College is an exciting time for millions of teenagers all around the world. It’s a time for self-discovery and exploring what you want to do for the rest of your life. For the most part, it’s also a time for moving away from home and doing everything for yourself. Doing your laundry, cleaning up, and budgeting are just some of the things you need to learn while you’re at college. And, oh, don’t forget about cooking!
That’s right, you can’t just rely on takeout and unhealthy packaged foods like ramen and Doritos forever! You need to learn how to prepare healthy foods that will nourish you and give you the energy to make it through all of your classes. It might seem a little intimidating at first, but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. You just got to make sure you’ve got the following kitchen essentials on hand as a college student.
As a former college student, I can tell you the most important thing to have in your dormitory or apartment kitchen (especially if shared!) is your own set of utensils. Bowls, spoons, forks, glasses… you need a set that’s entirely yours because college kids love to take shared utensils to their rooms or just leave them molding in the sink waiting for somebody else to clean them.
With your own set, you can be the only one to use them and wash them. Just make sure to take them back to your rooms lest someone steals them for themselves.
2. Kitchen Gadgets
Kitchen gadgets are sort of like utensils, but you can afford to leave them in the college kitchen. They’re things like can openers, toasters, microwaves, cutting boards, kitchen scissors, rice cookers, and electric kettles that don’t really need much upkeep and don’t get used very often for too long. So, you don’t have to worry about them getting lost or stolen.
Plus, it would just be weird to have something like a microwave lying around beside your bed—they’re way too heavy to lug every time you cook. Besides, it’s just nice to share things like that with your roommates—you can let them borrow your coffee machine in exchange for using their rice cooker, for example!
3. Cleaning Supplies
You can’t cook healthy foods if the kitchen is a pigsty! What’s the point of whipping up a healthy meal if your pots are filled with gunk, the knives stained with unknown substances, and the cupboards infested with roaches? You need to make sure you clean all areas of the kitchen at least once a week.
First, you need dish-cleaning supplies. Dish soap, sponge, and towels are some of the basics you need. You can clean off excess food and gunk from your utensils and dry them off for easy use. Don’t forget stain removers and sink uncloggers too!
Next, you need kitchen-cleaning supplies. This refers to brooms, mops, and dustpans that’ll get rid of any spilled food items, dust, and dirt plaguing the kitchen. You really don’t want any of that lying around because they’re a hazard—you can easily slip and fall if you’re not careful!
Lastly, you need garbage bags to help move leftover food and trash out of the kitchen and into the dumpster.
4. Basic Ingredients
We’re not expecting you to have a well-stocked pantry, of course. You’re a college student—you need to save that money for textbooks and other expensive school stuff! However, you do need to have at least some of the basics so you can cook meals in a flash.
Your ingredients list will depend entirely on your preferences. For example, I personally liked having carbohydrates like bread, rice, and pasta at all times because they were easy to prepare. I could make all sorts of sandwiches, rice bowls, and pasta and save money by having most of the ingredients on hand already. They were also great because they lasted long in the fridge. With fruits and veggies, you almost always had to eat them within a few days, which wasn’t ideal for me because I was almost always too busy with schoolwork.
We also recommend having condiments and spices. They may not seem like much, but they add a ton of flavor to your food. Add some oomph to regular scrambled eggs or make wicked fried rice!
5. Leftover Items
Reusable containers, lunch boxes, water jugs, and utensil kits are super useful for those tight on a budget. These will help you save money by storing excess food so you can eat them at a later time. You can either refrigerate food so you can have it for your next meal or take it with you to class and eat it during your lunch breaks. In fact, I used to store lots of leftover free food from the cafeteria so I can take it with me the next day to class.
You can also use them for meal prep. If you don’t know what that is, that’s making a huge batch of food that you then divide into portions. You can have a whole week’s worth of meals done in just one day. You don’t have to waste time thinking of what to eat or risk ordering takeout because you were too lazy to cook.
While it’s super important to eat healthily, sometimes it just isn’t possible if you’ve got a mountain of coursework or too many extracurricular activities. At that point, you just want to focus on getting fed instead of skipping meals.
Luckily, there are plenty of easy meals in the kitchen that are perfect for the typical college student. As we mentioned earlier, instant ramen is the quintessential meal—just pop it in a pot and have a bowl of noodles in less than five minutes! There are also meals that you just add hot water to (e.g., pasta), meals you put in the microwave (e.g., frozen dinners), meals you put in the oven (e.g., frozen pizza), or even meals that can be eaten straight out of the box (e.g., cereal). Take a good look around your grocery store—you’ll be surprised at how many convenient food items you can find!
Staying healthy while in university doesn’t have to be difficult. It just means investing in the proper kitchen utensils and gadgets, knowing what ingredients to have stocked in the kitchen, and knowing how to not let any food go to waste especially as a college student. With your health in check, you can instead focus your attention on excelling in university, making new friends, and being excited for your journey to adulthood!