Going off on your own for the first time can seem overpowering. The last thing you want to think about is how you’re going to feed yourself. Although most universities provide a cafeteria, in the long run that’s not very tempting, and eating at a restaurant every day gets expensive. But what do you need to be able to cook on your own? Here are a few necessities for tasty dorm cooking.
Man cannot live on Ramen noodles and cereal alone. You’ll need fresh fruit, vegetables, and dairy products, at least sometimes, so a fridge is an essential. Besides, where else are you going to chill your beverages?
The best part of waking up. Or in certain cases, staying up after an all-nighter. It is way cheaper to make your own than to buy Starbucks every morning, and you can buy one for practically nothing. Just remember the travel mug and you’re good to go.
Notwithstanding the two A.M. infomercials, a microwave cannot do everything. To make real, palatable, food you’ll need some kind of oven. These things also work as a toaster, so you just cut out any need for a second appliance. Be conscious that they’re small, so usually a full-sized pizza is out of the question. But you’d be surprised at the usefulness of the little things.
Editor’s note: Remember, toasters ovens may not be allowed where you live. You know the reason.
– Speaking of usefulness, a microwave is a marvelous machine. I’m sure you’re well versed in the usage of them, so I won’t prattle on. Get one. You’ll need it.
We all have our preferred foods, but I guarantee you’ll go blank when it comes to actually cooking it. For any meal more complex than mac and cheese, pull out your faithful cookbook. “The Joy of Cooking” covers just about everything, but you can get more specific (or better illustrated) cookbooks if you need them. I recommend a used book store, as they can get expensive.
Something to eat with would be a good idea. I know how enjoyable it is to eat with your fingers, but soup and steak have a propensity to make that a bit difficult. A good steak knife is a requirement; you can use it to cut anything. Butter knifes (try to find ones with a few teeth on them), forks, regular spoons and a serving spoon, a spatula (you’ll use it more than you think), and measuring spoons and cups should set you up right.
Also, you’ll need something to eat on. You cannot just lean over the sink! Brace yourself and get some plates (big and small), bowls (soup and serving/mixing), and some cups and mugs. Do not settle for paper plates and plastic cups; one day you’ll run out and then where will you be? Besides, it’s more environmentally responsible to wash a dish than it is to add more plastic to landfills.
Remember what I said about soup? Not all cans have an easy open pop-top, so buy a can opener. The electric ones are more costly, and you really don’t need it. Just get a simple manual one and use those typing muscles!
Electric skillet or hotplate
Another crucial tool for appetizing food preparation. I’m a carnivore myself, and I definitely don’t want to bake my steak or burgers! Either of the options works well, but just remember; if you choose the hot plate, you’ll need a pot and a pan to cook with. I recommend buying cast iron. It’s heavy, but it holds heat well and cooks food evenly, so you’re less likely to burn your meal.
As with the toaster oven, make sure this heated item is allowed where you live.
Casserole dish and cookie sheet
These are only viable if you opted for the toaster oven! Most toaster ovens are sold with a small baking sheet, which usually works okay. If your toaster oven didn’t include a baking sheet, find out the size the oven can hold before buying one. You’ll need something to cook your food on when you’re baking. Why buy a casserole dish too? I have one word for you: brownies. Well, actually any cake or cake-like thing. But you’ll be stunned by how many dishes you’ll end up baking in your casserole dish. Just verify, once again, that it’ll fit in the oven.
Those are the basics. This list of kitchen essentials isn’t just for dorm dwellers and college students. Anyone on their own for the first time, particularly those on a budget, needs to obtain these indispensable ingredients for a happy, productive cooking experience. The rest of the doodads out there are just icing on the cake. Mmm… cake.