Back to uni: a guide to what you need in your student kitchen

Kitchenware

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​​For some, spending the day at Ikea filling the trolley with kitchen equipment for uni is the perfect day out. For others, kitting out an empty kitchen might seem like a daunting task; with so much to remember to bring, you might worry you’ll leave behind that all-important vegetable peeler or colander. Whilst some things, like crockery and cutlery, and pots and pans, are always ubiquitous in student houses, other kitchen essentials are often in short supply. So, to facilitate your shopping and packing, we’ve compiled a list of key equipment that isn’t so commonplace. Bring these tools to your uni kitchen and you will be loved by your housemates for making food preparation a breeze!

Firstly, some undeniably important items that will transform your student kitchen:

  • Tupperware (a must-have for meal prep and leftovers)
  • Roasting tin (to cook everything from roasted vegetables to frozen chicken nuggets)
  • Cast-iron skillet (the most versatile kitchen tool as it can go from stove top to oven to make anything you need)
  • Mixing bowl (use it to toss a salad in dressing, make cakes and serve snacks)
  • Sharp knife (there’s nothing worse than a dull knife!)
  • Vegetable peeler (a small, but essential, item)
  • Can opener (not all tins have ring pulls)
  • Bag-closing clips (keep foods fresh and prevent waste)
  • Oven gloves (save your tea towels to dry things)
  • Corkscrew/bottle opener (no explanation needed!)

However, if you want to do some serious cooking, or you’re looking to hone your culinary skills, these items will be a godsend:

  • Immersion blender (blend soups and make sauces in an instant)
  • Weighing scales (useful for following recipes and portioning ingredients)
  • Wok (become a stir-fry master and use it to feed a crowd)
  • Salad spinner (no more soggy, wet salads!)
  • Fridge locker (easy to get online and perfect if you have to use a college-wide communal fridge/freezer OR if someone keeps stealing your food)

Having a cupboard that’s well stocked will make you popular with flatmates…

Drinks

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When I first came to university, I was so preoccupied with packing my car full of pots, pans and overloaded shopping bags that I completely forgot about drinks. Having a cupboard that’s well-stocked will make you popular with flatmates when you’re the only one with a mixer, or have the missing ingredient for a cocktail recipe! 

For those of you that are alcohol drinkers, I’d recommend bringing one or two spirits that you particularly enjoy. These could be:

  • Vodka (I’d recommend something flavoured, my personal favourites are raspberry and watermelon)
  • Gin (you can’t go wrong with pink gin for a fresh and fragrant taste, plus a pretty bedroom decoration) 
  • Baileys Irish Cream (this is a great drink to have in the fridge; the notes of cream and cocoa will make you feel like you’re having a gourmet iced coffee) 

If you’re not so into spirits, then perhaps you could pack a bottle of rosé or white wine. These are great to drink on their own, to pour into a risotto, or to add to spirits and muddled fruit to make a mouth-watering spritzer.  

Alcohol aside, there are several soft drinks that make for great mixers, mocktails and midday refreshments. These might be:

  • Lemonade
  • Squash or cordial (my go-to is elderflower)
  • Fruit juice 
  • Tonic water

Finally, I’d recommend buying a water filter. You can buy jugs for about £10, which will remove contaminants and debris from your water. Lots of students complain about drinking tap water, so this is an inexpensive and easy way to make it a little more tolerable! 

Go-to ingredients will get you through the rough winter or a Covid-19 lockdown or 3 am cravings.

Food staples

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Your kitchen won’t be made until you have the ingredients to fill your belly! For me, there are two types of non-negotiable staples: the things you need when you’re out of everything else and need something quick and easy to make AND the stuff which you buy once and it lasts and lasts and makes every meal taste like a restaurant.

The fast and the facile

These go-to ingredients will get you through the rough winter or a Covid-19 lockdown or 3 am cravings. The key to these is that they must last long, be easy to cook and take no time. And the best bit is, like an LBD (little black dress) these can be dressed up or dressed down for an emergency meal or a tasteful delight.

The carbs:

  • Dry pasta (any sort from 20p spaghetti to the pasta animals)
  • Rice (basmati, jasmine, long-grain, whatever it is it’s a must-have)
  • Sliced bread (just younger than the Queen and just like her, still a staple)
  • Canned beans (whether baked beans, black beans or chickpeas – these are a great carb and protein combo)
  • Flour (‘will I use it?’ Why yes, you will. Trust me.)
  • Potatoes (does this one even need explaining?)

The produce:

  • Onions (last long, make food taste better, what’s not to love)
  • Garlic (same as above, plus it’s great for the heart)
  • Cooked beetroots (these things last crazy long in the refrigerator)
  • Canned anything
  • Pickled anything
  • Frozen anything
  • Passata/Canned tomatoes (pasta sauce anyone?)
  • Long-lasting fruits (satsumas, raisins, etc)

The proteins:

  • Canned beans (they’re so good, I put them twice!)
  • Frozen meat and fish
  • Tofu
  • Canned meats
  • Canned fish
  • Eggs
  • Protein powder (I mean, it does store well)

The dairy:

  • Cheese (fun fact: you can freeze cheese and make it last longer
  • Milk from the non-cold aisle
  • Milk alternatives
  • Butter

The others:

  • Nut butters
  • Chocolate spreads
  • Jams
  • Jellies
  • Pot Noodles
  • Sugar
  • Tea
  • Nuts
  • Crisps 
  • Oil (olive, vegetable, grape, coconut, etc)
The bare lush necessities

These ingredients, while not necessities to live, are necessary to make your meal come alive. From spices to spicy sauces to condiments, these foods are the simple touches that make a meal go from filling to nourishing. Most items below will last you a lifetime, at least the lifetime of your lease, both in not needing a refill and not expiring.

The herbs and spices:

  • Salt (honestly, this should have gone above)
  • Pepper grinder (same)
  • Cumin (heads up: add this to your tomato stews and help stave off acid reflux)
  • Tumeric
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried and ground coriander
  • Dried rosemary
  • Onion and garlic powder/granules
  • White pepper
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Spoked paprika
  • cayenne pepper
  • Curry powder

Condiments:

  • Ketchup
  • Mayo
  • Mustard
  • Brown sauce
  • Hot sauce

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