Bowing down to the demon ramen and other collegiate culinary indignities and delights
September 10th, 2012
12:00 PM ET
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Editor's note: this is a part of FN Dish's Back to School Communal Table. Follow #pullupachair on Twitter and see other contributions below.

Sometimes, late in the night, the craving comes to me. I fight it, as I must, for the sake of decency and taste and everything I have strived for as a grown-up human being. I cannot...I will not...I must not...pour bottled Zesty Italian salad dressing over a heap of drained ramen noodles and slurp down the whole hot, harsh mess hunched over the kitchen counter in my bare feet. Even though (as I recall) it would be freaking delicious.

I swore an oath as art school ended - my best friend and I vowing in a low-rent, modern-day Scarlett O'Hara sort of way that we'd never again sustain ourselves on $.25 noodle packets, generic mac & cheese, off-label dried soup packets, past-their-sell-by-date baked goods and the other cheap but filling foodstuffs that have sustained broke students since the dawn of time (or at least the invention of the microwave). "Bowing down to the demon ramen," she called it. I nodded and agreed - she'd just always known better about grown-up things like that - but that didn't stop the pangs.

A few of my other college favorites:

– Boxed spaghetti with margarine (seriously - who could afford butter?), black pepper, curry powder and as much shake-on Parmesan cheese as I could spirit out of the pizza place in a napkin

– Boxed macaroni & cheese made with either the margarine or the milk (buying both at once wasn't in the cards most weeks) and as many mustard packets as I could get my paint-stained paws on

– Salad bar vegetables stir fried with peanut butter, duck sauce packets, white rice and an egg in my electric wok

– Baked potatoes with globs of cheap hot sauce or barbecue sauce mashed in with a fork

I'm ostensibly a grown-up lady now, one with actual metal silverware that didn't come as a supermarket giveaway, wedding china, cups not acquired at ballgames and fast food restaurants, and I swear I haven't hoarded condiment packets for at least a decade. But I can't say I'm not physically restraining myself from running down to the dollar store, nabbing the cheapest brick and bottle I can find, and shame-eating the whole concoction with the blinds down.

Let me know I'm not alone - post your favorite college food concoction in the comments below and we'll share them in an upcoming post.

I...have an errand to run...

P.S. Yes - ramen can be extremely fantastic, artistic and artisanal. I just didn't know that in college. Here are a few ways our iReporters like to get their ramen on.

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soundoff (901 Responses)
  1. weightloss

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day. It will always be interesting to read through articles from other writers and practice something from their sites.

    September 9, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
  2. personal training Long Island

    I fight cravings with Almonds. 5 regular Almonds and 1 chocolate cover Almond. It's magic! 5 to 1 ratio

    January 21, 2014 at 6:23 pm |
  3. dave

    1 gallon of skim milk. 1 giant bag of Malt-o-meal rice cereal. Eat milk and cereal until milk is half gone. Fill up gallon jug back to the top with water and continue. I bag, 1 gallon, 1 week.

    January 4, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  4. badkidcreature

    Im still in college and something my elementary used to serve us was the canned pork and beans with a side of cottage cheese. As a kid & to this day I still mix them together to eat. I know, sounds gross, but once I tried it I was blown away by house deliciously creamy it was. If you have a few extra bucks, slice up a hot dog and add it in.

    September 19, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  5. 1389AD

    I eat ramen noodles regularly, on account of the Obamaconomy.

    I'm one of the long-term UNDERemployed. IOW, I work like a freakin' DOG but I don't get paid enough to live on.

    One of my co-workers suggests mixing ramen noodles with cream of chicken soup.

    I also suggest hot dogs with salsa as a source of protein.

    September 15, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  6. Van

    I feel like such a noob. I've never had to do any of this. But you guys are awesome for it, I mean, living off such stuff is a feat. Hats off you all lol

    September 14, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  7. Elizabeth

    These people must have absurdly-fast metabolisms.
    Either that, or they're 300 lbs. O_o
    I mostly subsisted in college on the cursory raw fruit or vegetable offered in the meal-plan-covered mess hall,
    and still gained 50 lbs from the few times I actually allowed myself a full stomach by eating a COOKED veggie, which in mess hall terms usually involved massive amounts of butter.

    September 14, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  8. Current Student

    Well I moved off Campus and lost my luxury mean plan, but I buy plenty good food by using coupons. But My fav el cheapo meal is Fried Bologna, cheese, bread and ramen. Yum

    September 14, 2012 at 3:46 am |
  9. rantsloth

    a fine moment in 1995, going to asu, for some reason we were stuck with ONLY a huge vat of peanut butter and a ton of nestle crunch bars (dipping nestle crunch bars in pb is amazing.) so, between that and the typical mac/cheez and ramen stuff, we had a pretty good balanced diet.

    September 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  10. CT

    Peanut butter, banana and bacon quesadillas. Oddly, it was my Jewish roommate who invented this one. As he said, it's hard to keep kisher and resist bacon when you're searching for a late-night drunk meal.

    September 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Elizabeth

      Wtf is "kisher"?

      September 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
      • Van

        He meant Kosher.

        September 14, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  11. BobN

    My Aunt graduated from Temple back in 1964, one of her "study" foods was a nice cold can of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti with meatballs. She kept them in the fridge and when she had the craving she just opened the can and ate it chilled. We both still enjoy a nice breakfast pasta with leftovers, but I cannot eat canned pasta like she did.

    September 13, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  12. BobN

    I lived off campus in grad school and made white pizza (Pita bread with shredded cheese and garlic powder) under the broiler. My Grandfather had no teeth liked to eat cut up Knockwurst in a bowl of mashed potatoes. I substituted frozen kosher hot dogs nuked 2 minutes in the microwave with a bowl of instant mashed potatoes and a dash of parmesan cheese.

    September 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  13. clark

    Any kind of Campbells Soup (or generic) cold, right out of the can. Life Sustaining. Except Cream of Mushroom. Yuk!

    September 13, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  14. Chelsey

    Pasta with mayo, cheese, tuna, and black pepper.. Think tuna casserole dorm style. It was was delicious.

    September 13, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  15. Charlotte

    I spent a year of grad school with no income at all outside what I could scrape together directing a few choirs and a piano scholarship of a few hundred bucks (for a geophysics student, mind you). I ended up eating brown rice as my Christmas dinner. OK, at least more nutritious than white rice. We (impoverished grad students) learned quickly that whenever there was a department party we should show up, go immediately for the meats, cheeses and fresh fruits and veggies, and let the faculty and staff nosh on the sweets and crap (chips, fried stuff, junk food). Survival.

    September 12, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • BobN

      I worked in the Student Activities office at George Washington University 88-89 and one of the things I learned very quickly was to tip off my students about when a meeting was being catered. As soon as the meeting broke up swarms of Student Union Board, Student Government, or Yearbook students would swarm in for left over rolls, pats of butter, cookies, pastries, condiments, and coffee. If sandwiches were served whole trays would disappear and the trays were returned nice and clean to catering the next day.

      September 13, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
      • Van

        Haha, that's awesome.

        September 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  16. Cam


    September 12, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  17. SimplerTimes

    Generic Mac and cheese, made with butter or milk(could never scrounge both) mixed with tuna. Crave it to this day:)

    September 12, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • SimplerTimes

      Called it "white trash" food

      September 12, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
  18. fitzy

    Got thru college also eating sandwiches of cheddar cheese slice, pickles and mayo. Still like 'em.
    Also good–toss a packet of Good Seasons dry salad dressing mix into rice while its cooking to make fake Rice Pilaf.

    September 12, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  19. fitzy

    30 yrs post college we still enjoy Ramen with some frozen vegies added. Cheap eats deluxe.

    September 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  20. dootsiebug

    Chicken ramen cooked as normal, drained. Drizzled with honey and sprinkled with red pepper flakes. Magical.

    September 12, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  21. blughst20

    spagetti with watered down Ragu. could make a small bottle last all week. Total cost 1971 about $1.80.

    also loved the $.10 cent packs of Ramen noodles with onion sliced in.

    September 12, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  22. lizgwiz

    I do give in and eat ramen occasionally as a grown up. Why the heck not? (Toss an egg in near the end and it's kind of like egg drop soup.)

    September 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • fitzy

      you are sooo right, delish

      September 12, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Deborah

      I like ramen with frozen veggies, leftover chicken and an egg. If you want to get REALLY fancy, you can make it with your own chicken broth, by boiling the chicken from raw then adding the noodles.

      I survived on mac & cheese in college. I had a very large coffee mug, into which I would put the dry pasta and cover it with water. I'd microwave for 5-6 min, until it boiled over (I had to clean it every time, but it was an easy rinse), and then the leftover water was enough to make the cheese sauce. No milk needed. Now I make mac & cheese with sour cream.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  23. camillemae

    Make a piece of toast. Pour on some spaghetti sauce. Top with shredded cheese. Viola, Pizza.

    For some reason my roommates think this is weird? I don't know what's wrong with them.

    September 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Charlotte

      When I was a kid our Sunday night dinner was mini pizzas made by putting pizza sauce and shredded mozz and pepperoni on English muffin halves and broiling in the oven. We loved them, and always ate them while watching the Wonderful World of Disney. It was the only time we were ever allowed to watch TV during meals. Kind of a family tradition. Your toast version is similar. In Adult Parlance it's called Bruschetta. :)

      September 12, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
      • 1981 grad

        Ditto!! here as well! from the 1970's!! I still fix these for my kids..=)

        September 13, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  24. Ryan

    Or... get a job / donate plasma and eat a little better. Not dissing any of the food choices though, just I worked full time in college and food budget was never an issue.

    September 12, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Charlotte

      Many students work their butts off in college to pay tuition and have nothing left (if they're determined to study hard and take classes or do their research) for food. Being a judgmental a$$wipe is not constructive.

      September 12, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  25. MR

    Cheese Whiz sandwiches on toasted white bread! Delicious!

    September 12, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  26. Rhonda

    I guess both my kids are adventurous eaters, my daughter is actually a food writer, however my son makes "shapes" macaroni and cheese and then puts bacon and eggs on top. He also serves his version of Schezuan bacon for parties.

    September 12, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  27. Geri Webb

    Some of the suggestions actually sounded good. I may have tired some of them myself....

    September 12, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  28. Sivick

    one week of college I ran out of money but I was too proud to call my parents for help. This is how I ended up living off of tap water and microwave popcorn for a solid week sophmore year.

    September 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  29. Lor

    At Illinois State University we have this italian place called Avantis. When I was in college a loaf of bread there was $.80. We'd live off that bread dipped in ranch dressing!!! To this day I still occasionally make a meal out of their bread and ranch.

    September 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  30. Curlygirl

    I loved making grilled cheese sandwiches using my popcorn popper. We wer ento allowed toaster opvens in the dorms. The only way to regulate the temp was to unplug it and then re-plug it back in when it got too cold. I also ate enough 'cup-o-soup' to feed a small army...LOL those were the days.

    September 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  31. zelk

    One night, there was no more money in the account, and no food. Then we remembered – Coinstar to the rescue! With $20 in coins we purchased chicken, bananas, bread, cereal, ramen and milk. Enough to get buy for a month before winter break.

    September 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  32. Lime

    Bean salad: one can green beans, one can garbanzo beans. Drain both cans and let the beans dry a bit (or put them in the salad spinner). Add thousand island dressing or rice vinegar and a crapload of black pepper.

    $1 boxes of PastaRoni or RiceARoni with frozen chopped broccoli or spinach mixed in for vitamins. I was a vegetarian in college when I was buying my own food. As soon as my parents would come to visit and take me out to dinner, it was burgers or steak or chicken!

    Pancakes (usually Krusteez because you only need water to make them) with tub margarine and a few chocolate chips from the bulk section of the grocery store.

    September 12, 2012 at 11:12 am |
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