When you move from your parent’s house into a dorm room, a lot changes over night. Gone are the clean sheets, fresh towels, and fully stocked fridge. Although the excitement of classes and social activities will ease the sting a bit, it won’t take long to realize that you’re on your own and you’ll have to do your own laundry, buy your own groceries, and cook your own meals.
Cooking meals in your room starts with knowing what to stock in your own fridge, but most dorm rooms don’t have full sized refrigerators and most university students don’t have family sized grocery budgets. That means you’ll have to get really creative with what you buy when you shop for groceries and even more creative with how you place your perishable food in your dorm room refrigerator.
Start with the refrigerator
Most dorm rooms are one small room that you either live in alone or share with a friend. You’ll have a bed, dresser, closet, and bathroom all in one tiny area, so you have to make the most of what you bring in. Students who choose to bring in a refrigerator usually choose a model like the Insignia 2.6 cu.ft. free standing bar refrigerator. It’s only 27.3 inches high and 17.55 inches wide so it can fit under a window or anywhere you have space, and it will give you an accessible area to keep all of your perishable food.
Stock your dorm room refrigerator with the right stuff
I remember the first time I bought groceries for myself. It was so much fun picking out my own food and planning what I was going to eat and when. The only problem was that I didn’t really know what would fit in my small fridge and what wouldn’t, so I ended up wasting some food. Wasted food means wasted money, and I learnt quickly what works and what doesn’t.
That’s why it’s smart to take stock of what you like before you shop, and when space is an issue just choose from the following popular food items that most students will put in their fridge:
- Frozen meals: the freezer may be tiny but you’ll be able to fit in a few frozen rice bowls or ice cold snacks
- Sandwich meat: a must have if you love sandwiches
- Cheese: cheese sticks, cheese slices, and shredded cheese round out a sandwich or are a great snack on its own
- Fruit: an apple a day keeps the doctor away, especially when you’re in college and everything is stressful
- Yogurt: probiotic yogurt sprinkled with a little granola will keep the late night munchies at bay
- Eggs: if you have a griddle or microwave in your room you can whip up a quick meal of scrambled eggs
- Condiments: ketchup, mustard, and mayo all make for a well stocked dorm room refrigerator
- Milk: if your go-to snack is cereal, you’ll need to have a jug of milk on hand at all times
- Drinks: juice, water, and a cold brew bottle of coffee are handy to have in your dorm
Organizing your dorm room refrigerator
Once you’ve picked up your groceries you’ll want to put them away in your refrigerator, and this is where organizing your dorm room fridge really comes in handy. Here are a few tips for organizing what you put into your fridge.
Sandwich meat and cheese
Most dorm room fridges don’t have a deli drawer like a larger refrigerator would, but you can create your own deli drawer with a small plastic basket. Keeping your sandwich meat and small condiments like mustard and mayo in a basket means they don’t get buried and they’re accessible when you need them. Put your cheese sticks, shredded cheese, and cheese slices in your ‘deli drawer’ with your sandwich meat.
You save money if you buy a flat of water instead of single bottles, but you can’t keep an entire flat of water in a mini-fridge. Take one or two bottles to keep cold and slide the rest of the flat into your closet. You can put a 1-litre jug of milk on the side of the fridge, add a bottle of juice and a bottle of water and you’ll still have room to spare.
Place a basket on the main rack of your refrigerator and use it to hold your fruit. That way you’ll always have access to a quick snack.
Buying tiny is the name of the game with a dorm room refrigerator, so make sure your ketchup and other condiments are small enough to slide on the side of your mini-fridge.
Save a spot for leftovers
If you eat out a lot, like most university students do, you’ll want a spot in your refrigerator for take out meals and left overs. These can make a great mid-day meal when you’re studying and since you’ve already paid for the food, you don’t have to spend more money for another meal.
Other fridge organizing tips
Here are a few other ways you can get the most out of your mini-fridge.
Labels are your friend
When you label the areas of your fridge and your food baskets, you know at a glance where all of your favourite foods are.
Consider adding an extra shelf
You can buy an extra shelf or rack for your dorm room refrigerator, and although that will decrease vertical space, you can store more items inside.
Use cardboard six-pack containers to organize
Some dorm room refrigerators will have a wide enough side compartment to hold a six-pack of drinks. If you leave several six-pack holders in the fridge you can use them to hold drinks, condiments, and more.
Binder clips for the win
Using binder clips to hold bags of frozen fruit and vegetables to your freezer rack means you can place more items on the shelf.
A small refrigerator doesn’t have to mean you’re short on space, and once you’ve got your refrigerator set up with these organizing tips you’ll never have to worry about digging for food or having to cram everything inside again.
Take a look at everything Best Buy has for back to school and back to the dorm room.