Cooking...the final frontier. Don't you wish you could get a food replicator and be done with it?
But seriously, all Star Trek references aside, cooking is one of the banes of college existence, unless you've been used to cooking at home (or eating take-out a lot). With usually only one kitchen to service the whole dorm, said kitchen is generally a mess at all times, with the delightful smells of burnt popcorn wafting down the hall, and at least one fire alarm every month.
But fear not, culinary Ensigns! (Sorry, couldn't resist one more reference) There is more to the kitchen than the terrifying results of the microwave!
To save on gas, parking spots, time, and money, pack your lunch rather than going out to eat.
Cook more food than you need for dinner, and you'll have your lunch for the next day already made!
When possible, go to grocery stores or restaurants within walking distance to save gas and money on transportation.
Stock up on basics--beans, rice, bread, pasta, milk, butter, cheese--in addition to your other foods, and you'll always have food to make.
Don't forget condiments and spices! Ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise are great, but so is salsa, hummus, hot sauce, etc. Plus, pick up a little garlic powder, poultry seasoning, and chili powder to augment the salt and pepper.
Once you buy these spices, they'll last you a long time--don't balk at the prices, because if you cook enough at home, you'll get your money's worth out of them.
Never leave cooking food unattended, not even the microwavable kind. Cuts down on fires and others stealing your food.
If cooking with dairy products/creamy products, stir constantly so it doesn't scorch. Learn from my (yucky) fail.
Stir with large swirls and small swirls ("hurricane" and "tornado" style) to blend and mix thoroughly.
Brown meat thoroughly on a stovetop--break up the clumps of meat smaller and smaller until no pink remains.
Brown only small hunks of meat at a time, so your pan doesn't overflow.
Drain stovetop-cooked meat by preparing a big plate with 2 or 3 layered paper towels on it, and dumping the finished meat on it.
Beware of fat and grease "popping" as you cook--it'll get your hand or arm if you're not careful!
Clean up after yourself while waiting for food to finish--wash up any dishes, throw away wrappers, wipe cabinet tops, etc.
Keep paper towels, disinfecting wipes, aloe vera gel, and oven mitts/pot holders handy.
Clean the microwave after you use it, especially if your food exploded!
Don't let food get on or fall under the stove eye. Switch burners if it happens, let the 1st burner cool, and then use a fork to get the food bit out.
Wash your hands before AND after preparing raw meat or eggs. If handling both in one meal, wash between handling one and the other.
Immediately disinfect surfaces that have touched raw meat or eggs.
Mastering the Fridge
If you want to truly keep food to yourself, get a mini-fridge for your room/dorm.
When using a communal fridge, tape up your boxes really well and hide them behind/under other items.
Always mark takeout containers with your name and the date you got the food.
Try your best to eat leftovers within 3 days. (Cuts down on food spending AND fridge clutter!)