Your parents have just dropped you off for school, when you realize your stomach is growling and you have no idea how to cook. Long gone are the days of dorm eating and having meals readily available to you. You can’t live on Cheerios and ramen forever, so here are a few basic staples you need to make your first time living away from home, much easier.

1. Oils and Fats


Photo by Rachael Ferreira

Don’t make the mistake I made when cooking chicken the first time and having it get stuck to the pan. Make sure to stock up on the basic oils you’ll need for greasing pans, adding to dressings, or to butter your toast. Staples include olive oil, butter and vegetable/canola oil. Still not sure what oils to use for what? Check out this guide.

2. Spices and Seasonings


Photo by Allison Arnold

This one sometimes gets forgotten, but there’s nothing worse than eating bland chicken and not being able to salt your food. No need to go overboard and have the spice rack a chef has, but make sure to have some salt, pepper, grill seasoning (can be put on basically any meat), cinnamon, chili powder, garlic powder and some dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, whatever you like).

3. Frozen Food
Thank you freezer gods for allowing us to freeze our foods and not have to make a trip to the grocery store multiple times a week (or cook.) I always make sure to have some chicken breasts and fish filets individually packed in the freezer for easy cooking, but if you’re veg/vegan it’s also a great place to store veggie burgers or black bean burgers. Make sure to use the freezer for produce too, such as berries, peas or corn.
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4. Fresh Foods


Photo by Amy Etz

While the freezer is an amazing thing, you’ll want to keep a fresh stock of foods too, such as leafy greens (if you’re into salads), bananas, apples and other foods you use less often like onion and garlic.

5. Basic Dry Goods
Depending on whether you like to bake or eat a lot of grains, you may want a container of flour and sugar. Rice and pasta are other goods to have on hand for easy meals. Store some jars of pasta sauce, and you’re set for spaghetti.

6. Supplies
There’s no need to go out and purchase every pan your mom has (I doubt you would anyway). Most kitchen supplies have multiple uses, so now’s your chance to try some kitchen improv. Have a pot for boiling water (hello, Kraft mac n cheese), a few fry pans of different sizes, a colander and a cutting board. You only need a few basic utensils like a spatula, whisk, a pair of tongs, stirring/serving spoons and a couple cutting knives, in addition to your typical spoon, fork and knife. Grab a mixing bowl, baking sheet, baking dish and you’re pretty much set as an amateur chef.
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