Just like that, the school year at Colorado State University has begun. First-year students are excited to experience dorm life and everything that comes with it: new friends, roommates and nightlife. Unfortunately, dining hall food isn’t usually included on that list. If you’re one of the many first-years who view dining hall food as less than mediocre, you might find these tips helpful next time you grab a meal.
1. Try something new
It can be so easy to stay in your comfort zone when it comes to food, but eating burgers for lunch six days in a row can get a bit boring. Even if you think there isn’t enough variety offered in your dining hall, check again. Look for something simple, like a new sauce or topping.
If that doesn’t cut it, go to another dining hall. You’ll find they’re all walkable from any residence hall. Braiden Dining Center has sandwiches, The Foundry always has pasta and Ram’s Horn Dining Center often has fajitas or a Mongolian grill. Just remember that on a college campus, variety is close and accessible.
2. Substitute where you can
If the dining hall station you choose doesn’t have the blend of foods you’re looking for, simply substitute from another station. For instance, you might want different meat on your hamburger bun — or scratch the bun, and make a lettuce wrap instead.
Combine cereal with fruit, add pulled pork to your mashed potatoes or add mayonnaise to your salad, if that’s your thing. At the end of the day, no one’s watching, so you should just eat what you want to eat.
3. Get creative with combos
Have you ever heard of a “garbage plate”? This combo is kind of out there, but if you’re feeling up to the challenge, take your burger meat, hot sauce, pasta, onions and condiment of choice to create one big dish. You can also make this with the offered meat substitute.
In the mood for a sandwich? Grab your favorite bread, load it with mac and cheese, ideally a roasted meat of some kind and a few pickles. Trust me: It’s sensational. Even if it’s just a grilled cheese sandwich, pickles are a must.
If you’re on the hunt for a really good side, don’t be afraid to drench those fries in chipotle mayo or queso, add a little lime (lime can save almost anything) and top it off with some fried avocado.
You might have to wait for the right day when certain foods are served to make your desired combos, but when the pieces align, be creative!
4. Put those uneaten meals to good use
If you’re on a meal plan, you know the importance of making use of every meal you pay for. Don’t forget if you don’t spend all your meals for the week, you can cash them in for other treats. Ram’s Horn, for example, has a little shop where you can purchase snacks or drinks. Each unused meal swipe equates to $9. So if you skipped lunch on your way to your next class, be sure to go back and buy a sandwich to go.
5. Take a piece of fruit when you can
You should always try to take a little fruit on your way out. Whether it’s an apple or an orange, you’ve saved yourself a snack.
You’re more likely to eat a pre-washed apple than some old produce hiding in your minifridge from a week ago. It’s fresh, it’s crisp and it’s in your hand, not all the way back at your dorm. Convenience is key in college.
Dining hall food isn’t by any means top-tier cuisine. It can be tough to stomach when you’re already homesick. So allow yourself to get comfortable, and use the benefits and tricks at your disposal. This way, going out to eat is one less thing to stress about in your first year of college.
Reach Emmalee Krieg at email@example.com or on Twitter @csucollegian.