The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Saturday, May 18, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Some on-campus students find budget-friendly solutions in dorm cooking


A dining meal swipe, according to Carolina Dining Services, can cost between approximately $8 to $16 at UNC, depending on the meal plan. 

While meal plans are convenient, particularly for those in their first year at UNC, some find the price too high.

First-year Hawa Ahmed canceled her meal plan this spring semester after a dissatisfying experience with on-campus dining in the fall. Instead, she said she began cooking in her residence hall.

“Weekly groceries are like $80 and I completely canceled my meal plan, so in terms of affordability, it works well with me,” she said

Some students with dietary restrictions, like first-year Lahari Pokala, may also find that the dining hall offers limited options. 

Pokala said her experience with vegetarian dining hall options has varied. 

“I prefer to make my own vegetarian food and add my own spices,” she said

Residence halls have kitchens that students who live on campus can utilize to cook their meals.

Kitchens vary depending on the building but typically include a sink, oven, stove and microwave. Additionally, UNC's Residence Hall Association provides items like pots, pans and cooking utensils that students can check out from the front desk of their residence hall. 

First-year Maria Sanabria said her communal kitchen is not bad, but she finds it easier to use her own resources and appliances to cook in her room.

Pokala said she also finds it convenient to use appliances in her room, such as a blender, a microwave and a kettle to make different soups. 

To fit cooking into a busy college schedule, Ahmed said she prepares her meals ahead of time. 

“I go shopping on Friday evenings and then on Saturdays I spend the whole day cooking,” she said. "Then I will put it in the fridge and heat it up."

Many students said their go-to dishes were easier recipes that require few ingredients and less time to prepare. 

“It depends if I have the groceries or if I’m in the mood, but if I just want a quick meal, I definitely gravitate toward ramen noodles — but amped up,” Sanabria said.

She said she adds extra toppings, like onion, a protein, eggs and green onion, to elevate her regular ramen.

Breakfast is an especially easy meal to prepare in a residence hall room without having to walk to the dining hall.

“I love overnight oats for breakfast,” Ahmed said. “Those are my go-to. Sometimes I make English muffins. Of course, I have cereal, and I have my milk in the fridge. I also bought frozen fruits to make smoothies in the morning.” 

Beyond flexibility and affordability, Sanabria said the act of cooking is enjoyable. 

Pokala said making meals increases her community. She said she enjoys cooking for her friends and trying new recipes with them. 

Cooking in communal kitchens can even be a way to meet new friends in residence halls, Sanabria said. The process of cooking can be fun, she said.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

“It’s also very homey,” she said. “It makes you feel like you’re kind of at home, cooking the meals that you would eat at your house. So it’s just very comforting.”

@dthlifestyle |