Your student budget may be limited, but not being able to afford NYC’s best restaurants doesn’t have to mean feeling deprived.

Here are some college cafeteria hacks that will help you spruce up the food from those hot trays.

 

Bagels too stale?

Scoop out the inside and fill it with other healthy breakfast options like cottage cheese or scrambled eggs.  Other options for breakfast sandwiches include fresher items like pancakes or French toast.  Grab two slices and stuff with cheese, meat or veggies. 

 

Too much toast?

If toast seems like your only breakfast option, supplement with an avocado, which can be mashed up in its skin and spread on toast.  Top with olive oil, salt, and lemon juice for extra flavor!

 

Endless hard-boiled eggs

Don't feel down, devil them! College dining blog Ratty Gourmet has an easy recipe with cafeteria ingredients. (rattygourmet.blogspot.com)

 

Sick of the stale bread?

Make a sandwich with round apple slices.  Peanut butter and jelly is always a winner! Hot dog buns, which may be fresher, also make a great peanut butter and banana holder. 

 

Hot dog buns stale too?

See if you can get your hands on a tortilla, or perhaps a gluten free wrap, to wrap your frank in. 

 

Mystery meat again?

Buy a bag of Fritos or tortilla chips from the vending machine, add some meat, cheese and hot sauce or salsa, and you have nachos.

 

Not going near the spaghetti sauce? 

Get cherry or sliced tomatoes from the salad bar, poke some holes in them, microwave with salt and pepper and then mash up with olive oil from the salad bar. Homemade marinara! Big Girls Small Kitchen has suggestions on how to eat dining hall pasta for every meal.

 

Food a little flavorless?

Invest in your own bottle of Sriracha, soy sauce or your other favorite condiment to bring into the dining hall.  And remember, guacamole makes everything better. 

 

Tips for ramen lovers

Really craving that sodium bomb? At least supplement your dried noodle packet by making a peanut sauce with soy sauce and peanut butter, and add veggies like broccoli or spinach from the salad bar. First We Feast has a great cafeteria peanut sauce recipe.

 

Check out other schools' dining halls!

Many meal plans offer guests swipes, so befriend a student at another school to swap a meal. The options at their school's dining hall may be equally lackluster, but a change in variety and scenery can make the meal more exciting. Manhattan School of Music has a piano in its dining hall and Columbia's JJ's place has a Jamba Juice machine!

 

Have more ideas on how to hack the dining hall? Share in the comments.

Bon appetite!