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Recipes for Easy Variations on Collegiette Staple Foods: Ramen Noodles, Mac ‘n Cheese & More


The easiest and cheapest foods often come in boxes and cans, and, let’s face it - this means most collegiettes are left using their food budget on boxed foods! However, we all know that the easiest foods can also become the most boring, so Her Campus has some easy ways to spice up your favorite staple meals!

girl eating ramen noodles

Mac ‘n Cheese

Annie’s, Kraft you’ve got ‘em all lined up on your shelf, but you’re getting bored with the same old recipe. Take a good look around your kitchen, see what other ingredients you have and try one of these tasty renditions.

If you’re a cheese lover…Try adding another type of cheese to the boxed mixture when you add the milk, butter and cheese powder to the noodles. Parmesan, Velveeta and Sharp Cheddar all taste great!

baked mac and cheese

If you’re craving baked mac ‘n cheese… Cook the noodles for about a minute less than normal (they will finish cooking in the oven) and then prepare the cheese mixture according to the directions on the box. Add the cheese mixture to the noodles. Pour the prepared macaroni into an oven-safe container, then crumble up croutons or buy bread crumbs at the store. Add parmesan cheese or cheddar cheese to the bread crumbs if you have some, along with some salt and pepper, and sprinkle the mixture over the pasta. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until top is golden brown.

If you’re a meat lover… Prepare the macaroni according to box’s directions, then mix in your favorite meats. Bacon is a delicious addition (or try soy crumbles if you’re a vegetarian) and chicken tastes great too. Feeling super adventurous? Add chicken and broccoli to your macaroni and you’ll forget that your meal started in a box!


It’s a member of the collegiette’s staple diet list because it’s cheap and easy (all you need to do is add the milk!). But after eating cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, life can get a little boring. Try some of these ideas to use that crunchy goodness in a different way! 

If you’re cooking dinner for friends… Make breaded chicken with cornflakes! Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Then in a Zip-lock bag combine a half cup of breadcrumbs, one cup of cornflakes, four teaspoons of sesame seeds and a teaspoon of chili powder if available. Shake the bag to mix ingredients. In a bowl, break two eggs and beat them together lightly. One at a time, dip chicken strips in egg and then drop them into the plastic bag. Shake the bag evenly to coat each piece of chicken, then transfer the chicken to a non-stick baking pan. Bake the chicken trips for about 15-20 minutes, turning them over halfway through the baking time to cook evenly. Serve the strips alone with honey mustard, with rice or over a green salad!

If you need breakfast on the go… Turn your cereal into a parfait! Layer cereal (Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Honey Bunches of Oats are great choices, but you can use whatever you have in your pantry) between yogurt (try Greek yogurt!) and fresh fruit like bananas, apples or berries. Add honey for an extra kick of sweetness.

If you have a sweet tooth… Make cereal bars! If you’ve ever made Rice Krispie Treats then you know which direction this variation is headed in. In a large saucepan (or in the microwave), melt three Tablespoons of butter or margarine. Then add a package (10 oz) of marshmallows to the butter and stir until completely melted. Add six cups of Rice Krispies, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fruit Loops, Reese’s Puffs or another sweet cereal to the marshmallow mixture, stirring until well coated. Using a buttered spatula, press mixture into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Let it sit, then cut into 2-inch squares. For a s’mores variation of these bars, add chocolate chips and golden grahams to the marshmallow mixture!

Ramen Noodles

At under a dollar per pack, ramen noodles are the cheapest meal in the grocery store, which is why they’re also the iconic college student food. But if you’re getting bored of your typical ramen, check out these awesome variations!

ramen noodles

If you’re craving some Chinese buffet…Turn your noodles into chicken lo mein! Cook the ramen noodles according to the directions on the packet. Then sauté chicken with soy sauce in a pan (you can buy frozen strips at the grocery store!) and add whatever vegetables you have in the kitchen to the mix. Onions, peppers, zucchini and carrots are all great additions. Once the veggies and the chicken are cooked, just add in the drained noodles from the ramen container and sauté together for a few minutes (add more soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste).

If you’re feeling Italian… Make ramen with alfredo sauce! Again, cook the noodles according to the package directions. Then heat a half cup of butter and a half cup of light cream or milk in a sauce pan until the butter melts. Add parmesan cheese (grated), salt and pepper to the butter and cream. Let the mixture sit on the stove for about five minutes until it thickens, then add the drained ramen noodles!

If you like pasta salads… Make a crunchy Asian noodle salad with this yummy Kraft-inspired recipe! Buy a packet of Italian dressing mix (Good Seasons is the recommended brand on Kraft’s site) and add a half cup of sugar and two Tablespoons of soy sauce to the dressing. Cook two packages of the ramen noodles and place the drained noodles in a large bowl. Then add green onions (about two, diced), a half cup sunflower seeds, a half cup almonds and a large package of coleslaw blend (which is also known as cabbage slaw mix). Toss with dressing and enjoy!

Crescent Rolls

If you want to make anything with dough, these packaged rolls will be your best friends! Try some of the delicious variations below and impress your friends (or boyfriend) with your culinary skills. Who has to know that it came from a can?

crescent pizza french bread pizza pepperoni 

If you’re craving pizza…Unroll the dough and separate it into four rectangles, then press lightly with your thumbs on the perforation lines to seal them. Roll the rectangles out to thin the dough and arrange your choice of toppings in the middle third of the dough, covering the toppings with tomato sauce and cheese. Shredded apples and cheddar cheese make a delicious non-traditional pizza, but we also love Hawaiian style (with pineapples and Canadian bacon) or plain ol’ pepperoni! Fold the dough over to meet the center and pinch the edges together, leaving the middle open to create a pocket, then bake at 375 for 13-16 minutes or until golden brown (thanks Pillsbury for this great idea)!

For a homemade Hot Pocket… Follow the directions above but fill your pocket with ham and cheddar cheese, or turkey and Swiss cheese, or your other favorite sandwich combinations. Adding Dijon mustard or other condiments is also delicious!

If you want to spice up regular crescent rolls… Pop open the container and lay out the dough in triangles. Add butter, parmesan cheese, garlic powder or other cheeses to the center of the crescents before you roll them up. Then just stick your creations into the oven at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes!

Cake Mix

You all know how to follow the directions on the box and make a traditional cake, but here are some other fun ways to use that mix!

cake mix balls

If you’re craving funfetti cake… Mix up your routine and try making funfetti cookies! In a bowl, combine funfetti cake mix with 1/3 cup of oil and two eggs (this is different from the directions that you’ll see on the box). Then stir the dough and shape it into balls. Place these on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for six to eight minutes. Buy rainbow chip frosting at the store (or any other type) to frost the cookies once they’ve cooled!

If you love peanut butter… Use yellow cake mix to make delicious peanut butter cookies! Mix together a packet of yellow cake mix, two eggs and 1/3 cup of vegetable oil. Stir in ¾ cup of peanut butter once the ingredients have turned into dough. Then shape the dough into balls and roll in granulated white sugar before placing each cookie on a greased cookie sheet. Once on the sheet, use a fork to make a cross-hatch pattern on the top of each cookie and to flatten the dough. Bake these for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees!

If you want to impress your friends…Use your cake mix to make truffles (you don’t even have to bake them!). Beat together ½ cup of sugar and ½ cup of butter with an electric mixer. Then add 1 cup of yellow cake mix, 1.5 cups of flour, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and mix all together. Add three Tablespoons of milk (or more as needed) to turn the mixture into dough. Then mix in sprinkles for a fun twist and shape the dough into balls. Place on a wax/ parchment paper-lined pan and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. While the truffles are chilling, melt a bag of semisweet chocolate chips in the microwave. Dip balls into chocolate using a fork and place them back into the refrigerator until set – yum!


So there you have it, collegiettes! If you’re feeling bored with your typical dinner of mac n’cheese or ramen noodles, try some of these fun ideas to mix up your menu. Bon appétit!

Share your own favorite recipes with us below!

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