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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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6 Signs You're Getting Hangry
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Hangry (adjective): Bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger. This portmanteau (of hungry and angry) is not only officially recognized as a word by the Oxford English Dictionary, but it's also recognized by health experts as a real physiological state with mood-altering consequences.

That hangry feeling results from your body's glucose level dropping, putting you into a state of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Glucose is the body's primary source of energy, so when you don't have enough, it affects your brain and other bodily functions, including the production of the hormones insulin and glucagon, which help regulate blood sugar. Check out the symptoms below to see if you've crossed over into the hanger danger zone.

1. IT TAKES EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER JUST TO KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN.

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Glucose equals energy, so when your blood sugar levels are low, you may start wishing you were back in bed with the shades drawn. If you start feeling sluggish or tired even though you’re well-rested, you might just need to eat something.

2. THE EASIEST ITEM ON YOUR TO-DO LIST SEEMS LIKE AN IMPOSSIBLE TASK …

It’s hard to concentrate when all you can think about is whether you're going to order the fish or beef tacos for lunch. The distraction goes beyond fantasies about food, though. The brain derives most of its energy from glucose, so when it's low on fuel, a serious case of brain fog can set in. Confusion and difficulty speaking are among the more serious symptoms you may experience when you're hangry.

3. … AND YOU HAVE A BAD CASE OF WORD VOMIT.

Blame this on brain fog too. The gray matter in your noggin goes a little haywire when blood sugar is in short supply. That's why you may start stuttering or slurring your words. You might also have difficulty finding your words at all—it can feel like your mouth and brain are disconnected.

4. YOU’RE SHAKING LIKE A LEAF AND FEEL LIGHTHEADED.

Tremors and dizziness are both signs that you should pay closer attention to your body, which is screaming, "Feed me!" Once again, low blood sugar is often the culprit of trembling hands and feeling faint, and exhaustion and stress make the symptoms worse.

5. YOUR COWORKERS SEEM ESPECIALLY ANNOYING.

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You’re tense and irritable, and it’s starting to show. Hunger causes your body to release cortisol and adrenaline, the same hormones responsible for stress. This can put you on edge and lower your tolerance for other people’s quirks and irksome habits, which suddenly seem a lot less bearable.

6. YOU SNAPPED AT YOUR FRIEND OR PARTNER FOR NO GOOD REASON.

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Not only are you irritable, but you’re more likely to lash out at others because of it. The doses of adrenaline and cortisol in your body can induce a fight-or-flight response and make you go on the attack over matters that—if you had some food in you—would seem unimportant.

So what should you do if these descriptions sound all too familiar? Eat a snack, pronto—one with complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. The first one brings up your blood sugar level, and the other two slow down how fast the carbohydrates are absorbed, helping you to avoid a sugar crash and maintain a normal blood sugar level. Eating small meals every few hours also helps to keep hanger at bay.

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Alexa Can Now Help You Find a Wine Pairing
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Even if you enjoy wine regularly, you may not know exactly how you’re supposed to pair it with food. But you don’t have to be a sommelier to put together a good pairing at home. According to Lifehacker, you can just ask Alexa.

An Alexa skill called Wine Finder is designed to help you figure out which wine varietal would go best with whatever food you’re planning to eat. You just have to ask, “What wine goes well with … ”

Created by an app developer called Bloop Entertainment, the Amazon Echo skill features a database with 500 wine pairings. And not all of them are designed for someone working their way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The skill will also help you find the proper pairing for your more casual snacks. In one demo, the skill recommends pairing nachos with a Sauvignon blanc or Zinfandel. (Note that the latter also goes well with Frito pie.)

You can also ask it to find you the perfect wine to drink with apple pie and pizza, in addition to the meats, cheeses, and other wine-pairing staples you might expect. However, if you ask it what to pair with hot dogs, it says “water,” which is an affront to hot dog connoisseurs everywhere.

There are a few other wine-pairing skills available for Alexa, including Wine Pairings, Wine Pairings (two different skills), and Wine Expert. But according to user reviews, Wine Finder is the standout, offering more and higher-quality suggestions than some of the other sommelier apps.

It’s free to enable here, so drink up.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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