Letter: Setting up your First Kitchen

Letter: Setting up your First Kitchen


A couple months back I posted A Letter from an Unwilling Cook, a 60 year-old English man who was trying to find inspiration and motivation in the kitchen. I posted the letter with the hope that you (my readers) would have insight and advice to share beyond what I might tell him. The response was unbelievable - 220 comments!

I received another letter this week. This one is from Olivia, a student ready to embark on her first summer in an apartment on her own:

Hi Heidi,
I'm a college student on a meal plan, and seeing your updates gives me hope in food after another greasy cardboard-flavored meal at the dining hall. Anyways, this summer is the first of several where I'll be working an internship and have my own apartment. The whole situation is simultaneously exhilarating and daunting, especially in terms of figuring out the whole living on my own thing. Part of that is, naturally, food.

I've cooked at home plenty of times, and a few times at school after interrogating everyone I know in search of a pot or baking pan. I can make basic meals on my own and follow recipes easily, but I'm not sure about buying food--I've always worked from an already-stocked kitchen, or else just bought the ingredients for a single meal. Where do I start? What basic staples would you suggest? Thanks for any advice you've got!

Cheers,
Olivia

I thought I would open up the discussion to all of you.
I suspect many of you have recently been in her shoes, or maybe you have kids in college that are striking out on their own for the first time. What advice, suggestions, nuggets of knowledge do you have for Olivia? I suspect general guidance, basic equipment or pantry suggestions, personal stories, names of books and the like will all be much appreciated.

 
 
 
 
For new recipes & inspirations

Your Comments


Gretchen
May 22, 2007

When I was in this boat, my strategy was to figure out the two or three things I most wanted to eat and buy the ingredients and tools for those recipes. I think I started with spaghetti, which required a pasta pot and a saucepot, a colander, and a knife, and fajitas, which needed a saute pan and some aluminum foil (to warm the tortillas). Then I bought the food that went with those recipes. With the olive oil, the spices, the condiments, the parmigiano, and the leftovers from those meals, you can make almost any pasta dish or Mexican-style dish. For me, it was easier and cheaper to do it organically, recipe by recipe, than to plot out a massive shopping trip and go from there. And that covers you for dinners; you'll also want to have some food on hand for other times of day. We usually have cereal, milk, and yogurt on hand for breakfasts, veggies for snacking, and popcorn (which I make in a brown paper sack in the microwave so I can control the salt and fat content). And, of course, ice cream! My bottom line is that stocking a kitchen is not unlike what you've already done in putting single meals together. Just go week by week, plan out your meals in advance, and you'll accumulate what you need over time.

 

Amanda Robertson
May 22, 2007

I'm only a few years ahead of Heidi, and I remember it well. My biggest tip is to plan your menu for the week, and then build your grocery list from that.

As for staple items, mine include grains and pasta for quick meals, along with canned tomatoes, pesto, canned vegetables, canned fish, boxed stocks and broths. Flour, sugar, baking soda, packing powder, salt, butter/margarine, and olive oil. Essential, imo, is a fully stocked spice rack. Fully stocked is going to mean different things to different people. I like Mexican and Indian, so I have curry powder, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, taco seasoning. I couldn't live without Penzey's Spices California Seasoned Pepper. I like to bake, so I have a cupboard of extracts (real ones!) and dutch cocoa. Then there's the oregano, the basil, the sage, etc. I could go on, but I'd really recommend thinking about what you like to eat, and developing your pantry and spice rack from there.

 

Kevin
May 22, 2007

Well, there are a few tips that can help this transition into solo living go smooth.
1) Get a good pot, and a good saute pan. These will seem expensive at first, but good cookware w/thick bottoms help make the cooking experience way better (and reduces the risk of burning)
2) Keep the following on hand at all time; Chicken Stock, Tomatoes, Coconut Milk, Rice, Pasta, cereal, Milk, bread and coldcuts.
3) Invite friends over to eat because;
a) it's not much fun to cook for yourself
b) you shouldn't allow them to "cheap out", get them to bring either the side, or salad course.
From there, It's always nice to have something in the freezer that you can pull out for those days where you're wiped from work, and dont feel like going to the grocer, but it's always better to cook from fresh ingredients, so think about what you may like for dinner, and just pop into the grocer on your lunch break (it's less busy then) or on your way home, and pick up what you need for that night, and possibly tomorrow night.

That way it stays fresh and new, plus you can read this website and get ideas for tomorrow's meal etc.

 

Kathryn
May 22, 2007

Mark Bittman recently (May 9, 2007) had an article in the NYTimes about basic kitchen equipment needs "A No-Frills Kitchen Still Cooks." A quick search on that site should bring it up.

 

JaneA
May 22, 2007

Read this great article about cheaply equipping a kitchen from restaurant supply stores:
http://consumerist.com/consumer/cooking/eqp-your-kitchen-for-300-seriously-260591.phpui

 

Misty
May 22, 2007

I would focus on getting some quality hardware instead of quantity. A heavy dutch oven, sauce pan, and non-stick saute pan vs a cheap 25 piece set that will burn everything you cook. Also, a couple of decent knives and a sharpener.

I also like to have plenty of meat and poultry in the freezer, just in case I'm not in the mood for whatever was planned. If you're only cooking for one or two, this is easy. Make sure you have some freezer bags and split up packages of meat and/or poultry when you get home from the store. This will help prevent a lot of waste and un-eaten leftovers.

Good luck!

 

Ariane
May 22, 2007

Another suggestion I would add for starting to build a pantry is to avoid 'single use' items. For me this includes some of the more exotic ingredients that I would only use once or twice.

My favorite thing to do is variations on stirfry, so I just pick a meat that is on sale and looks good and a couple of veggies. Make a sauce or buy one and voila! All you need are a pot (with lid), a pan, knife, and cutting board.

 

Ann
May 22, 2007

Rice - always make extra, you can make the leftovers into fried rice. Canned black beans and red beans are great to have on hand. Frozen vegetables are a godsend. I second Amanda's comment - get some good spices, and once you start cooking things you like, your pantry will develop. give yourself the freedom to go to the store every other day if you have to -- it's better than having too many useless ingredients.

 

Jones
May 22, 2007

Olivia,

I sent my kids off to college and later, their own kitchens with a copy of THE JOY OF COOKING,(basic cooking techniques) a wok and a couple of good stainless steel pots and pans. They had had years of eating very basic whole foods, lots of lentil soup, vegetables and also brown rice, whole wheat bread. As adults they are both very good cooks and enjoy eating and sharing food. My daughter and I would find it difficult to cook w/o fresh herbs and we all follow the practice of going to the market, finding what is good looking and fresh and letting that be our inspiration.

Best of luck in your new adventure! There are so many wonderful foods available now and you can take your time developing your own kitchen and batterie de cuisine. Having brown rice on hand, if you like it, is a life saver and beans of all kinds are our friends.

Cheerio and happy cooking,
Jones

 

amarie
May 22, 2007

I'd suggest buying your pots and pans as you need them - with most sets, you end up with worthless pans that you rarely use.

Get a rice cooker or a small crock-pot. It's an easy way to prepare food while you're doing other things.


Get a good wooden or bamboo cutting board, and maybe a set of the flexible poly ones - they work great for transferring finely chopped things and can even be used as a funnel.

Get a good chef's knife (The Forschner Victorinox one is good - check for it on Amazon) and a paring knife or two. Again, the sets tend to be a little heavy on stuff you won't use often.

As far as things to keep on hand, I agree with what other commenters have said: it really depends on what you like.

Best of luck!

 

Miz Shoes
May 22, 2007

A salt mill and a pepper mill (just start by grinding your own, and never look back)
at least one good knife
a good cutting board
one cookbook you can rely on (I suggest the Silver Palate New Basics, or Martha Stewart's Basic)
a wooden spoon for stirring things

your pantry should have:
flour, baking soda and/or baking powder, sugar, olive oil, pasta, rice, fresh garlic (a friend who studied at CIA once told me that anything is edible when sauted in olive oil with garlic and lemon juice and I believe her), vinegar in any variety you choose (I like red wine vinegar) a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white suitable for drinking. (The Galloping Gourmet always said if it isn't fit for the cook, it isn't fit to cook with.)

your refrigerator should have:
butter, italian cheese of choice, cheddar cheese, olives, parsley, fresh lemons, scallions, eggs, bread, milk

You should be able to cook:
pasta without it being hard or mushy, biscuits from scratch, rice (ditto), eggs (scrambled, fried, baked or boiled), a grilled cheese sandwich, chocolate chip cookies from scratch, chili, mac and cheese from scratch.

Anything that comes in a box, ready to reconstitute, usually isn't worth eating. That includes mashed potatoes, rice, macaroni and cheese, gravy and biscuits.

The simplest food is comfort food, and once you can manage to boil an egg or saute a little garlic in olive oil to throw over pasta, you are on the road to culinary independence.

 

dan
May 22, 2007

- 12" Stainless steel All Clad saute pan
- 6" chefs knife w/ steel
- paring knife- good for cutting small things, peeling anything, etc.
- serrated bread knife- will cut bagels, tomatoes, artichokes, good for choping chocolate too.
- le creuset dutch oven, smaller and larger sizes
- rice cooker
learn a good risotto recipe- you can throw anything in it and its super easy and filling.

If you can, take a beginner food class (here in NYC Institute of Culinary Education is excellent) for knife skills and time saving techniques.

I agree with the single use tools, not necessary.

hope this helps!

 

Kate
May 22, 2007

The best advice I can give is BUY YOUR SPICES IN BULK. Find a health food/natural food store, and they will likely have their spices and dried herbs in large jars from which you can buy just a little baggie. This will infinitely enhance your cooking experience and save you tons of cash. Experimenting with seasonings is exciting and fun, but each jar at the supermarket costs at least four dollars. When you buy in bulk, the spices are probably fresher, and the amount you need might cost anywhere between fifteen cents and a dollar for something heavy like peppercorns. Seriously. Don't buy jarred spices.

 

MAS
May 22, 2007

Stocking is a kitchen is such a personal thing. What one person considers a basic is never used by another. So, if you find your basics are unlike anyone else's, that's normal and how it should be. And, this is true whether it's foods or tools.

Gretchen's comments above are exactly how I did it.

I would add to use a single cookbook as exploration, because frequently the recipes will call for the same tools, and will have a tools/staples section for the recipes in the cookbook. This, of course, isn't always true, so peruse the cookbook.

The library is an excellent source of cookbooks to scout out, as are many college and university libraries.

My first purchased cookbook was "The Apartment Vegetarian" by Lindsay Miller, and I completely wore it out.

Your particular taste will govern what foods and tools you need.


 

Alan
May 22, 2007

I second Amanda's remarks about planning a menu for the week. One of the great advantages to doing this when you're first starting out is that you don't need to worry about which staples to stock up on -- if you simply follow your menu plan and stock accordingly you will automatically end up with the staples appropriate to your eating habits.

When you're in a new area I recommend shopping at a variety of stores until you're familiar with prices and quality. If you can find a good farmer's market, definitely check it out. Near me is a vast market with high-quality produce and spices that are ridiculously cheap compared to what I find at the local grocery.

Get a couple of good cookbooks with very basic recipes and good advice. I highly recommend "Joy of Cooking" and "Good Housekeeping Cook Book" -- both are chock full of information about various foods and their use, storage, and preparation. Both also have an excellent selection of basic recipes. When you're starting out, the recipes are excellent for learning various cooking techniques. As your cooking skills improve, they lend themselves well to providing bases for your own recipes. Nowadays I rarely follow the recipes from either cookbook exactly, but I still find both to be indispensible references.

I'd also recommend that you get one or two other cookbooks that follow a style or mode of preparation that appeals to you -- an ethnic cookbook, maybe, or something focusing on easy, quick recipes? Something with a little more flavor and creativity than "Joy" or "Housekeeping". The web, of course, is also a great reference, and I frequently use recipes from foodnetwork.com and epicurious.com, as well as blogs like this one. I generally dislike cooks.com because the recipes (which are user-submitted) are a bit heavy on the processed food for me, but if it floats your boat then by all means use it.

Finally, one thing that made cooking so much easier and more pleasurable for me was a good, sharp knife. For years I got by with cheap chef's and utility knives from Ikea or the local grocery store and, while it saved a little money, it caused years of aggravation. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a good knife -- Forschner makes a chef's knife under the Victorinox name that is excellent for its price. It costs about $30 and won't last forever like a properly cared-for $100 knife will, but the difference between it and the $12 grocery-store chef's knife is like the difference between a spoon and a steak knife! Just make sure you get a block or something to store it in so you don't wreck the blade. (The paring and utility knives from the same manufacturer have been outstanding.)

 

Tyler Hunt
May 22, 2007

The way I handled stocking my first kitchen was to pick out a few recipes that I wanted to make, and then make a grocery list of the ingredients that I would need, and a list of the tools I didn't yet have. (Alton Brown likes to call these things the software and the hardware.) That way I could be sure to only buy what I really needed, and I wouldn't have to buy everything at once.

The most surprising thing to me was the cost of stocking the spice cabinet. This is one place where this tactic was especially advantageous, as about 70% of the cost of those first few meals was spent on herbs and spices.

 

Caitlin
May 22, 2007

As a current college student that loves to cook, I understand exactly where you're coming from. First I'd suggest taking stock of how much time you'll be working, and if you'll have projects to finish at home. If you're going to be really super busy, trust me, you're not going to feel like cooking that often. If this is the case, I would suggest that you make big batches of stuff like spaghetti sauce and soup and chili and stick them in the freezer. That way, all you have to do is microwave it when you get home. If you DO feel like cooking a lot, I would go with weekly or bi-weekly shopping, that way you'll always have fresh stuff around.

Also, I noticed in your letter that you're not getting a full-term lease, just one for the summer. Then you'll be moving back into the dorms (or wherever) for the school year, I'm assuming? If that's true, then I would also caution that you don't get ahead of yourself and fully stock your kitchen with cooking gear. You are definitely not going to want to haul around a set of Le Creuset when you're moving back into the dorms, and then back into an apartment, and then back... etc. Just buy the essentials (sauce pan, maybe a casserole dish, etc.), and then when you've moved into your first real 12-month lease apartment, think about expanding your collection.

 

Claire
May 22, 2007

Ann has great advice. For someone on limited budget and experience, start simple. Don't kill yourself to get eh best equipment out there. A good spoon, tongs, 2qt pot, 9in saute, and cookie sheet are a good start. If you have good friends: BORROW!

If I had to do it all again: Beans, rice, barley, garlic, fresh greens (kale, collard, mustard) are inexpensive, nutritious and filling. It's not glamourous, but it'll keep you healthy and fed. Try also ethnic markets, the best produce/meats at reasonable prices.

Re: spices - SIMPLE. Pick out what you know you will use (and like) and expand your selection as the knowledge of how to use them and the budget increase. Salt, pepper, garlic, AND grow your own herbs in pots on the window.

 

Andrea
May 22, 2007

How exciting! Im just a few years ahead of you as well.

In terms of your hardware, 1 med. size pot, one or two pans, a few knives (even those cheap packs of 4 steak knives work for everything), and a few other utensils is that that you NEED!

I agree fully that having your basics around always is great (pasta, protein - meat, tofu, tuna??, basic condiments - oil, basic herbs and spices, etc.) You can even be creative with that as well. Quinoa or couscous instead of rice is always a very quick, healthy and delicious alternative. Frozen veggies are somtimes good, and so are frozen fries (theyre better if you make them yourself, but if youre feeling lazy its a great quick fix.)

Then, you can get your produce once a week or so. Get what you think youll use in one week - bag of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, garlic, onion, some fruit, maybe a bunch of a fresh herb (its a cheap way to help out your dishes.. basil, cilantro, mint??). Milk, eggs - those are great to have around too... they come in handy all the time, yogurt maybe? And then if you need to run to the store for that one thing you forgot, lucky we live in a world where we can do that.

You'll figure it out. My brother joked that I could barely boil water before my sophomore year. Im far from there now... GOOD LUCK!

 

Silvia
May 22, 2007

Make lists of everything you use as you go. I sort my lists by market. Supermarket, fishstore, deli etc.
Save them in your computer, print each week and do inventory in your kitchen.
I know this sounds like a lot of work, but once you get it going, it will save you tons of time and money.
Also, I try to buy one food a week that I have never tried before.
Best of Luck!

 

Kuri
May 22, 2007

I agree with buying pots and pans as you need them. However, when you talk with friends and relatives about getting your own place, you may find you get a lot of offers of gifts. Most of my kitchen (I've been on my own for 10 years, now, but luckily was never forced into meal plans as the student housing has kitchens were I went to school) came from extras from relatives. I found that if I needed something unusual for a particular recipe, I just put it on the shopping list along with the ingredients.

As for food, what you buy will depend upon what you like to eat. I know this seems like a sort of obvious statement, but the implications might not be clear: you do not need to "stock" your kitchen in any one particular way. Buy a few ingredients as you need them for recipes, find the best stores near where you live and add on slowly. You'll eventually find that while you experiment with different recipes you also have a few "old favourites" that you'll always want to be able to make. Over a couple of months, your kitchen will be fully stocked. (Then, you can discover the joy of moving a kitchen full of stuff!)

 

Christine
May 22, 2007


Spices in bulk, quality cookware and your favorite foods- you've already received some wonderful guidance from fellow foodies.

I love eating with friends, and one way to quickly build your pantry and have a great time is to have "ingredient-potluck" dinner gatherings. Plan a menu, as simple or elaborate as you wish, and then ask each guest to bring a couple of the ingredients. Some you'll use all at once (veggies, meats) and others you'll be able to enjoy for many meals to come (one really good vinegar can bring so much joy. . .)

Have a fabulous and delicious time in your new kitchen!

 

Brian Fryer
May 22, 2007

I find myself in the same situation at this very moment - I just got a new apartment and need to stock the kitchen.

My mom (who, needless to say, is a wonderful cook) took me to the store to help me buy the essentials - olive oil, spices, flour, sugar, cereal, etc.

Now that the essentials are out of the way, the time has come for me to prepare my menu for the week (which is a tip that I received from my dad). Planning it out ahead of time has been a huge benefit - it allows flexibility (being able to choose between meals throughout the week) and doesn't drain the budget (since only what you *need* is being purchased).

Plus, with all of the left-overs (at least in my case) I haven't had to eat out as much :-)

Another thing that is keeping me well prepared is by using the numerous recipe resources available online. I check out my "Recipes" tab on my iGoogle everyday. The good ones are tagged in my http://del.icio.us account for future reference. So, at the beginning of every week, I'll spend a few minutes in front of my computer reviewing recipes that I tagged the week prior to help me decide what I what I will prepare that week.

Anyways, I hope everything goes well with your new apartment :-)

 

Lucas
May 22, 2007

Can't believe no one has suggested the Gourmet Magazine Cookbook (the big yellow one). We call it the "Gourmet Bible" at our house. There is something for every skill level and taste in that sucker.

If money is tight, a good cast iron skillet can be found at garage sale/thrift store for pretty cheap. They can be a problem with sticking if not seasoned well. They retain heat very well and don't warp like their cheap nonstick counterparts.

A set of wooden spoons and some tupperware to store leftovers in are essential items I bought when I moved out on my own.

 

Julie
May 22, 2007

Canned tomatoes--I put them in everything, from homemade pasta sauce to chili to eggs ... Canned tuna is a good versatile staple, too. And going on with cans, I also tend to keep canned black beans and kidney beans around.

In the freezer, frozen peas and spinach.

In the fridge, good cheese (parm and a microplane to grate it, some nice sharp cheddar), eggs, milk (soy, even), Dijon mustard, and butter (okay, I use Smart Balance).

In the cabinets, besides the regular kosher salt and pepper grinder, there's Worcestershire sauce, extra virgin olive oil, and canola oil (because I bake a lot).

And I always have a couple onions and head of garlic handy, complete with a good knife (I agree with a previous comment about the Forschner--I have one that lives permanently in my knife kit), and a good cutting board to go with (I have a few colored plastic, flexible ones).

And of course, a good pot that comes with a good lid--if you do a lot of pasta, make it sizeable so you don't end up with a starchy mess. A nonstick saute pan would be my next buy, then a nice stainless steel saucier with a lid so I can go from stovetop to oven in one fell swoop.

Wooden spoons for stirring, especially in your nonstick.

 

Alyssa
May 22, 2007

As a not too long out of college graduate, who just converted from my college kitchen wear to the wedding gift kitchen ware, my big tip would be garage sales and goodwills. I bet you can find every kitchen appliance and tool you could possibly need there. As for cookbooks, I found a lot of them daunting.

But I recommend a book called "cooking for 2 or just you" it has a lot of smaller recipes in it, plus she recommends the staples for your pantry. 7 years after my first apt, I'm still building spices, etc. And almost all of her recipes are insanely easy and only need a few ingredients and are easily adaptable if you don't have what she calls for.

Rachel Ray express lane eating has a good staples list as well, but a caution with her recipes that they are never as easy as they seem and I've almost never completed one in 30 minutes.

Savingdinner.com is also pretty great, it has healthy, fairly simple recipes that you can check out the sample menus, and get them in portion sizes you need.

I also highly recommend a toaster oven and a george forman grill (the small $20 kind which you can probably find at a garage sale) but when cooking for one, you can make almost anything you need in those.

And if you don't buy any other spices, buy garlic. For the first year I had my own apt, I pretty much only used, garlic, salt, pepper, minced onions and italian seasoning it will season just about anything.

 

Bethy
May 22, 2007

Hey Olivia!

I am still in this boat, having just turned 23 with a few years of college left to go.

I agree with the other advice, however I wanted to instill you with few other tidbits that help me out.

1) When shopping, make a list. This not only helps you remember what you're buying, but it helps you stay in your food budget as well.

2) Left-overs can be your greatest ally. If you cook slightly larger meals (casseroles, soups, chili, stew, etc.) then you can freeze individual servings and pull out a yummy meal as needed. This was always great for me because you don't have to cook as often (fabulous during finals week!) and it saves you money because it usually costs more to buy individual sized portions. **Invest in freezable containers that can go from the freezer to the microwave**

3) Canned, condensed soup has a huge variety of uses, and most of them are right on the back of the label! Some of my best recipies have it in them and when people find that out they are amazed that it tasted so good!

That's about it! Just remember, don't get discouraged at first. Experience is a great teacher and you have to find out what works for you.

Good Luck!

 

Lucas
May 22, 2007

Can't believe no one has suggested the Gourmet Magazine Cookbook (the big yellow one). We call it the "Gourmet Bible" at our house. There is something for every skill level and taste in that sucker.

If money is tight, a good cast iron skillet can be found at garage sale/thrift store for pretty cheap. They can be a problem with sticking if not seasoned well. They retain heat very well and don't warp like their cheap nonstick counterparts.

A set of wooden spoons and some tupperware to store leftovers in are essential items I bought when I moved out on my own.

 

OregonJo
May 22, 2007

Check out this link for one person's creative solution to a quick, healthy and cheap week's worth of meals. http://www.kuro5hin.org/?op=displaystory;sid=2002/4/29/22137/6511
You may not want to do this EVERY week, but I think it's a good simple plan to get started with, especially for a college student who's on a budget and a schedule. If you use this same way of thinking, you can slowly get a bit more creative with your uses of leftover rice, meat, and pasta. Heidi has some great examples on this site like her Ravioli Pasta salad, Asparagus and Brown Rice and Curried Noodle patties. All of these require mainly basic ingredients, easily accomodate leftovers, take little time to prepare and can be used as a food "template" to create your own recipes based on the ingredients you have on hand.

 

Rachelle
May 22, 2007

I agree with everyone's comments for the most part. What I would add is:

If you're in an area that has great farmer's markets, check them out. You'll get more "bang for your buck" in terms of taste and freshness.

Along the same lines, if you have really wonderful tasting stuff from the farmer's market, then you won't need a lot of seasoning. Essentials, in my opinion, are good sea salt (you can usually get it in the bulk section of good grocery stores and only costs a few cents), freshly ground pepper (absolutely a must! invest in an inexpensive pepper grinder.... you won't regret it), and good olive oil (this can be pricey, but can sometimes be found in bulk which is more economical, or Trader Joe's if you have one nearby).

Use your own taste to warrant what other seasonings you buy. These suggestions will take you far on a very little money to begin with.

 

Claire
May 22, 2007

I have learned how to cook for one.

Reuse it through the week. It might sound like you’ll get sick of eating the same base through the week but I’m on a tight budget- so I don’t mind just adding different flavors.

One- citrus chicken with green beans and almonds.

Two-Kabobs (Pepper and Onion in between)

Three- fajitas in tortilla shells. (onion, pepper, salsa- maybe even guacamole)

Four- chicken salad (Romaine lettuce seems to last the longest) I personally like ranch dressing with some French fries!

Five- chicken salad for a burrito (see using the tortilla shell again) --mix almonds (left over from the green beans), dijon mustard, red peppers (what you didn’t cook from fajitas), grapes, red pepper flakes, mayo, curry powder – to extend your individual ingredients shelf life just change peppers to pickled peppers and grapes to raisins.

Next week experiment using turkey sausage in pasta and omelets.

 

Bansidhe
May 22, 2007

My personal experience in stocking a kitchen was pretty mishmash: I inherited a lot of pots, pans, and canned vegetables from my mother when I was moving out, but I soon figured out that was just a good starting place.

I found myself a heavy, non-stick and reasonably-priced Wok at CostCo about four years ago (and they still have it available, at last look), and that's been my favorite pot ever: It's deep enough to accommodate about a gallon or so of pumpkin curry soup when I caught the wild idea to make it, and it's fabulous for stir fry and so on. I'd honestly suggest looking for something like it, in that it's a multi-purpose pan that I use tirelessly.

As for things to stock in the kitchen: I believe in keeping on-hand things like extra-virgin olive oil, fresh garlic heads hanging in the pantry or cupboards, pasta, dried rice, beans, and barley, and your favorite kind of canned broth. (My tastes vary, so I always keep organic beef, chicken, and vegetable broths in my pantry.) Any canned versions of her favorite vegetables, canned tomatoes and/or tomato paste are also a must in my opinion, but I tend toward a slightly Italian bent in my cooking. Balsamic vinegar is a favorite of mine, but I would at least keep a large bottle of white vinegar around.
Get some salt, pepper, and I might suggest getting one of those starter racks that come with their own spices: They won't be the best quality, but they will let her get an idea of what the 'basic' spices are, as well as what she does and doesn't like.

Aside from that... The week to week suggestion is definitely the best one. It'll help spread out the cost of stocking food, and it'll assist in not getting overwhelmed.

 

Vic
May 22, 2007

I was in a sort of similar situation a few years back, in that I moved to Chicago from England, and obviously, I wasn't bringing over pots and pans and wooden spoons in my two suitcases! So I had to start from scratch, and it was things I had in England that I couldn't get here that I missed the most. Like a sandwich toaster (had to wait about three years before I found one of those), and worst of all, an electric kettle! After much searching I found one, and it's my lifesaver.

When it came to setting up my kitchen, I have to admit that I didn't really go for quality, I hit the dollar shop for a lot of my tools of trade, and I'm proud to say most of them are still functioning, like the measuring cups. Unfortunately my pizza cutter finally died last year - it was one slice too many for the fella!

I've found though, that like many other posters here, I stock my kitchen as I go along. My latest purchase was a rice cooker last year, which doubles as a steamer and I wish I'd bought it years earlier.

As for ingredients, go with the weekly menu list - or if you live in a city, and your arms can't carry that much food, aim for at least three meals' worth. You'll find you always over-buy, and that's ingredients for next week or the week after.

My staples are definitely English-centric though: malt vinegar, teabags, cadbury's chocolate, and marmite. Not sure that helpful, but part of survival is being able to smile, and a marmite sandwich, cuppa tea and vinegar on my chips, definitely does that!

 

shuna fish lydon
May 22, 2007

Heidi--

what a fabulous idea this is!

I would like to go on record as saying that much of cooking equipment comes from shopping excursions at second hand stores like Salvation Army and he like. None of my "le creset" is that brand, it's an earlier version of enamel cast iron, DESCAUX.

I agree that a few excellent pans are necessary, but one need not buy them brand new. any cast iron pot can be refinished and reseasoned in fact.

Think about what your staples are and buy them in bulk. Put money into good glass or excellent tupperware containers for easy/safe storage. I find this makes it easier to cook because I can see all that I have.

My favorite basic cookbooks, tried and true are Silver Palate and The Breakfast Book. I don't follow recipes for savory foods but I find that if I have an onion, olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper and one favorite vinegar in the house all I need is some protein and a veg to make a meal easily.

I agree with buying spices in bulk. Or set up a tiny one window ledge fresh herb garden. With even a small amount of sunlight you could have rosemary, thyme and parsley leaves.

Best of luck, Olivia.

And we'd all love to hear back how these comments helped, or what your first meals were!

 

Rhona
May 22, 2007

If you only want one cookbook get either the Joy of Cooking or Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything or, my personal favorite, Barefoot Contessa (the first one). Any of these plus a saute pan, a dutch oven, and two great knives (one paring, one santoku) and you're really set. The farmers markets are your friend -- go whenever you can and you'll get into good habits as well as feeling very zen as you wander through them if you're not in a rush. Good luck!

 

Jenya
May 22, 2007

Whoops! Sorry for the double post.

Anyway, I think what you should do is think about your previous kitchen experience, which was likely your parents' kitchen. Try to remember what food you cooked most often, what ingredients you wished they had, what pots/pans/utensils you used most often. This will give you a good idea of what you will actually use, not what you think you should use. I also would not spend much time perusing other people's grocery lists because only you know what you like.

I agree with other people who suggested buying things as you need them. Otherwise you end up in that frustrating situation of having a full pantry yet feeling like there is nothing you want to eat. You may find cooking difficult for the first few weeks as you notice what's missing from your kitchen but you also won't waste money buying items you don't use.

Since you are cooking for one you will always have leftovers because most recipes are meant to feed larger numbers. Plus, making extra food means having to cook less often! Therefore you may as well buy some good tupperware for storing and freezing leftovers.

Have fun settling in!

 

mary
May 22, 2007

Remember to get aluminum foil, ziploc bags, parchment paper (if you're going to do much baking) and some kind of storage containers--the plastic reusable disposable ones might be a reasonable affordable start.

A well-stocked pantry is a great thing to have, but what "well-stocked" means for you depends quite a bit on your personal taste. But these might help you think about what you want to have around.

For cooking:

olive oil, and a neutral oil such as grapeseed, canola, or vegetable oil, vinegar (champagne, balsamic, red wine, rice ), soy sauce, some kind of hot sauce, dry pasta, rice, couscous (bulgur, barley, quinoa are also good options), canned and/or dry beans (chickpeas, black beans, pinto, white beans, lentils), frozen edamame and peas, canned tomatoes (Muir Glen organic fire roasted are good), capers (salt packed rather than brined), salt (kosher or sea salt is nice), black pepper. Parmigiano reggiano is a good thing to splurge on. Fresh garlic and onions keep well (potatoes and sweet potatoes are almost in this category, but too many can go bad in a one-person household). Dried mushrooms are another nice thing to have around. A lemon or two, and maybe a lime, and a piece of ginger. Other things you should buy as needed (fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, yogurt, eggs, fresh herbs, bread, tortillas, etc.).

Spices: crushed red pepper flakes, rosemary, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, coriander, bay leaves (depending on what you like, this list can go on and on, but buy as you need them...)


For baking:

flour, sugar, brown sugar, butter (can be stored in the freezer), baking powder (Rumford in the red can is aluminum free and tastes better), baking soda, vanilla extract. Cocoa powder (dutched or natural), cornmeal, oats, other flours if you'll use them. Dried fruits, such as raisins, currants, apricots, cranberries, cherries, dates can be nice. Buy nuts, if you're so inclined, as you need them and store extras in the freezer. Store whole grain flours in the refrigerator or freezer. Other sweeteners such as maple syrup and honey can be nice (for the more adventurous there are also barley syrup, rice syrup, stevia, agave nectar, etc. to consider).

You don't need all of this at once. If you're only in an apartment for a few months, a full pantry may be overkill, but make sure you always have *something* you can make for dinner in under an hour--whether that's peanut butter and jelly or pasta and olive oil and parmesan or beans and rice or chickpeas in marinated in lemon juice and olive oil. You'll figure out what works for how you cook as you go.

 

Josi
May 22, 2007

I agree with just about every piece of advice that has already been given so some of my suggestions will definitely be repeats, but here goes after I beg you to carefully consider the use of non-stick cookware. If you choose to use it, follow the instructions about proper use, especially in regards to heat levels and what kinds of utensils to use. Buy one from a reputable vendor, not a cheapo one. People cooked extremely wonderful food for a very long time without non-stick cookware and it can still be done. That said, it sure makes things a lot easier, just get a good one.

What kind of budget you are on will definitely influence how much you can spend on things like cookware, knives, and gadgets. There are some decent lines out there that are not name brands and don't cost as much, such as Lodge (for cast iron) or even going to Macy's or IKEA for their in-house brands. I have collected many different pieces of brand name cookware over the years, but darn-it-all, I still occasionally use most of the pieces I got in that Revereware copper-bottom 10 pc set that I bought at a warehouse sale 25+ years ago. They boil eggs and pasta just fine, so if budget is a concern, don't let the brand name prices intimidate you.

Good knives are even more important and a Chef's knife and paring knife are the most essential. More importantly though is keeping them sharp. Invest in a sharpener and learn how to use it properly. It doesn't matter how expensive it was originally, it won't cut nuthin if it's dull.

Several cutting boards in both wood and polyurethane for food safety reasons. A couple of good quality whisks are helpful too.

I couldn't agree more that planning your weeks menu will be really helpful. You will know how much and what to buy and cut down on waste. It will also allow you to incorporate leftovers in later meals (grilled chicken from dinner tastes great on a salad the next day). And you can pick up staples as you need them, thereby cutting down on the up front expense.

If you are able, buy your spices and staples from a bulk source. No, I don't mean buy a lot, quite the opposite. Especially if you are single or only cooking for a small number of people, buying only what you will need for the next few weeks or months (depending on the item) will ensure that your food is fresh. Spices, oils and flour. etc. do have a shelf life and there is nothing more disappointing or embarrassing than being ready to cook and finding that one of your ingredients have gone bad. The ability to buy bulk will depend on the stores available to you, but you can buy small quantities of spices online.

I find I go to my Fanny Farmer cookbook for a lot of basic stuff, and Heidi's cookbook is a must of course!

Good luck, have fun and bon appetit!

 

Ainsley
May 22, 2007

The comments already posted certainly tell you enough about how to select and buy the proper equipment and food items for starting your kitchen. My addition is this piece of advice which helped me when I was first learning to cook (not that many years ago) - "If you like most of the ingredients you're putting in the dish, you will probably like the dish." This has led me to many experimental dishes, most were good and only a few bad (venison in a cream sauce, uck!)

Also, try and remember that food and cooking do not have to be complicated. Buy fresh food while in season from a local CSA or Farmers Market. For example, right now I cannot get enough asparagus. I chop it into chunks, add to the top of a pile of rice and season with salt and pepper. Simple and delicious. Putting together foods that taste good is not a bad way to begin the lifelong process of learning to cook.

Lastly - HAVE FUN! Do not take yourself too seriously in the kitchen. If you mess up something, it is really okay. I warn dinner guests when I am experimenting with a new recipe. But I like to live dangerously...

 

brie
May 22, 2007

Having lived off-campus for much of my undergrad and all my grad years, and being a huge cooking enthusiast I have some absolute must have items:

a good chef's knife and paring knife - use them everyday, as well as a sharpener, knives are only good if they are sharp.

couple good pots and pans, and at least one non-stick for eggs...

pyrex baking dish (can be used for everything from brownies to roasted vegetables)

spatula

immersion blender

garlic press

cutting board

as for food:

I like to keep fresh fruit and vegetables close by,

chickpeas, canned tuna, chicken, can be added to salads or pasta for a quick dose of protein

never be without: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper

finally - i try to experiment, the very worst that happens in the kitchen is that while disappointing if whatever you make is awful, you throw it out and start again (or revert for the night back to college days and order pizza)

 

Becky
May 22, 2007

Make sure you buy pots with handles and lids that can go in the oven. Many inexpensive sets don't have oven-proof handles and lids. Other commenters have made good recommendations on the size - don't buy pots so big you can't handle them yourself and avoid whole sets. Start with a pot for boiling and a pot for frying. Or just one for both, about 10-12 inches in diameter. (You can fry or boil in a high-sided pot, by the way. Keeps the stove surface clean.)

 

Patricia
May 22, 2007

Hi, Olivia! I'm not long out of that either -- in fact, I only moved into my first flat by myself last year!

In terms of pots and pans, my answer depends on whether or not you're going back into dorms/shared housing in the fall. If you are, buy cheapy pots that you don't mind getting wrecked, lost, stolen, or otherwise abused by drunkards or ignoramuses. If you're going to be living reasonably on your own from here out (or, say, with a couple of other foody-minded friends), then buy all means throw out a bit more money for something nice.

I heartily agree: buy a rice cooker or crockpot. Or even both! It's so nice not to have to fiddle with rice, especially if you like it and will eat it a lot.

In terms of food, think about what you like to eat, and go with that. I personally found that eating essentially vegetarian was cheaper and less hassle than eating a lot of meat. It's difficult to buy meat for 1, for instance, and if you don't have a freezer, like me for years, also difficult to store extras.

Soup was my friend, either made with whatever fresh/frozen/canned veggies I had around sauteed with olive oil, seasoned, and set swimming in veggie bouillon and tomato paste (done right, this tastes *just like* Campbell's alphabet soup, which I can't get here in the UK!) or squash/sweet potato/whatever cooked and pureed with veggie stock. A stick blender is enormously helpful here. Soup is also helpful to feed a crowd: the best year I spent in grad school, my housemates and I used to gather in the kitchen and just share our food, and my veggie soup featured highly! I also base many, if not most, of my everyday dishes on canned tomatoes. In fact, my staple dish is this: Finely chop one small onion, then saute in (olive) oil until golden. Add one can of tomatoes, one drained and rinsed can of kidney beans, a squeeze of tomato puree, a dash of chili powder to taste, a pinch of sugar, and a pinch of salt. If you have other spices (cumin, coriander, cinnamon) or a splash of balsamic vinegar, they also go well. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, and serve over rice.

Couscous is wonderful: all you need is a bowl and a measuring cup, and boiling liquid (water, stock, etc). Put a measure of couscous in the bowl, add an equal measure of boiling liquid, let stand 5 minutes! Wonderful base for all sorts of stuff.

Oh, yes. In the middle of last year, I discovered the deli down the street did veggie box deliveries. Saved me hassle getting them back from the store, were nicer and fresher, and didn't cost much more than store veggies!

My "don't leave home without them" list would include:

1 small pot (for milk, soup, reheating, etc)
1 large pot (pasta, etc, or just lots)
1 small saute pan (omelets, crepes, etc)
1 wok, if you like Asian food (may replace large pot)
Lids for the pots and pans if you possibly can
1 can opener
1 vegetable peeler
1 paring knife
1 chef's knife
1 colander
1 sieve
a set of measuring cups and spoons
2 wooden spoons (1 sweet, 1 savory!)
1 large and 1 small mixing bowl
1 spatula
1 rubber mixing spatula
1 cookie sheet
1 loaf tin
at least 1 chopping board

And, because I'm living in the UK:

1 electric kettle (SO handy!)
tea (and strainer if it's leaf)
sugar (I don't have it in tea, but friends do!)
2 mugs (1 for you, 1 for a friend) :)

 

Josi
May 22, 2007

I agree with just about every piece of advice that has already been given so some of my suggestions will definitely be repeats, but here goes after I beg you to carefully consider the use of non-stick cookware. If you choose to use it, follow the instructions about proper use, especially in regards to heat levels and what kinds of utensils to use. Buy one from a reputable vendor, not a cheapo one. People cooked extremely wonderful food for a very long time without non-stick cookware and it can still be done ("hot pan, cold oil,
food won't stick."). That said, it sure makes things a lot easier, just get a good one.

What kind of budget you are on will definitely influence how much you can spend on things like cookware, knives, and gadgets. There are some decent lines out there that are not name brands and don't cost as much, such as Lodge (for cast iron) or even going to Macy's or IKEA for their in-house brands. I have collected many different pieces of brand name cookware over the years, but darn-it-all, I still occasionally use most of the pieces I got in that Revereware copper-bottom 10 pc set that I bought at a warehouse sale 25+ years ago. They boil water, eggs and pasta just fine and I can still use the double boiler to melt chocolate, so if budget is a concern, don't let the brand name prices intimidate you.

Good knives are even more important and a Chef's knife and paring knife are the most essential. More importantly though is keeping them sharp. Invest in a sharpener and learn how to use it properly. It doesn't matter how expensive it was originally, it won't cut nuthin’ if it's dull.

Several cutting boards in both wood and polyurethane for food safety reasons, tongs, and a couple of good quality whisks are helpful too.

I couldn't agree more that planning your week’s menu will be really helpful. You will know how much and what to buy and cut down on waste. It will also allow you to incorporate leftovers in later meals (grilled chicken from dinner tastes great on a salad the next day). And you can pick up staples as you need them, thereby cutting down on the up front expense.

If you are able, buy your spices and staples from a bulk source. No, I don't mean buy a lot, quite the opposite. Especially if you are single or only cooking for a small number of people, buying only what you will need for the next few weeks or months (depending on the item) will ensure that your food is fresh. Spices, oils and flour, etc. do have a shelf life and there is nothing more disappointing or embarrassing than being ready to cook and finding that one of your ingredients has gone bad. The ability to buy bulk will depend on the stores available to you, but you can buy small quantities of spices online.

I find I go to my Fanny Farmer cookbook for a lot of basic stuff, and Heidi's cookbook is a must of course!

Good luck, have fun and bon appetit!

 

Maureen
May 22, 2007

How many months will you be in your own apartment? And can you store your stuff when you move back to the dorms? I would say buy equipment as inexpensively as you can. Dollar store wooden spoons and measuring cups...they'll be fine. Pans: yard sales, thrift shops, big box store, or even TJMaxx or Marshalls/Homegoods. My cast iron skillet is from Target and it was $10. It's a good one too...not enamelled, just plain old cast iron. I used it for eggs, burgers, grilled cheese. Once you have it seasoned, you're good to go. Knives: get something decent, but don't spend your rent money on them. You can trade up when you're older and settled. Pantry: don't go crazy at first. For the first week or so, you need basics, milk, bread, cheese, veggies (fresh or frozen), olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, canned beans, some kinda grain (rice, quinoa, barley), pasta, sauce, meat/protein, yogurt, cereal, sugar, coffee, tea. Then go from there...what did you wish you could make last week?

And don't be afraid to try making something new or unusual; you never know what you're going to like! When I was a kid, my mother used to let my sister and I pick out one unusual (read: weird) veggie or fruit every grocery trip to try. Some were hits (carambola) and some not (breadfruit)...but we wouldn't have known if we hadn't tried.

Oh and check out the craigslist and the freecycle lists in your area for free/inexpensive stuff. You might get really lucky, and if it's free stuff, you don't have to love it.

 

Kimberley
May 22, 2007

This is an excellent resource for all ages and will definitely help this college student and the 60-year old English man. Visit Rouxbe at http://www.rouxbe.com/ for delicious, healthy, homemade recipes with step-by-step video instruction. Cheers!

 

Kim
May 22, 2007

I think a lot of it depends on what you grew up with. My family is Asian, so my kitchen revolves a lot around that. I've moved a lot in my two years since college and I've found that you don't need a big stack of pots and pans and staples. A few things are neccesary though:

a non-stick pan( I like cast iron)
a saute pan
a pot to boil pasta in
a rice-cooker or crock pot

(You don't need the following, but I like them: a enameled cast iron dutch oven[mine is from target and rated very well], a wok, a george forman grill)

I also lived for years off of one wooden spatula, a whisk, a chef's knife and paring knife and a slotted spoon. Tongs are handy I've found, as is a microplane for grating. I also adore my mandolin.

What food to put in your kitchen is tricky besides the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, etc.

I always have mushrooms, onions and bell peppers in the freezer (I tend to cut thee up myself and put them in freezer bags) chick peas, coconut milk, pasta of varying sorts, soy sauce, fish sauce, a jar of crushed garlic, a general spice mix (I use 21 spice salute from TJs, red pepper flakes and olive oil.

I bet you can probably forgo a lot of things and make do for now, and as your culinary skills and budget grow, you can add things to your liking. I know some people that would die without the highest quality olives in the fridge, but I dont use them. I must have nice dried mushrooms, but others might now. Start cooking, and don't be afraid to screw up. I learned a lot from friends of varying cultures.

 

Natalie
May 22, 2007

I set my daughter up with just a few things:
a vacuum, a shmatta (rag) and a can of Comet because if ur kitchen is dirty u will not want to eat anything in it...a microwave because in a clean kitchen and livingroom even a Stouffer's microwaved tastes good!

 

Michelle
May 22, 2007

I'm a student too - and one of my best kitchen purchases was an IKEA kitchen starter box. It's insanely useful and well-designed; the two nicely sized pots can fit together as a double boiler, the tupperware is good quality and the mixing bowls can also be used for big salads etc.; it even comes with a garlic press! From there you can buy the extra items you want (muffin tins and the like).

I love to cook but when it gets around paper time I like to make the same healthy meals over and over again - the vegetarian chile at domesticgoddess.ca is amazing, and the rice and asparagus number Heidi posted a little while ago also fit into the cheap/healthy category.

Good luck!

 

Un-Swiss Miss
May 22, 2007

The way I read your question, you're asking about food rather than hardware - and in any case, if you're going back to school in a few months, you probably won't want to lug around heavy pots and pans and ding up the nice knives you've just been advised about.

While I agree planning ahead can be a good idea for saving time and money, I actually prefer to market as often as possible, buy the produce that looks the best, and plan my meals around that. Then I fill in whatever else is needed from the supermarket. Of course, this requires a certain willingness to take risk cooking. (Or willingness to spend an inordinate amount of time online researching ingredients!)

I also like to cook a full-sized recipe, and have the leftovers later that week for lunch/dinner, or freeze them for even later consumption. The strategy helps when you're cooking for 1...

Some basic staples that are universally handy, no matter what cuisine you prefer: flour, sugar, salt, pepper (get a grinder if you can), a few cartons of broth (chicken or vegetable), rice, vegetable oil, vinegar, and spices. If you can also get an olive oil, great, but if you're on a budget and/or hate waste, you can get away with only one neutral-tasting oil. I personally love mustard and garlic, so I always keep that stuff around.

For spices, the earlier advice is very good. One thing I'd definitely add: avoid pre-prepared mixes, such as "Italian Seasoning." It's far better to blend yourself. Don't be afraid to invest in several types of spices, because at the end of the summer, you can dump whatever's left into labelled Ziploc bags. That way, they're very light to transport, and they'll keep for a while.

One more thing: whenever I move to a new place, the first thing I do is find the local farmer's markets (Haymarket in Boston, Union Square in New York, etc) and the ethnic markets (Jackson Heights in Queens, for example). Because they have such high turnover, the ethnic markets seem to have the best, freshest, and cheapest fruits and vegetables. And locally grown produce always tastes better.

Have a great summer, and happy cooking!

 

deepa
May 22, 2007

hey!

i went through this when i moved to nyc. a book that really helped me was this one: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780743250542&itm=4

it gives you a great pantry list and basic recpies which you can make your own.

a lot of good advice has already been dispnsed, but here is a bit more. if you are near a grocery store buy produce on a need only basis - it can go bad pretty quickly. also planning your meals on the weekend, shopping and doing all the prechopping and marinading you can on sunday is VERY helpful. you have a game plan and don't need to think too much when you get home fromwork:)

good luck!

 

Selena
May 22, 2007

Just finishing up my kitchen needs and cooking for 1-2 people I have found that for food items I buy frozen veggies in a bag because they're cheap and I can get as much as I need at a time. I also keep a container of flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda & powder for baking things when the weather is chilly (I warms the house and makes it smell good, plus I bring leftovers to my neighbors house and make friends that way). Spices are also a must. I also keep a jar of spaghetti sauce that can be reclosed for future use. My biggest comment would to buy items that are an appropriate size for your needs. Buying too big may seem to save money, but the food may go bad before you can use it all.
For cooking utensils I suggest a small slow cooker, a good frying pan, and a nice pot. Make sure to get about a medium size if you cook for others as well as yourself once in a while. A good set of knifes and flatware so you won't have to worry about rusting.
Good luck with your new living environment, and wish you happy cooking!

 

Dirty Catholic
May 22, 2007

There are a lot of great recommendations here- I have only two to add. Purchase an expandable steamer insert for your pots (you can find the metal flower-shaped ones at most grocery stores for around $5) and a Salad-Spinner (or a large tupperware container). With these 2 items you can prep a week's worth of lettuce and lightly steamed veggies a have them ready to go for salads and such during the week.

 

JeSal
May 22, 2007

Great recommendations already posted - I would add to begin stocking your pantry.

Take a look at the back of good cookbooks like Joy of Cooking, or one of the books by Sally Schneider - they often have recommended pantry items (and maybe even equipment recommendations too) to always have on hand, which can be made into a number of great dishes. Some lists I've seen also recommend refrigerator and freezer basics like puff pastry, potatoes, frozen peas, etc. The authors of Real Simple also have a specific food magazine that recommends basic pantry and freezer items to have on hand.

Good luck! Sounds like you're off onto a great new adventure!

 

Un-Swiss Miss
May 22, 2007

One absolute staple that I forgot to mention: LEMONS. You'll be amazed how a bit of juice or zest will brighten up meats, vegetables, and desserts. It's particularly refreshing in summertime, so buy a bag and keep it in your fridge. I bet it'll be gone in no time.

 

Laura
May 22, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Bittman of the New York Times wrote a great article about setting up a kitchen without breaking the bank.I believe it was called "a no-frills kitchen still cooks"

Now, that doesn't help so much with what ingredients make a good pantry, a whole other ball game. As others have said, check cookbooks for pantry lists. Focus on your "every-day" needs before the obscure 'once in a while" items.

 

For the instruments, I think it strongly depends on two things:
* how much do you want to get involved and
* how much can you spend?

If you just want meals to appear in proper time and you can afford to some modern stuff, there are lot of devices that are a must, rice cookers, toasters, waffle grills and so forth.

If you want to come to the gourmet side, then forget about the microwave oven, the waffle grill and all that.

Get yourself a fry pan, a deep pan (both with a lid), a jar, a couple of wooden spoons, and egg scrambler a nice mid-sized oven tray, a measure cup, a couple of bowls to mix things.

You can get more as you need them, but no need to rush, or you'll end up with many things you'll never use.

As for ingredients, the same choices apply. There is a lot of ready made food, but what I find more necessary as basic stuff in kitchen is flour, rice, potatos, TSP (because I'm vegetarian, change it for meat if you want) Soy sayce, sugar, eggs, milk, oregano, pepper, salt, cinnamon, olive oil, other oils, vineggar, some random vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, carrot, peas....)

That's the very essencial set. With TSP, soy sauce, vinnegar and spices you can do a lot of things. With flour, milk/water, sal, eventually eggs and oil and a couple of variatiing things you can do from waffles and pancakes to exquisite breads, cakes and pies.

With some random vegetables of your choice you can do pie filling. You can also use spiced TSP or some kinds of meat or cheese.

You can also use the vegetables for risottos and alike.

Beans, Garbanzos and the like can be useful for pates, as well as just eating them cooked with salt and water.

Just some thoughs out of the blue, but I think this would be a good parameter for starting a kitchen.

 

Eye_carl
May 22, 2007

Ok, basic staple ingrdients.
Spices; kosher salt, pepper mill, red chile flakes, cumin, soy sauce
Fats; Canola oil, Virgin olive oil, butter
Acids; Balsamic, rice wine vinegar, lemons
Canned items; Tomato paste, whole tomatoes, white beans
Produce; Garlic, Ginger, Parsley, Cilantro, Mix greens, onions, carrots, celery, white mushrooms
Protein; Bacon, Frozen chicken breast, frozen shrimp.
Grains; Pasta, rice.

Thats it, you are ready for blast off, this list is a good basis for many different types of cuisine!

 

Sara
May 22, 2007

I'm going to suggest a few staples and easy recipes I, also a college student, make over and over again. But first... get yourself a decent pot for boiling water to make soups, grains, etc. and a cast iron skillet, you can cook anything in a cast iron! William Sonoma was selling nice ones for $25!

I suggest keeping grains like quinoa, rice, cous cous, etc. in your cupboard, it's so good for you and filling, see Heidi's post "big delicious quinoa bowl". There is a whole bunch of variations you can use. The great part about Heidi's recipe is that you can eat it warm or toss with chopped romain the next day and eat it like a salad at room temperature (I suggest keeping romaine in your fridge, it lasts longer than other more delicate lettuces, just keep in dry).

I also always have a box of organic vegetable or chicken broth (low sodium) in my cabinet. I will never use water again to make grains.. it adds such great flavor.

I also keep no salt added canned white tuna or canned red salmon (whole foods) to make quick fish cakes. Use one can drained, a handful of chopped scallions, a few pinches of salt and cheyenne pepper, a handful of panko crumbs, and one egg to bind. Roll the formed fish cakes in panko and pan fry until golden. I serve these with a quick homemade greek yogurt sauce over some greens. It's dinner or lunch in less than 15 minutes. Seriously.

I'd say for the frozen food, always keep some frozen veggies like peas and spinach and a good brand of packaged organic cheese tortellini or ravioli in your freezer. You can make a quick cook tortellini soup. Heat one box of your broth, cook the tortelli to package directions once the broth boils, in the last minute of cooking add a handful of frozen peas and some chopped spinach (fresh or frozen).

Good luck!

 

Laura
May 22, 2007

I agree with the "LEMONS!" comment! Three uses from a lemon: zest, juice, air freshener (in a pot simmering with some water and cinnamon).

Even if you're going to be moving back into a dormitory in the Fall, I'd still recommend investing in two good pans and two good knives: one 10-inch, heavy nonstick and one stockpot; one 10-inch chef's knife or santoku and one paring knife. I do 90% of my cooking for one with these four utensils.

I also second Kate's comment about buying spices in bulk. I've been able to experiment in ways I never could have if I had to pay supermarket prices for things like garam masala.

I ended up making a frustrating number of trips to the supermarket in the first month I lived in my own place, but the result is that I can make almost anything. I love Mexican, Chinese, and Indian food, so I have chipotle peppers, hoisin and chilli sauce, 3 kinds of curry powder, and garlic, onion, and ginger on hand all the time.

Brown rice, believe it or not, freezes really well, so I always have cooked brown rice. Canned beans, tomatoes, salsa, and soup are always in my pantry. Dried lentils, wild rice, couscous, etc., are good to mix it up. Pasta, of course. Jarred sundried tomatoes and spaghetti sauce. Frozen spinach (good in EVERYTHING -- eggs, pasta dishes, basically any Italian food, etc.)

 

Paige
May 22, 2007

Most of the "tips" have been sufficiently covered in the previous comments. I agree that your pantry/fridge should be "stocked" with the foods, ingredients you most like to eat. However, as a relative newcomer to the joys of cooking, I cannot say enough about subscribing to a monthly food magazine (Eating Well is a current personal favorite) and exploring the recipes contained therein. Since each issue is usually devoted to a particular theme, or ingredient, grocery shopping is a breeze and you will learn many different preparations (or, develop your own improvisations) of a single, seasonal, fresh ingredient. Another very good resource for every kitchen is A New Way to Cook. I highly recommend it for the detailed explanations of technique, descriptions of ingredients and inspiration of "improvisational" cooking. The bottom line is, have fun with it!

 

leighette
May 22, 2007

Spend money on a good chef of santoku knife!!

 

Gisele
May 22, 2007

Olivia,

All these are pretty solid advice.

Food is so simply, I think North Americans make it a bit complicated.

If you have veggies in your fridge, spices bought in bulk (I store mine in old jam jars) and carbs like quinoa, rice, pasta, coucous, brown rice and wild rice...you always have a meal on hand. You simply need to add chicken, beef or fish and you are set.

In terms of learning...there is no better way than to get your hands dirty. If you don't succeed the firt time, try it again.

The most important lesson in becoming a great cook is not to be afraid of making mistakes and having LOADS of fun trying.

Best of luck,

Krizia from Canada

 

Krizia
May 22, 2007

Olivia,

All these are pretty solid advice.

Food is so simply, I think North Americans make it a bit complicated.

If you have veggies in your fridge, spices bought in bulk (I store mine in old jam jars) and carbs like quinoa, rice, pasta, coucous, brown rice and wild rice...you always have a meal on hand. You simply need to add chicken, beef or fish and you are set.

In terms of learning...there is no better way than to get your hands dirty. If you don't succeed the firt time, try it again.

The most important lesson in becoming a great cook is not to be afraid of making mistakes and having LOADS of fun trying.

Best of luck,

Krizia from Canada

 

Nicole
May 22, 2007

Lots of the posts here allude to this: don't be intimidated! Especially don't be intimidated by recipes. My philosophy, arrived at after a few years of trial and error, is this: there's cooking, and then there's baking. Baking is like chemistry and math---it needs exact measurements and proportions. Personally, I am not a math and sciences person. That's why I love cooking. Cooking is simply putting ingredients together and making them hot. Be creative! Don't measure! Chop, heat, and eat.

My most common meals usually have some sort of starch (rice, sweet potatoes, couscous, pasta) and then I add some kind of veggie and occasionally a meat, usually fish sprinkled with whatever spice I'm in the mood for and cooked on the stovetop. These are my everynight meals. On weekends, or if I'm feeling creative, I'll do something that requires more planning, more effort than sauteeing.

I must put in a word for eggplant. It is such a versatile vegetable! Grill it on the George Foreman, cube it in pasta sauce, stick it in a stir fry, bread it and fry it for a really indulgent dish of eggplant parm. It's like meat, only cheaper!

 

Lindsay
May 22, 2007

I think it helps to gather together recipes for some of the things you grew up eating. Most of the meals my mother made were very simple, but some days there's nothing else in the world I want to eat. And as much as I love improvising and exploring my many cookbooks, it can be a relief to prepare a recipe already knowing how it's supposed to turn out.

 

Kimberly
May 22, 2007

There's already some great advice about gearing up your kitchen so I'll offer some advice on how to narrow the gap in selecting recipes for a week. Here's how I do it. First, make a list of your favorite comfort foods. I make sure these get repeated every couple of months so no one at home is longing for their favorite dish. For inspriation, that's not overwhelming, I turn to Heidi's website and some other sources, like the epicurious.com weekly email. I also enjoy the mag Real Simple, which has a selection of seasonal recipes. Recently I added Bon Appetit (because it was free with a purchase). Lastly, The New Best Recipe, from the editors of Cook's Illustrated has proved to be a fantastic source for how to cook some of those comfort foods that no one remembers how to prepare. The background and instructions are really helpful.

Anyway, I browse these and pick out some recipes that sound yummy and are not too time consuming. I agree with comments already posted that being motivated to prepare meals for one can be a challenge (as opposed to a week of cereal for dinner). Cooking for/with friends is a great way to feel connected and you'll have leftovers for the week. Have fun on this new chapter in your life!

 

marina
May 22, 2007

I usually try to keep these handy: Fresh greens, nuts, and turkey ham to make a salad anytime; lots of chickpeas (for salads, hummus, sandwiches, rice, fried grains, Heidi's chickpea burgers...); eggs (omelettes are great fast dishes), whole grain pasta, olive oil, cheeses, bread, tuna, frozen shrimp, fish, ground beef (very useful), tofu, yogurt, WINE and lots of spices (the basics work great: basil, oregano, cilantro, cumin, etc...).

I don't usually follow recipes, I use my intuition and get great results. For example, I smell the ingredients and know if they mix or not. I've been cooking for 5 years now and it's always given me great results. Good luck!

 

Carrie
May 22, 2007

I'm part of a cooking message board, and we'd love to have any beginner (or anyone else!) to join us! http://thequalitycook.com/phpBB

One of our recent topics was "which 20 spices can you NOT live without (and how to use them!)" Here was my response:

1. Salt - use on everything
2. Pepper - use on everything
3. Garlic powder (granulated) - I use it on 99% of everything I cook
4. Onion Powder (granulated) - Again, use it on everything, but especially if you unexpectedly run out of onions

5. Rosemary - rub with some olive oil onto chicken, turkey, pork or beef before cooking, along with everythign above
6. Thyme - intimate companion to rosemary - use sparingly until youknow what you like, it's a strong flavor, use as rosemary
7. Oregano - use wih tomato sauces, or anything italian
8. Cayenne/red pepper flakes - same spice, but one is ground. Use a tad in just about anything for a little heat.
9. Basil - use like (with) oregano - tomato dishes and anything italian. Sprinkle oregano and basil over hot pasta and toss with olive oil,lemon and parm... Mmmm...

10. Dehydrated onion/garlic - great if you don't feel like chopping or for a little bit of extra flavor. Add early in cooking to let them re-hydrate.
11. Ground Mustard - I use this to add a background flavor and heat - it's not really hot though... I use it a lot in meatloaf/meatballs
12. Cumin - for Indian dishes, this is a must
13. Curry - Indian again
14. Ginger - use with Indian foods, but others too. Can be used in most dishes you would put garlic in.

15. Cinnamon
16. allspice
17. nutmeg
18. cloves - traditional holiday spices, for pies etc. For somethign yummy, chop up 2 sweet potatoes and place in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with equal amounts of the above spices (including ginger). Bake in a shallow pan at 350 stiring every 15 min. until they pierce easily. Serve with brown sugar and buter. It's like pumpkin pie without the pie!

19. Chili powder - its actually a blend of red pepper, cumin, garlic... use in chilli (of course) tacos, stuff like that
20. Italian seasoning - this is at the bottom because you can do pretty well with oregano and basil (above) but very handy to keep if you run out of the others.

 

Maya
May 22, 2007

I just moved out with my boyfriend about a month ago. I was fortunate enough to be stocking cooking utensils for many years.

But in food related matters all i can say is that leftovers are you friends. There's no point trying to cut down on recipies just for one or two. Then you end up saving money on food at lunchtime.

And i'd usually go something easy - pasta, stirfries, burrito pie: they all keep well in the fridge for the next day!

 

lillianne
May 22, 2007

I disagree that anything in a box isn't worth eating. One item in particular is couscous. There are several brands of inexpensive $1-$2) flavored couscous in all the stores. All you need is a pot and a spoon, water and heat. And then the creativity begins. Start with a cooked chicken breast, shredded carrots, frozen corn, chopped green onion, chopped red/green pepper, chopped tomato, cucumber, you get the idea.

 

Max
May 22, 2007

Just a question to you Englishman and yes Englishwomen as well , what is it about those electric kettles , whats so special about them ,, a stove would work just as well to boil water.

 

Kyle
May 22, 2007

Hey Olivia, Most importantly have fun cooking. A glass of wine (in the recipe or not) is always great for the prep work. Don't skimp on your basic supplies a good knife an americanized wok (one with a handle for stove top cooking) and a pasta pot will get you in the door. For shopping try to plan at least a couple of days out, shopping by the meal gets expensive. Buy bulk the things you can store long term (pasta,rice,sugar, flour). Think of the left over potential of everything. sure you probably won't eat a whole roast chicken but... chicken soup, chx salad sandwhichs, chx fajitas.........you get the point. Have fun, cook what you like, keep a frozen pizza in the freezer (they won't all be winners)

 

Mark Laymon
May 22, 2007

I like to use a vacuum sealer. This way I can make up a few portions ahead of time and freeze them. They work great to marinade steaks and chicken too.

 

Jena
May 22, 2007

To list your staples, pay attention to what you eat regularly and note the ingredients used in what you make. Things others consider staples--ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, green peppers, lettuce--I've never kept on hand. And I know a lot of people have recommended a rice cooker, but I've never used one--a saucepan cooks my rice just fine. I've got other kitcheny things to spend my money on.

This is what my mom made sure I had for my cooking/baking endeavors (thanks, Mom!):

at least one large skillet and one small skillet
dutch oven/stock pot (I boiled my pasta in a stock pot for ages)
slow cooker/Crockpot
medium sauce pan
cutting board
rubber spatula
wood/bamboo spoons (at least two)
colander
can opener
cookie sheet
9 x 12 cake pan
1- & 4-cup measuring cups, preferably Pyrex or similar
a couple of mixing bowls
cheese grater
garlic press (we love garlic)
Tupperware's largest bowl--holds 32 cups & is perfect for making batches of Chex mix or puppy chow or other favorite snack mixes.

Knives (they get their own subheading):
a good paring knife--I like my Cutcos & Wusthofs
a good trimmer for meat
an 8" chef's knife
a couple of those cheap paring knives--they only cost $1 or so--with the bright colored plastic handles. they sharpen down to nothing in a year or so, but they're really handy
knife sharpener--I suggest the disc kind instead of the rods, and remember of course to never use it on serrated knives

 

Garrett
May 22, 2007

I just graduated a while ago, and am going back for my MA.

Have a good knife, a pairing knife, a skillet, a large pot, a sauce pot. A cutting board will do you well too.

Limes make everything better, and fresh cilantro, mint, and basil are always cheap and provide great flavor.

 

Garrett
May 22, 2007

oh yes, and never pass by second hand stores and yard sales for the most awesome dish ware!

 

k80
May 22, 2007

My ex boyfriend graduated from a very good cooking school. Unfortunately, work didn’t appeal to him. He was a rock star trapped in a slacker’s body. As such, he was always flat broke. Still, a $5-10 trip to the grocery store, a sense of adventure and the following list always yielded the most amazing results for a meal.

Two good quality knives
A cutting board
A 3 quart pot with lid
A 14 inch pan with lid
A Pyrex lasagna dish
A turner
A spatula
A wooden spoon
Aluminum foil
Olive oil
Salt –GOOD salt, spend the money on salt
Pepper – get peppercorns in a grinder, they’ll last you all summer (if not all year)
Bouillon in a jar
Soy sauce

 

James
May 22, 2007

A lot of people have mentioned knives, which are, of course, one of the most important items. Some excellent lower-priced knives (particularly compared to Wusthof, etc.) are available from Fante's in Philadelphia. They contract with a company in Solingen, Germany - home of Wusthof and Henckels. I have several, and I'm planning on buying another $300 or so in them soon. Great quality, especially for the price. Go to http://fantes.com/ and scroll down to "Knives, Fante's Pro." I recommend going with an 8" chef's knife, a utility knife, paring knife, and steel to start.

 

James
May 22, 2007

I might add: a copy of Joy of Cooking.

I also keep a copy of The Professional Chef - the CIA textbook. It is frighteningly large, but it's a heck of a resource. I like to just pick a section and study it for a while. It also works as a good technique reference.

 

Marce
May 22, 2007

Well, you must be dizzy by now with all those comments, so I´ll just say ditto and add just one cookbook recommendation:
A cook´s book (http://tinyurl.com/yvfkvx) is a bit of an encyclopedia (648 big pages) which covers pretty much all you ever needed to know about cooking and some basic recipes. For instance, it shows you how to cut certain vegetables and different cuts of meat, peel a fish, make basic breads and doughs, make a fritatta, and I could go on and on. Check it out at a bookstore and see if it suits your needs.

Good luck!

 

jamie
May 22, 2007

there is nothing like "amvets" or the salvation army! or flea markets- the more rummaging the better! call your aunts and uncles, dig through your grandmother's attic. there is nothing in the world that can beat out a well worn mixing bowl, possibly the one that you use when you were a kid

I was a recently graduated college student... that transformed into a culinary school student 5 years later. In the beginning I was convinced that I needed "the best stuff" and when it really came down to it the things that I wanted to cook with, were the pans that I got at the salvation army. I would spend $50 on a scone perfection pan, that was supposedly the highest quality, and would end up using the 50 cent roasting pan that i got at the flea market.

i really cannot stress this enough.

get the joy of cooking and sit down and ask yourself what you want to eat- and get in to it- think "Julie and Julia" minus the insane time limit. GET CREATIVE!

nothing makes me want to cook more then a farmers market, all the small jars of jam, the fresh produce- thinking about it now makes me
hungry.

and if worse comes to worse- call your mom, or your gram, and ask them- nothing brings people together like food...

 

bryan
May 22, 2007

im a 24 year old male living in japan and cooking is one of my favorite things to do. unfortunately without lots of money, its hard to get all the supplies i need. one thing i couldnt live without here is my rice cooker and my crockpot. lots of japanese people make food called "oden" which is basically konnyaku, daikon, kitsune, fish sausage, tofu, seaweed, etc on the stove top and let it cook in broth for hours but I found that using a crockpot is even better because you can set it up the night before and have great oden in the morning on afternoon the next day. now this is a japanese food perspective but if you just go to like bettycrocker recipes you can find SO many great crockpot dishes that are awesome that require little prep. top the meal off with some rice and salad and youre good to go! dont forget the liquid smoke ;)

 

Della
May 22, 2007

Get a George Foreman Grill. My son is in college right now living in an apartment with 3 other guys and he loves his George Foreman Grill. He loves to grill steak and chicken and panini sandwiches. He also cooks pasta. He does his grocery shopping at Costco and Trader Joe's a lot. He buys in bulk and freezes in portions.

 

Rachael
May 22, 2007

Don't forget a potholder. I'd leave the story to your imagination, but I'm not sure you could picture me taking off my padded bra in the dorm kitchen to pull some really well-browned cookies out of the oven. I'd managed to find mixing bowls, a hand mixer, a spatula and a cookie sheet, but that one detail caught up with me in the end.

 

Billie
May 22, 2007

Its been a year since I've moved out with my boyfriend and a flatmate, and it was a big transition so I'm really excited for you!

The things that have helped me have been:

~ keeping an eye on my shopping bills so I can make a weekly estimate of spending (its so not worth spending $50 on exotic ingredients for a dinner party that you won't ever use again)
~ making a list of recipes in two categories - fast and easy, and those that i can double and freeze, decide which of these you will do every week or couple of weeks and make sure you always have key ingredients
~ making a list of staples that you use every day and consider buying those in bulk
~ using your freezer - freeze individual portions of caseroles, soups, sauces and stock. freeze portions of cooked onion and garlic for using in recipes
~shop with a list, it will stop you returning to the grocery store to get something you forgot and leaving with 20 other purchases!

Apart from that, make sure you have a healthy mix of protein, starches and mixed vegs, if you aren't vegetarian try to mix up your protein sources and include seafood and soy products which are heart healthy and quick to prepare.

Make sure you have healthy things to snack on also, it may not occur to you when you're at the shop but you'll thank yourself later on.

 

Sarah H
May 22, 2007

Buy fresh fruit and veg that is in season at the market or supermarket. It's cheaper and will be better quality than eating those that have been imported from elsewhere and will help to give some variety to your diet.

 

Anna
May 22, 2007

Wow, lots of suggestions, here is mine:

Jeanne Lemlin's Quick Vegetarian Pleasures is a winner!!! (Simple Vegetarian Pleasures as well). Take it out of the library and see!

It may not have anything to do with stocking a pantry, but the recipes are straightforward, use simple and cheap ingredients, are fast and more delicious than many more complicated recipes you'll come across. The lady just has a great palate.

 

Anna
May 22, 2007

Olivia,

Staples: been there done that (badly the first time); here's my suggestions

while flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, vanilla (other baking stuff depending how much you bake: whole wheat flour, oatmeal, wheat germ, brown sugar, icing sugar, cocoa, chocolate, etc...)

Grains (depends what you like: rice pasta, couscous, bulgur are good staples but there is a lot of variety out there) For rice basmati is a good all purpose, tastes better than plain white; whole wheat rice is always gooey, forget it; red and wild rice are tasty; aborio for risotto.
Lentils (du puy lentils hold their shape if you are into lentils)

Canned things depending what you eat: soup, tuna, chicken, beans (black, chickpea, kidney, mixed; I've yet to use dried apart from lentils because it requires planning ahead).

Spices: this is a pain because when you start out it seems like every recipe calls for some spice you don't have. Solution: buy bulk as you go! I have few grains/cans/etc but spices I have many, many various ones, and that's fine because they keep ok (unlike say whole wheat flour which goes bad relatively more quickly). A few I would say you "must have": cinammon, cumin, coriander, basil, oregano. But there are tons you will aquire based on what you cook. Curry powders vary.

Oils and vinegars: same as for spices except you can't buy bulk. Oils is good to have olive and vegetable (I use "light tasting" olive oil as my default no flavor oil but also have extra virgin, vegetable, canola and dark seasame). No stick cooking spray for muffin tins. Vinegars is another thing you will aquire as you go, which will be a pain when you don't have it, but the collection will grow. Good to have red wine vinegar and balsamic to start.

Things in fridge: milk, eggs, butter, juice if you drink/use it, same with yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese (hey you may be a vegan!) . Cheese and lunch meat as you need it. Other things you may or may not use that keep forever: mustard, mayo, pickles, soya sauce, maple syrup, jam, salsa, dry soup stock.

Freezer: BREAD (then toast as you need it and bread will never go bad on you), frozen corn, frozen fruit or other veg depending what you eat, butter, maybe some meat.

Misc things in cupboard: peanut butter, honey, dried fruit and nuts if you eat/cook with them. Cereal if you eat it, same for oatmeal packets, granola bars, fruit cups, crackers, that kind of thing. Coffee, tea.

A few onions, and some garlic, plus/minus ginger. Salt and pepper.

Fresh fruit, veggies, herbs, lemons, etc: as you need them. Great if you live somewhere with little produce stores to buy there.

Meat/fish as you need.

Good luck! and enjoy cooking!

 

Laurie
May 22, 2007

Let's see...you're looking for kitchen staples. It depends on the types of cuisine you like to prepare (Italian, Thai, American, etc.), but here are some basics that should help you out:

olive oil
vegetable oil
vinegar (white wine and red wine vinegars are good and versatile)
salt and pepper
onions
garlic
All-purpose flour
spices (I'd start basic: cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, curry. I wouldn't recommend buying dried herbs - they're not worth the money. Dill is the only herb I would consider buying dried.)
sugar
vanilla extract
baking powder and baking soda
Dijon mustard
Pasta
Assorted rices
Canned tomatoes
Natural chicken broth (no MSG)

If you're looking for equipment, here are some basics:
10-inch skillet
2 quart pot
6 quart pot (larger if you'll be cooking for more than 2 people)
whisk
rubber spatula
metal spatula
ladle
slotted spoon
microplane
8-inch chef knife
colander
cutting board
salad spinner
a food processor and blender are handy, but not essential

I hope these suggestions are helpful!

 

Monique
May 22, 2007

In some respects I think it is unfortunate that is topic was opened up this way. Wading through so many comments from so many different opinions defeats the purpose of asking for the authors opinion. Not to mention a very daunting task in answering the question.

At any rate, I have been working on this myself still and would have found the information I'm compiling on the topic very useful when I was in your position. While it is still under development, it's a start. I feel it is very important to have good equipment in the kitchen and to know why it is good.. the list I've started to compile is at my site under Organic Balance - (Healthy) Dream Kitchen.

Good luck!

 

Lean From Another College Student
May 22, 2007

Shop at IKEA. Things are cheap and makes great starters. Along with college favorite gadgets: the George Foreman Grill and a Toaster Oven, watch a lot of Food Network cooking shows and download recipes from www.foodtv.com. You will be surprised what you learn from the Food Network, i.e., Everyday Italian, 30-Minute Meals, Barefoot Contessa, Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger, Tyler's Ultimate Cooking, etc. Shop in Bulk (Costco or Sam's), Trader Joe's, and read your Wednesday's Supermarket Sale pages for supermarket's weekly sales.

 

Seona
May 23, 2007

I feel your stress. :) I moved out of home two years ago, with the added complications that it was a) sudden and b) interstate. So suddenly all the plans I had for raiding the cupboards of family and friends fell through and I had to start from scratch.

All of the advice on cookware so far has been great, and I don't have anything to add to that. What I will comment on is food.

I'm a good enough cook, I guess, but my biggest problem is that I work long hours and have a bugger of a commute. When I get home of an evening, I generally don't feel much like cooking. I have two simple ways of dealing with this:

1/ Bulk meals are your friend. As has already been stated, every so often make a big batch of something (pasta sauce, stew, soup, etc) and freeze single-serve portions. When you come home completely knackered and can't stand the thought of cooking, just pull something out and stick it in the microwave. At worst, you'll just have to cook up a serve of pasta or rice to put with it.

2/ Have a few "standard" meals that are quick, easy, and use storable ingredients. By storable, I mean don't rely on lots of fresh ingredients. Depending on what shops are within easy walking distance, you might amend that to allow one fresh ingredient or two (for example, we've just had a late-opening organic foods store open near my bus stop, so it's easy to buy something extra on the way home). Sit down and write out a list of these easy meals, then make sure the ingredients for them are ALWAYS in your cupboard/freezer. That way, you know that at the very least you have a couple of easy meals you can make on any given night with absolutely no warning.


Oh, and your first grocery shop is likely to be very expensive. See if you can get your folks to buy you your first grocery shop as a housewarming present. *grin*

 

Dalia
May 23, 2007

During the last years I've been starting up new home from zero quite a number of times. If you are not going to stay in your appartment for a long time, I would not recomment to equip yourself too much, neither with food nor tools.

Probably you can borrow from home a pot with cover, a pan, an oven dish, maybe a couple of good knifes and a cutting board. Get the rest from the second hand shop:
- a number of glasses and cups for when your friends visit you,
- for the same reason, a number of plates, forks, knifes, spoons, and bowls for soup or dessert,
- wooden spatula and/or spoon,
- a big plastic bowl,
- scrambler, shredder, grater (masher, for soups and desserts).

As for food, you would not consume lots of spices during the short time, and its nice to have a variety of them. You might want to take some of them from home again :) I mostly use herbs, curry, cummin, pepper, chilli, paprika, cinamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, and some seeds. And salt of course :)

For the rest, I would buy olive oil, various frozen vegetables, frozen fish and seafood. You can freeze some bread as well. The it's rice, pasta, maybe lentils and chickpeas, oats, bran, flower. Canned stuff like beans, tomatoes, olives, pineapple. For a treat - dried fruit, nuts, wine (for cooking as well). Oh, tea as well. Also some cookies or chocolates when your friends come. You can make bunches of food with that! It can be enough for almost all summer. In my fridge I always have milk, yoghurt, eggs, cheese, some fresh vegetables (onions and garlic is a must). And of course fresh fruit!

That's something I would always consume, for you might be different. The rest I buy when I know what I cook. Actually I love to set up the kitchen from beginning :)

 

joe
May 23, 2007

lots of good comments, but not all appropiate for your case, so let's get down to my suggestion:

what you need is something to cook with, and something to cook. and as a an intern student, some containers to store leftovers for tomorrow's lunch and maybe dinner too =\

when i was living in my first student apartment, i cooked with:

stainless steel frying/saute pan, flat surface the size at least of an adult man's spread hand (i really didn't know how to put this in words!)
-don't have to worry about scratching the non-stick layer, easy to clean.

2 pots, one can be a large stainless steel pot for boiling & cooking staples, and soups
and the other a small saucepan/milkpan, for cooking noodles/pasta just for one meal, and making sauce too if you don't want to use the wider saute pan. also great for stewing/braising in small portions when you feel like experimenting. I stuck with a non-stick version.

toaster oven. it doesn't have to be a 50$+ one from the department store. garage sales or generous friends. not hard to bring aroudn when you move/drive to another town either. good investment, fast, saves on the electricity bill. does all sorts of wonders.
-half of the meals were made there. frozen fries/fish, small casseroles(find a good metal plate from discount stores, avoid aluminium though), & marinaded meats cooked in it as roasts (just keep basting). great to experiment with when you're not confident with cooking 'big stuff'

small rice cooking if you can get your hands on an affordable one

pasta (both long and short ones - spag & penne), rice, instant noodles (i'm going to get a lot of flak for this, but then, she's a student!), potatoes & onions, beef stock cubes, soy sauce, oil, salt & pepper & herbs. i love worchestershire sauce on my meats too.

then add canned food, frozen veggies, frozen minced meats (split into single use portions in cling wrap/freezer bags).

bread milk eggs meats veggies bought fresh every week or so.

this is long. but you get the idea, i'm sure

g'luck!

 

John J. Goddard
May 23, 2007

Olivia,

I can't help you find any pot, but regarding food I will tell you the same thing I told the 60-year-old gentleman in the UK:

POTATOES are the key to eternal happiness and satisfaction. Simmer some slowly in their skins until tender, then cool and keep them in the fridge until you need them. That way, you can mash, slice and fry, mix, and eat any number of potato preparations before you even have time to think about being hungry. From them, you can prepare:

baked potatoes
herbed and oven-roasted potatoes
mashed potatoes
potato-apple porridge
potato soup
hashed browns
corned beef hash
turkey hash
roast beef hash
chicken hash
potato pancakes
potato bread
potato gnocchi
potato noodles
kroketten (the original 'tater tots)
colcannon
blitva
boxty
pandy
latkes
potato salad
vichysoisse

The list goes on forever and ever, amen.

Sick of russets or reds? Sweet potatoes. You can do all of the above with sweet potatoes as well. Potatoes are inexpensive, they hold up well (raw or cooked) in the fridge, they're versatile, and they're hard to screw up. Besides, they're one of the most satisfying and comforting foods on the planet.

Best of luck with the new living situation. If you keep potatoes on hand, you'll ace the cooking aspect of your new life rhythm. Oh yeah! Lentils are good to keep around too. And they go well with potatoes.

J

 

Kristin H
May 23, 2007

"THE NEW BASICS COOKBOOK", by Julee Rosso and Shiela Lukins should be your kitchen bible for awhile. My tattered version is from 1989, but I saw yesterday on Good Morning America that they have just revamped and revised it! I'm gonna buy that one too! Not only does it have sections on fish, chicken, grilling, meat, etc, but the last section is "the new basics", consisting of Microwave Miracles, The Basics, The Panic-Proof Kitchen, Basic Pantry, Glossary and Conversion Chart. I find that some of the recipes can be a little fru-fru at times, but EVERY ONE is fantastic. The Panic Proof Kitchen and Basic Pantry sections are amazing. Again, remember, you won't need everything at first. I accumulated it all bit by bit, and by the time I got married, put whatever items I was missing on my registry!!! Haha! sneaky me. Good Luck and Best Wishes.

 

Life Chef
May 23, 2007

Hope you're still reading answers... My advice is keep it SIMPLE.

When I was in college and for several years afterward I was BROKE. If you're in that club, shop at IKEA and Target, yard sales and thrift stores, and the homewares section of places like TJ MAXX. That way I was able to get the "tools of the trade" second-hand and inexpensively on clearance, or purchase a "temporary" item cheaply that you can later upgrade. The only thing I spent big bucks on was a good 9" Chef's Knife (12" is unweildy to me).

Stock the frige w/ fresh greens, fresh fruit, and vegetables that last in case you have a social life and don't cook every day. Carrots, zucchini, celery, onions. These things also make the base for many a great meal.

Keep your pantry stocked w/ dried pasta, and canned beans (chick peas, white beans, black beans, pintos) and grains (rices, quinoa, and that boxed stuff that you can "fix up" for semi-home made food).

A lot of people are against frozen foods but I always have 1 chicken part, 1 fish piece and a host of veggies in there in case of emergency. I usually have 1 frozen fresh pasta like torellini or ravioli, and cheese sticks and pizza cuz those are my comfort foods. Oh and shelled edamame.

And unless you plan on becoming a culinary professional, which means acquiring kitchen "stuff" will be second only to you opulant cookbook collection (trust me on this) you'll piece together the things you need over time. It's kind of like planting a big garden, it can take a couple of years to really get it where you want it.

Spoon, spatula, pot for pasta, pot for sauce, and pan big enough for breakfast omelets and dinner burritos and you're good to go.

Last thought: I think I moved every 6 months to a year since my junior year in college so keep in mind you may be lugging all this stuff around. The big piece that's made the hauls over the years has been the KitchenAid mixer, but I was about 25 before I got that. Rotisserie ovens, table top grills and all that stuff? Not so much.

 

Anonymous
May 23, 2007

Most important item in my kitchen - large non-stick frying pan. Next important - saucepan (also non-stick, with lid). 3rd, a larger pot for pasta. Baking-wise, a non-stick cake/lasagna pan. Utensil-wise, you should need ... (I like plastic, it doesn't scratch) one spatula, one big spoon, and one pasta "spork" (I don't know what else to call it.) Knife wise - one good-quality chef's knife, and one tomato knife. Two mixing bowls, one small, one large. Measuring cups, one liquid measure (two cup), set of measuring spoons, one cutting board.
Those are the basics that got me through many years of fairly complex cooking, and the whole setup was pretty affordable (especailly since I still have most of them, after quite a few years.)
Good luck!

 

Lydia
May 23, 2007

Dear Olivia,

I have been in my own apartment for only a few years now, and fresh are the days when I was in a dorm (and wanted to make tarte tatin with three apples and the wrong pan) or in a large shared apartment (and wondering where home-made chicken stock was going to be stored in the overcrowded fridge...)

When you're hauling your stuff back to a dorm, may I suggest you retain the following:

1. rice cooker (I've had mine since I was a freshman in college)

2. saute pan (there are 98 posts above about which ones to try!)

3. a knife (my now bent out of shape and dull utility knife is still my favorite, I got it at Marshalls circa the rice cooker)

4. obviously a cutting board, utensils, and nice plates to eat off of (NO PLASTIC-believe me, it makes a difference)

5. and finally, as for groceries, be real with what you like and what sort of energy you have...as much as I like the idea of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol.1 + 2, I generally eat the most basic of meals (soups, sauted chicken with rice, simple green salads, eggs)

and Most Important (other than the no-plastic plate rule) I suggest you get yourself The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher. She was a brilliant writer, and a brilliant eater: you'll start seeing the lovely part of cooking for one, and you'll get an ear for recipes minus a cookbook, and being a non-fussy, instictive, emotional cook who takes care of herself (and others) through the act of eating, often in the simplest of ways.

My very best to you! Good luck!

 

Natalie
May 23, 2007

Hey Olivia,

I just moved out on my own a little over two years ago, so I'm still in my amateur cooking days trying to figure things out. Here's what I suggest:

Stock up on cheap staples that are easy to make, and are very versatile: pasta, rice, potatoes, black beans, etc.

Buy meat in bulk from Costco or other warehouse stores. The membership is absolutely worth the investment! You can split it up into meal-sized portions and freeze it. It will last for months, and you'll save a lot of money.

There are some investments definitely worth making: cutting board and some decent knives (I went without these and ended up in the ER from a cut!), and a set of pots/pans. You can get a decent starter set of about 10-12 pieces for uner $75.00 at Target. Definitely not pro quality or anything, but you're just getting started!

Finally, check the ads to see what's on sale. That way, you can get fresh produce, and stock up for future meals.

 

Louise
May 23, 2007

I remember going off to university over twenty years ago with my mother's old crockpot. It was old then and only bit the bullet about six or seven years ago. I lived in a very small dorm room with a common kitchen for the whole floor. Ick!

I could cook anything in that sucker with the very smallest amount of gear. Beans, chicken, pasta, whatever. Most nights, my roommate would dig in too. Leftovers are great for the next day too.

There are several good sites online for recipes so you don't really have to invest in a book if you don't want one.

 

Alice Q. Foodie
May 23, 2007

My best piece of advice would be to keep it simple. For the pantry: good quality salt, a pepper grinder, some red pepper flakes, a few dried herbs such as oregano, sage, etc., ground cayenne pepper, good quality olive oil, good quality stable oil (for sauteeing), dried pasta, legumes, organic chicken stock, canned tomatoes and tomato paste, jar pasta sauce (pref. organic) and maybe some chutneys or jams. Trader Joes is a great place for these things if you have one nearby.

For baking - sugar, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg, dried fruit, nuts or chocolate. For the fridge - a hunk of fresh parmesan, some garlicky hummus, organic butter, organic milk and or cream, organic yogurt, organic eggs and fresh produce, lettuces, carrots, citrus, apples, etc.

Outside the fridge - fresh garlic, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and avocados are good to have on hand.

As far as materials, I would recommend a couple of wooden spoons, a few bowls, (large and small, Pyrex are great, Goodwill is a great place to get these) two good quality sauce pans 1-2 qt and one larger, a large frying pan (10 " or so) and possibly a dutch oven. A decent chef's knife and paring knife, a cutting board, a pair of spring loaded tongs, a spatula, a couple of cookie sheets, a 9x13 baking pan, a can opener and a bottle opener - and you're in business!

When I was in your shoes, I checked cookbooks out of the school library to test them out, so you might want to look into that. How to Cook Everything and Joy of Cooking are great basics though - can't really go wrong with those. (In my day, it was the NY Times Cookbook and Silver Palate - we also ate a lot of sun dried tomatoes back then.) Good luck and enjoy!!!

 

Meghan
May 23, 2007

Excellent comments...much to learn from them. Don't get loaded down by random "useful" kitchen tools that only serve once purpose and take up valuable room. I think I could travel anywhere with two serious knives, a 12" saute pan, a 8" non stick, a stock pot, tongs and a serving spoon/ladle and be fine. I'm not a big baker, so I don't have much use for an angel food cake pan, etc. all's i'm saying is, it might seem like a great idea to have a ravioli edge cutter or an egg slicer... but resist the urge unless you really NEED them or you'll be pawning them off on unsuspecting college friends.

another pitfall to avoid is getting heavily laden down by condiments...especially those that need refrigeration. they get old and sticky fast and are generally much more expensive than other things at stores/markets.

good luck.

 

gmbeid
May 23, 2007

Olivia - wow, there's wonderful advice here! May I make a suggestion about another 'tool' - cookbooks. I am a cookbook junkie and like to jump into new cookbooks with reckless abandon. Now rather than spend all of my money on books with nothing left over for ingredients, I 'test drive' cookbooks from the library. I have 10-20 of them out at any given time. If I find myself going back to one over and over again and liking the rythym and composition of multiple recipes (not just 1 or 2), I buy it. (Heidi - did that with yours. Got 'SuperNatural' out of my local library first - actually got them to purchase it - then ordered online. I knew I'd love it, but I figured the library should own it too!). I'm not sure what I'd pick if I could only have one, but Craig Claiborne's Kitchen Primer is a good, slim basic reference, as is Delia Smith's How to Cook (minus the 'slim' description). For sheer decadence (and encouraging you to make his recipes your own), Nigel Slater's Appetite can't be beat. Bon appetit!

 

theodore
May 23, 2007

Great advice so I will just add a few personal favorites.
Mason jars(quart sized)are great for storage,cheap,durable,and make excelent iced tea glasses.
Check the ethnic sections for cheap FRESH spices.
Avoid any premixed anything,they only inhibit your own experimentation/fun.Especially expensive spice mixes,easier cheaper,more fun to come up with your own
Any piece of equipment tagged as better,easier,faster,convienent,NEVER EVER is.
Good supermarkets(not necessarily expensive ones)have butchers,grociers,vegtable/produce,fish,people.They love talking about what they specialize in,how they cook it,how their customers cook,what is fresh or on special,ask them.Most can even recommend wines/beverages side dishes,etc.
Keep your knives sharp.A dull knife is a danger.

 

gmbeid
May 23, 2007

Olivia - wow, there's wonderful advice here! May I make a suggestion about another 'tool' - cookbooks. I am a cookbook junkie and like to jump into new cookbooks with reckless abandon. Now rather than spend all of my money on books with nothing left over for ingredients, I 'test drive' cookbooks from the library. I have 10-20 of them out at any given time. If I find myself going back to one over and over again and liking the rythym and composition of multiple recipes (not just 1 or 2), I buy it. (Heidi - did that with yours. Got 'SuperNatural' out of my local library first - actually got them to purchase it - then ordered online. I knew I'd love it, but I figured the library should own it too!). I'm not sure what I'd pick if I could only have one, but Craig Claiborne's Kitchen Primer is a good, slim basic reference, as is Delia Smith's How to Cook (minus the 'slim' description). For sheer decadence (and encouraging you to make his recipes your own), Nigel Slater's Appetite can't be beat. Bon appetit!

 

gmbeid
May 23, 2007

Olivia - wow, there's wonderful advice here! May I make a suggestion about another 'tool' - cookbooks. I am a cookbook junkie and like to jump into new cookbooks with reckless abandon. Now rather than spend all of my money on books with nothing left over for ingredients, I 'test drive' cookbooks from the library. I have 10-20 of them out at any given time. If I find myself going back to one over and over again and liking the rythym and composition of multiple recipes (not just 1 or 2), I buy it. (Heidi - did that with yours. Got 'SuperNatural' out of my local library first - actually got them to purchase it - then ordered online. I knew I'd love it, but I figured the library should own it too!). I'm not sure what I'd pick if I could only have one, but Craig Claiborne's Kitchen Primer is a good, slim basic reference, as is Delia Smith's How to Cook (minus the 'slim' description). For sheer decadence (and encouraging you to make his recipes your own), Nigel Slater's Appetite can't be beat. Bon appetit!

 

Spike
May 23, 2007

Ah, I love questions like this. It was only a few years ago that I was starting to stock up. As far as cookware goes, all you really need is a medium frying pan, sauce pan or two, good dutch oven, baking pan, and cutting board. And a couple of good knives!

With food items, think staples - baking needs, olive oil and vinegar, lemon juice, good bread (most of the sliced stuff is unpalatable), milk, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, rice, pasta, lentils and potatoes. I can't really recommend canned stuff - it's usually expensive and filled with salt and chemicals. That said, I do keep around about six cans of tomatoes (no salt added), since you can use them as a base in anything. Spices are really important, so buy in bulk and jar them yourself; they're crazy expensive otherwise.

Finally, I try to keep around some things which can add zip to any meal - think walnuts, avocados, dried fruit, etc. It'll be great...

 

Krista
May 23, 2007

I was in Olivia's situation last summer and will be, again, this summer.

The necessary kitchen tools are:
good chopping knife
cutting board
metal spatula
rubber spatula
big pot (for pasta)
small pot (sauce, rice, etc.)
big bowl (bread dough)
pan (sauteeing, pancakes)
baking sheet with sides
bread pan

I use each item at least several times per week. I use several of them daily.

To stock up the pantry (I'm vegan), the essentials are:

extra virgin olive oil
salt
favorite spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, chili powder, basil, oregano)
lots of beans (dry if you have time, but canned may work best in your situation)
tofu
raw nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews)
garlic
onions
tomatoes
greens
apples or other seasonal fruit
hummus
milk/soy milk/rice milk
yogurt/soy yougurt, etc.
oats
wheat flour
white flour
potatoes
quinoa or millet
yeast
sugar
miso

Great meal ideas that can yield substantial and tasty leftovers are vegetable curry, shepherd's pie (with lentils in place of ground beef for a veggie version), stir fries, pad thai, pasta salad and veggie chili (beans, spices, onions, garlic, grated sauted carrots and whatever else you like!). These are my favorites.

 

David Cantrell
May 23, 2007

When that was me, I bought lots of basics like rice, pasta, taters, salt, pepper, and then just other stuff as and when I needed it. After a few weeks I'd figured out what other basics I needed, so I bought those in job lots too. These days I just place an order every two weeks for whatever of those basics I'm about to run out of and have it delivered. I then buy Random Stuff as I pass the shops on the way home if it takes my fancy.

This has led to some spectacularly inedible messes, but usually works out OK and I can always fall back on one of my old favourites if I lack imagination one day.

 

Olivia
May 23, 2007

Thank you all SO much! I'll post again after my first meal, but I'm not moving in until this weekend, so it'll be a few days yet. I've already got a fresh copy of "The Joy of Cooking" on the way to my apartment (my mother wouldn't let me take her copy, which belonged to her great-grandmother and full of the best notes and suggestions), but I'll have to hold off on shopping for supplies til I get there. I'll be living there in Chicago for three months before coming home and then starting the whole process over again as I study abroad (Athens, here I come! Can't wait for the markets there...fresh figs and olives and oils!). My kitchen will have to be ready to be packed up again, but I've already got some great ideas thanks to you all. :) I'll let you know how things go after moving in and hitting the stores!
-Olivia

 

Jon
May 23, 2007

I'm from the down-home school of cooking. I love eating foods from around the world, but don't often have the time or energy to cook. So many spices and herbs to use once, then go bad before used again. WARNING: If you're a purist, you may want to stop reading now... ;^)

I recommend buying meats as fresh as possible. I usually don't think ahead to let forzen meat thaw.

Staples:
flour
sugar (white and brown)
canned chicken stock
salt, pepper, seasoned salt, onion powder, garlic powder
Worcestershire sauce
soy sauce
Liquid Smoke
Heinz 57
mustard
mayo
ketchup
cream-of-something soup
canned tomatoes (chopped/diced/whatever)
canned tomatoe sauce
pasta
eggs
butter
milk
bread
frozen mixed veggies
EVOO
vegetable/canola oil (EVOO in cookies just doesn't taste right)
freezer bags
foil
good tupperware

Bulk can be good, but don't get caught up in it. $50 of something at 1/2 off isn't a bargain if you only use $10.

Re-iteration: plan ahead. And don't be afraid to experiment. I discovered brisket trimmings make excellent stew meat just out of an attempt to not be wasteful.

 

Susan Gille
May 23, 2007

Think American, think Lodge, think Pyrex, you can't go wrong.

Iron skillet from Lodge--$15, lasts a lifetime. Cast iron Dutch oven, $30-40.

Pyrex casserole dishes, custard dishes (double duty prep bowls, desert dishes, salad bowls). Stay away from anything cranberry or blue; stick with the classics.

After that, fly to Paris for E. Dellearhin copper pots.

 

Gay Goy Gourmet
May 23, 2007

My partner and I moved apart for grad school, so now I go between two well-stocked kitchens, but mine remains more so than his. In moving back with him for the summer, I moved several of my own essentials I wasn't about to leave for my subletter. Among these items:

more knives
silicone baking mat (silpat) & muffin pan
-- enough good cannot be said of silicone bakeware. muffin pan especially.
more silicone spatulas (no such thing as too many)
cast iron skillet (comal) -- i have begun exploring my mexican cookbooks, especially diana kennedy's "art of"
more wisks
immersion blender -- if you make enough soup, have it chunky one day and blend it the next! It's a whole new meal!
Big enamel cast iron pot for making no-knead bread. google it.
ice cream maker ($20-40 will reveal to you the joys of fresh ice cream and sorbet, and impress your friends too)
drink shakers -- I know the post didn't mention stocking a bar, but for summer grab some vodka, limoncello, cranberry juice, fresh lemons and limes, etc

 

Juliana
May 23, 2007

Hi Olivia:
I always have handy certain products/seasonings that I use in almost all my meals, as follows:
- dried garlic and onion (powder or pieces)
- salt and pepper
- ground mustard/ginger/red pepper (for some spiciness)
- ground curry
- dried parsley/thime/rosemary
- ground cinnamon
- sugar
- vegetable oil
- olive oil/vinegar (I use balsamic...has more taste)
- worschester sauce
- frozen vegetables/greens (brocoli/artichoke/spinach/mixed vegetables/corn/peas/green beans/cauli-flower) - If you have time, the fresh ones are much better, but don't sacrifice eating healthy just because you can't have it fresh!
- chiken breasts (you can buy a big tray at COSTCO and they already come packed one by one!)
- ground beef (I used ground turkey...it's a little healthier and taste pretty much the same)
- tortillas (you can freeze a portion and leave the rest in the fridge)
- shredded cheese (for the tortillas)
- pasta
- tomato sauce (or tomato in pieces - if you like the pieces, go for it! But remeber to also have some tomato sauce and/or tomato paste to make teh base of you sauce)
- white flour/corn starch/baking soda (if you are going to bake something)
- Have a good skillet with lid, a small frying pan, 1 or 2 transparent pyrex, 2 small/medium pan (Ikea has great prices for these things and Ross does too)
- tupperware
- zip-lock bags
- plastic wrap/aluminum foil/paper towel
- cutting boadr
- colander
I just remebered that you can ask at Bed Bath and Beyond for a "registry wedding kit" and they have a list of what they consider MUST HAVES for, well, bed, bath and beyond...It's a good tool to use...
Good luck with your move!

 

Mandy
May 23, 2007

As a recently graduated college student currently working as an intern I have developed a system to get well fed on the cheap (without eating pasta only) while having little to no time as well as crazy hours (ie eating dinner at 1am when I get home).

1. I always have salad greens/ spinach on hand- I go by the farmers market once a week and pick up about a pound. I used to hate salad but now that I make my own dressing I love it! Try Trader Joe's 1/3 grapefruit vinegar or mango chili vinegar or just plain lime/lemon juice, 2/3 good olive oil (I prefer unfiltered from the farmers market but get extra virgin cold pressed, it's worth it) and add a bit of pepper and salt. I throw in some nuts, dried fruit and cheese, currently my favorite is the mango chili vinegrette with cashews, dried bluberries and feta. Make a big salad in a big mixing bowl and there's your meal!

2. Also a slow cooker is a god sent. You put beans, veggies, whatever you want, in the cooker on low when you leave in the morning, when you get home you have soup. My favorite is lentils with a whole lot of veggies (spinach, zuchinni, tomatoes, carrots, onion, yellow squash and anything else). With this one you get all your iron, protein and veggies in one bowl, and it's really filling and really cheap to make. Also it freezes really well and you can keep it for weeks, months even and thaw when you are having a particularly crazy week and don't want to cook dinner but need protein and veggies.

3. Stirfry, polenta, quinoa, yogurt, trailmix, ricecakes and other quasi health food goodies (I grew up in N Cal) are also staples for me. There is always cereal for dinner if you are desperate.

Also good tupperware, preferably microwave safe because the dioxins in cheaper plastics are released when it's frozen or heated and those casue cancer.

Oh and if you feel like you are a bad cook/meal planner because you go to the store more than once or twice a week, you aren't, you're just like most the rest of us. Besides going more often allows you to chat up the cute checker- god I love that Trader Joe's and Berkeley Bowl hire really attractive workers!
Best of Luck!

 

Mandy- again
May 23, 2007

If you don't have Trader Joe's:

I'm sorry, I am sooo sorry!

 

Jennifer Grimm
May 23, 2007

I have found that having a few basics like barbecue sauce and italian dressing can make for a quick sauce or marinade for meat; especially chicken. Having pasta on hand is always a good idea. Buying in bulk is usually best money wise as long as you will use the item(s) before they go bad.
If you don't want to do a bunch of fancy cooking then I recommend just salt, pepper, chili powder and garlic powder are usually all the spices you will need to start out.
Peanut butter and jelly are usually good for quick meals and soups are good for quick hot meals.

Good Luck!

 

Deb
May 23, 2007

When I went to college I had been THE family cook for six years first, so was pretty well versed.

WHEN setting up my first post dorm place, it was a good frypan, 2 large and one small saucepan, a dutch oven. Slotted spoon, solid spoon, ladle, wooden spoon, 3 paring knives, one good knife, rolling pin, a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup, 2 sets other measuring cups, 2 sets measuring spoons, a spatula, a regular turner and a wide pancake one. Plus the colander on legs and a good cutting board. And lids that fit everything. A luxury is a perforated heavy pan for pizza, it will really do even frozen bake your owns turn out better! One cookiesheet, the old fashioned lipless sheet aluminum ones... one glass pie plate and one glass 9x13 cake pan. One glass 'loaf pan'. One of those rectangular 4 sided graters.

Pantry included flour, sugar, salt, oatmeal, pasta, rice, canned tomato sauce, pepper, bisquick (lifesaver for quick cooking), baking powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, oregano, basil, powdered dried garlic. A few cans of tuna also.

I also kept eggs, cooking oil, a can of crisco, and powdered and liquid milk around. A pound of ground anything (beef, pork, turkey etc) in freezer and used reasonably soon. And cheese. In almost any form, it can really spiff up or salvage a meal.

Microwave oven will save you a lot in convenience. Some do not like the taste of the food or other objections, but for the single with not much time, a small microwave is so worth it.

When cleaning up, a nylon dish scrubbie can really save grief. And soaking the pan first. Do NOT leave overnight, but even scorch on will usually respond to a few hours soaking!

 

Laura
May 24, 2007

Way, WAAY up there was a question about electric kettles. The reason brits are nutty about their electric kettles is threefold:

1. Their electricity runs on 220, not 110 like here in the U.S., which improves on...

2. The fact that electric kettles boil water (at 110, mind you) in about half the time as a stovetop. Now double the power, and you have boiling water in about 2 or 3 minutes, instead of 7 or 8 (or 9) on the stovetop.

3. With an electric kettle, the water is actually still boiling when you pour it over the teabag, resulting in better extraction.

 

Jenn
May 24, 2007

I would stock up on spices. If you cook a lot, having a lot of spices makes for much easier cooking. It's expensive at first, but you can do it gradually - buy what you need when you need it. I find now that I rarely have to buy spices for any dish, and as an added bonus, I have all kinds of good ones at home when I am improvising dishes.

 

stefka
May 24, 2007

Carole Raymond, Student's Vegetarian Cookbook. Everything is easy, cheap and can be prepared with basic supplies. It tells you what to buy and what kitchen stuff you need. Also the recipes are for 1-2 servings, so you don't end up with tons of leftovers. if you eat meat, you could add it easily.

 

YOYO's FOOD
May 24, 2007

the same questions when i first time to be cooking~

and i will say~ do what u like in the kitchen~ there is a plenty of joy and exciting where your heart to be~ good luck~

 

Karen
May 24, 2007

If you're there for the summer only, the most versatile pot/pan I can recommend is a deep saute pan -- you can make a lot of things in this that you would otherwise use a skillet, a dutch oven or a small pot for. I bought one the summer after my freshman year and several years later I still have it. I've made everything from rice to spaghetti sauce to burgers in that pan, and while it might not be my "everything" now, it sure was versatile. I think the only thing I use now that often is my rubber tipped tongs (they can be used on non-stick and regular surfaces).

I'd stick to basic recipes that don't require a lot of ingredients so that you don't wind up with stuff you have to throw out at the end of the summer.

 

Erin
May 24, 2007

I keep a bag of frozen chicken breasts and a bag of individually wrapped salmon fillets in the freezer- both are really quick and easy for salads or entree and easy to dress up- all while providing a solid, healthy protein base.

 

Lorenzo Deho
May 24, 2007

Hi Olivia,

Hope you're still reading this long list of friendly contributions!

I really agree with Krizia (from Canada) when she said "Food is so simply, I think North Americans make it a bit complicated."

Lot has been said... and I agree with most of it. I'll just had few things for this summer:
> As someone said, I'll go anywhere with a good knife (and a sharpener)! It's an investment worth every cent! The difference between them isn't in price or size but in high quality steel.
> find some small pots, put them next to your kitchen window and grow some fresh herbs. Start with basil, sage, rosemary and thyme and you'll see that your cooking experience will change by using fresh instead of dried stuff.
> instead of just following recipes, learn some cooking techniques (like for instance risotto making) and then just let your imagination go mixing it with what you have at home, what you reed in some wonderful sites like this one, what you eat and see wherever you go.
> it has been said but I must repeat it... invite your friends and cook for them and cook with them... nothing better than than share a meal and some wine with someone! (please, wine, not Coke or soda... you'll see the difference!)


When you'll leave for Athens, pack your knifes in the suitcase next to your imagination and curiosity.
> When you're in Athens, don't forget to go to Athens old market (awesome!! you'll see why...) and eat in the restaurants inside, to try Ouzo, the feta cheese and it's 1000 uses, the olives and all the great things of Greek and Mediterranean cooking.

When you go back to the US, pack again your knifes and don't forget all that you ate, saw, smelled and cooked in Greece (and the other EU countries I hope you'll visit, eventually drop me a line!)

Ahh! Yes! almost forgetting: NEVER go shopping when you're hungry... you'll end up buying needless things!


Best luck and cheers!

Lorenzo from Portugal

 

Naomi
May 24, 2007

For both quick, healthy and delicious dinners, (vegetarian) 'Cranks Fast Food' is great! It's simple enough, and once you get the hang of it very good to improvise from. 'Crank's Bible' could be a second, but then again, there are so many good cookbooks! I wouldn't dare starting to name my favourites.

 

Naomi
May 24, 2007

For both quick, healthy and delicious meatless dinners, 'Cranks Fast Food' is great! It's simple enough, and once you get the hang of it very good to improvise from. 'Crank's Bible' could be a second, but then again, there are so many good cookbooks! I wouldn't dare starting to name my favourites.

 

Lorenzo Deho
May 24, 2007

Forgot something in my comment, it's not the kitchenware that makes the good cook... that's why I say you just need a good knife... your imagination and knowledge of some basic cooking techniques!

Cheers

 

Risa Golding
May 24, 2007

I would start with a basic pantry. If she is not vegetarian than I would suggest some cheaper cuts of meats and poultry, some fish - all in the freezer in freezer bags.

If veggie, then cans of assorted beans, rice, and other grains in canisters with a bay leaf in each one to keep the weevils away, other canned goods that she likes.

Pasta of different shapes - Italian companies, not American. Jars of different kinds of sauces and cans of tomatoes.

When I began living on my own, I ate a lot of Rice a Roni and eggs and pancakes.

Breakfast is important so some eggs, butter, bacon (if she likes) and bread. You can buy so many different kinds of bread these days - artisanal, Italian, French, ciabatta, sandwich loaves. 1-2 loaves of bread per week would be good.

Cold cuts for sandwiches, or some packages of hummus and such for veggie sandwiches. Hummus is great with some vegetables cut up in pita bread. Makes a quick dinner too.

Basic frozen veggies - peas, broccoli, are great. Spinach too.

When it comes to books I would suggest beginner cook books - but if she likes to cook already - then some fun stuff like the first Jamie Oliver book, Nigella Bites, any Ina Garten book.

I hope this helps.

 

Brian Bucher
May 24, 2007

I find it amusing that after 100 or so comments, undoubtedly contradicting and/or repeating one another, people are STILL commenting.

 

Curtis Atkisson
May 24, 2007

I have recently gone through this also. I moved into my first house and was excited to make it look pretty and be able to cook whatever I want. I'ts a little more expensive than I thought.

As for hardware: pots and pans of different sizes are essential! You will not always want to cook a lot, but sometimes you will, so I would prepare for that. Mixing bowls are imperative as are: strainer, salad bowl, and a cutting board. Make sure to have plenty of utensils; you never know what you might need. Include, wooden spoon, PLASTIC spatulas, serving spoons, and straining serving spoons. Casserole dishes are imperative if you have any desire for leftovers. Also a healthy suppy of tupperware. All of these can be gathered over time to make it less daunting.

As for food, pick 3-5 dishes that you like for each meal. For me, Breakfast: cream of wheat, oatmeal, cereal and pancakes. I recommend the just add water kind as you will never need to worry about running out of eggs. I also keep eggs and milk handy.
Lunch: sandwiches (PB&J, meat, and veggie), chimichangas, and leftovers.
Dinner:Enchiladas, sour cream chicken casserole, chicken and rice, and an assortment of pastas with different sauces.

For the first couple months I bought spices as I needed them. Because of what I cook, I now have the best stocked spice rack out of my long-term established friends. Be creative and don't limit yourself to only the spices that you know, you will find new ones that you love.

My strategy for single (or two, when I'm lucky) person cooking is to cook two seperate large meals on Sunday. I also like to have a friend over to help, keep me company, and split that bottle of wine. If you cook two meals that ensures that you will be able to eat throughout the week without cooking again, while leaving leftovers so that you can invite friends. I cook my favorite in a 3 qt casserole and my second in a 2 qt casserole, adjust receipes as needed.

One week a month I also treat myself to a meal. One week a month I will cook something that I love, but is otherwise too expensive. My favorite are duck and lamb. Lamb keeps very well, duck you have to be more careful with.

Also keep sides handy. Bagged salads and add water and boil mashed potatoes are my favorite. No time spent and delicious. Most fruit keeps well for a long period of time also, just keep aluminum foil handy for the larger fruits (i.e cantaloupe and watermelon). Bagged vegetables are actually fresher than canned vegetables and are much cheaper. They are also easy to prepare.

I hope that I have been able to help. I'm open to any suggestions to improve this process also. Thank you!

 

Liz Ball
May 24, 2007

Congratulations on your first apartment! I recently went through that phase and had a good (if occasionally quirky) time figuring out the whole first-kitchen thing. A few thoughts:

1. I'm a huge fan of the "plan and shop for the week" method. Take some time to think about your week, choose a few recipes, and make a shopping list. It'll keep you focused at the store, you won't have to shop as often, and you won't be wondering what to eat when you come home from work.

2. If you're single, you might find that eating your food before it goes bad is an issue. Having other people over helps. So does remembering to freeze your leftovers. Also: fresh herbs are great, but they're impossible to use fast enough.

3. My dad gave me a cast-iron pan when I got my first kitchen, and I love it. Cast iron is totally nonstick and heavy enough to cook your food evenly--it makes a really big difference. If you care for it properly (it's not that hard), it'll last the rest of your life.

4. One last thing: I try to have the ingredients for a basic risotto on hand at all times, whether I'm planning on actually making risotto or not. That means I always have medium-grain rice (I don't buy long-grain), a couple of boxes of chicken stock, garlic, white wine, parmesan cheese, and some frozen vegetables. It works out pretty well.

Happy cooking!

 

Anatoliy
May 24, 2007

Sometimes photos speak much more than a formula.
Thanks for good photos!

 

Jen
May 24, 2007

One thing that I didn't see on here that I can't live without is a stone. I am very fortunate - I just got married and moved out about a year and a half ago, but I'd been stockpiling kitchen supplies for a few years through the magic of Pampered Chef and Tupperware parties. If you have friends who are in a similar situation, I highly recommend giving one of these parties, then getting some quality items for free. I would start with PC - from there you can get things like the stones, a very nice pizza cutter, garlic press, etc, and they're relatively inexpensive, yet good quality. For decent knives for not a lot of money, I really like Rada cutlery. Their paring knives have been a staple in our family for many years, and I got a set of steak knives for Christmas from my mom - love them! You can order right from their website, and a lot of times people will be selling them at craft shows/bazaars/flea markets.

As far as food staples go, I would advise pasta, garlic, basic spices (I use a lot of Italian seasoning, garlic powder or salt, minced onion (mostly because I don't like real onion, but I like the flavor in my ground meat), cumin, Tupperware's cinnamon vanilla seasoning, basil, oregano, and a pizza seasoning grinder (I think it's by McCormick)), rice, canned veggies (not just corn, peas, carrots, etc - water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and baby corn are good for stir-fry in a hurry), and cereal. I like to make my own garlic bread to go with our dinners, so I also keep spray butter and a loaf of French bread on hand most times. I also like to keep a can of pasta sauce on hand so when I feel like pasta for dinner all I have to do is doctor it up with my spices and my dinner is ready in a jiffy.

Good luck, and enjoy!

 

Angie
May 24, 2007

I'm just a few years out of college and have discovered a site that will help you find recipes that are tried and true: www.allrecipes.com It allows the users to rate the recipes and leave comments, so you know what is good about the recipe and what you should change when you try it. It is easy to find exactly what you're looking for or to just browse for something for dinner. This site would be especially helpful if you're in Athens and don't want to pack cookbooks with you.

I also agree with the bulk spices. They save you a ton of money!

 

Charlotte
May 24, 2007

Buy the two Laurie Colwin books: Home Cooking and More Home Cooking -- all about being young and broke and eating well. Plus, they're great reads. MFK Fisher's "How to Eat a Wolf" is also great when broke. Find a nearby greenmarket or shop at ethnic markets -- basically, look to see where people who value food but have no money shop. Keep pasta in the house, garlic, oil, bread for toast and some cheese. A pot of stew or soup or beans cooked on Sunday will make your house smell good and you can freeze leftovers for those nights when you're wrecked. Soup and toast for dinner have kept many a broke person going. And have fun! I learned more about food when I was SO broke as an editorial assistant in NYC in the 80s, but there was the greenmarket, and funny little Italian and Chinese markets -- I was telling someone today about the day the Italian man at the biscotti store asked me what was in my picnic for the Met Opera free in Central Park and then said: "For Tosca ...." looking up and down the biscotti case, "For Tosca ... you want *these* biscotti!"

 

Susan
May 25, 2007

Wow--ton of good advice here! Just wanted to throw in one more recipe source.

Someone mentioned one of the Cook's Illustrated books, but the magazine itself is well worth checking out. They thoroughly test out all of their recipes and aim for both quality and ease of preparation, so their recipes are both delicious and streamlined.

Good luck!

 

Chris
May 25, 2007

My fiancée and I are moving into a new apartment next week, and I highly recommend "How to Boil Water" by FNK
link: http://www.amazon.com/Boil-Water-Food-Network-Kitchens/dp/0696226863/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-0848326-8009424?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1180101225&sr=8-1

Now only has great recipes, but also lists of cooking gear, pantry staples, and techniques. I agree that you should buy your cooking gear slowly and a piece at a time. For basic stuff like whisks and measuring cups, raid your local goodwill or dollar store and use the money you saved to get a nice santoku and a sharpener.

Good Luck!

 

Lisa
May 25, 2007

My best advice would be to figure out a meal plan for a few days based on your schedule. Make a groccery list based on your menu. Clip coupons and even search for coupons that you can print yourself online. Be thrifty when you are shopping by using your coupons and looking for instore sales on items that you need. I employ these methods in my own life and I can feed a family of four for relatively cheap. Occasionally I will splurge on something more expensive, but I still manage to stay within my budget.

 

Katherine
May 25, 2007

I'm also new to the self-sufficient lifestyle, and let me assure you that POTATOES will save your life (probably more than once). You can get a ten pound bag for under $5 at most places (in Canada, at least) and they're SO seasonable. Grilled, baked, boiled, fried or mashed... Even deep-fried cubes make great homefries.

If you are into ethnic cooking as well, I would suggest stir-fries and fried rice. Minute rice is cheap, and easy to prepare, as are stir-fry noodles. And in these cases, I find pork to be the cheapest way to make a meal meaty. The little pan-fry strips of pork can often be found for under $3.00.

 

Chloe
May 25, 2007

As someone two years out of college living on my own, I also thank you all for your great advice.
I will say what to watch out for...
Going grocery shopping and buying fresh veggies and not using them all, then having to throw them away. Its terrible....So what I have learned to do is quickly blanch fresh veggies (green beans, asparagus, etc.) and then freezing them. It Helps!

 

debbie
May 25, 2007

Here is what I would stock a basic pantry with.
Take advantage of bulk from the health food stores for most of the stuff.
Sugar (white and brown),rice, salt, pepper, flour, baking soda, baking powder, breadcrumbs. Herbs you can buy loose a couple of tablespoons at a time.... basil, oregano, bay leaf, thyme, savoury, marjoram, sage (or poultry seasoning), rosemary, cayenne pepper.
Canned goods....tomatoes, beans, lentils, tuna, ready to eat soups.
Quick cooking items like pasta, couscous.
You will need butter, olive oil (extra virgin is nice for salads if you can afford it), cooking oil, shortening or lard (1 lb at a time so it doesn't go off).
Condiments you can buy as you need but I would suggest having these on hand as the serve dual purpose as ingredients as well as condiment...lemons or lemon juice, red wine vinegar , white wine vinegar and plain white vinegar...if you can afford it a small bottle of balsalmic. Red and white wine that you enjoy drinking for cooking...the flavour is more exagerated in cooking so if you don't like it to drink you will hate it in concentration in food(consult your recipe for specific types as not all wines have the same strength of flavour (....I wouldnt use port to make beef burgundy)

If you like to bake you will eventualy need vanilla, raisins, cocoa powder, chocolate chips etc.

Anything else you will need to buy as your menus dictate.

As far as hardware....a good fry/saute pan (big is better than too small), toaster, small sauce pan, medium pot (2 qut/2litre) and if you are cooking for friends you will need a large pot .
Don't forget a large utility spoon for stirring pots, spatula, wooden spoons and a couple of good quality knives and a decent size cutting board. A coffee maker, kettle and a teapot if you're so inclined.

Debbie

 

ally
May 25, 2007

My 2 cents is to explore Once A Month Cooking aka freezer cooking. I raided my local library's stash of cookbooks and found 3 on this topic.

Advantages - being single, it's very hard to cook for just one

Sometimes I'm too tired or whatever to cook

unexpected company can eat royally
running short on money? The freezer has food

Disadvantage - storage containers/ziploc bags up front cost

unlabeled items become mystery meals

not enough room to do it properly in some apartment freezers


--- There are at least 2 groups on Yahoo that share recipes and ideas.

Another thing that helped me was to "study" cookbooks aimed at singles or couples. The ingredient amounts, cooking methods, etc really helped me alter my skills. . .better them actually. I was trained at home to cook for 6 with enough left for at least 3 lunches next day. Cooking for just me was quite hard, lol.

Great list o'ideas, back to taking notes.

 

Jon
May 25, 2007

I'm back, forgot to mention something earlier--was concentrating on foodstuffs and not hardware.

For saucepans, I recommend something with a rounder bottom. Makes it easier to avoid stuff sticking around the edges, and I've been told they heat better as well.

 

Jerry
May 25, 2007

As a college student, working on my kitchen myself, it is hard to choose things. As a foodie, I want every gadget. However, for a beginning kitchen, it all depends about if you are a baker, or a cook. I'm both, which makes it worse. For a cook, get a frying pan, pasta pot, and saute pan. I have the Emeril cookware that came with 10 pieces and a cast iron skillet. Don't forget knifes, cutting board, spatula, pasta spoon, wooden spoon, and bowl. If you are a baker, I'd go for a stand mixer. No hand mixer, the messes it will make.
As as cabinet staples- flour, sugar, tomato sauce (spaghetti is your friend), tomato paste, beans, salt, pepper, herbs, vinegar, ketchup (if you like), soy sauce, lemon.
I suggest farmers market for food. They are you friend.
Cookbooks little college advice Half Price Books, or Amazon used books. You can get them cheaper and in good condition.
Let me know if you have questions.
P.S. Rice DOESN'T go in the microwave.

 

Lisa
May 25, 2007

I just graduated college - and had to move a lot of stuff out of my kitchen! So my advice is to keep it simple, especially if you are moving back into the dorms after the summer.

I always have pasta, jasmine rice, a few kinds of beans (garbanzo and pinto at least), onions, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and vegetable bouillon in my kitchen (plus olive oil, balsamic vinegar, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, and spices - start at the most versatile and see what you need). Whenever I go to the store I pick up some fresh vegetables (cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and better tasting than frozen - or canned, yuck) and sometimes eggs. (Fewer animal products = cheaper and healthier, if you do it right.) Check out the "reject vegetable" section in the grocery store, if there is one. Often you can find perfectly good vegetables at a ridiculous discount!

As for tools, all you really need is a good knife (so important!), a saucepan, and a skillet (and a cutting board). There are a lot of other tools you can get that make life in the kitchen much easier (a colander, a salad spinner, and a cheese grater are three that immediately come to mind), but at least in my college kitchen, storage space was very limited, and moving back into the dorm will be even worse. One exception: if you can find a crock pot at the thrift store, buy it. It's great for cooking dried beans (or soup or stews or sauces...) while you're gone for the day, and it'll be cheap enough that if you can't find a place to store it next year, you won't be out of a lot of cash.

 

AJ
May 25, 2007

One thing I absolutely could not live without when I was cooking for one: a microwave rice cooker/steamer. Mine had a removable steaming rack for doing vegetables in addition to the "rice lid": you removed the steaming rack when you did rice; you removed the rice lid when you steamed anything. It was relatively inexpensive, and I used it as a mixing bowl when I wasn't using it for microwaving anything for a particular meal.

One dinner staple was "stir-fried stuff". The "stuff" includes onion, garlic, veggies, and protein (tofu, salad shrimp, whatever), and varied by what was available, so it didn't get boring. I varied the spices, too; fajitas are, essentially, Mexican stir-fry. Change the spices to Italian, add tomato sauce at the end, and serve over pasta instad of rice for yet another variant. If I had leftovers, I'd throw them into scrambled eggs the next morning for an easy "frittata".

If you're going back to the dorms in the fall, you may not want to purchase high-quality cookware that you can't store over the school year. Thrift stores are useful sources for some of the basic pots, pans, and utensils you might want, too.

If you like ethnic cuisines, do some searching around the city you'll be living in. If you can find an ethnic grocery store, chances are their items will be less expensive than similar ones in the "ethnic" aisle at the mainstream supermarkets.

 

Ralph
May 25, 2007

A couple of suggestions:

1) Good-quality stainless steel cookware. Target's own brand is good and Revere copper-bottom is an excellent (and budget-friendly) choice. If you clean it with Bar Keeper's Friend (a cleaner that is about 2 bucks a can at the grocery and can be used on your sink and counter) nothing will stick. I'd suggest a 1-qt and 3-qt saucepan, a medium-sized saute pan, and a 6-qt Dutch oven/stock pot. 3 qt pans are great for making pasta for one or two and a batch of brown rice. Avoid nonstick...the coating scratches and then everything sticks.

2) A set of white dishes. You can dress them up and use them every day. Mine are from Target and Macy's and look great.

3) Utensils with comfortable handles. You don't have to pop for Good Grips, but if the utensil is comfortable to use you will use it and if it isn't you won't. (This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many people buy stuff for looks and never use it)

4) Glass or porcelin ovenware with plastic and glass lids. These can be used in the freezer, the oven, or the microwave and they never stain. Smaller ones can be used to tote leftovers for lunch.

5) Containers: Ziplock brand containers with the screw-on lids are dirt cheap at the grocery and are virtually leakproof. 1/2 or 1 cup Gladware and Ziplock containers can be found at the grocer couple of dollars per 6-pak. They are great for storing stock, small amounts of leftovers, cut-up veggies for salad, etc. Reusing yogurt, sour creme, butter, etc containers is an environmentally-friendly, budget-friendly way to store food.

6) Make big batches of brown rice and freeze individual portions, if you have a freezer. There was just a "recipe" for freezing rice in the LA TImes. If I still have it I will post it for you.

7) "Jelly Jar" glasses with lids. Not only are they durable drinking glasses, but they turn into storage containers when you pop on a lid.

I could go on all day, but the bottom line is that buy ing inexpensive, but high quality, wares and ingredients pays off.

 

Julia
May 26, 2007

Hi, how exciting! I've got a list on my site of my essentials: http://asliceofcherrypie.blogspot.com/2006/09/my-kitchen-essentials.html

 

Kathleen
May 26, 2007

ATHENS SHOPPING LIST

Be sure to purchase at least one unique item that you can use in your kitchen for the rest of your life.

 

PK
May 27, 2007

One tip i can give is buy cookware with thick bottoms. Especially for us less experienced cooks,... n I like to change it while cooking it so something that will keep it from burning is good.

A good saucepan, non-stick frypan and a few owen dishes are gonna carry the day.

Also, get a good chopping board that u can use to slice up the odd pizza or bagguete.

 

Barry "The Unwilling Cook"
May 28, 2007

Hi Heidi,

"Aha! " I thought, when I read your intro... a good opportunity to respond to Olivia with an update of my own and maybe pass on some things that I've learnt.

Then I got a dose of reality, and realised I have nothing to contribute compared to your myriad correspondents!

So I shall just shut-up, wish Olivia good luck, and keep plugging away with the hundreds of ideas passed on to me by the lovely people here.

I can't resist just one piece of advice, learnt from bitter experience...
"Don't go shopping when you're hungry!"

"Good luck, Olivia"

 

Michelle T
May 28, 2007

You will definitely need good knives and good pans. I do what one of the others mentioned and that is planning out meals for a week, although I don't cook everyday. I plan on 3-4 meals a week and enjoy the left overs the other day.

While I have plenty of name brands in my pantry, I also buy generic. Stores nowadays carry their own brands of wonderful substitutes for the name brands (and they're less expensive), do check these out.

I also find that I use several of the same basic herbs in my recipes, dried herbs are great for flavor and they last a decent amount of time. But don't forget fresh herbs give your meals a wonderful taste, too. Good luck!

 

Catherine
May 28, 2007

I don't know if anyone suggested this yet, however, a trip to a restaurant supply store will be helpful in purchasing quality pots, pans, silverware etc. They have all you need at fairly cheap prices.

There was a recent article/video in the NYtimes about purchasing products from the restaurant supply stores. I have purchased items from them before and I agree that good deals are available.

 

Kate
May 28, 2007

I know it's already been mentioned, but I'd like to second the recommendation for The New Best Recipe. Much as I love Joy of Cooking, I have yet to go wrong (or even mediocre) with recipes from the The New Best Recipe. Plus, there is info on how to buy certain ingredients, kitchen tool tests, and so on, so it's good for setting up a kitchen, too. It's a little expensive but the brownie recipe alone is worth the price of admission. And, it's pretty big and heavy for the girl who needs to pack up and move every few months, but I'd say it's the only cookbook you really need initially, so it's probably no heavier than the several cookbooks you might otherwise need.