Make-Ahead Meals for Finals Week

It’s that time of the year again, where the dread of finals week has finally caught up to you. Your lack of time prevents you from making yourself a decent meal, so you resort to dining hall food or whatever snacks happen to be left in your dorm room. However, it is so important that you remember what your teachers and parents have always told you: eat well and get a good night sleep before any test. Therefore, I advise you to halt your current route.

One helpful hint I can give to you, is to plan your week out. You do not need to organize your week, detail for detail, but even the basics can give you helpful footing in knocking out hours of studying while getting the nutrition your body deserves. To give you a suggestion on where to start, see the recipe ideas below. These recipes are fitted to mason jars, as I have recently discovered their practicality. Not only are they rustic and chic, but they are easy and durable lunch boxes for meals you want to prep the night or a couple days before.

Breakfast: Mason Jar Parfait

What’s so great about this recipe is that it requires no cooking at all, and can be made in advance. There is truly no way to mess this up! So throw in yogurt, the fruit of your preference, granola or oats, and any other toppings you would like for the parfait (e.g. honey, peanut butter, nuts, cinnamon/brown sugar, chocolate chips, etc.). This sweet breakfast provides incredible nutrients in a delicious blend of sweet and savory; smooth and crunchy. With this breakfast, you’re sure to begin your day off to a happy start.

What You’ll Need:yogurt-parfait

  • Yogurt or Greek Yogurt
  • Granola
  • Fresh fruit
  • Toppings of your choice
  • Spoon
  • Mason jar


  1. Layer ingredients (yogurt first, then additional toppings)
  2. Refrigerate until use

*Helpful hint: Any dry ingredients put in a Ziplock bag and set aside next to the jar. This will avoid soggy ingredients if you are not planning on eating this tasty treat immediately.

Lunch: Salad in a Jar

Like the breakfast parfaits, the mason jar provides the perfect container for a build-your-own salad. This is entirely customizable to your food preferences. From a creamy caesar salad or a taco bowl, to a salad of your own invention this is the perfect lunch to power you through the rest of your day. Another bonus to this recipe is that you avoid any wilted, soggy lettuce leaves, and its is incredibly quick to make. Because the number of salads is endless, I will provide you with the basic construction of this yummy lunch with a link to other creative recipes.


  1. Pour in salad dressing
  2. Add any protein or chunky ingredients (such as vegetables)
  3. Add fixings (nuts, cheese, seeds, croutons–basically, anything you would want to maintain dry until feasting)
  4. Add lettuce, spinach, or leafy greens
  5. Refrigerate until use.
  6. When using: empty jar onto a plate, mix, and enjoy!

*Some Ideas: Salad Jars

Dinner: Lasagna

Sometimes, you need a little bit of comfort to keep you grounded during your studies. Lasagna, while delicious, is time consuming, tedious, and (if you’re cooking for one) will leave you with two weeks worth of leftovers. That’s where mason jars come to rescue.

What You’ll Need:jarsagna08

  • About ½ cup cooked noodles
  • Tomato sauce
  • Cream sauce
  • Cheese (e.g. mozzarella)
  • Mason jar


  1. Spread a thin sheet of sauce on the bottom of the jar to avoid sticking.
  2. Layer noodles
  3. Add small amount of cream sauce
  4. Layer with noodles
  5. Add small amount of tomato sauce and cheese
  6. Repeat until jar is full.
  7. Refrigerate until use. When heating, cook in microwave for about 2 minutes (or until warm), or bake in oven on 325 degrees until warm.
  8. Enjoy

Dessert: Dirt Cake

I think dessert is one of the most important meals of the day. However, it can be almost an impossibility during finals week. Yet, there are simple recipes that exist in the world, and that can be made ahead of time, or in no time at all. The inner child in you should be happy with this one: Pudding-Cups2-jpg

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 Chocolate pudding cups
  • Pre-made whipped cream (approximately one pudding cup full)
  • 6 Oreos
  • Gummy worms
  • Mason Jar


  1. Crush Oreos in a Ziplock bag
  2. With a spoon, mix pudding packages and whip cream in a mason jar.
  3. Mix in about half of the cookie crumbs.
  4. Top the rest of the cup with the remaining cookie crumbs (do not mix in) and a few gummy worms.
  5. Enjoy!

*Another suggestion: see my Single Serving Sweets post for quick, easy dessert recipes for one.


Dining Hall Food Hacks

Whether we like it or not, we will most likely have to experience the custom of college dining hall food. At first, it seems like the greatest restaurant in the world-unlimited food, incredible variety, available almost the entire day. Anyone on a budget would agree that this scenario seems like a godsend.

However, it’s a couple weeks into the school year, and you have reached a breaking point. You can no longer continue to forcibly stuff yourself with soggy pizza, undercooked noodles, and dry cake. It’s time for an intervention. Fortunately, there is a way to survive the torment you have been putting yourself through. Solution: hacking the college dining hall system. This does not mean avoiding the cafeteria and eating at the local diner or fast food chain across the street. No, there is a silver lining in eating like a college student. Consider yourself one of the lucky few who will be able to continue to eat on a budget, while allowing your taste buds to cheer. It’s time to get creative, fellow collegiate, so see the simple hacks below to become a gallant dining hall champion.

Bagel Pizza

Goodbye thin, soggy pizza. Hello, cheesy, delicious, personalized pizza! This simple recipe has very little degree of difficulty. All you will need is a few ingredients from your dining hall food stations and a microwave. Could this be any simpler? (The answer: no)

What You’ll Need:tumblr_n1p1mwolSC1sfd9ryo1_400

  • Bagel from breakfast
  • Cheese from the salad bar (enough to your liking)
  • A couple spoonfuls of pasta sauce from the pasta station
  • Microwave


  1. Half the bagel
  2. Assemble like a regular pizza.
  3. Microwave for about a minute, or until the cheese is melted.
  4. Enjoy!

Taco Salad

I remember seeing this ingenious invention at the many sporting events I have attended. This recipe avoids the hassle of cleaning up dishes and is personalized to the ingredients of your liking. The best part of this meal is that it can be eaten on-the-go.

What You’ll Need:frito_pie_close_blue_580

  • 1 snack bag of Frito or Doritos Chips
  • Cheese from the salad bar
  • Lettuce from the salad bar
  • Tomatoes from the salad bar
  • Beans (if you like them)
  • Meat (if available)
  • Taco sauce


  1. Open your chip bag
  2. Mix all ingredients together
  3. Give the bag a good shake (yes, it’s that easy)


I may be really craving Mexican food right now; however, this could be one of the greatest survival hacks, all thanks to your waffle maker.

What You’ll Need:Waffle-Quesadilla-2 (1)

  • Tortilla Shell
  • Cheese from the salad bar
  • Salsa
  • Ground beef or chicken (if available)
  • Any other desired fillings (all according to personal preference)
  • Waffle maker


  1. Turn on your waffle maker
  2. Assemble your quesadilla (cheese first, then extra toppings).
  3. Fold in half or place another tortilla on top.
  4. Place in waffle maker. Heat/press until shell is golden brown or cheese is melted.

*Helpful Hint: Instead of using a waffle maker, you can use an iron to heat your quesadilla. Simply wrap in foil and press.

*Another Suggestion: make a breakfast burrito out of the breakfast selections that your dining hall provides.

Coffee Maker Panini

Another appliance you thought was good for only one thing: your coffee maker. Yes, other than coffee you can cook rice and steam vegetables, heat hot dogs, and even make yourself a delicious panini.

What You’ll Need:Barbecue-Chicken-Breast-panini

  • Two slices of bread
  • Deli Meat (from your sandwich station)
  • Cheese (from your sandwich station)
  • Lettuce and tomato (and any other vegetables that your dining hall provides and you like.)
  • Mini fry pan
  • Coffee maker
  • ½ tablespoon butter


  1. Turn on coffee maker and take the pot off the burner. Place the mini fry pan on the burner.
  2. Melt butter in the pan. Make sure the pan is coated evenly with butter.
  3. Assemble your sandwich.
  4. Once pan is hot, cook sandwich until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted.

*Helpful hint: If you do not have a coffee maker, you can also wrap your sandwich in foil and press with your iron.

*Helpful hint: Click the link for some creative panini recipes to spice up your usual sandwich.

Collectible Trail Mix

This is the perfect in-between class snack or healthy dessert for your stomach to enjoy. Usually, every dining hall has a soft-serve or ice cream station, as well as, salad bar. Use simple toppings from both of these stations to create your own healthy mix.

What You’ll Need:enhanced-buzz-17298-1377716343-24

  • Chocolate Chips from the ice cream station
  • M&M’s from the ice cream station
  • Peanuts from the ice cream or salad bar
  • Sunflower seeds from the salad
  • Pretzels
  • Cereal
  • Ziplock bag


  1. Collect ingredients.
  2. Mix in ziplock bag.
  3. Snack up!

*Another Suggestion: If you are really craving dessert, make an ice cream float out of the soda machine and ice cream station.

Single Serving Sweets

When you are away from home, everyone tends to go through periods of sugar cravings. It’s only natural. My incredible sweet tooth and I know the hunger for a delicious, home cooked dessert. And my sweet tooth is picky; ice cream from the gas station across the street, jello from the dining halls, and pre-packaged cookies just don’t make the cut. While I crave for chocolate and sugar, I am quickly saddened when I have to forgo satisfying my cravings because I lack the time to prep, mix, and bake a whole batch of cookies or an 8 inch cake. As well as, knowing that I will have to carry all of my dishes to the bathroom across the hall is slightly unappealing (I mean laundry is already a big time investment, why would I burden myself with the humdrum of washing dishes, when I could be studying, or more accurately, watching Bravo reality TV shows?)

However, for those of you who feel the despair I feel, there is this life-saving mini-oven (AKA microwave) that can do all the things you once thought it couldn’t do: bake a cake, cookies, brownies, and more! Crazy right? Well, prepare to be even more amazed with what I am about to present to you: single-serving dessert recipes. Yes, life just got a whole lot easier. With this simplicity, you’ll happily be making desserts every night, for the rest of your life!

Check out the recipes below to find fast and tasty desserts that will never give you an excuse to forgo the indulgences your body deserves:

Dessert Bars

This is probably one of the easiest desserts you’ll make in your life. It requires only three ingredients (including one of the superpowers of college dorm food) and takes seconds to make! This will be the perfect midnight snack to keep you powering through your all-night studies.Microwave-Rice-Krispie-Treat-for-One-4

What You’ll Need:

  • Small hand full of mini or regular size marshmallows
  • One cup of your favorite cereal
  • ½ Tablespoon of butter
  • Mug
  • Spoon


  1. In a microwavable safe mug, heat butter until melted.
  2. Add marshmallows. Microwave for about 30 seconds.
  3. Take the mug out of the microwave and stir marshmallows until all lumps are gone
  4. Add cereal, and stir until evenly coated
  5. Keep in mug and eat right away, or take the sugary mixture out of the mug and roll into a ball, and save for later.

Nutella Chocolate Mug Cake

Chocolate…Nutella…Cake. Enough said.

What You’ll Need:IMG_8041

  • 4 tablespoons self-rising flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons Nutella
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. Mix all ingredients, until smooth, in a large mug.
  2. Microwave for 90 seconds.
  3. Eat!

*Helpful Hint: Top with more nutella, powdered sugar, or whipped cream. Additionally, if you don’t have all of these ingredients, and are too far from the nearest grocery store, check out this 3 ingredient gooey chocolate cake.


Cookies are a girl’s best friend (at least, for me). But seriously, what is better than a warm, fresh baked, chocolate chip cookie? Nothing, obviously. But what’s better than waiting for cookies to bake and cleaning up all of the pans and bowls? Um, I think I can come up with a few ideas. So, problem solved. Use your microwave to create your own personal cookie,  that takes seconds to bake and microseconds to consume. Extra Bonus: you only have one dish to clean up!

What You’ll Need:o-COOKIE-IN-A-CUP-570

  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • chocolate chips


  1. Mix egg and butter.
  2. Add sugar, brown sugar, and flour. Mix well.
  3. Add as many chocolate chips as you like.
  4. Microwave one minute.
  5. Enjoy (Repeat!)

*Helpful hint: If you do not have measuring utensils, a tablespoon is about equivalent to a plastic spoon.

*Helpful Hint: If you don’t have the sugar, brown sugar, or flour, tell your parents to send you these via care package, or ask anyone across the hall. I’m sure someone would be willing to lend a tablespoon. I mean, it’s only a tablespoon.

Grab your favorite mug, and indulge yourself. You deserve it!

Kicking Ramen Up a Notch

For as much diversity that exists on a college campus, the diet of a typical college student is almost indistinguishable across all universities. A student is usually stocked with the superpowers of college dorm food: ramen, mac n’ cheese, cereal, and peanut butter. As well as, almost all students on a meal plan suffer through a year of binging off college dining hall food. After two weeks of the same, bland eating routine, your taste buds grow increasingly resentful for what you are putting them through.

While ramen noodles are the bread staple of a college student’s diet, in part because of their simplicity and economical advantages, the same seasonings can become a little redundant and overused. These noodles may appear to be far from upscale dining, but the modesty of this dish is of no concern to those with more important matters-busy schedules, mountains of homework, plans with friends, and the obligations to take advantage of the block of free time, that is strategically carved out of your day, to watch Netflix.

However, my fellow collegiate, no matter how busy you get, do not give up on this age-old tradition; rather, give this quintessential college staple a mini face lift. How can you do this? See the recipes below.

Ramen n’ Cheese

This is the new, and improved, way of eating Ramen!

What You’ll Need:mac and cheese

  • Ramen
  • 8 ounces of cheddar cheese           (Or whatever cheese                    you deem superior)
  • ¾ cup milk
  • Microwave safe bowls 


  1. Follow the directions of the ramen noodles. Do not add the seasonings.
  2. Melt cheese in microwave safe bowl. Then, add milk to melted cheese.
  3. Combine cheese and noodles together. Overall, the outcome should be a creamy and cheesy consistency.
  4. Enjoy!

*Another Suggestion: Broccoli Cheddar Ramen soup

Ramen Pizza

If you are fortunate enough to be living in an apartment, this recipe is going to be an instant (no pun intended) party hit! You won’t even know that it is made with ramen. I mean, how can this not be good? It’s basically pizza, so yep, this is really good.

What You’ll Need:pizza

  • Instant ramen package
  • Pizza sauce
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Pepperoni


  1. Split instant ramen in half
  2. Dunk one side of the ramen into the pizza sauce. Soak for about 30 seconds
  3. Take out ramen slice and put on a baking sheet
  4. Coat with cheese (as much, or as little, as you like)
  5. Top with pepperoni (or whatever topping you prefer)
  6. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees. When the cheese is golden, it’s ready!

*Another Suggestion: Ramen Burger. This is probably one of the most ingenious ideas I have come across. It may seem like an odd combination, but trust me, this will be the holy grail of parties, hang outs, or night-ins.

Gone are the days of sneaking into club meetings (ones that you aren’t even a member of) to find real food. These ramen recipes are sure to do the trick!

“On-the-Go” Breakfast Ideas

Being a college student, we are unfortunately constrained by our timely schedules and our lack of an accessible state-of-the-art kitchen. However, who says that delicious food can only come from top of the line ingredients and five star restaurants? Well, it doesn’t. All you really need is a few appliances (a microwave, a mug, and a decently stocked mini-fridge) and some imagination.

If you’re like me, then you are the type of person that waits until the last possible minute until having to get ready for the school day. My need for more sleep (minimum of eight hours) has inhibited my ability to eat a decent meal before my classes. Usually, a granola bar or a Pop Tart would be the best thing to grab on my way out the door. However, an hour later my stomach would be howling for a second breakfast, or first lunch. So, in order to avoid the embarrassment and distraction of a wolf-like stomach, here are some filling breakfast recipes if you are an on-the-go college student (or simply a really busy person):

Quiche in a Cup:

quiche in a cup

This has become my new go to breakfast meal! Making eggs on the stove can be a time consuming and tedious process; however, in the microwave you avoid all of these inconveniences. While eggs may seem like an odd item to have in your mini fridge, this idea makes it so worth it to make eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 Eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Microwave
  • Mug or glass bowl
  • Fork


  1. Spray non-stick cooking spray in the inside of your mug
  2. Crack and beat two eggs in the mug
  3. Add salt and pepper to your liking.
  4. Microwave eggs for 2 minutes
  5. Enjoy!
    • P.S. Add cooked meat or veggies to gain more protein and flavor. Additionally, if you feel bad about wasting your expensive food, feel free to use up a day-old bagel, or the tragic, end slice of a bread loaf. Just rip up the bread and coat with the eggs.
    • Another Suggestion: Cinnamon Oatmeal

This super quick and delicious breakfast is packed with protein and will be sure to fill you well beyond your first class. The end outcome should have a well cooked texture. I would suggest avoiding any end product that is too liquid in case of contamination.

French Toast in a Cup:

french toast in a cup

If you prefer sweet over savory, this will be the perfect breakfast-for-one to make (or two, after your roommate discovers that you have been secretly hiding this recipe from her). Even better, it takes only two minutes to bake!

What You’ll Need:

  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 slices of bread (cubed)-The bread can be pretty much any type of bread; use what you like.
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 splashes of milk
  • Couple sprinkles of cinnamon
  • Syrup
  • 2 microwavable cups


  1. Spray your mug with non-stick cooking spray
  2. Stuff pieces of bread in the mug
  3. Mix egg, milk, and cinnamon sugar in a separate mug.
  4. Pour egg mixture over bread pieces-let soak for 20 seconds
  5. Microwave between 90 seconds to 120 seconds (or until the egg is no longer runny)
  6. Drown in syrup! (and enjoy.)
    • This recipe trumps the routine vapidness of dining hall food. Overall, your masterpiece should be cooked well. You should be able to taste the egg, but the most flavor will come through from the cinnamon and syrup.
    • Anther Suggestion: Monkey Bread. This recipe would be great for weekends where students have slightly more time before they hit the books…on a Saturday…right.

So…do your stomachs a favor, and try these recipes!