Well its that time of year-College send off! I know so many of you are getting ready to send off your babies to college and many of you are sending them off to their first apartment or house. Its very bitter sweet. It is incredibly fun to watch your kids grow and find their own place in this world, but it is also very hard as a parent to let go-how did the years go so fast? How was it we were buckling them in their carseats just yesterday and today we are stocking their dorm rooms and apartments? The days are long, but the years are short! But, time must go on and it is our job to prepare them for the stage ahead. So let’s have fun getting their new place ready!
In college or even the first couple of years of working its so, so hard to grocery shop, meal plan and cook. You are either focused on the next party, test, weekend trip or working 80 hours a week to get your career off the ground. At any rate cooking is not top of mind, but going out can be expensive and it makes it very hard to loose the freshman 15 that has been hanging around for a couple years. I try with my oldest to make sure his kitchen is “stocked” with the basic tools and give him VERY easy “recipes” in the hopes that he cooks a couple times a week. This age group does not use their freezer except to keep frozen pizzas or ducks that need to go to the taxidermist-if you have boys that hunt you know what I am talking about. My point is they are not going to buy in bulk and freeze extras or left overs so they don’t need a lot of equipment to prepare family meals. They need the very basics that are cheap because I can promise items will walk away or break… They can invest in expensive kitchen equipment when they get married or move into their “adult” place.
I have put together a list of items that are pretty obvious, but its nice to have list to work off of when you are trying to ship things or pack them in the car. And the last thing you want to do is go to Walmart in 100 degrees while moving them in to buy them plates!
The first thing they need is COOKWARE. Again, they are not going to be using these pots and pans everyday and they will put them in the dishwasher so do not spend a lot of money on this item. Non-stick is always great because they are not going to use these enough to create a “seasoning” on their pans and plus non-stick is just awesome! Calphalon is a great brand and this is a really nice set for $140. You can absolutely find sets that are cheaper, but my thought process is IF one or two of these pieces makes it through the beginner years it will last for a long time. Might as well start collecting if you can.
The next thing they need is UTENSILS. Now even experienced, aka “old”, people can tell you that utensils disappear! I have no idea where all the spoons and spatulas go, but they are like socks and they just walk off… so even as an “experienced” person I do not invest in utensils. Just buy what is on sale or at the grocery store or Bed, Bath & Beyond when you have a coupon. This set is pretty comprehensive so beginners should be set for several years!
The next big purchase is KNIVES. These are a bit pricey, but when it comes to knives this is a great deal, but I understand if you want something that is a bit cheaper. Beginners, aka “college students” will not hand wash these and they will not keep them sharpened, so…. here is another knife set option (link). The good thing about both of these sets is they include steak knives-not that they are going to be eating a lot of steaks especially with the price of food these days, but steak knives are good for anything a butter knife wont cut.
A good CUTTING BOARD is really needed in any kitchen. Bad cutting boards and bad knives are the reason for most cuts in the kitchen. You want a stable cutting board that wont move when they are cutting on it. You also want one that wont warp. That is the biggest problem with cheap cutting boards-they bend. The trick to keeping a cutting board flat is when you wash it be sure and flip it the other side and use that side. That way both sides get equal use. And one more trick to a cutting board is cleaning with a tiny bit of soap to get all the guck off but then to really clean it use a half of lemon and kosher salt. Squeeze a bit of lemon on the board, sprinkle a lot of salt over juice then use the half of lemon and scrub the salt into the board. Rinse well with water and dry.
This item is not fancy, but necessary-OVEN MITS. There are so many “cool” mitts on the market, but unless you are a professional BBQ pit master you dont need the high-tech gloves. You just need a good pair of mits that will keep your hands from burning when you are reaching for something out of the crappy ovens that are in apartments. Be sure and buy mits that are not too big or they will not stay on when reaching. Here are ones that I like and I like that they have a metal ring to hang. I also love the Sonoma-Williams ones, but I love clicking on amazon and having it all delivered in one box-can you say lazy!
Cookie Sheets are probably the most used item in my house, but the least replaced. I am not sure why, but I just don’t buy cookie sheets-they seem to last forever. They are great for heating anything frozen-taquitos, pizzas, bagel bites…. You want dark cookie sheets because they retain heat better so don’t try and scrub rub off all the dark on your once shiny cookie sheets. I have linked these dark, sturdy 2-pack of COOKIE SHEETS.
Now on to needed items, but not something that busy college kids will use a ton…. so just buy what you find on sale. Here are a few that I like. These Oxo MIXING BOWLS I love-have had for years! They are just now starting to stain, but I have used the heck out of them. And BAKING DISHES are not used a ton in first apartments, but when you need one you need one. I have given my son several dump and bake recipes that are simple and easy for 20 year old boys. I like these dishes because they have lids so it makes it very easy to put leftovers in the fridge-no need to transfer to tupperware. One more item that is used all the time, especially if you buy non-stick pans, are WOODEN SPOONS. You do not want to use metal spoons on non-stick-it will eventually remove the non-stick surface so use wooden spoons. Something you need to drill in your beginners head is to STOP stirring the pot and then leaving the wooden spoon in the sauce or soup that is on the stove. As my mom used to say, “no-one wants to taste wood in their sauce” . Either use a spoon rest or place it on the counter, but don’t leave it in the pot and don’t put it across the top of the pot-that is a fire hazard and plus the wooden spoon gets really freaking hot!
Finally the “fun” stuff, especially if your beginner is a girl- PLATES, FLATWARE and GLASSES. I did not include wine glasses because let’s be real if you are in college you are not drinking out of nice wine glasses and if you are they break often. But if you want to include WINE GLASSES here are some I love. I really believe that you should not invest in any of these 3 necessary things. With roommates and people coming and going all the time plates are going to get chipped, glasses are going to break and forks are going to disappear, hell even in my house forks and spoons walk off. When buying kitchen stuff for my boys I want full sets so I get one box to load in the car or one box to ship. This dish set has coffee cups included which is huge because those will be used a lot! This flatware set is durable and sturdy so it wont bend, but its still reasonably priced. Plus it included serving pieces-which will get lost, but heck you can try…
I hope this list helps! It is daunting to set your kids up. This year I have 3 kids in 3 states in 3 different stages of “independence” and I am trying to get them all organized this summer. It’s a lot of time and money and of course boys just say, “I don’t care” so I’ve learned to just buy items and that is what they use. All I can say is thank god for Amazon, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Walmart! Happy summer and please reach out if you have any questions!
*These are affiliate links so I might get a small commission if you purchase from the links above.