I don’t know about any of you, but I am quite the picky eater, like really picky. I like things plain. Turkey sandwiches? Just turkey and bread. Salads (when I’m feeling healthy)? Just give me spinach and maybe some broccoli. Pizza? Just cheese, please! The thing is, these sorts of options are not always available in the college cafeteria, at least at my university. Lately, my university has been promoting the main cafeteria over its other options: a coffee shop and a food court. But the thing is, my school is not exactly making their cafeteria very diverse or picky-eater-friendly. They probably think they are. There is a pasta and pizza bar, a salad bar, a sandwich bar, a soup selection, a grill with burgers and sometimes other things, and the main line with a nice entree and sides.
Yes this is a lot to choose from, but it is not the most appealing thing to me. I like the cheese pizza, but now they seem to be making it more and more cheesy-and not cooking it enough for all of that extra cheese to melt. The pasta bar seems to always have some sort of pesto or fancy meat sauce: great for people who like that stuff, not so great for when you want just spaghetti and red sauce. The salad bar is an option, but I am actually not a fan of iceberg lettuce, and that seems to be all that is offered. When I see they have spinach out, I become the happiest person ever. The sandwiches are nice, but I always get strange looks when I say that all I want is turkey. And the peanut butter is just…weird. I could go on about how the cafeteria could be improved, but I want to share what I have learned to make the college cafeteria and the meal plan (usually required of on-campus residents) more bearable.
1. Keep food you do enjoy in your dorm room.
If you don’t like the food that the cafeteria serves, keep some food you do like in your room. You probably can’t make five star meals, but get a microwave and fridge and get fruits, veggies, and other snacks to keep you full. If your dorm has a community kitchen that you can use, take advantage of it when you have the time. Invite your friends to a pasta night and make some spaghetti or fettuccine.
2. Look at your other options.
Unless you are at a very small school, there will probably be at least one or two other options for on campus dining. At my university, we have a coffee shop and a food court with a grill, a Chipotle-esque place, and a sandwich shop, all of which are much better (IMHO) than the central cafeteria. Check to see if your meal plan can be used at these places or what you can do to utilize them.
3. Find something.
If you have no other options, or if the other options will cost you extra money, try and work with what you’ve got. Sometimes, I may not get a full salad, but I will go to the salad bar and get a plate of veggies. If I don’t think I will like the main entree, I might see what the side dishes are. Also, my cafeteria always has cereal out, so sometimes it might just be a cereal night.
4. Go for the experience.
The college cafeteria, while somewhat terrifying, is unlike anywhere else. You probably have something that you can eat there, and even if not, go with your friends and keep them company. If it turns out nothing on the menu looks good, go get something to drink and talk with friends. You can always fill up on snacks when you get back to your dorm.
Being away from home is difficult, and it certainly doesn’t help that the food is not the same as what you are used to. Try to make the best of it, but be prepared to have a back up plan. If the school meal plan is really that bad, see if you can get an exemption or move off campus and cook your own food. If that isn’t possible, use these tips to help make the experience of the college meal plan a little less scary.
Thanks for reading!