Dorm Cooking 101: Kitchen Essentials

Say good bye to your meal plan. When I first came here, my mom took one look at the York University food court and made me withdraw my meal plan. There was no way her daughter, who was brought up eating healthy food for every meal of every day, was going to eat Wendy’s, Popeye’s or even Subway every day. I was disappointed because that meant my social interaction would be affected, not being able to meet and hang out with people at the Student Center. Three years later, I thank her because I know enough people who have not only been a victim of Freshman Fifteen but Sophomore Sixteen and more! She started me off with a few kitchen essentials, pots and pans and ingredients that are must haves to be able to feed myself twice a day at least.

I know not every body lives in a dorm with a kitchenette like mine, but most dorms are allowed mini fridges and microwaves and that’s all you really need. Microwaves are wonderful appliances, I remember my mother buying me a cookbook of only microwave recipes just for kids. You can make just about anything in them, from rice to eggs.

Non-Food items

Dorms with a kitchenette (So, assuming you have a oven, stove, microwave, fridge & freezer)

Dorms without a kitchenette (Assuming you’re allowed a microwave and a mini-fridge)

Food Items

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Bread
  • Sugar
  • Cheese (cheddar & parmesan)
  • Flour
  • Fresh or dry herbs
  • Long lasting vegetables– broccoli, onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, green peppers
  • Frozen meat or seafood
  • Spices– paprika, cumin
  • Salt & pepper
  • Condiments & sauces– ketchup, mustard, maple syrup
  • Cans of beans, corn and tomato paste
  • Rice
  • Garlic paste
  • Oils of your choice– butter, sunflower oil, olive oil (I keep all three)

For dorms with a kitchenette, feel free to combine the two lists if you have a microwave as well. A saucepan is great for soups, sauces, pasta and boiling eggs. A frying pan is great for eggs, shallow frying meats, stir-fries (who needs a wok!?) and fried rice. A baking tray is essential because you don’t want to keep frying your food! Baking is a healthy way of cooking and although it may take a while, it means that you can sit at your desk and study while something roasts or bakes in the oven. You don’t have to keep watching it! For dorms without a kitchenette that only have microwaves, invest in a couple of good, sturdy ceramic or glass microwavable bowls. I would suggest against plastic, I don’t trust the chemicals that are released when its heated. You can find great ones at Ikea or even your nearest Walmart or Superstore, with glass bowls and rubber or silicone covers. Those are ideal- they work as food savers for leftovers too. If you look around at your nearest supermarket, I’m sure you will also find amazing little items made especially for microwaves such as an omelet maker, an egg poacher, etc. Don’t ever put an entire egg in the microwave with the shell on, it will explode! Buy a good pair of oven mitts because you don’t want to burn yourself when getting your meals out of your microwave. Also be very careful when opening a microwaved bowl that has been covered. There will be very hot steam that has formed inside the cover.

Since my first year I have only had a paring knife and a small serrated knife and never needed anything more! A paring knife is great for cutting meats and vegetables like potatoes and carrots. A serrated knife is great for tomatoes (The combination of glossy skin and squishy flesh makes it hard for a paring knife to cut through. Serrated knives will pierce the skin first, making cutting easier.), breads and cakes. If you have a baking tray, an oven mitt goes hand in hand with it! Mixing bowls are a must have– you can make salad in them, mix batters, make dressing, just about anything. No, you don’t need a whisk, you can easily use a fork. It works just fine! A whisk is a great luxury, though. I love mine!

You can obviously add more food/grocery items to the basic list I’ve compiled above. With the list I’ve provided, you can make a breakfast, lunch and dinner. Milk + eggs + bread + sugar = french toast, cheese + butter + flour + milk + salt & pepper = cheese sauce, eggs + sugar + flour + butter = cake, mustard + maple syrup = salad dressing, potatoes + salt + oil = fries/wedges, potatoes + milk + salt & pepper + butter = mashed potatoes, meat + mustard + maple syrup = grill, Beans + water + salt & pepper + veggies + herbs = soup. See? It’s that easy and quick. Tomato paste is great for sauces, curries and obviously, pasta sauces. You can add a great tomato-ey flavour to anything with a can of tomato paste! Canned beans and corn last forever and are great little additions to soups, rice or salad. Frozen meat lasts long so you don’t have to hurry up and finish that bag of shrimp you bought on sale. Garlic paste or powder is a great thing to have handy, it gives meals a great flavour. Sprinkled on toast with a little butter makes instant garlic bread! You can use a combination of any of the items mentioned above and create your own quick and healthy meals. It really doesn’t take much.

You can find a lot of these items at Ikea (for the non-food items) or even your nearest Walmart for a great, low prices. Walmart always has very cheap appliances that don’t look like much, but can fit into a student budget and are long lasting. My favourite brand is Durabrand–I’ve had a toaster from them since first year and it has worked just fine all these years. I recently bought a hand held mixer, an immersion blender and a kettle for $12 altogether!


6 thoughts on “Dorm Cooking 101: Kitchen Essentials

    • tanviswar says:

      I was going to put grater, I totally forgot! Graters are perfect for mashed potatoes too. Easssiiiessst way to get smooth mash. Soups are the bomb, I always make a giant potfull and eat it for like a week, haha. You can freeze them too 😐

  1. Bruce Wayne says:

    man i wish you had this blog while i was living in a dorm…i sadly only had 5 of your kitchen tools and i never consistently had all of the food items 😦

    I recently discovered the wonders of plain yogurt and all the things you can add to it to make it all sorts of little side dishes, or main dishes if you’re like me.

    Try mixing up plain yogurt (it’s the balkan style one by Astro) raisins, diced cucumber, lots and lots of mint, salt and pepper and see how you like it…

    • tanviswar says:

      Does it work without the raisins? I cannot have raisins! But yes, yoghurt is a great thing to have around! I heart yoghurt… and the probiotic kind does wonders for your digestive tract!

  2. Pingback: ESSENTIALS MICROWAVE COOKWARE | Kitchen Appliances & Accessories

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