If you’ve experienced the lifestyle that comes with living in a dorm, you are probably all too familiar with the struggle of finding space to store your food.
The best food storage for your dorm should include a mini-fridge, hanging shelf organizers, a rolling cart, and a variety of food storage containers. However, you may also want to have some non-perishable food stored in your dorm for emergencies.
Whether you are living on a college campus or attending a boarding school, living in a dorm can be a whole lot of fun. Having the experience of living next to your peers provides so many opportunities to socialize and meet new people, but anyone who has done it will tell you that having enough space for all of your food can become a problem. Most dorms are tiny and just provide you with the basic amount of space that you need to live. This sort of confined living space implies that you will need to be creative and resourceful if you want to be able to properly store all of your favorite food items in your dorm. To make life easier on you, we are going to take you through the best ideas and strategies for storing food in your dorm.
After years of designing food storage products and helping organizations plan optimized food storage facilities, I have had firsthand experience assisting people with the most efficient ways of storing their food. I have taken this knowledge and applied it to the confined environment of a dorm to help students create the best food storage possible.
Dorm Food Storage
If you are going away for college, you have got plenty to be excited about. The ability to study and pursue your passions, meet new people, and finally enjoy a sense of freedom is the experience of a lifetime, but it does come at a price - your personal space. This can be a problem for many students, as they are given such a small living environment to call home for what could potentially be as much as 4 years.
These days the average college dorm is less than 10ft by 20ft - and you have to share this space with another person, which means that a single student is given an average of just 5ft by 10ft to live in. If you consider that this small amount of space still needs to fit a bed, a desk, all of your stuff, and on top of that all of your food - you do not have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to food storage. This is why you want to plan your food storage as efficiently as possible so that you are able to maximize the amount of space that you have to fit all of your essentials.
Food storage in a dorm can be particularly tricky, as most college campuses do not provide you with the necessary resources that you need to optimize the space of your dorm, which is why you are going to want to invest a little bit of your time and money to equip your living space with everything that it needs. Before you begin, you should reflect on the type of food that you feel that you absolutely need in your life and prioritize a system that is built around that - for the most part, this should be a focus on essential food items.
With that being said, how you approach maximizing your space for your food storage is going to be on you. This can be approached with a basic, yet effective setup - or you can take a more advanced approach with your food storage to utilize all of the space that you have. The best way to determine which approach will work best for you is to consider how much food you actually want to store in your dorm. However, like many food storage enthusiasts, you may also want to set up an emergency food storage supply. To explain this further, we are going to take you through the best ways to store food in your dorm.
Basic Dorm Food Storage
One of the great things about creating a food storage system for your dorm is that it does not necessarily need to be complicated - or expensive! The reason for this is that a basic food storage system for your dorm does not require nearly as many appliances or as much kitchen equipment as a modern kitchen does, which means that you can approach this with a minimalist attitude.
Before we dive straight into basic dorm food storage, you should evaluate your finances and come up with a budget that is appropriate for your setup. This will help you narrow down your search options and help you prioritize what is most important for your dorm.
We advise having at least $150 to $250 to create a basic food storage system for your dorm, which should give you enough resources to optimally utilize your space. With that being said, food storage can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. While it is hard to beat the feeling of reassurance that comes with buying a new product, you should consider finding alternative ways of getting food storage items, if you have got a tighter budget.
You would be amazed by how easy and affordable it can be to get basic food storage items that are used from a wide variety of outlets. Ultimately, a tight budget does not need to get in the way of having adequate food storage in a dorm. Let’s dive into the basic setup for dorm food storage.
When it comes to the basic necessities of a college dorm environment, a mini-fridge should be at the top of everyone’s list. There is nothing that compares to the satisfaction of having a nice cool place to store your food and also keep your drinks cold! This can either prove to be a great luxury item for your basic food storage system but also a vital one for many people.
If you are the kind of person that loves to cook, having a mini-fridge in your dorm is going to be essential, as otherwise, you will have no way of storing your leftover meals or takeouts. However, the bottom line is that having a mini-fridge in your college dorm is just a nice thing to have. If your college’s communal kitchen offers some kind of fridge space to its students, you will understand the importance of having your own fridge space, as the communal fridges are generally cluttered, disorganized, and filled with forgotten food that is well past its expiration date.
Save yourself the trouble, buy a mini-fridge that is suitable for your dorm, and indulge in the luxury of having your personal fridge space. You will be surprised to find that, these days, there are some incredible options for mini-fridges that are perfect for dorm rooms that can range from mini to ultra-mini at amazingly low prices. Let’s take a look at your options.
If you are on the fence about whether your dorm has enough space for even a mini-fridge, opting for an ultra mini-fridge is going to be the way to go!
An ultra mini-fridge is about half of the size of a normal mini-size and is a perfect alternative for people who just need to keep some basic food items stored. The size of an ultra mini-fridge can be as small as 10 inches x 7 inches x 10 inches, which is roughly the amount of space you need to fit a six-pack of coke cans.
No matter how small your dorm is, you should not have a hard time finding enough space to fit an ultra mini-fridge. In addition, you can find options for a brand new mini-fridge that are incredibly low - with some options starting at less than $40!
If you think you can squeeze in a little more space out of your dorm and want to have a bit more room for storing cold food items, you are going to want to go with a standard-sized mini-fridge. Having that extra space for storing some additional food items and drinks is a luxury that you will not regret having.
A standard mini-fridge is also much more versatile than the ultra-mini option, as you are generally provided with some extra storage compartments, as well as often a mini-freezer. In addition, a mini-fridge of this size also enables you to have more control of the coolness of your fridge.
You can find standard mini-fridge options that are as small as 17 inches x 18 inches x 19 inches, which should be more than enough space to take care of the basic cool storage needs of the average college student. You may be surprised to find that you can buy a brand new standard mini-fridge for as little as $110 to $150.
However, opting for a standard mini-fridge also offers up some additional perks for dorm food storage. A mini-fridge can be used in a variety of different creative ways such as storing food on top of it (similar to a coffee table), or it can be implemented with other food storage strategies. More on this later.
Food Storage Containers
If there is one item that you absolutely need to have for any dorm food storage system it is a set of food storage containers. These are going to be essential for any student, regardless of the size of your dorm, as your college will likely not be providing you with any containers to store leftover food.
You can go with some traditional Tupperware containers that you may already have laying around the house, as these will get the job done just fine - or alternatively, you can opt for some modernized food storage containers that have been designed to save you space.
The best food storage containers are those that are collapsible. Traditional food storage containers are great for when they are in use, but storing the containers themselves when they are not can be a pain and will use up a lot of unnecessary space in your dorm. By having collapsible food storage containers, you can be reassured that your living space is optimized.
If you are a student living in a dorm, you probably do not need such a big container setup and will likely need only a few containers to take care of most of your needs. You can find a simple 3-piece collapsible set of food storage containers for only $12 to $15 online and in most stores. However, if you wanted to have a slightly bigger container setup, you can always go with a 5-piece setup, which could cost you as little as $25.
The best thing about having a well-organized food storage system in your dorm is that it will open your eyes to just how much space you actually have and how much of it could so easily be wasted and overlooked.
One of the best ways to optimize your basic dorm food storage is to implement some hanging storage. Hanging storage is essentially a way to set up some additional shelving compartments around your dorm on surfaces that would otherwise be useless.
There are some great options for hanging storage out there and if implemented properly, you can take care of the majority of your food and kitchen equipment storage needs. Let’s dive into some of your options for hanging storage.
Over Fridge Hanging Storage
As mentioned above, if you are considering getting a mini-fridge for your dorm food storage setup, you will be delighted to know that you can utilize your fridge in more ways than one. In addition to using it as a table for various items, you can also use your fridge for hanging storage.
There are some great options for over fridge hanging storage that are all reasonably priced and are guaranteed to save you on a ton of space in your dorm. A simple over fridge hanging storage can have as much as 12 to 20 pockets that are perfect for storing a wide variety of items and it costs as little as $30.
You can use these pockets in your over fridge hanging storage to keep everything from snacks, drinks, or even utensils. How you ultimately organize your over fridge hanging storage will be up to you, but the amount of space you get for such a simple innovation makes this item for your dorm food storage a no-brainer.
Hanging Produce Basket
Whether you are trying to find a good place for your fruits or your spices, these food items tend to find themselves in awkward places within a dorm environment.
If your dorm room happens to have a sink or an area with a lower ceiling, you can always implement a hanging produce basket to store some of your inconvenient produce items. However, if you don’t, then you can always opt for a hanging produce basket that can be mounted on your wall.
With that being said, a hanging product basket does not only need to be used for this specific type of food storage. You will find that you can utilize this storage approach for everything from snacks and grains or turning it into a designated spice rack. You can find hanging produce baskets for as little as $10.
Door Hanging Food Storage
The flat surface of your dorm room door is a great way to store a bunch of your food and is generally wasted on most college campuses.
There are some great options for door-hanging food storage that are easy to install and should be affordable for just about any college student. You can find some great options that cost under $20 and should be able to store as much food as a small-sized pantry.
Most options within the $20 range will have about 5 medium-sized compartments that can be organized to handle a variety of storage functions. Keep everything from snacks, drinks, utensils, and even kitchenware - all in one easily accessible space.
Small Rolling Cart
One problem that a lot of students encounter with their dorm’s food storage system is that so much of it is immovable. A great way to bypass this struggle is to get a rolling cart for your dorm.
You can find rolling carts online and in stores for a very good price and you will find that they are highly effective for optimizing your food storage. A small rolling cart can cost as little as $20 to $30 and will give you 3 or 4 storage sections that are perfect for storing light, non-perishable food items such as canned goods, pasta, and other grains.
The great thing about a small rolling cart is that it doesn’t take up much space and it can be easily moved when needed. So, if you are finding that part of your room is a bit cluttered, simply move your cart out of the area and make organizing a much simpler process. In addition, you can utilize one of your rolling cart’s surfaces as a coffee table if needed.
Advanced Dorm Food Storage
If you are not looking for a complicated dorm food storage system, then a basic setup as detailed above will get the job done nicely. However, some people prefer to have a more dynamic and expansive system for their dorm food storage.
Whether you are an avid cook or simply like to stay well-stocked with snacks, going the extra mile to have a more elaborate system could be a worthwhile venture that is very advantageous for your dorm. This will require that you invest a bit more time and money into an advanced food storage system.
The best way to approach this is to evaluate the food that you need for your dorm and to selectively implement the products that you feel are necessary to take care of your storage needs. With that being said, you will find that most of the storage products you need can be taken care of by a basic system. What you should do is cross-reference the products from the basic system to the more advanced options so that you can determine what additional items you will want in your dorm. Let’s take a look at some advanced food storage options.
Food Storage Bin
You will find that your dorm does not likely provide you with adequate shelving or compartments that are designated for food, which is why having a large food storage bin is a must for many students.
A food storage bin looks a lot like a chest that is specifically for storing food in confined spaces. These bins can vary in size but they will typically be able to store as much as 20 gallons, which is plenty of space for dorm food storage. You can easily move the food storage bin when needed and it should nicely slide under a desk for when you want to create more room in your dorm.
This storage item can also be a huge help for keeping your food organized. Instead of having various food items all in one place, you can allocate this bin to store the majority of all of your food. You can take your organization with a storage bin further by getting some packing cubes to compartmentalize the bin into sections - this way you can create a system for your food that groups specific items.
However, another great feature that comes with a lot of food storage bins is that they have locks. If you have ever lived in a college environment, you have probably had someone get into your food at least once or twice. This awesome food storage bin allows you to set a lock for your food items to keep your hungry roommate out!
If you are the kind of person that likes to have a well-stocked fridge, a mini-size is simply not going to get the job done properly. If that is the case, you are going to want to opt for a compact refrigerator.
While these do tend to take up a bit more space, the extra capacity for food storage that you get out of them can prove to be very advantageous for some setups. Many college students prefer to keep a lot of dry food items inside of their dorm food storage - mainly for the fact that they have a mini-fridge at best. While dry storage is great, it can take up quite a bit of room as well. A good way to weigh this out is to consider that by having adequate fridge space, you can prioritize some goods over others and save on space outside of your fridge.
The average size of a compact refrigerator is just 18 inches x 19 inches x 32 inches, which offers a lot of space for your dorm food storage. There are some great options out there for compact refrigerators that can range from $180 to $250+. One of the best things about getting a fridge of this size is that you can expect to have a separate freezer compartment, which only expands your options for food storage and enables you to freeze items that would otherwise be perishable.
In addition, you can pursue the same food storage strategies with your compact fridge as you can with a mini. So be sure to implement over fridge hanging storage into your setup.
Large Rolling Cart
If you like the idea of having a rolling cart in your dorm food storage system but want to utilize this product with even more space at your disposal, you should consider getting a large basket rolling cart.
A large rolling cart enables you to double or even triple the amount of food that you can store with a small one and it gives you the same mobility. Use a large rolling cart to store everything from fruits and vegetables to cereals and rice. You can take it even further by establishing each basket compartment for additional items such as spices, snacks, and even kitchenware.
While a large rolling cart will take up quite a bit more space, its mobility enables you to relocate it throughout different parts of your dorm. Furthermore, if you want to get rid of the mobility of the cart, many of these products come with a feature that enables you to mount the cart directly onto your wall, so that you can have the best of both worlds.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $80 for a large rolling cart depending on its brand and whether the material is made out of metal or plastic.
Many students often put storage cubes into their dorms for storing all sorts of things such as clothes, textbooks, and other essential items. However, you can make these storage cubes much more versatile by implementing them as part of your dorm food storage.
Given that these storage cubes are already such a common item in many people’s dorms, allocating some of that space for food is often an easy option to overlook. These storage cubes can vary in size but having a set of 4 to 6 of them can be a great way of storing some of your dry food items. In addition, this storage item is easy to stack on itself, which gives you the versatility to create a system that is catered to the dimensions of your room and how much space you have.
You can find storage cubes for as little as $35 to $50 for a complete set. While many storage cubes will be made out of metal or plastic, you should always try to find a collapsible option when available. You will find that throughout the year, the amount of food that you need to store in your dorm will vary, which is why it is great to have a way of storing food that can be adjusted for space when needed.
Emergency Dorm Food Storage
These days, having some extra food in your home or even your dorm is a common practice. You never know when you are going to need some backup food in the case of an emergency and while you can not always predict an emergency situation, you always be ready for it.
The best way to do this is to have an adequate amount of essential food items that are catered to emergencies. You want to prioritize items that are non-perishable and will last. At the end of the day, in an emergency situation, you want to be prepared for the worst by having food that is going to be the most vital for your survival.
You can go about this by simply implementing additional food items into your dorm food storage using one of the above-mentioned basic or advanced options. Instead of storing food items into your dorm storage that are only for immediate use, try to plan ahead by having some additional food items that are designated for emergencies. Here are items to consider:
- Grains - rice, pasta, & quinoa
- Cooking Essentials - salts, yeast, baking powder
However, if you want to have a well-developed emergency dorm food storage, you should try to create an independent system that is specifically meant for emergencies so that you do not end up misappropriating your emergency goods.
To have a solid emergency dorm food storage system, you should buy some containers that are designed for being weathered which can properly store your non-perishable goods. You should invest in some sealable tote containers or a at least a waterproof moving bag. Keep all of your emergency food storage goods in these containers and place them somewhere where they will be out of reach. A great place to store them is deep within your closet or somewhere under your bed. You should try to have at least one month of food stored in your emergency food storage at all times.
Tips: Dorm Food Storage
There is nothing that will organize your dorm better than having a proper food storage system in place.
We just highlighted some great strategies and products to implement in your dorm that are guaranteed to set you up for an optimal food storage system, but you may also want to consider these additional tips.
Used Food Storage Products
Not all of your food storage products need to be brand new. While there are tons of modernized food storage products that are being released regularly, you should know that a lot of used and older storage products will get the job done just as well.
At the end of the day, a good food storage system for your dorm does not always have to look good, but it should be practical and efficient nonetheless. Here are some great ways for getting used food storage products into your dorm:
- Hand-me-downs - If you are like most college students, you are probably not rolling in dough, which means that you are going to have to be resourceful with your food storage. You will find that there are probably plenty of old storage containers laying around your house that are begging to be used. Ask your parents/guardians/friends if it would be possible to borrow or have some of their old food storage products for your dorm.
- Garage Sales - One of the best places to find cheap used stuff is at a garage sale. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Have a look around at some garage sales in your area and you will be surprised by how many food storage options you can find for sale - at a fraction of the price.
- DIY Food Storage - If you are having a hard time tracking down some adequate food storage products, you should consider rolling up your sleeves and creating your own. Some products are incredibly easy to makeshift and can be made with a lot of materials that you can find laying around the house.
Ultimately, food storage can be approached with a lot of versatility. A key thing to keep in mind is to be resourceful and creative - especially if your budget does not allow for all of the new food storage products that are available.
Given that you are living in a small dorm that you are sharing with one person, it could pay off to be on the same page about food storage with your roommate.
By talking with your roommate, you can create a plan that is suitable for both of you so that you can create a food storage system that is efficient and optimal for your dorm. Given that a lot of food storage items such as hanging storage items may need to be placed on doors and other surfaces, it would make sense to agree on storage organization.
It’s best to sit down with your roommate and create a plan that includes both of your food storage needs. You can then determine the budget that the two of you have together and implement food storage products that you can afford. This opens up a lot of opportunities for sharing costs on products that you would not be able to buy on your own.
In addition, it prevents your confined living space from having redundancies such as two mini-fridges. Instead, you can both share the cost of a compact fridge, enjoy having more fridge space and get a freezer all at once. Having a conversation with your roommate can save space for your food storage and can make the investment much cheaper.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker