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Essential Groceries for Dorm Living

Oof.. well College dining can be rather rough depending on the university you go to. Hence, one of the reasons I'd love a bit more variety on-campus for graduate studies. I made it through Sophomore year of college without literally using the dining hall because it destroyed me freshman year.

Here are some things I kept as staples to get me through the weeks and days. Even if you use the dining hall often, It’s always good to keep extra snacks on-hand for those days where it's -9 degrees and leaving the dorm is unfathomable or the dining hall has the most inconvenient hours ever.

From one college grad to a college student: Speak up to those around you and make sure you're fueling your body and brain to get through those long grueling study days. Order takeout if you want to, make trips to the grocery store, and remember that ANY food is fuel for your busy lifestyle.

Protein Bars / Snack Bars

A little fact about me is that I never once had a granola or protein bar before College. You’ll hear me mention this a lot, but my brother is allergic to most of them. So we kept them out of the house. However, protein bars saved my LIFE in college. My absolute favorites are RX Bars. I highly recommend them to anyone.

For bars that are still fantastic on-the-go, but don't have a ton of protein in them, I love the Made Good Granola Bars (allergen-friendly option!), Simple Mills Almond Flour Soft-Baked Bars (GF option!), and Larabars. I do try and purchase bars with simple ingredients, but remember that all food provides nutrition! Target also has off-brand versions with their Good and Gather line that I love as well and are a bit cheaper than the name brands!


I probably had oatmeal for breakfast every single day in college. Usually some oatmeal and greek yogurt combination. I used my Keurig to make instant oats. If you have a kitchen, oats are also a great base for baking muffins and making pancakes/waffles. I tended to meal prep a batch of oatmeal muffins on the weekends to serve as snacks and breakfast options for the week.

Cantaloupe, Greek Yogurt, and an Oatmeal Muffin with a Starbucks Cold Brew coffee to start off an early day of classes.

Greek Yogurt

As I mentioned earlier, Greek yogurt and oatmeal is one of my go-to breakfast combinations. I also loved incorporating greek yogurt as a snack throughout the day. A frequent combination as an afternoon snack for me was a banana and a Greek yogurt or at-night I would end my day with a protein bar and Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is a key source of protein in my diet since it’s cheap, healthy, and pretty much available anywhere. My favorite brand is Two Good Greek Yogurt, however I also enjoy Triple Zero Oikos Vanilla Greek Yogurt, and Wallaby Organics No Sugar Added Greek Yogurt. I definitely recommend purchasing a mini fridge for your dorm room for items like these. I would not have survived college without it. Many colleges do have yogurt on-campus as well. As I mentioned previously, my dining hall was super limited because my school was smaller and I hated the Chobani line of greek yogurt that they carried.

Protein Shakes

I was not much of a protein shake person pre-college either but I avoided the dining hall meat at all-costs, so protein shakes were an easy option to get protein in. They were also great during COVID-19 when you could not snack in class, but a drink was permitted. I love Iconic, OWYN and Koia protein drinks. For times when I decided to have cereal for breakfast, I often used a protein shake as a base to avoid throwing out a bunch of expired milk. My dining hall carried Fairlife Core Power protein shakes which I recently tried for the first time and would definitely give it a thumbs up as well.


I always kept wraps in my room to throw together a quick and easy meal. I usually added some string cheese, chicken or turkey that I bought from the grocery store and frozen veggies. Sometimes I even got a bit creative and discovered a fun cream cheese and apple slices on a wrap combination because I was desperate and out of lots of options.

Frozen Meals

I do encourage you to explore some frozen meal options and keep one on-hand for emergency situations. Frozen meals were uncomfortable for me at first, but I thoroughly ended up enjoying some of the one’s I tried. Plus, there are so many better options for frozen meals now than there were even four years ago. Trader Joe’s is definitely my-go to for frozen meals, but I also enjoy some of the Healthy Choice and Tattooed Chef options that I’ve tried. I ended up dedicated one day a week to a frozen meal during my Fall semester of Sophomore year because my schedule was insane.

Katie’s Sophomore Fall Semester Wednesday Schedule

Class 1: 9-12

Tabeling for Newspaper or Department Event 12-1:10

Class 2 : 1:20 - 4:20

Class 3: 6:10-9:00

Meeting 9:00-10:00

So with that being said a frozen meal always occurred because I was exhausted, starving and tired between classes 2 and 3. I had limited time and making a meal was just impractical.

Side Note: Not encouraging that schedule to anyone. I ended up repeating the class schedule in the spring. It was actually doable in-person because my last class was one of my favorites and with one of my best friends. Social interactions can definitely help you through a long day. With that being said, this schedule on Zoom was a NIGHTMARE. Imagine staring at yourself on camera for 9 hours and not moving from your computer all-day long.

This Wild Salmon with Orzo Pasta Dish from Trader Joe's became one of my favorite options.

Crackers/ Cereal

I lived off of Ritz crackers my first semester of college and cereal as snacks. I used to do this growng-up and I still do it now.. where I just grab a handful of cheerios multiple times throughout the day. These are great to keep on-hand for days where you're not feeling a large appetite, but still need something to munch on. Popcorn is another great one. My roommates always loved making popcorn at night. I was never a huge popcorn gal, but developed a strong love for the organic popcorn with organic extra virgin olive oil one from Trader Joe’s.

Food definitely brings some great memories with it as well, and I thoroughly will never forget celebrating one of my friends getting into the Disney College Program during our first week of sophomore year in my dorm room after a three mile walk with some Starbucks. We celebrated with the Trader Joe's popcorn!

String Cheese

I absolutely love string cheese and bought different string cheese with different fat contents for some variety during my college dorm days. String Cheese is a great way to get some protein-in and literally goes with so many meals. I even started using it in my breakfast options!

One item that combines cheese and crackers that I never noticed in the stores during my college years is this Sargento balanced breaks plate. I love that it doesn't include nuts or cranberries because I'm not really a fan of those options!

Some of my other favorites to keep in my personal dorm room were

  • Protein Waffle Mixes

  • Avocado Spreads/Guacamole

  • Pumpkin Seeds

  • Canned Pumpkin

  • Canned Tuna/Salmon

  • Unsweetened Applesauce

  • Olives to Go

  • Deli Turkey/Pre-made Grilled Chicken

  • Spinach

  • Frozen/Fresh Veggie options



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I'm a communications professional, recipe crafter, content creator and 22 year old working her way to wellness. 

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