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.