College kitchen essentials & recipes

I am UIC

I realize that I don’t have a kitchen and haven’t had one at any point in college, but I pretty much feel like I do because my boyfriend has been needing some help in this department.

It’s his first time having to cook for himself and not having a meal plan for the cafeteria. He isn’t complaining, and I can see why; it would be awesome to be able to cook every day. But with school, internships, student orgs, and whatever else is going on, it can be hard to find the time to cook a decent meal (or so he tells me). Plus it isn’t always easy to find time to go to the grocery store.

For someone with a busy schedule who has to make themselves meals, making a plan for what you will be eating that week or for the next two weeks is essential. You won’t have the time or energy to go to the store every day/couple of days and get what you need, so trying to get it taken care of in one trip at a time is beneficial. This way you can make a shopping list and know what you are supposed to buy when you go to the store and not have to wander around aimlessly.

Make sure you are bookmarking or somehow saving recipes that you see so that you don’t get to the point where you are eating ramen or PB&J every day. Having your own kitchen is an absolute benefit because you have the choice to eat healthy, so don’t (literally) weigh yourself down with junk food or super easy/frozen meals all of the time. Keep your recipes somewhere and try to have a variety of things.

Don’t let yourself run out of essentials. Every person may have a different list of staple items for their kitchen, but here are a few things that you might want to keep on hand at all times:

  • milk
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • eggs
  • condiments
  • fruit and/or vegetables
  • rice and/or pasta
  • your comfort snack/dessert
  • salad dressing

I’m sure I’m missing things on this list, and there are also things that are personalized for each person. But the point is- don’t run out of things you’ll always expect to have. Especially since you’ll need them for a lot of different things.

Things you pretty much need in your kitchen to survive (or so I’ve convinced my boyfriend):

  • pots, pans, dishes of ASSORTED SIZES
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • pizza cutter
  • baking supplies
  • microwave plate cover
  • sharp knife
  • can opener
  • water filter/Brita
  • set of plates, bowls, etc.
  • spatula
  • cooking utensils
  • ice cream scoop
  • toaster

If you’re already running low on ideas for things to cook, here are some ideas I have for you.



These are so easy to make…at least my cheat version.

  • tortillas
  • shredded monterey jack cheese
  • optional: chicken, cubed

Lay a tortilla on a plate. Sprinkle the cheese all over. If desired, add the chicken. Cover with second tortilla. Place in microwave for 30 seconds to a minute. Take it out, cut it up, and eat! Told you-simple.


Chicken Caesar Salad

  • chicken, cubed or sliced
  • bag salad or romaine
  • caesar salad dressing (or any other kind of dressing)

Put it all together. Ta-da!


Baked meatball subs

  • sandwich roll(s)
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • meatballs
  • sauce

Cook your meatballs. If they are frozen, the instructions will most likely call for you to cook them in a pot over the stove in sauce. Do this! Slice open bun/sandwich roll and place it on a cookie sheet. Spread some sauce on bread. Add the meatballs. Cover with mozzarella cheese and then more sauce. Cook at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.



  • tortillas
  • green, red, yellow pepper (any, all, just one…up to you)
  • onion
  • monterey jack cheese
  • chicken (optional)

Cut the peppers, onion, and chicken into slices. Cook them in a stir fry pan until done. Warm tortillas in microwave. Spread cooked peppers, onion, and chicken and cover with monterey jack cheese.


Stir Fry

  • rice
  • peppers, snap peas, carrots, broccoli…as many or as few veggies as you want!
  • chicken/beef/no meat (optional)

Cook your rice as directed. Set aside. In a stir fry pan (how unusual), put cut up vegetables and meat. Cook until done. Put finished product over rice.


English Muffin Pizzas

  • English muffins
  • pizza sauce
  • any toppings (pepperoni, sausage, etc.)
  • mozzarella cheese

Warm up your oven to 400 degrees. Cut english muffins in half and lay out on cookie sheet. Spread marinara. Top with any pepperoni, sausage, whatever. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Remove from the oven when cheese looks melted.


Tuna salad

1 or more cans of tuna

  • carrot
  • relish
  • mayonnaise

Open and drain tuna. Add into mixing bowl. Shred carrot over bowl. Drop in relish and mayonnaise as needed. Stir. Put salad on crackers, bread, etc.


Ham, cheddar and ranch wrap

  • tortillas
  • ham from deli
  • cheddar cheese, shredded or sliced
  • ranch dressing

Lay out tortilla. Put down two pieces of ham. Include cheese and spread ranch dressing. Roll up and eat!

There you have it. Hopefully you got a few more ideas and will continue to think of more. When you go shopping, have a plan and know what things will help you make multiple meals (ex: in the above cases, a package of tortillas can go a long way.).

The recipes I provided are obviously not the absolute healthiest, but they aren’t all bad for you. There are a million other things that can be made. It’s just a matter of setting aside the time to figure out what you are going to do.

Good luck! Enjoy your meal.

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