My oldest is going off to college 2500 miles from home in the upcoming months and while we were looking at housing options and meal plans, I started thinking about my own college days. For two of the four years I was in school, I was fortunate to live in a co-op. And what that meant was instead of being on a meal plan and eating in the dining halls, my housemates and I pooled our money, planned weekly menus and took turns shopping and cooking together. It was a great money saver and it turned us all into pretty decent cooks without breaking the bank.
The nice thing about it was that the school provided everything we needed in terms of kitchen gadgetry. If the toaster broke, they replaced it at no cost to us. Unfortunately, most people in their college years and their early twenties don’t have that luxury. But, setting up a kitchen and eating well do not have to be unaffordable indulgences. In fact, simple, delicious meals shouldn’t wreak havoc on your budget nor bog you down over the stove for hours.
So I decided to start this blog for my kids and their friends, and anyone in college or in their twenties who is setting up a kitchen for the first time and might need some help. It will, hopefully, discourage from relying on takeout, packaged foods, or subscribing to those meal-in-a-box delivery services that promise to save you money (they won’t). Hopefully, instead, it will encourage shopping wisely and healthily and show what a joy cooking is once you have a few basic recipes under your belt.
Before you hit the kitchen aisle at Target, or you venture into Williams Sonoma and buy a pot you can’t afford, please resist the urge to splurge. You want to furnish your kitchen with the essentials but many of these items can be found at garage sales or in second-hand shops or even in your empty-nester parents’ house, especially if they are looking to downsize.
That said, here is what I suggest to get you up and running:
Plates, glasses and utensils
3-4 pots of different sizes with lids (one should be large enough to boil a pound of pasta)
Nonstick skillets (one medium, one smaller for omelettes)
Serrated knife (for cutting breads and tomatoes)
Bowls for mixing
Spoon, spatula and tongs
A slow cooker (you can find them for as low as $20 on Amazon)
Coffee maker and/or tea kettle
Measuring cups and spoons
1-2 cookie sheets
1-2 serving dishes
Pot holders and dish towels
Digital cooking thermometer
Other small appliances that can be helpful but aren’t crucial include a food processor, immersion blender for making soups, microwave oven if your apartment doesn’t have one, and a hand-held mixer. A salad spinner is handy, too.
Once you’ve begun to fill your cabinets, we can start the show.