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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  1. Wrenn_NYC

    Since Microwaves? C'mon. We were doing the ramen thing in coffee makers and hot pots. Even tweaking the heater element on a hot pot so it could boil water to make hardboiled eggs.

    Microwaves? Kids these days...

    September 12, 2012 at 10:49 am |

    Multi-flavored ramen used to rule! I used to mix oriental and chicken or beef and chicken together. I'd divide the seasoning packet from two different ones to make my mix work. When I learned that the sodium in the "demon ramen" could eventually kill you, I opted to substitute the seasoning packet for cheese (both American slices and Pizza Hut parm) along with the pepper packets to make a zesty, slim-noodled Mac and Cheese.

    September 12, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  3. Delia

    Quesadilla (cheese, hot sauce and anything extra you want in a flour tortilla, sealed tight in aluminum foil) ironed hot on the ironing board. Delicious. You can do Pannini sandwiches the same way.

    September 12, 2012 at 10:33 am |

    Taco Bell Sauce on Saltines, grilled cheese, tostino's pizzas, the really cheap sandwhich meat that was very thin and slimy and after we ran out of bread we would just roll it up. The good days were the ones that my friends that worked at restuarants would bring home food. I've eaten so much free chili's in my life I don't like to go there and actually pay.

    September 12, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  5. Patty


    September 12, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • sputnick1

      Couldn't afford Spam. Had to by Armor Treat Meat $.20 a can.

      September 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  6. CobiaKiller

    just testing to see if anything i typed would make it past the mods

    September 12, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  7. CobiaKiller

    How many times are you going to change the title of this "article" to get some extra "hits?!"

    September 12, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      It's been called the same thing since it went live. Not sure what you're talking about.

      September 12, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  8. Rachael

    Cheap won tons from the Chinese grocery store down the street. Really inexpensive, and I'm still in college so I get to eat them all the time!

    Also, eggs, prepared just about any way.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  9. Cristina90

    Ok... grilled burgers from my family reunion a few days before chopped and tossed with spaghetti sauce and noodles. Yikes.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Cristina90

      And I thought I was being creative! I am a 21 year old college student, and I work and go to school. I find being creative and economical immensely satisfying because it feels good to save what little extra may be left over. However, sometimes when I try to apply this philosophy to food, my adventurousness gives my boyfriend a stomachache. Oh well, we live and we learn!

      September 11, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  10. imuneek

    I think most of these recipes come from not so much a lack of funds, but the lack of know-how and niceties like kitchen equipment. Or just laziness. My friends and I used to make our ramen in the coffeepot–just wash it out thoroughly, and send water through to a carafe full of noodles. It made the worst ramen imaginable, hard and sticky, and the mess was spectacular to clean out of the pot. It just made us feel we were clever because we didn't have to traipse all the way down to the kitchen to boil some water. For this they pay 25K a year to give us an education.

    September 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • emma

      Kindly do not project your laziness and piggery on others: many here came up with inventive ways to cook cheap food. At 25K a year, many needed to be frugal and inventive. Keep your miserable bitterness to yourself; the rest of us are enjoying a laugh and memories and the inventiveness of others.

      September 12, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  11. PFC Michael J. Biggs

    Ramen Noodles boiled til most water is soaked up and then add off brand tomato soup (let the heat of the noodles warm the soup). Stir thoroughly, it tastes near-exactly like spaghetti-o's.

    September 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  12. Charlie

    One time I had to make a choice between alcohol and eating decent friend and I instead just boiled spaghetti noodles in tequila and possibly had the meal of our life.

    September 11, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  13. clew3

    Pickle Sandwich. Get a giant jar of whole dill pickles (used to be about $4 at Walmart). Wrap a pickle in a a piece of bread.

    September 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • imuneek

      I remember when Walmart sold a gallon of pickles for a dollar and drove some company to bankruptcy. Ignorance was bliss, so my friends were sitting on the floor in the middle of our dorm room just eating dills out of the jar.

      September 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  14. Mai Segawa

    Hello Eatocracy fans! I'm so happy today because yesterday night I commented on here and gave a link to my original college $8 or less home made gourmet food blog called

    It features fresh and east recipes on salads, entrees, and desserts and today I got a lot of hits thanks to you guys. So here I am posting this again. I hope you like it!

    September 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  15. tresorsdelavie

    I'm a senior Case Western Reserve University undergraduate student. This is my $8 or less home made gourmet food blog! Check out my 5-55 minute recipes, entrees, desserts that I make in my apartment on campus!

    September 11, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  16. Alice

    I´ve always been aware of bad eating habits in the US, but this is really bad. Disgusting.

    September 11, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  17. tresorsdelavie

    I'm a senior at Case Western Reserve University doing a food blog! Every week I feature $8 or less always homemade gourmet recipes on my food blog!

    September 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  18. grampa72

    Not me, but friend from Poland – we lived in a fraternity, early '70s; the cook left bread and onions (and a few other things) out, unlocked – my friend would make, and EAT, onion sandwiches! He was a VERY nice, guy, but these did little for conversation.

    September 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  19. Nick

    White bread + store brand cheese singles + taco bell sauce packets. Microwave for 45 seconds! The melted cheese sandwich when you're too cheap for the butter to make a grilled cheese!

    September 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • jayman419

      If you have a toaster, use that. While the toast is hot, put the cheese on and microwave it open-faced for about 15-20 seconds (because the hot toast will help it melt, and you don't want to make the toast soggy).

      Then slap the two pieces of toast together (or fold each one in half and have two sandwiches).

      September 12, 2012 at 5:52 am |
  20. That Guy

    Cook the ramen, as the water is boiling, drop an egg in it with some soy sauce, let cook for a minute, and bang, instant egg drop soup.

    September 11, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  21. Blackflag

    Order a pizza to the dorm, wait out in the parking lot behind the dumpster with a ski mask on, and beat the delivery guy senseless as soon as he steps out of the car. Presto! Free pizza.

    September 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  22. Donna

    Lays Potato chips dipped in plain sour cream. Pasta with ketchup.

    September 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  23. Jennifer

    Chef Boyardee Ravioli. I love that meat paste they put in it.

    September 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  24. Shannan

    Cheetos puffs (off brand, of course) and a huge splurge, chocolate icing! I would dip the the puffs in the icing and eat as I studied. This only happened once because I summarily vomitted halfway through the bag of cheetos. . .

    September 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  25. Frone

    "Fried Nothing" wad up a ball of flour and drop it in the deep fryer.

    September 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  26. Scott

    This was a terrible combination that I called "poor man's clam chowder": One can of off-brand tuna combined with a can of the least expensive tomato soup.

    September 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Brad

      This actually sounds good. (Maybe upgrade the tomato soup)

      September 11, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • groo

      I saw a video of a chef making a tuna recipe with tomato soup, it was that jarred tuna that comes in olive oil and some kind of premium organic tomato soup over some pasta.I found the video on google and it actually looks pretty good.

      September 12, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • emma

      Better with a cream soup like cream of mushroom or potato with an added can of corn niblets [all available at dollar stores now].

      September 12, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  27. Connie

    My "posse" – OOOOHHHHHH man ... we were bad

    well we had one guy who could talk "old" and would call the various Fast Food restaurants and complain that our "staff meeting" was missing several "hamburgers & fries" ..etc. .. and his secretrary would be over ijn a minute to pick it up. Then he's drive one of us theri to pick it up ... I'm sorry we're bad :(

    September 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Connie

      sorry for typos .... quickly typing at work ;)

      September 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • @@

      your apology rings hollow. your confession tries to minimize your selfish guilt at the expense of others. your post has now taught your 'bad' to others. think! grow up...or not

      September 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
      • Ann

        agreed. There's nothing cute or funny about theft.

        January 4, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  28. AU

    white rice (hot or cold) with BBQ sauce;
    mac n cheese (with water instead of milk) butter and a can of tuna fish.

    September 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  29. Tony

    I loved the Wish Sandwich...2 Slices of Bread and I wished I had something to put in it.....

    September 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  30. oldgreywolf

    best invited dinner offered by 4 school wrestlers. for table cloth the top sheet off a slept in bed, plastic forks, ramen noodles with some type of ketchup sauce. noodles drained thru a tennis racket. it was great. at clean up the table cloth ? went back on the bed!! those were the days..

    September 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  31. Lynn

    I used to boil up some frozen green beans and eat them with Italian salad dressing. We also used to do a bacan and egg scramble with canned creamed corn. Yum.

    September 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  32. ee

    Kraft Mac and Cheese, if 3 for $1 special for on, if not, generic. Then add a can of tuna fish. Carbs and protein combined, yum!

    September 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  33. Liz

    One of my favorite college recipes was "Tuna Surprise". Take one can of tuna and add one jar of spaghetti saucewith one bag of frozen vegetables. Add Italian seasoning and garlic to taste.Add American cheese to taste and let melt in. Heat the whole thing and serve over pasta or rice. This was good for guests or when I wanted lots of leftovers.

    September 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  34. CPA

    All of these bellyaching replies to people like myself who've posted that they had a job and ate normal and healthy foods, are precisely what is wrong with our economy and our population. Your standard of living is dictated by your standard of work ethic and drive. I came from nothing, put myself through school while working, and I've have enjoyed a comfortable and successful life even though I'm only 26. Despite being a musician, I chose to study accounting and then take the CPA exam. I did that because the "cause and effect" of picking a major and a career is pretty glaringly obvious. I knew choosing accounting over music would provide a much greater financial "effect" for me and my family. Call it Capitalism or Free Market or whatever you like... don't be pissed at people who've made different choices (choices you could have chosen for your own life) than you, and experienced a different outcome than you. This isn't a socialist/communist/eutopian society where everyone has the same standard of living regardless of their career choices. Get over it.

    September 11, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • David

      You must have been really fun at parties. Most college kids lived this way it was fun and that is really what the article was supposed to be about. There are successful people out there that ate Ramen and went to school and had fun. Learning to balance before you left was eductional as well. You were ahead of your time congrats you must have found memories of balancing your ledger.

      September 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
      • CPA

        You are absolutely right... showing up with a case of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale rather than Keystone Light was really disappointing to everyone. While I don't remember too much about "balancing the ledger" I do remember enjoying eating all natural/organic foods that were better for my health and for our earth.

        September 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
        • Barfarific


          September 12, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
        • Barfarific

          I think you've missed the point of the postings, please go away

          September 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
        • lauraby

          From one CPA to are giving CPAs a bad name. Get the stick out. I was lucky I didn't HAVE to live off Ramen, but to share the college experience I ate most of this crap. Thanks everyone for sharing. What a trip down memory lane. I'm afraid you missed out on some fun in college. You are's not to late. Looking in my pantry to see what strange late night snack I can concoct.

          September 13, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • anon

      and see what a happy person your choice has made you? you don't sound bitter or negative or nasty at all! and let's not kid ourselves, your future in music wasn't probably a future in any event.

      September 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • anon

      and see what a happy person your choice has made you? you don't sound bitter or negative or nasty at all! and let's not kid ourselves, your future in music wasn't probably a future in any event.

      and one more 26 you haven't had a life at all yet. you have no idea of what's coming your way.

      September 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
      • CPA

        1. I'm not bitter or nasty, just defending myself after being attacked by people like you on my previous post.
        2. You are ignorant if you think you can tell by one post on the internet about college and food, whether or not I would be a successful professional musician.
        3. Again, ignorance is spoken when you say that I haven't had a life yet and I don't know what is coming my way... Bitter? Nasty? Take a look in the mirror.

        September 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
        • ManPlan

          Dude he was right! If you are a male age 26, you still have not discovered your head up your butt. You do sound edgy for a child of 26, lighten up and eat a ramen bun.

          September 11, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
        • emma

          Take a look at your original post: you jumped out at everyone when they were just posting about some of the cheap food they ate as students. If you got negative responses it is because your are reaping what you have sown.
          And you really do sound miserable: you must be working for the Romney campaign.

          September 12, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Ryan

      CPA don't get mad when people challenge statements like this "All of these bellyaching replies to people like myself who've posted that they had a job and ate normal and healthy foods, are precisely what is wrong with our economy and our population". You asked for it and if you don't like it don't post comments.

      September 11, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • ComeOnMan9

      The point of the article was to share humor on what we did to make it through college, if you did not have the experiences we had, perhaps it would have been best to not share. This is a ritual and yes most of us are proud of our ingenious ways to eat and have money left over for partying.

      September 11, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Michelle

      Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Buzz Killington. Give him a big hand, folks.

      September 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Amanda

      Not sure what your point really is.
      I'm doing quite well for myself out of college, but DURING college I had plenty of $0.08 meals and ate plenty of other crap. Yanno...kinda the whole point of this article.
      Yay, you're a CPA and a "musician". Mmmhmm.

      September 12, 2012 at 4:58 pm |

    Ramen noodles and ketchup = a mean plate of spaghetti.

    September 11, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  36. ohioan

    For $5 (back in early 90's) I could make 24 biscuit wrapped breakfast links. Sell 12 to dorm-mates for $1 each, Eat 3, freeze the rest for a quick breakfast as they take only 30 seconds to heat up. Then had $7 profit to pitch in for beer and pizza that night. Even better if I could bring back a pack of sausage from my parents' house. Then it only cost me for the biscuits. Now, sausage and biscuits would be about $7 to make (generic) but could have one can of biscuits left from the 4 pack to make cheapo donuts with.

    September 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  37. BD

    Now I need ramen, the real kind.

    September 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  38. ohioan

    some friends and I used to get together and each pitch in $2. With that and an illegal crock pot the one kid had, we'd have pizza pasta in the crock pot and a tube of cookie dough for dessert. Those were our Friday Nights.

    September 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  39. ohioan

    Minute rice, salted, with a half a can of cream corn poured over the top.

    September 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  40. old

    white bread with cream cheese with doritos on it.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  41. luispedroza

    Or you could get a job and afford actual food... just sayin'.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • sputnick1

      Apparently you never tried to pay your way through college.

      September 11, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
      • clark

        What Community College did you go to? Unless you're working as a neurosurgeon no job pays enough for tuition and food. Bet your college loans will still be unpaid 20 years from now. This is about stupid college food, stupid.

        September 13, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • NME

      Anyone who ends a sentence with "just sayin'" loses all credibility in my book. Many DO have jobs through school. But unless Mom and Dad are paying tuition, that money doesn't always go very far after expenses.

      September 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  42. luispedroza

    Or you could get a job and afford actual food... just saying...

    September 11, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  43. msslaw

    elbow macaroni with Campbells tomato soup and ground beef. Called it Train Wreck.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Jerv@msslaw

      Haha! That's awesome!

      September 11, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • CM

      Omg, this is def. a hambuger helper dish sans some added spices!

      September 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  44. sputnick1

    Treat Meat

    September 11, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  45. Diggs

    Ketchup sandwiches

    September 11, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • gordon terry

      my all time favorite, ketchup soup

      September 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm |

    The kids from Beloit College would steal from Cub Foods constantly !

    September 11, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  47. ITC

    Zesty Italian dressing on Raman??? Who could afford both in college. My two big "home cooked meals" were grilled cheese, and eggs and toast. My other regular meal was a PB (no J) sandwhich with Rold Gold thin pretzels.

    September 11, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  48. RandyOSU

    Kraft mac'n'cheese with a can of tuna mixed's still a guilty pleasure to this day, but only when my wife isn't around.

    September 11, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • LJ

      Yes, we ate this too. AND it was good.

      September 11, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • Bob

      My former roommates still talk about the 'garbage' casserole I'd make with Kraft Mac 'N Cheese, tuna and whatever canned/frozen veggies were around (peas, carrots, chick peas, etc., but never broccoli).

      September 11, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Michelle

      Mac-n-cheese with tuna and peas. So yummy, it rhymes!

      September 12, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
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