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8 Dorm Room Food Hacks

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Heading off to college can be a big adjustment for anyone: there are new people to meet, new enrollment systems to figure out, and too many social opportunities to count. However, one important thing can get lost in the shuffle—where are you going to eat when you have to fend for yourself? Whether you’re on a meal plan or cooking on your own for the first time, here are some tips and tricks to make your food experience a little simpler, healthier, and cheaper.

1. GET A REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE.

Okay, so this isn’t technically a food hack, per se, but staying hydrated is an important element of dorm eating. For one, the mild hunger you get for afternoon (or midnight) snacks is often caused by dehydration, so you can cut back on your snack budget by drinking enough water. Many universities offer filtered water stations and even free water bottles, making a habit of keeping a water bottle in your backpack even easier. Plus, hangovers are made drastically worse by dehydration, so plan to drink up all day if you intend to party at night.

2. DRESS UP YOUR RAMEN.

Ramen is an obvious college student staple, but it’s not all that filling or healthy. However, if you add a few extra ingredients—an egg, some fresh veggies, a little meat—and some flavorings beyond the included packet, like Sriracha, soy sauce, or peanut butter, you have a full and filling meal without a hefty price tag.

3. GET CREATIVE WITH A KETTLE.

Regulations on cooking equipment in a dorm room can be pretty strict, but almost all colleges allow an electric kettle. While you might not have considered getting one if you don’t drink tea regularly, they have plenty of other uses. You can make a quick, hot breakfast by keeping instant oatmeal packets on hand, and many soup mixes and noodles only need boiled water as well. And, speaking of tea, many also release caffeine slower than coffee, so they provide a longer lasting and more gentle burst of energy, all without being dehydrating.

4. MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR MEAL PLAN.

If you have a meal plan, take advantage of all the benefits. Hard boiled eggs, individual servings of peanut butter, fruit, and dry cereal are all easy to carry out with you to stave off the munchies until your next meal. This only works if your dining hall charges by meal, as opposed to per item, unfortunately. Shoplifting from the hand that feeds you is never a good idea, but if you can grab an apple to go, it's a healthy habit to get into.

5. TAKE THE TIME TO GO TO A REAL GROCERY STORE.

Convenience stores are, as the name implies, convenient—there’s one on every campus. However, the prices there are ridiculously inflated [PDF], so taking the time to hop a bus or hitch a ride with a friend with a car to visit a legitimate grocery store can really benefit your wallet. Stock up on dry goods you can prepare in your room, and a few fruits and veggies that you can reasonably finish off before they spoil.

6. KNOW A FEW STAPLE MEALS.

After classes, extracurriculars, and long study group sessions at the library, you'll likely be exhausted and starving when you make it back to your room at the end of the day. The last thing you’ll want to do is make something complicated for dinner, but if you take the time early on to lock down a few easy recipes, like spicy dragon noodles, eggs and toast, or even just beans and rice—ones that you can throw together without thinking—and you’ll thank yourself later.

7. MICROWAVE MORE THAN FROZEN FOOD.

If you’re lucky enough to have a microwave in your dorm room, you’ll probably be tempted to live entirely off of frozen food. But put down the Pizza Rolls—there’s a whole world of fresh foods that can be cooked in a microwave. Omelets, muffins, and even salmon dishes can all be made in a microwave, and with surprisingly little effort.

8. KNOW HOW TO MAKE A GOOD DESSERT.

Mug cake recipes are everywhere on Pinterest, but most of them turn out terribly spongy and gummy. It turns out, the culprit is the egg. Most full sized cakes call for two or three eggs, so a single-serving cake recipe that has a whole egg throws the texture completely off. But find a good recipe for a microwaveable, egg-free mug cake, and your post-dinner chocolate cravings won't have to compete with your need to Netflix binge with your roommate.

All images via iStock.

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Public Domain // Mendhak // CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic (Wikimedia Commons)
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George Orwell's 11 Tips for Proper Tea Making
Public Domain // Mendhak // CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic (Wikimedia Commons)
Public Domain // Mendhak // CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic (Wikimedia Commons)

More than 70 years ago, in the January 12, 1946, edition of the Evening Standard, George Orwell wrote up 11 tips for making and consuming tea. Published under the title "A Nice Cup of Tea," Orwell noted that "at least four [points] are acutely controversial." That's a bold claim!

So what does it take to make an Orwellian cup of tea? Read on.

A NICE CUP OF TEA BY GEORGE ORWELL

If you look up 'tea' in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.
This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

FIRSTLY

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays—it is economical, and one can drink it without milk—but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase 'a nice cup of tea' invariably means Indian tea.

SECONDLY

Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities—that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.

THIRDLY

Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.

(Ed. note: a hob is a stove burner in this context. Depends a bit on what sort of pot you're using whether it's safe to put in on the burner!)

FOURTHLY

Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes—a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.

FIFTHLY

Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.

SIXTHLY

Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.

SEVENTHLY

Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.

EIGHTHLY

Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup—that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one's tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.

NINTHLY

Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.

TENTHLY

Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

LASTLY (SADLY NOT ELEVENTHLY)

Lastly, tea—unless one is drinking it in the Russian style—should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

Some people would answer that they don't like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

Orwell concludes:

These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one's ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.

Let the arguing commence, tea lovers!

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Job Alert: The UK Needs a Chicken Nugget Taste-Tester

Do you like highly-processed chicken molded into mushy, breaded bites? Are you willing to relocate to England? Can your palate distinguish a savory nugget from a mediocre one? Your dream job awaits, AJC.com reports.

British retail chain B&M recently posted a job listing calling for a "chicken nugget connoisseur" to help the company get feedback on their new line of frozen food products. The chosen applicant—or applicants—will get a monthly voucher worth £25 ($34) to spend on frozen goods. Job duties consist of eating nuggets and other items and then providing B&M feedback.

The post describes the position as "temporary," so it's unlikely there's opportunity for advancement. If you care to apply, B&M will accept a paragraph describing yourself and why you’d be good for the job—though if you actually have a CV full of previous nugget-related positions, we're confident they'd love to see it.

[h/t AJC.com]

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