitchen knife and cut vertically all the way around. Twist the halves to rip the avocado in two. Once the pit is exposed on one side, gently whack it with your knife so that the blade lands in the pit. Wiggle your knife back and forth to remove the pit cleanly. Store the unused half in the fridge. Take the half you are going to eat, and score it with your knife before scooping out the meat. Confused on technique? Here’s a video.
No-cook Meal 3: Salad in a jar
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’m way more likely to enjoy my meal when the presentation is on point. A big mason jar can go a long way. This recipe is quite flexible, and it allows you to prep multiple lunches at the same time, then grab-and-go when you need to eat between activities. Prep your favorite chopped vegetables, proteins, cheeses, and herbs into a jar. My go-to combination of ingredients is an antipasto-themed salad that includes lettuce, olives, bell pepper, banana peppers, provolone, basil, and sundried tomatoes. But I mean, it’s salad—you do you. To keep your meal fresh and crispy, hold off on adding your favorite dressing until the day you’re ready to eat. When you do add your dressing, shake the jar like crazy to get an even mix.
Hot tip: Canned black beans or chickpeas can go a long way toward elevating your salad. No cooking required, they just need a little rinse and you’re ready to eat!
No-cook Meal 4: Tuna salad pita pockets
Prepare some tuna salad by combining canned tuna with mayo and onion. Or, for a lighter option, opt for olive oil, lemon juice, onion, and capers. Store what you don’t use. For your pita pocket, cut off one side of the pita, leaving an opening to put your filling in. Line the pita pocket with your favorite greens, like green leaf lettuce or baby spinach, then add your tuna salad.
Hot tip: In your tuna salad, you can also add chopped celery and/or canned water chestnuts for extra crunch.
No-cook Meal 5: Veggie banh mi
Because this sandwich is jam-packed with exciting, spicy flavors, you can make it with raw tofu pieces and still feel like your sandwich is restaurant-quality. To prep your tofu, cut into flat slices, then wrap them in a paper towel to drain out any excess moisture. Start with a piece of fresh baguette, then pile on your tofu slices, thin carrot strips, cucumber, jalapeno slices, and cilantro. Smear on some light mayo or vegan mayo, and top with sriracha.
Hot tip: If you stumble upon access to a fuller kitchen, you can graduate to this recipe that involves marinating and searing your tofu.
No-cook Meal 6: Protein Bento Box
This is a fun meal idea if you are nearing the end of your groceries and want to use up a little bit of everything. Instead of eating “just leftovers,” you’ll feel like you’re indulging in a store-bought treat. Grab a reusable bento box container and fill it with items like grapes, nuts, raw veggies, hummus, pretzels, granola, yogurt, or whatever you have in your fridge, like extra pinwheels or tuna salad from meals you made earlier this week.
Hot tip: In addition to being more eco-friendly than individual plastic baggies, a reusable bento box is also a cute, discrete way to transport your meal for easy snacking. So if you find yourself across campus with no downtime between activities, you can quietly open your box and enjoy some mid-meeting nutrition without drawing too much attention.
Bonus hot tip: Pickling your own onions is super easy and requires no cooking. Give it a try, and you’ll have a garnish that can be added to any meal idea on this list!