6 Food Staples All College Women Need to Keep On Hand

Grocery shopping and meal prep is one of those adult things that hits you like a ton of bricks once you start college. With Postmates and fast food, it’s easy to just avoid the whole process, but it’s better for your health and your wallet to learn how to make use of your kitchen. Figuring out some staple foods to keep in your fridge and pantry at all times helps you get into a routine and ensures that you always have something to eat in a pinch. It’s not like we’re Chopped contestants or anything, so keeping it simple is a-okay. If you’re totally clueless on where to even begin, here are some recommendations to get you on your way.

1. Eggs

This sounds kind of obvious, but it’s also the kind of thing a college student who feels like she has zero time to make breakfast might overlook. However, eggs are super versatile and pretty hard to screw up. “I knew I would never go hungry as long as I had eggs in my fridge,” Kristin Perrone, a senior at Siena College says.

You can boil a huge batch to keep on hand for the week, or make customizable dishes for some egg-citing meals. Yes, I said that. Plus, breakfast for dinner? Honestly killer.

“Unless you're one of those people that can't eat breakfast foods during the day, you can get so versatile with eggs, from scrambling them for breakfast or putting them on your sandwich for lunch,” Kristin says. “When I studied abroad, I got in the habit of making huge omelets with veggies for dinner, which I haven't really done since, but they're so filling!” Fun fact: you can also scramble eggs in the microwave. If that isn’t a gourmet college meal, I don’t know what is.

2. Fruits

Some fruits can be on the pricey side, but for the most part, they are pretty dang cheap. Keeping apples, bananas, grapes or whatever suits you around your kitchen makes it easier to choose that as a snack instead of opting for processed chips or crackers. It can also be a better way to satisfy a sweet tooth.

“We get fruits and veggies from the farmers market which is so cheap!” Hannah Harshe, a sophomore from the University of Michigan says. “I only spend about $45 on groceries each month.” Sounds good to us!

You can also pre-chop fruit like watermelon, or create a massive fruit salad to keep in your fridge and eat throughout the week. Or just grab an apple on your way to class for a snack when you get hungry.  

“My favorites are clementines and any other dried fruits that aren't coated in sugar,” Emily Schmidt, a sophomore at Stanford, says.  

3. Grains (Pasta, Rice, Quinoa)

Who doesn’t love pasta? It’s honestly a godsend for college students because it’s cheap, easy, filling and tasty. Plus, choosing whole-grain noodles will give you sustainable energy for your busy college life. If you’re not as enthusiastic about pasta, no worries. There are other grains that are also affordable. “My roommates and I are vegan, which sounds really expensive but it's so cheap,” Hannah says. “We eat a lot of rice, oatmeal, and pasta, and we buy all of those in bulk.” Keeping a jar of pasta sauce or pesto in your pantry and you’ll always have a quick meal to rely on.

Rice is also cheap and customizable. With rice, canned beans and salsa, you can make a fantastic little burrito bowl. Chipotle who? With some creativity, and a minor amount of flavor profile knowledge, you can make some bomb dishes with rice. Quinoa might be the trendy option of the group, but it still isn’t exorbitantly priced and has more health benefits, like protein and fiber. “Quinoa is life,” Erica Galluscio, a junior at CUNY Hunter says. She speaks the truth.

4. Nuts and nut butters

Another great thing to put into oats, on a sandwich, an English muffin, fruit or whatever else is peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter—whatever suits you. See all of the options? Sometimes you just gotta dip the spoon right in there too—no shame.

You can also skip the butter and go straight to the source. “Almonds and other nuts are a great snack to have on hand since they can actually keep you full,” Mary Hilliard, University of Notre Dame ’20 says. If you portion them out in a bag, you can also make sure you don’t eat too many. Add some unsweetened dry fruit and you've just made your own little trail mix.

Related: 12 Recipes for When You're Hungry But Lazy

5. Vegetables

Fresh or frozen, vegetables are also a healthy (duh), affordable thing to keep stocked up on. When veggies are just sitting there, staring at you from your fridge, you are probably much more likely to eat them. "I always keep some green pepper in the fridge because it can go with so many things! You can put it in salad, eggs, a sandwich, eat it by itself! You can incorporate it into every meal and the flavor is bomb,” Marisa Pieper, a sophomore at ASU said. For dinner type meals, you typically have to prepare the veggies, but hey, that's what being an adult is all about, right?

6. Oats

More grains, but hey, a girl’s gotta eat. With the whole overnight oats trend, oats could be your new BFF in the mornings. Again, this is something that you can make with whatever you have available: fruits, nuts, honey, milk, etc. Just put your favorite ingredients in and your milk of choice, let it soak overnight, and it’ll be soft and ready to eat in the morning. And if you just want to make more traditional oats, that doesn't take too long either.

Obviously, everyone has different tastes, but once you establish a standard fridge and pantry your life will become so much easier…or at least your culinary life will, no guarantees about anything else.