9 Genius Cafeteria Hacks Because You Deserve More Than Mystery Meat

There are two kinds of people who walk voluntarily into the campus dining hall. The first is bewildered freshmen, who have yet to experience the horrors of mystery meat and unidentifiable slop. But you? You are the second kind, the one who’s been there, done that; you’ve had the goulash and lived to tell the tale. Now, brave soul that you are, you’re returning to enemy territory and — against all odds — coming out with the beginnings of something glorious.

We know what you’re thinking. Why bother with the cafeteria at all? There’s only so much you can do with sloppy joes and fish sticks, right? Wrong. With a few ingredients and a little creativity, you’re just one trip to the dining hall away from mouthwatering poutine and hearty gorditas. So stock up on Tupperware and get in there, Mission Impossible-style — let’s show the lunch lady who’s boss.

Image: Damn Delicious

Bagel French Toast

Got nothing but stale bagels left for dead? Turn them into a quirky French toast, à la My Name Is Yeh.

Image: My Name Is Yeh

The Waffle BLT

Waffle days are the best days — especially when there’s bacon involved. Thanks, Family Fresh Cooking!

Image: Family Fresh Cooking

Baja Fish Tacos

So you ended up with a few bland fish sticks. Bring them back to life with Half Baked Harvest’s citrus-loaded fish tacos. Take note, cafeteria: This is how you do Taco Tuesday.

Image: Half Baked Harvest

Bacon-Wrapped Tater Tots

Chances are, those Tater Tots have been sitting out for a while — but with a little bacon and some oven time, they’ll be crisped to perfection. Damn Delicious breaks it down.

Image: Damn Delicious

Corned Beef Poutine

This recipe comes courtesy of our friends up north in Montreal. Closet Cooking shows us how to turn ordinary French fries into the most mind-blowing, gravy-smothered, cheese-topped creation.

Image: Closet Cooking

Fried Mozzarella Stacks

If you pair your mozzarella sticks with nectarines and basil, you can call them a well-rounded meal. We won’t tell. Thanks, Half Baked Harvest!

Image: Half Baked Harvest

Sloppy José Gorditas

There’s a whole new world of sloppy joes out there. Take a cue from Pass the Sushi and top your meat with lettuce, cheese, and cilantro — all served up on a butter biscuit.

Image: Pass the Sushi

Sloppy Joes with Avocado and a Fried Egg

Everything is just a little more bearable when we have fried eggs — especially atop our sloppy joes. Damn Delicous pairs hers with a few slices of creamy avocado.

Image: Damn Delicious

Chocolate Cake Balls

When life gives you dry cake, make cake balls. Half Baked Harvest uses her own chocolate cake, but feel free to run with whatever you managed to snag from the dining hall. Crumble it, mix it with cream cheese, and then dip it in chocolate — we won’t judge if you eat the whole batch during your next all-nighter.

Image: Half Baked Harvest