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. Luke

    I had a box full of military MRE's from eBay in my dorm. They taste great (most of them at least) and no need to cook, you can eat them cold. They're especially great after you stumble home drunk from a frat party.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  2. Lo

    Spaghetti O's, canned Chef Boyardee Ravioli, hot dogs.....and I was at Culinary School! lol

    September 10, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  3. the1uturn2

    I lived on 3 bags of oreos and a gallon of milk a week. if my money came in then there was usually a girl on the hall frying chicken wings and fries and selling by the plate! or would walk to bk or checkers for eating out. (was not allowed to have a car freshman year)

    September 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  4. Amniculi

    Stove Top stuffing with a fried egg on top. That and a lot of tuna straight from the can with crackers.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  5. bad2worse

    Shrimp flavored ramen with jenny-o hot dogs chopped up and a sprinkle of mixed frozen veggies for 5years.
    Going to MC-D's and getting the kids box was a step up. Sounds to me like most of us punished ourselves to get edgycated! We're not that different after all.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  6. elizabeth

    A-1 sauce on Saltines

    September 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  7. Glenc

    Ramen plus "acquired" catchup packets. Instant spaghetti!
    Used a plate pop corn popper as a skillet, a burner and occasionally as a pop corn popper.
    They use to make something called "Stir and Frost" cake mixes, the box was the pan. All you needed was
    water. I was the life of the party, I had a stash and a toaster oven. Cure (or cause) of the munchies.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  8. senoratate

    Tube Steaks (hot dogs) and pork n beans!

    September 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  9. Fusillade

    When I was in college, I could make the following meals for $0.33 or less. I would guess you can still make them for less than $0.50 with only the sandwich possibly costing more.

    Elbow macaroni, tomato juice, and black pepper.
    Can of pork 'n beans with a hot dog and a pinch of brown sugar.
    Ramen with an egg.
    Potted meat with crackers.
    Peanut butter and honey sandwich.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  10. senoratate

    Tube steaks(hot dogs) with Pork and Beans

    September 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  11. hyrum.white

    Nothing beats good old PB&J. If I'm feeling fancy, sometimes it grilled PB&J.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  12. Atheus

    I think I ate more co-eds than anything else...

    September 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  13. Dood

    Great "on the cheap" recipes, guys! Kudos to all!

    September 10, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  14. delgrecokm

    Creamy Chicken Ramen or Oriental Ramen..

    honestly when Im sick I like it more than my moms homemade chicken noodel soup

    September 10, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  15. Zenger Folkman

    My 4 housemates and I would occasionally feast on heaping platters of spaghetti, whose sauce was made with 1 quart can of tomato juice, simmered with 1 pound of cheap ground beef, seasoned liberally with garlic salt and oregano. As you might guess, the pasta wa not cooked al dente. Wash it down with a couple cans of Old Milwaukee and we had ouselves a meal!

    I wish, I wish, I wish in vain
    That we could all be in that room once again
    Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat
    I'd give it all gladly if our lives could be like that.

    (Thanks for being with us, Bob!)

    September 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  16. Derrick

    Who else came here to see the recipes? Hehe

    September 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Christina

      Umm, hehe....I did Derrick. I know, sad! lol

      September 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  17. Fancy Miss T

    Chicken ramen noodles cup with spoon of peanut butter, packet of soy sauce and packet of red pepper flakes (from Pizza place) and presto, spicy peanut asian noodles.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  18. bloodghost

    I was fortunate to have two roomates with rice cookers so we nearly always had steamed rice handy. As far as i remember – and mind you that's a small sample size – college life boiled itself into a wicked strong collection of condiments on rice or noodles. One roomate had a savant like ability to mix and match various bottled ingredients to culinary delight. But i shouldn't kid myself, my taste buds and brain cells were so addled by cheap vodka and gin that i would have eaten soylent green without as much as a batted eye lash.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Bethany

      You win for most amusing post... lol!

      September 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  19. johm

    Get a box of barely out of date banana's from grocery store + some milk and ice cubes = breakfast/handover smoothies
    (brown bananas dont sell, but taste fine)

    The easiest for me were the $1 (you can usually find them like 10 or 12 for $10) or less packets of rice/pasta. Either eat it as is or dump stuff (meat, veggies, beans, whatever) in. It's fancy Ramen. If you added anything it was easily 2 meals.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  20. jessica

    in Russia, ramen was the one food we were actually able to cook in our rooms. fortunately, they have way more flavors than we do here. Ramen with a bit of tomato paste stirred in to it is amazing. Almost tastes like real food.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  21. Cherry

    1 can of chilli and 1 can of cream of mushroom soup. Mix together, heat and enjoy!

    September 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  22. Texas Tornado

    mayonaisse sandwiches, spaghetti noodles with just margerine, instant mashed potatoes. Wendy's dollar menu when I was feeling rich.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  23. binx

    1 can of baked beans and a package of cheap hot dogs cut up. Or the hot dogs in the generic mac n cheese.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  24. JudiAnn

    Remove and reserve flavor packet from ramen noodle soup. Cook and drain noodles. Mix flavor packet with two eggs. Combine with noodles and fry in non-stick skillet. Like egg foo yung. Yum!

    September 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  25. Chris

    Ramen is good because you can throw other things into it and it's great. It takes 3 mins to microwave so at the 1:45 mark I throw an egg in there and scramble it. Mix it and let the remaining time go down and boom. You have beef soup with an egg.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  26. Carissa

    ramen noodles with an egg added to it...yuuuummmmmmm!!!
    my husband mixed canned tuna with white rice and bbq sauce and lots of black pepper.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  27. Jackal Texas

    Cheap box of macaroni and cheese cooked in microwave add can of tuna.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  28. sha

    Generic boxed mac and cheese made with water (too poor for butter and/or milk), frozen pirogies ($1- a box of 12) with fried onions, baked potato with hot sauce and lots of rice and beans. Ramen and generic canned soup was also a staple. I seem to remember using cream of mushroom soup over rice, noodles, broccoli, potatoes–almost everything. I don't think I have eaten it since then. I still eat the pirogies but they are more like $3+ a box now.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  29. anxietyjunkie

    cooked instant potatos mixed with sour cream, garlic powder, and s&p, baked in the oven until crispy on top. Sort of twice baked potatos without the skin. (I lived off campus for a while and so actually had an oven).

    Once in a while I would find a deal on almost expired boneless pork ribs and make a bbq sauce with ketchup, vinegar and brown sugar. I still make that sometimes, actually.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  30. T

    Hot delicious and free! Ketchup packets and hot water make for a delicious tomato soup...add crackers from condiment area ate the nearby salad bar.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  31. David Howarth

    Oh, the essential Chili Mac....A box of the cheapest generic brand(white & black label) Mac & Cheese and a can of similarly cheap Generic Brand Chili. Cooked and mixed could provide a meal for 4 people or 4 meals for under $1. I haven't eaten it in 20 + years.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • SoArizona

      Seen the price of chili lately..... Ain't happening.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Sara

      mac n cheese with salsa pkts "acquired" wherever cheap mexi food is sold.

      September 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  32. Mel

    Beef ramen with white rice, ground beef and onion.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  33. JimVA

    A can of campbells pork and beans warmed by inmmersing the whole can in hot water for a while, then open and eat with a spoon.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  34. Chad

    "artisANAL" " I just didn't know that in college."

    Interesting. I thought everyone experimented in college.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Jack

      Noodles with anything. Pan fried in butter was the best.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  35. Andrew

    Ramen but start by boiling frozen vegetables with about 1/2 the packet. Then add an egg and finally the noodles. I still eat it today.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Dood

      Ooooo, good thinking about adding veggies! I used to do the egg and ramen, too. Tastes kind of like egg drop soup.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  36. Lozaka

    I will never forget when I went shopping and bought some canned corn, I was so excited it eat it – it was giant corn and I was sooo ready for something other than mac & cheese. I warmed it up on the hotplate (before microwaves) and ate a big spoonful and thought I would hurl – it wasn't giant corn it was hominy. Probaby one of the nastiest things I ever ate.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  37. phearis

    I lived on $5.00 a day for about 2 years and if you look for discount items, bulk items, free items and budget, you can eat pretty well. $2.64 for a day old steak, $.40 for mushrooms, $.60 for a baked potato and $1.00 for mixed frozen veggies and you got a really nice dinner and left overs for lunch the next day for $4.64.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  38. D. Berry

    Ramen noodles and cheese- its the best thing in the world

    September 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  39. Alicia

    Microwaved scrambled eggs and bacon, easy mac with a italian seasoned crushed tortilla-chip topping. Tofu ended up being a ton cheaper than meat, at about $2/ pack. We also had an Asian market nearby that sold ramen for cheaper than the grocery store (like $.13/ pack!) They had aisles of the stuff. Pork-mushroom flavored ramen with sriracha and dried onion flakes is one of the best things I've ever eaten.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  40. Bethany

    Generic pasta mixed with squeeze cheese mixed in. Mac & cheese at $.20 per serving!

    September 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  41. Marcy

    Ghetto Pad Thai: Ramen noodles (any flavour) and add peanut butter and hot sauce! OMG so good. I still do that every now and then.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Alpha

      You have to find the nearest bar that has 'free happy hour munchies" and go eat there. If it is packed enough you don't even need to buy the dollar beer. I ate about three dinners a week like that for 4 years.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Alpha

      You can also walk into a Five Guys Burger joint and leave with a pocket full of peanuts to add to your peanut butter, ramen, hot sauce mix.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  42. emma

    Dried yellow peas, one chopped yellow onion, one can chopped tomatoes [dollar store brand], spoonful margarine and curry powder [dollarstore brand] all in one pot on a low, slow simmer makes a cheap version of dal [curried lentils] that I ate 3 times a week while I grad student. I also cooked generic mac'n'cheese with a 99 cent pack of no-name brand frozen spinach for nutrition though it tasted more like lawnmower grass clippings.. Powdered skim milk was another staple as was the big cheap plastic bag of puffed wheat cereal.
    I also took the 'never gain' pledge after I stopped working my student-days bookstore job and joined the real world, though I sometimes think, especially with the current economic and employment crises, that those days were more like the real world.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • emma

      Sorry, that was the 'never again' pledge...though you never gain on this diet; I was anemic for years.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
      • 1389AD

        Buy some iron pills. Take them ONLY with food.

        September 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Abbey

      Just wait. When you start drawing Social Security, you can pull out all your old tricks, plus steal napkins from McDonald's.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  43. Zenger Folkman

    1 can of tuna drained, 1 tart apple chooped finely, plenty of curry powder, a little water, heat in a skillet, serve over white rice. Yummmm! Out of college for decades, but still eat it to this day.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • emma

      Canned tuna or flaked chicken, canned mushroom soup, canned pineapple bits and some chopped red pepper and green onion [optional due to expense of fresh veg] heated and poured over rice fed 3 in our student apartment. It was called skillet lao, recipe off the soup can [though it called for chicken breasts and slivered almonds on top].

      September 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  44. Tom

    Actually, if you got a bag of flour, and mixed a tablespoon or so of it into the ramen, you got a nice stew-like consistency to the soup. Throw in a bit of ground beef and veggies and it was fine-dining on-the-cheap.

    (You could also throw whatever cold-cuts you needed to use up before they went bad, or peas/corn in the freezer. The flour and the seasoning (read: SALT) hid a lot of sins.)

    September 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  45. rocinante

    1/2 can refried beans + tortilla = burrito

    Ate that once a day for 4 years.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  46. Colby

    Boiled dry oats and honey

    September 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  47. Jordan

    Ramen w/ egg, fried sandwich turkey....

    Box Pasta w/meat sauce and chicken (3 times a weeks, sick of it)

    I always went to the spanish bodega to buy plantains, yuca and other cheao filling vegetables

    At times nice big steaks on the taxpayers dime (foodstamps)!

    September 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  48. RunfortheHills

    When I was in college, it was staple foods. I would hitch a ride to Costco with my roommate who had a membership, and buy a 10lb bag of rice, two 3lb jars of peanut butter, 4 or so loaves of bread, an 8-pack of 1lb boxes of pasta, a couple of 12-packs of tuna, a couple of large bags of frozen vegetables, and condiments on sale at the grocery store.

    No ramen for me, ever.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  49. Ken

    I remember my Kroger favorites from 20 years ago. Kroger Pizza (articfical cheese and some flavored meat like substance put over tomatoe sauce and a bread base more consistent with cardboard than anything .. but man they were cheap!), Kroger Hoki Stew (One large can generic potatoe soup, one can mixed vegatables, 1/2 pound of Hoki (a fish from New Zealand) .. cook fish, mix fish and veggies into potatoe soup .. creates a nice chowder like fish stew, easily covers both lunch and dinner that day for only a few dollars). And of course Ramen noodles.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  50. Mittens Romnutts

    1) Cook Ramen
    2) Pour out half the water
    3) Add spoonful of peanut butter, splash of soy sauce, sambal or sriracha hot sauce
    4) Optional add ons chicken, scallions, bean sprouts, etc...

    September 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Mittens Romnutts

      5) Toasted sesame seeds and sesame oil on top

      September 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
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