The College Kitchen I Wish I Had

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By Jonathan Able

When prepping for college, I had everything all lined up: coordinating extra-long twin bed sheets, a college-ruled notebook for every class, one of those really annoying graphic calculators, and of course, my day-planner.

What I didn’t have was a kitchen.

You see, life on campus is really kind of this cruel survival-of-the-fittest game pitted on teenagers just barely old enough to make life decisions on their own, let alone know how to cook a frittata.

“Okay, so look,” I would think to myself, “you expect me to live on my own, and cook for myself, too? What do you think this is, Little House on the Prairie?”

But I survived, thanks to the help of a generous meal plan, and plenty of Ramen noodles. Eventually I would move off campus, and into an apartment of my own. It had the standard white walls, a cream carpet, and a gated entrance. I was living the college dream.

“...Wait. This apartment doesn’t come stocked with three meals a day?” You can tell I was a pretty disillusioned college student.

I had to learn, and learn fast, how to find ways to well, survive. I mean, in all seriousness, survival wasn’t really as much of a goal as was, say, waking up for class on time. So, in looking back at my formative years, if I had to pass along some words of wisdom to would-be college students, and mothers of college students, it would be summed up in the following list:

The Quintessential College Kitchen Needs

GROCERIES Duh. This is a given. But what should you buy? Generally, I like to stick to the basics, because with basics you can go most anywhere.

Milk, eggs and bread – The trifecta in groceries. If you have these three items, you will always have a meal.

Cereals – What’s easier than a bowl of cereal and milk?

Salad fixin’s – Bagged lettuce, or heads of lettuce, and then whatever else
you’d like to go on top. Nuts, fruits, croutons, cheeses. Salads are super simple to make, and they’re a great place to explore flavors.

Canned soups and vegetables - These have longer shelf lives than buying fresh. They’re also cheaper. Of course fresh is better, but when you’re in and out of study groups, a college student can be kind of crunched for time. It’d be worse to have your fresh veggies, and consequently all that money, go bad.

Proteins - Ground beef, chicken breasts that you can freeze, and lunchmeats for on-the-go sandwiches, etc. I always tried to have a protein of some kind paired with a vegetable and an additional side, like rice or potatoes.

Instant meals – This is a broad category. This can include minute rice, instant grits, or just-add-water sides. You may also consider picking up a few freezer meals. Most grocery stores these days have great options that are cost-effective, too.

TOOLS When you’re planning your first college kitchen, you might be just as clueless as I was. Here’s a list of things that would have made my life a lot easier.

Pots and Pans – A good set of pots and pans should include a stockpot, a few saucepans, and skillets.

Measuring cups – Contrary to popular belief, measuring cups are different than drinking cups. Who knew?

Knives – Just remember, a sharp knife is a safe knife. Or something like that.

Food storage – Since you’re going to be cooking, you’ll likely have leftovers. Save money by storing your leftovers in airtight containers.

Slow cooker – With a slow cooker, you can set something up in the morning and have it cook while you’re at class. You’ll enjoy coming home to a freshly cooked meal. Another great way to have leftovers.

Like I said, these are really just the basics so that you’ll be able to put food on your plate every day. An expanded list might include mixing bowls, bakeware, and a hand mixer... but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

And in closing, enjoy college!

Jonathan Able, Online Editor for PaulaDeen.com, is a Savannah transplant and received a BFA in Theatre from Valdosta State University where he spent many hours memorizing scripts and working on his Meisner technique. Recently, he has decided to tackle single-handedly a formerly unknown territory...the kitchen...and he looks forward to sharing his adventures here. His favorite color is green and he's never met a carb he didn't like.
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54321

PAULA I AIN'T KNOW YOU WENT TO COLLEGE WHERE YOU WENT TO COLLEGE

By CRYSTAL on August 24, 2011

54321

Thanks Cindy! So glad you found it useful!

By Jonathan Able on August 19, 2011

54321

Jonathan, I love this!!! Great information for everyone. I will be forwarding it to my son. Thanks for the great post. Cindy

By Cindy Edwards on August 19, 2011

54321

This is great! I wish I had read this before I went away to college! Your blogs are really helpful Jonathan!!!!

By Jenny on August 19, 2011

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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 10:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 4:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm