Student Masterchef: Surprise Mystery Box Challenge

An alternative to pesky meal planning, student edition

Illustration by Alice Zhang

Written by: Ana Staskevich, Staff Writer
Illustration by: Alice Zhang 

As students, we all know how tedious buying groceries and meal planning (actual meal planning, not buying a pizza and rationing it for a week) can be. Not all of us are pro-chefs; in your darkest hour, when you haven’t found a good recipe or gone grocery shopping in days, that’s when the Surprise Mystery Box Challenge test begins. What are some ways you can make dinner from the scavenged ingredients you find in the crevices of your house? 

Payday Is Tomorrow And This Is All I Have


  • 1 lone egg that got left behind in the carton
  • 2 stray packs of ramen that you locked away in your bedside drawer as a last resort
  • Some pieces of ham that have been chilling at the bottom of your fridge for like months but you insist they’re still good

This is far from the meal of champions, but it is a traditional staple of broke-ass student cuisine. The inspiration for this Mystery Box comes from having $5 to your name and waiting for the next direct deposit to hit.

The end result should be hastily thrown together and presented without thought, much like an undergrad essay. 

First, cook the ramen as instructed on the packaging, most of us will know when it’s done based on muscle memory. After the hot water softens the noodles to chewable, the egg is added in to cook with them, although the yolk usually doesn’t boil properly and it becomes one with the ramen-water (delicious!). Cutting up some questionable bits of ham adds a bit of extra protein, and they work as a perfect garnish to an already low-budget ramen bowl. 

Eleven’s Instant Eggos


  • 3 freezer burnt Eggo waffles
  • ½ of a remaining pack of dino chicken nuggets you had to hide from your roommate
  • A sliver of butter that has been thriving and solidifying in the freezer from the renter before you  
  • A bottle of honey that you stole from the work office kitchen during a time of emergency

Sometimes you really want to have breakfast for dinner, but on a budget. Luckily, this Mystery Box has the perfect contents to battle the cravings of greasy diner food. 

People say freezer burns often render the food nearly inconsumable, but you can’t afford to have taste buds. For this Mystery Box, the waffles are first put into a toaster to warm them up. The butter is used to grease the pan (over medium heat) so you can fry the shrivelled-up dino nuggets. Then, since you’re too lazy to do the pile of dirty dishes in your sink, you can just flip over the lid of the pan and eat your waffles and golden-turned-charcoal nuggets off of that like the animal you are. Once the honey is drizzled on, it really brings the meal together — chicken waffles à la mode! Bone Apple Tea!

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome


  • 2 slices of white bread that are starting to look a bit funky, but you can just cut off the weird bits
  • 1 hot dog wiener that you have been saving as a prized possession this past week
  • Mustard and ketchup packets at the bottom of your backpack that you got from the cornerstone A&W 
  • Leftover butter (optional)

Honestly, this Mystery Box might be a recreation of a typical elementary school lunch program meal, but it still slaps. Good hot dogs are hard to come by, so sometimes all you have to work with are slices of Wonder Bread and a disappointingly sized wiener. But worry not: these Mystery Box contents are not without a proper end result.

The pieces of bread can be buttered up so as to avoid dryness, and the hot dog wiener is simply placed between the two slices. Mustard and ketchup (relish is too bougie to be included here) go on the wiener to get rid of that cardboard taste. While the meal is one that is pretty hard to hold, a truly needy student will definitely not discriminate in eating it.