I love to cook, but after 4 years in college, two things have become very clear to me:
- There is a certain amount of functional counter space you need to cook a good meal.
- The provided counter space in your dorm room or first apartment will always be less than that amount.
Combine that inevitable lack of space with an incomplete set of kitchen tools, minimal cooking experience, and the chaotic schedule a college student often has, and cooking can quickly turn into an ordeal (pizza, anyone?).
But it doesn’t have to be this way. A little time management can go a long way, and starting off with the right items can make a big difference.
The other day I escorted a friend to the grocery store. We put away all her groceries only to find that when I opened her refrigerator, it was still empty. Baffled, I ransacked her cabinets, trying to see what went wrong. The problem? She had only bought snacks. Snack foods are good to have around, but if you don’t continually buy staple ingredients like eggs, bread and milk, you limit the variety of meals you can make. I try to make an effort to always buy a box of pasta noodles, a jar of sauce, and a couple of canned vegetables every time I grocery shop – they’re good for a quick meal and I know I’ll always need them.
Use the Right Tools
A garlic press won’t do you any good if you don’t have a sauté pan. The kitchenware aisle is partially to blame – they advertise hundreds, if not thousands of specialized gadgets that most people will never need. Start off simple with basic supplies like a few good knives, a frying pan, saucepans, and utensils like measuring spoons, a spatula and a whisk. Once you start cooking more often, you’ll be able to get a better understanding of what you need.
Keep it Organized
I can’t stress enough how important organization is in a small space, especially a heavily-used area like the kitchen. When setting up your kitchen, try to streamline the cooking process by leaving a big, open area to prepare food. Keep your pantry and cabinets arranged so you can use less time searching and more time making a meal. And be clever – you can often use items you wouldn’t think belong in the kitchen to create some great storage solutions. But above all that, make sure to keep it clean!
What’s on your kitchen essentials list? Find tricks for decorating and organizing a small kitchen here: